After a bit of a wobble on my part (Reality of living in France sets in) about coming to live in France things started to settle down.
Before becoming a corporate banker in London, I’d been a journalist. I’d absolutely loved my job writing for a magazine for a diamond company and eventually took over as editor. When my office moved to Cape Town, South Africa I thought about relocating but decided to stay in London and move into banking where the money was great and the jobs were secure (ah the good old days!).
Now though, in France I hoped to have a chance to return to writing but first we had to do the work on the house.
I don’t think for one minute we ever thought it would take as long as it did – four long years. I must say that we had a lot of delays. My Dad had become ill back in the UK so for two and a half years I was spending nearly half my time back in London with him. The OH is a builder and was doing some work in London for a client on a very smart project at Canary Wharf. In the winter, work slowed down because it was either too dark or too cold to do more than a few hours even inside the house.
Sometimes it wasn’t easy. Before coming to France I’d not really spent a great deal of time with the OH – I’d been working long hours. Suddenly we were spending long periods together 24/7. Even the best marriages might find this a strain and I have to be honest I did! I am used to managing (bossy some might say!) – so is he. There was quite a power struggle for a while until we sorted out how to work with each other. The pace of life is much slower in rural France than I was used to in London and it took some adjusting to.
We started to figure out how life in France worked and to enjoy it. The bureaucracy can be a trial but we got there in the end with everything – the phone, the internet, planning permission, form filling, taxes, healthcare… just about every aspect of daily life had to be discovered and learned. Other expats started asking for help with things and I began writing it all down and researching it, returning to my journalist roots almost by default.
I went for a job as a part time editor for a magazine about France – the salary was shocking, less than I earned in McDonalds as a part time worker many years ago to get myself through college. I decided I could do better and began writing as a freelance journalist and started to write every day for my blog My French Life.
Meanwhile, in the house a working fire was fitted and we had heat, 21 rooms got finished one by one, the literally thousands of jobs on my project plan were being ticked off and the house was starting to look beautiful inside (we still have the outside to do).
I made friends here in France, I learned to cook with the help of my lovely neighbours, I learned to garden and grew all my own vegetables and I learned to sew. Things that I never had time for suddenly were open to me.
I’d never had an animal before but one day in Boulogne buying building supplies we spotted a tiny, badly beaten kitten. The OH picked him up and we bought him home. He was a baby and we didn’t think he’d make it, his nose was hanging off and he was covered in blood; we fed him with a pipette and called him Winston. He is now three years old and huge. Then we got a dog… three more cats, two more dogs, twenty chickens, seven ducks and two geese… everyone said we were living “the good life” and so I called my website “The Good Life France”…
I explored my region, the tourist sites, the secret places, off and on the beaten track and discovered that where I live is even more wonderful than I knew. I started writing for other journals, my blog became a fully fledged information website with hundreds of thousands of visitors and I’ve made lots of great friends on Facebook. I know that I’m so very lucky to be able to do something I love.
So in answer to that first question (three posts back now in Moving to France) do I regret coming to France? No. There have been times when I thought I’d made a mistake, times when it has been hard, things don’t always go the way I’d like, earning a living is not easy.
Given a choice, I’d stay here forever.
Update: Janine Marsh is the author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream, available from Amazon…