The transition between lives in two countries to both of which you feel an emotional tie can be a hard. We all live in the real world, no one place is all bad just as another is not the answer to all our dreams!
I have spent the last five years splitting myself between the county I call home and commitments in other countries; being a French resident, but having to reluctantly spend time away from France.
It’s not the best of both worlds at all - it’s meeting lovely people in both places but being so shattered after commuting that you just don’t have the energy to really develop the friendships as you would wish. It’s always having the shoes/scarf/book you want in the wrong house; the bad nutrition as you regularly stop for the convenience of fast food on the journey and never have fresh food in either fridge!
The pinnacle (or trough, however you look at it) of my transitory time, trying to hold everything together, was when my son spotted me called out on Facebook having been overheard at Waitrose asking, in best seagull tones, “Do we need Parmesan for the French house as well as here, darling?” It’s not glamorous, this International travel - it’s just tedious!
But now I’m here, full time - oh the relief of having all my possessions under one roof (most still in their boxes in the attic, admittedly) of being here to tend the garden and pick the produce, not to have to bundle eye rolling dogs into the car for their seven hour jaunt every Friday and Sunday evening.
But what is it like finally being here? Putting those roots down?
I still have a long way to go until I’m properly French in attitude - I still get frustrated with the waiting – it really is la vie au ralenti here! You’ve all heard about the endless paperwork required by the systems, the lack of choice in the shops can be frustration to an English mind and my French still leaves a lot to be desired – entirely my fault for not practicing more!
Given this, my trip back to UK should have been a treat. It was eagerly anticipated and planned for. I was so excited to be spending a whole week in U.K. The first night I was beyond sleep - I stayed up browsing the Boden sale - I've always wanted some leopard boots and they were massively reduced! (old habits die hard), sinned heavily with the credit card and got ridiculously overexcited at the prospect of next day delivery - next week delivery being an achievement in France - anxiously following its delivery driver’s route. That was it; money gone, fix achieved.
Of course, I did still go shopping, but I found the city centre too busy, the shops too crowded and jumbled and had to resist the habit of saying hello on entering a shop a goodbye on leaving as both drew bemused looks from the shop staff and sighs from my sons! I am surely then getting more French, more country!
Being me I can’t resist a charity or vintage shop, but I could have a good look in the window as I sat in the traffic jam outside, but local parking? Not a chance!
But it was the noise that got me - out shopping at a crowded Mall it was lunch time. So, my companions decided a well known chain providing a pastiche of French food was obviously the way forward. I couldn’t believe the noise - conversations held at full volume, and that was just the waiting staff! I now know all about the barmaid and waitress’ social lives and their medical symptoms and the cacophony of bashed glasses as she unloaded the bar’s dishwasher accompanied our meal left me with a headache. Restaurants in France can be lively and fun, but the diners and staff at least maintain the ambiance allowing the meal to be relaxing!
However, my son took me to an independent restaurant which was fabulous! Small menu, cooked well, using local seasonal products and the most amazing coffee, like drinking bitter chocolate. I dare say better than any I’ve had in France. And I got to wear my super new boots!
I suppose it’s the local knowledge that counts, he knew where to take Mummy through knowledge gathered from living in the place, being part of the wider community and settling there! It does take a long time to settle in a new place, make friends out of acquaintances, learn the best places to go.
It’s a blessing that we have social media now as a tool to link and create communities. I know it can have drawbacks if not managed well, but without it, I’d be a lot more lost and have a lonelier life.
I’m now back in rural France, with all its frustrations and missing my family terribly but my terroir (the soil of my garden) is under my fingernails and the mode de la vie suits me - back to being busy and battling bureaucracy, but in a more relaxed way! La vie au ralenti pour me!