Our year in France has come to a close. Having struggled so hard with their French school, making friends, coping with the language and the four-course lunches, the twins finally came back to Blighty, to their Grandma, they missed her close proximity, as did I.
The invaluable support you rely on from family and friends all but vanishes when you move far away from everything and everyone you love. It can leave you bereft, but it can also leave you exhilarated…by it’s freedom.
However, the natural desire to seek out your own kind seems to be innate, to connect with someone who understands every nuance and cadance of your speech, every subtle expression you articulate is a function you must somehow fulfill. And so it was for us.
In our small village in rural France an incredible support system had been established long before we lived there and maintained by the local expats. Who looked out for each other in difficult times, supported each other emotionally with friendship, helping with illness or with simple things like cat sitting and log stacking to more desperate straits such as hospital visits or filling in complicated governmental forms. The network was precious and much needed.
Aside from these necessities, our year also gave us an insight into true simplicity. Living far from any major city, with little more to do than roam around reams of fields, pick fruit, cook feasts, chop and stack logs, weed, wander and wallow in nature was in the main pure luxury. The friendships we made were intense and mostly inspiring. Though often within these small communities they can led to gossip and boredom. The people who blew us away were endlessly creating, building and recovering beautiful old houses and barns, making jams, chutneys, cakes, pies, wines, vegetable patches, flower gardens to die for, painting, sculpting, writing, singing and always, always busy.
We felt touched to the core of what we could possibly achieve in this world and how we could live without the pressure of consumerism or to be driven by money.
Of course it wasn’t easy and simply heating our house was expensive and practically impossible. A very sick child saw us lost in the French hospital system; charged for services we take for granted back in Blighty. At times the very idea of more bread and cheese was enough to make us cry. And our wine habit has definitely become more intrenched. The weather, as it turned out, was far from perfect and the rain poured down on us just as much as at home. But the sky was incredibly huge and all engulfing, the colour of blue was more intense and beautiful and made your heart soar.
As the year continued, the recession spanked us, our children continued to struggle with their rudimentary French, we felt we should return home for their sakes and for the sakes of our ageing families and sorely-missed buddies.
But after a month back on this Isle our house languishes on the market, our children have no places at school due to the over-crowding population. The dark skies and rain lash down on us and from our crowded corner of South-East England the stars barely twinkle in a sky swathed in plane fumes and grey clouds.
What should we do next, where should we go? This 21st century question we all seek to answer to fulfill our lives and provide ourselves and our children with a simple lifestyle and space to be free, we cannot answer, and our children shout “don’t take us back to France”!!
And as we sit paralysed with no school place for our children, no idea of our next move we are stuck in a melee of doubt and confusion.