My new friend Laura, the one who read my story in The Telegraph, asked me if I ever regret moving to France after having such a busy job and life in London. She is moving to a village a couple of miles away in September and understandably feels worried about such a big move.
I told her I don’t now, but I did at first.
Before I came to France I had a great job in London in a US bank, earned good money, had great colleagues; a nice house; adored my family. I also had a holiday home in France. I’d bought it on a whim at a very low price – paid for by making the OH sell his beloved Jaguar and giving up our expensive gym memberships. It wasn’t pretty inside though it had some charm – it was little more than a badly converted barn complete with dirt floors and breeze block walls but I loved the simplicity of it and knew it had great potential. The OH and I would jump on our Pan European motorbike on a Friday night, shoot down the motorway from London to the Eurotunnel station, over to France, arrive at the house an hour later and fall asleep exhausted.
We’d virtually camp inside and work on the house – whatever jobs could be done in one or two day visits, then back to London to prepare for work. We loved our little village, the local shops and markets with fresh produce, the relaxed way of life – it was a complete contrast to London.
We were too young to retire, too poor to not work so it never seriously crossed our minds to live here until we were a lot older.
At work, things changed for me when my boss decided to relocate back to the States. He needed me to stay in my job as he and I had been running a big project and with him gone, the continuity was essential. The OH, who is much more Machiavellian than me, said I should ask for more money at this stage of the game. He was right, after a bit of negotiating and a resignation from me, my salary went up by 50% and I was told I would make Director level by the end of the next year. After that I thought I would never leave that job!
But… the company certainly wanted their pound of flesh in return. My days in the office grew longer and longer. 14 hours a day was normal but it could be more, often weekends were spent working so that clients weren’t impacted.I thought it would only be for a few years as projects were completing but it wasn’t, there was always a new project. I loved the excitement of the job, the thrill of it, the adrenaline rush when things went wrong/or right but it did mean that we couldn’t go to France as much.
We paid a builder to do some essential work on the French house as we didn’t have time anymore and he had done an awful job. For a professional builder like my OH it was very difficult to accept. He didn’t want anyone else doing the house; he wanted to do it himself.
Giving up London wasn’t an easy decision to take – it took a lot of persuading, blackmail and threats even about our marriage to get me to go; because of my long working hours we hardly saw each other any more. When I handed my notice in and announced I was off to La Belle France, nobody believed I would actually do it, at work they were running bets on how quickly I would be back – the longest was six months. I sold my house, we stayed with the OH’s Mum for a year to save as much money as we could and in September 2008 we packed everything up and moved to France.
The day we moved the sun was shining, the grass was green – I can’t tell you how exciting it was, and how lucky I felt to have the opportunity of such an adventure.
For about eight weeks I was euphoric – I thought it could never get better than this and then reality started to sink in…