Further than 6 feet apart

So, I have good news and I have bad news. Although everyone has bad news these days, so that's hardly new.

I'm moving back to the UK!

I've missed my friends and family a lot, so I'll be happy about being closer to them, but I'm very sad to be leaving my home in France behind.

Rotisserie chickens are a staple at any French market

I moved to the French-Swiss border in May last year, without knowing if I'd be here for 6 months or 6 years. It turns out it's going to be something in the middle. By the time I leave, I'll have been here for 18 months. It still isn't long enough. I love the culture, food and environment here. I've made friends too, through Unfrench and locally. Of course I won't be cutting myself off from them!

Before I leave in October, I'm trying to cram in as much as I can. I had a list of places to visit but wasn't in any rush before. Now I'm trying to visit a new restaurant a week (not a cheap plan in Geneva!), and am hoping to have a few day trips or weekends away before we head off. We've seen none of Switzerland so far and now I feel like it's too late!

Of course we never do things the easy way. You might have seen photos of my foster kittens on Facebook. We've had 6 now. It's been great to have them for company during lock down. They've provided us with plenty of affection and amusement. And we (and by we, I mean I) have spent a lot of time cleaning up after them. Litter training and weaning kittens is hardly a tidy job! It's been worth it though.

I was always told that many foster homes end up becoming permanent homes. I was very well behaved and happily saw all kittens off to their foster homes. Then I met Poppy. When we picked her up, she was hiding under furniture and refused to come out. As soon as we got her home though, she immediately climbed onto my lap and starting purring. That was it. I was adopted. So I'm starting the paperwork to keep her now. It makes our journey back more tricky, and our UK living situation. My not-future-mother-in-law is terrified of cats so she can't live with us there. Instead our friend will keep her for a few months until we buy our own place. It could be months! The chances of us getting Poppy back are slim.

My lovely Poppy cat pretending to be well behaved

I'm still job hunting. With the slow job market in the UK, I'm having to be more flexible on location. It means I could end up working in London and commuting from Manchester. I hope one thing we have learned during this pandemic is that work-life balance is important, and working from home is a good thing! So is seeing colleagues in person, so my hope is for a few days a week in London, and most of the week in Manchester. That would be a good balance. But it's all up in the air right now! I've spoken to some organisations that sound like really good fits, so I'll keep talking to them and see what happens. I hope it'll all work out the way it is supposed to.

While doing all of this, I'll also be sorting out moving. The removal company is booked, but a 13 hour journey back with a cat will need some careful organising. We also need to cancel all our subscriptions in France, sell some furniture and sort out moving Swiss pensions to the UK. The thought of dealing with French/Swiss paperwork terrifies me. Neither country is known for making things easy. Putting things off probably isn't the best idea, but while I'm busy with interviews and kittens, I'll try and avoid it!

When the world starts to open up again, I hope to come back often. The fresh fruit and veg here just seems to taste so much better. And I love the food markets, and the more relaxed approach to life. Take one example of this. A few months ago, an expat had forgotten to weigh her fruit before taking it to the till. All the French people in the queue told her to go and weigh it. They didn't mind waiting a moment. I don't think that would happen in the UK! French people don't take the same approach when it comes to driving, but that's another story.

How can you resist eating fresh veg when this is presented to you?

Despite all my whining, there are good things about moving back to the UK. Being able to understand all the paperwork will make life easier! And I've missed my friends and family so much. I've also missed the food. I got so used to having very good Cantonese food whenever I wanted it, but there's almost none in France and Geneva. The little Asian food there is tends to be from north China or Vietnam. It's good food, but it isn't the food I grew up with. My first stop back in the UK will need to be for dim sum! After my 14 day quarantine, of course...!

Leah x

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