Yesterday we celebrated our first Christmas as a family in our very own house in France, three and a half years after we first saw and fell in love with it. After so long, I can hardly believe it’s true, but here we are and all the hard work, tears and tantrums, and the relentless bureaucracy has been worth it.
We have had our house closed up since we took possession at the end of August, and are abut to head over for the first time, to get it set up for renting. Now is when things get real fast. It turns out that when buying a house in France, buying the house is actually the easy part. When it comes to furnishing the place, I am reminded just how much work is involved in turning a house into a home.
It has been a long journey, with more turbulence than a long-haul flight over the Urals, but, touch wood, we will soon own a house in France.
After years of thinking about it, months of writing, weeks of editing, and days of anguishing over every last detail, I have finally finished the book and am ready (maybe) to pitch it to publishers.
It’s not perfect, but it’s about as perfect as it’s going to get without the eye of a professional editor and I have to accept that if it is ever going to stand a chance of seeing the light of day beyond my computer, I have to let it go. Let it go.
Will it be any good? Does anyone want to read it? Since my pitch is premised on the idea that there’s interest, I certainly hope so!
After four months, the time has come for us to leave Quillan, and I am as miserable as the weather at the thought.
As I spend a long weekend writing, feverishly beavering to complete my first book draft while the boys adventure in the snow in Andorra, I am reminded that loneliness is a major challenge we face when uprooting ourselves from our regular lives, wider family, friends, colleagues and connections to move to the other side of the world.
As an extrovert and a fairly social person, who likes to spend time with people, it is unexpected and unsettling for me to discover it is possible to be lonely, while surrounded by people; living in a sizable town, even while having good ‘friends’ and neighbours and knowing others in the wider community.
This week I left Stephen to enjoy the bracing walk and scramble up to the arche perdue while I looked after the toddler at home, and beavered away on my book, but last week, as school had not quite started back, I persuaded the two older boys to join me for the weekly Monday full-day walk.
Prospects looked good for a sunny day once the mist lifted, but it was the iciest morning so far, for the walk around the hills between St Ferriol and St Just-le-Bezu.
This year was the first time the boys had experienced Christmas in France. It was an opportunity to do things a bit differently, being away from home, living in someone else’s house, visiting others and sharing the Christmas festivities with French friends.
It helps that Christmas in France is in the winter – with the dark and the cold, it fits all the prevailing stereotypes of the season and actually feels like Christmas!
This week I went on my second full-day walk and it was one I was quite excited about, taking us in a long loop up from Alet-les-Bains to the hilltop hamlet of St Salvayre and down via the vineyard and farm at Les Payroulies back along the river to Alet.
When the boiler broke down last week, I wasn’t initially too worried as I have become experienced in resetting it thanks to an earlier failure. But after four days of freezing temperatures, no heating, no hot water, and no sign of a qualified tradesman willing or able to fix it, I was becoming less optimistic.