We’ve been here a year now so I thought it was time to take stock and look back at what we’ve learned, what’s good, bad and what we miss.
We’ve done a lot of digging. Six double dug beds, several fruit trees, raspberry beds, blackcurrant beds, blueberry bushes and the beds in the polytunnel. I’ve learned how to fell frees with a chainsaw. Helped to put in two log burners. I now actually feel confident to do this myself if required but have no ladder, which is a problem! Redone a toilet/washroom. Found cold induced burst pipes in the house. Found snakes (including vipers), newts, toads, lizards, a species of beetle as big as my hand, wild boar poo, goat poo and deer poo in the garden.
Failed to tap a silver birch tree. Made stick men. Had several encounters with the locals which wouldn’t be out of place in one of the many move to France books. Learned how to put up fencing strong enough for pigs. Collected my own chrismas tree from the garden. Built half a kitchen out of pallets and wood found in the shed. Blown up a laptop. Written off a Land Rover Discovery. Worked in France. Set up a business in France. Done A LOT of French paperwork. Lived like a pauper and eaten like a king. Butchered a whole deer (Bit of still warm road kill, great find!) Bred and eaten my own meat-rabbits. Played rugby for the local first team. Foraged for mushrooms and not died! I’m sure I’m missing somethings but hey ho, you get the idea.
So, anything we miss? Mostly it’s food and beer related although B&Q ranks up there as a real miss. DIY shops here are very hit and miss and often expensive. Beer is a big one. French beer is shit! There are a few OK ones and the small local breweries produce some nice ones but on the whole it is tasteless fizzy liquid only worth drinking if it’s either very hot or you’ve just stepped off the rugby pitch. I had some Stella the other day and it was like drinking a pint of Guinness in comparison!! Really missing real ale I’ve never heard of on tap from a good pub. Just some Hobgoblin or Old Speckled Hen would do. Thankfully the supermarkets stock a reasonable selection of Belgian beers and I make my own, so I’m surviving! We like French food and the steak here is some of the best I’ve ever had. We always ask for oats, marmite and golden syrup when friends and family come to stay. But, the big miss is Indian from a restaurant. I make all ours at home from scratch but nothing beats an Indian restaurant on a Friday night, stuffing yourself with more curry and cobra than you would ever normally try to eat and drink. Opening times here are also a great source of frustration. Everything shuts for two hours at lunchtime and all day on Monday and Sunday. Although we moved away from Britain to get away from the “everything now” culture it is frustrating when you can’t pop out at lunchtime to pick something up from the 8 a huit (Which is not open 8 till 8 as the name suggests but 8.30 till 7.30 with the aforementioned two hour lunch break!) As mentioned paperwork is also a huge pain in the backside with every government agency, bank and insurance company wanting to know everything about you except the size of your pants. But it’s quieter, the pace of life is slower, the food is better and the wine is fantastic. We’re working at our own pace. Winter is WINTER not some grey miserable affair. Summer is hot. We can swim in lifeguarded lakes without catching pneumonia. We are mortgage free despite owning an acre of land and a four bedroom house at 33. We can drive to the supermarket and not pass a single traffic light. Hear nothing but birds for long periods of time. Do “Pick Your Own” in our own garden. I haven’t seen some chavy nob with a Staffie outside Tescos trying to buy Fosters underage for over a year. We will be making our own bacon and ham in the autumn. By the end of the month we should be milking our own goats and eating more home reared rabbit.
On balance life is much better here. Everyone we meet from Britain says it’s getting worse and that we made the right decision to move here. Lots of Brits doing the same thing in the Correze now, we just hope it doesn’t turn into another Dordogne. Vive la France! (I never thought I’d say that, ever! At least we beat them at the rugby)