When I was a little girl back in the 1960's, we lived in a very rural part of England. It was a time of outside loos, a Sunday night bath in the kitchen sink, a mobile shop visiting once a week to stock up on provisions, walking to and from school, cars were a luxury which only two people living in our lane had, and going to the local town was a huge adventure only undertaken once or twice a year!
It is a lifestyle which was common 50 years ago, but in the UK is now virtually extinct.
Here in our little corner of Pays de la Loire, it is a step back in time to those halcyon days. In our little hameau and across the communes, some of the older generation still live in relatively unmodernised homes and carry on their lives in a manner unchanged over the decades. But the times they are a changing. We are witnessing the death knell of those simpler days, and us ex-pats are both part of the problem and part of the solution, depending on your outlook.
Those things that crazy Brits (other Nationalities are available!) find so charming and appealing on their house-hunting trips, whilst still wearing the rose-coloured glasses of enthusiasm, such as latrines in the yard, chippy painted shutters and wooden casement windows, crumbling stone buildings and a decaying chateau seemingly on every corner, are the very things that we are renovating the hell out of!
The younger generations of French country dwellers are happy to sell the family ruins to us, whilst moving to their super-efficient little boxes which come with triple glazing, electric heating and tax breaks. And the maires of the communes welcome us with open arms, as we swell their inhabitant numbers and increase revenue, while rescuing real estate from certain doom.
But in doing so, perhaps we are destroying that very charm that we found so entrancing. The rural French way of life is dying out just as surely as it did in the UK at the end of the last century. Do-er uppers are still in plentiful supply its true, but the whole rural idyll is beginning to disappear as the 21st Century encroaches. There's even talk of shops opening on a Sunday, and the long lunchtime once held sacrosanct is being eroded. Everyone drives to get about, and sadly the local boulangerie in every village is now a part of history. Instead we have machines dispensing baguettes on petrol station forecourts.
Maybe it is an inevitable sign of progress. But I find it bitter-sweet. While it lasts though, I'll continue to enjoy the peace and quiet, the unhurried pace of life, the lack of competition and capitalist obsession with the latest trend or having the newest car, the latest gizmo, or the most fashionable clothes. Here there is balm for a troubled spirit, and food for the soul. Come quickly, don't wait to pursue your dream, come and experience this time while you still can, because modern life is on the march. You'll find me in the log store chopping wood for the fire, wrapped in my layers of unfashionable clothes against the chill, wearing my wellies with pride!