The scenery changes as you leave Eymoutiers and climb uphill into la Correze. It changes from rolling hills, fields and little woods into dark forests, little meadows and soaring buzzards. Despite the fact they are both in the Limousin they could be in completely different ends of the country. The only clue to the fact that they are in the same Region is the ever present Limousin cow, a sort of tidier version of its Scottish highland cousin.
Tomorrow, when we cross the departmental boarder we will be doing it as full time French residents. It will be the second time we’ve done it this week. Last week we set off from Portsmouth (An SO postcode but everyone in Hampshire knows that Locks Heath is in Portsmouth really!) with a tail lift van packed to the rafters with all our worldly possessions. Overnight on the cheap and cheerful LD lines ferry and seven hour drive across what feels like the entire length of France, but in reality only half of it, and we arrived in Bugeat. Bugeat is our closest town and despite the fact it is only the size of a small Cotswold village has a butchers, bakers (No candlestick makers) a newsagent, a small supermarket, a vet, a doctors, a school and college, 3 restaurants, 3 garages and a train station. We stayed overnight in a B&B ran by some fellow ex-pats. Great place with a friendly dog and even friendlier owners. Within 2 hours of staying there we were given an old wood fuelled oven to install at chez Powell and an introduction to Correze generosity. This sort of thing happens all the time apparently, one story tells of a couple who took their aged Labrador to the vet for its final visit and came away with a stay Alsatian cross as compensation! The next day involved signing the deeds, translated for us with another expat from the town. By 6.30pm we were unpacked and settled into our electric-less, waterless house that is now, home.
A winter where temperatures reached -27oC led to pipes freezing and bursting all over the region so to find two in a house where no one has lived for two years wasn’t really a surprise, but a broken meter demonstrated how damaging these low temperatures can be. It did give us an opportunity to experience a French DIY store which was all we hoped it would be. Eyed with suspicion as soon as we spoke English to one another and it took nearly half an hour for the shop worker to collect the lawnmower from the back that we decided to get at the same time. However this was all done with a friendliness seldom seen in the English counterparts. Whilst we waited everyone who walked past us nodded and said “Bonjour” and we ended up with some free copper pipe to fix our burst pipes because it was the last one left and had a very slight bend in it.
So, tomorrow we leave for France for the final time. The new old car (a second hand r reg Land Rover Discovery with rusty wheel arches and a leaky sunroof) is packed with what is left of our stuff, clothes, some food, a couple of board games and 8 tomato plants. The boy is in bed and the dogs wish they were. All ready for the final long drive through the ever changing scenery of France. The new life starts here. The house won’t have electrics until next week so we will be effectively camping in our own home. We have to mow the lawn because vipers are a real danger in the region and put up a fence because our stupid dog will simply run off into the forests if we don’t. I thought I would be nervous or having regrets but I am neither. The move can’t come soon enough and, other than friends and relatives (some of them!) I can’t think of anything I will miss about England. I’ve even got a rugby team to play for, although the picture in the bar in Bugeat makes them look very young and fit so back to second team rugby I go after reliving the first team dream in Hampshire for four months. I am looking forward to producing my own food, hearing nothing but animals for hours on end, owning a house outright with no mortgage at 32, sending my son to an education system where excellence is encouraged and mediocrity and poor behaviour are treated with contempt and generally living a more meaningful life. It will be a while until there is another blog as there is no telephone or internet currently at the house so until it’s connected. A bientot.