This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
So, dear reader, it is a while since I have regaled you with some of our goings on here in La Belle France. That’s the large country the other side of the channel or La Manche (The Sleeve) as the French call it, shortly to become even more foreign than it is now…
On 17th January 2019 we celebrated 12 years of living in Sonac, in the south west. Where has that time gone? What have we done? What have we achieved?
Well our life has evolved very differently to when we arrived. 12 years of being older hasn’t helped! The house needed a lot of work (original part was built in 1750) – kitchen, bathrooms, swimming pool, total redecoration, landscaping the garden and many other things to improve it to live in comfortably and to our tastes. We both had corporate lives in England but decided to tackle the work ourselves, not having much idea about what it would entail. We succeeded!
We now have a beautiful five bedroomed, three bathroom house in Sonac, an unspoilt area of France. After some of the more challenging DIY (I did all the tiling, kitchen (floor and walls), two bathrooms and around the pool). After the pool slog I couldn’t stand up for a couple of weeks, my knees were numb and I had hands like sandpaper. John became an ace plumber, cement mixer (so to speak), carpenter, gardener and general all round builder/worker. We were such a good team we got married in the village in 2008.
Our various offspring have visited on numerous occasions and we have had fabulous family times. With five daughters between us, over 12 years we now have six grandchildren and the pull of them all now living in the UK I am finding difficult. I would like to be closer but the reality of affording UK property is a bit daunting. Prices in France have gone down steadily but doubled in the UK – ouch!
Over the last couple of years our health hasn’t been at its best, but maybe that’s a 12 years older thing! Another possible reason for moving back to the UK is I would like to die in my own language, but I hope that’s not for a while yet! We have both learnt to speak French well and integrated with the community. Five years on the village fete committee certainly proved interesting and frankly, sometimes very boring, as most committee stuff can be! We have gone from “les etrangers” (the strangers) to ‘les anglais” (the English) and now everybody seems to know John and Lou – it only took 12 years! One of our favourite restaurants has the top table by an open fire where they spit roast legs of lamb every Sunday. Last weekend we were given this table – OMG – now that was an honour! It’s a simple country auberge, but the best atmosphere and excellent food. For €25 you get six courses and as much wine as you can drink!
Since we’ve lived here we’ve also done a fair bit of travelling. Firstly our honeymoon. This was a month travelling around the Far East, which I absolutely love (as an Army child I lived in Malaya – oops, Malaysia) and would love to live there again if it wasn’t for such a humid climate and being so far away!
A year later we spent a month in India, which I had a love/hate relationship with. Our main focus was to find John’s family home in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu where he was born, and we succeeded! What an experience – but that’s another story.
An advantage to living in mainland Europe is that we are free to travel over borders without problems. As we have a French registered car that will obviously continue unless they ask to see our passports. We have driven to Spain several times, flown to Porto, Marrakesh, Berlin, UK on €4.99 flights courtesy of Ryanair (other airlines available, except BMI…) and visited Doha, when my eldest daughter lived there.
‘The past few months have seen us do huge amounts of administrative work for our right to remain in France, get French driving licences and sort out our tax. All quite daunting when these are all in French with unknown terminology. John has had his right to stay approved but I am still waiting, which is a little annoying as we had our interviews at the same time and I did all the paperwork. It would be ironic if John was allowed to stay and I wasn’t! Perhaps they didn’t like my great uncle’s inside leg measurement…
It’s February and life is generally quiet until the b&b season takes off but at the moment we have the most amazing weather. Peerless blue skies, no rain forecast for at least two weeks. It’s also 18 degrees today which is bringing out a gentle buzz from newly emerging insects. There is a hint of blossom on some shrubs and the air feels gently balmy. We are looking forward to the coming months (within reason, politics depending!) as the weather gets warmer and we spend more time outside. The garden looks like wreck after the ravages of a very cold January and although I dislike gardening it has to be done. Volunteers welcome!
Find out who Louloulapomme really is here