Today is the first anniversary of our moving to France full time; a whole year has elapsed since we began “living the dream”. It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us; not just in terms of learning how the French systems of health care, taxation, planning etc. work, but also, having left behind most of the family and all of our friends, learning about our own strengths and weaknesses in an unfamiliar environment.
Although the main projects of building our new home and setting up a gite and chambres d’hotes business haven’t actually been started yet, we have plenty of achievements to celebrate, not least of which must be the standard of Nick’s French, which has improved beyond all recognition during the last year. He and Kieran have worked hard, not just in their French class, but also insulating the house, installing a second bathroom, transforming the barn behind the house to give us Nick’s and my workshops and an arrière cuisine, to mention but a miniscule part of what they’ve accomplished. For the first time in our married life, we’ve got a garden worth speaking of and have managed to grow an impressive amount of our own fruit and vegetables. Kieran has also got his motorbike license now and has become an expert digger driver and I’ve learned, amongst other things, how to tile walls and floors, grow fruit & vegetables and live with animals!
The people of Caupenne d’Armagnac and Nogaro have been unbelievably friendly, welcoming us with open arms to the cycling club, the walking club, the patchwork club; and making us feel valued members of the local community. It’s great to be able to go into town, bump into someone we know and stop for a chat; something we took for granted back in Harrogate, but which, we now realise, means a lot in terms of belonging.
Of course there have been difficulties and frustrations; the fear of misunderstanding what’s said on the phone, not understanding how things work, trying to get anything done in a time frame that would seem normal in the UK (not a chance!) and for me in particular, missing my friends and our beautiful granddaughter. But on the whole, neither Nick nor I would want to move back to England, or to have missed the last year for anything.
So what have we done today to celebrate this great event? Much the same as any other day, actually; Nick and Kieran have continued to work on the hangar while I’ve re-sealed the shower again. One talent I’ve discovered I definitely don’t have is silicon sealing showers. After numerous attempts, it was still leaking, so the lads removed the glass bit, I cleaned out all the old silicon, put new in and they sat the glass bit back onto it. I have to admit that it’s not the neatest job, but if it’s watertight this time, I don’t care how it looks!
Work over, it was time for a BBQ and beer. Take one of Val & Gary’s home-grown, free range chickens, cut through the base and flatten out, rub with pepper, lemon juice, herbs and olive oil from our neighbours’ olive farm in Portugal, then cook over hot coals with potatoes, home-grown tomatoes, peppers and the first of our aubergines, serve with sauce basquaise; awesome!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures and will continue to do so, but we’re always open to new ideas, if there’s anything you’d like to see more (or less!) of, please let us know in the comments!