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A simply lovely part of rural northern France


I hope that all is well with you and yours.

Last week I popped next door to see my neighbour Claudette. She is now in her 90’s and has hardly changed in the 18 years that I have had a home in France, time does not seem to wither her. She has told me many times her energy is due to her ‘good morals’ and a glass of home-made cider with breakfast! She is stick thin, sprightly and the wisest person I know.

I crossed the cobbled courtyard to her front door where a tea towel was laid on the doorstep as usual for people to wipe their feet or remove shoes before entering the house. I rapped on the door and she called “entrez!” and pushing it open, I stepped straight into the kitchen which as usual was baking hot. Her oven is powered by wood, even to make a pot of coffee. It is the bane of her son-in-law’s life as his job is to cut the wood into pieces small enough to fit the rather petite oven furnace. The oven was a wedding present, it looks as good as new with a bright blue enamel façade decorated with tiny multicoloured enamel flowers. The oven is not far off 70 years old, but as Claudette says, if it’s not broken, why replace it? And everyone agrees, the oven turns out the most amazing cakes.

We sat and chatted about Bread Man, wondering where he has gone on holiday as last week he left a note saying he’d be back in a fortnight. And about the fact that autumn already seems to be on the way with apples falling from the trees and blackberries ripe for picking. I told her I am going be launching a podcast – she had no idea what that is, ‘like the radio’ I said, ‘except that I’ll be talking about France.’ Claudette doesn’t have a computer or mobile phone so I promised to go and play her the first episode when it is published (soon!). And we talked about this and that and how there seems to be so much to be anxious about these days, and I thought I would share her words as they made me happy!

‘There is always hope’ she said. ‘There is hope in a new-born baby. In the rain and in the sun, in the winds that blow across the sky. In the animals and in the flowers, in the crops that grow and the cows that give us milk…’ she stopped to sip her coffee and then said if we had time we could think of a million things that give us hope.

‘And in the wisdom of old ladies’ I added and she laughed and said she would tell her book club that as it would make them smile.

Life here in my village isn’t glamorous or exciting in the way that city life can be, but over the years I have come to understand that often the very best things in life are the simple things that we all share…

Wishing you a very bon weekend from a possibly becoming-philosophically-French ex-Londoner in the middle of nowhere, rural northern France,

Bisous from France,

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream,  My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France (April 2022) all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online.

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