The dream is taking a step closer. It’s been over 20 years since I knew that moving to France was what I yearned to do and now we are closer than ever to doing it. It’s exciting, a bit nerve-wracking and a giant leap.
I feel at home in France, I don’t know why, but once I am over the Channel a sense of calm and belonging comes over me. My ex-husband and I owned a house in Brittany for a few years and the plan was to do it up and eventually live there, but our marriage broke up and eventually he sold the house.
I visited the area recently and drove down the lane to our old house and was horrified at what had happened to it. It had become someone else’s dream, but looked like my idea of a nightmare. It had lost it’s character, it was now a gleaming house with no reference to it’s former self. That day was the day I could finally start to say goodbye to that part of my life.
We had bought the Brittany house when the children were little and it was romantic, a gorgeous little house and longere, fairly run down but with lots of potential. The previous, British, owners had tried but not very successfully to make it a home. There were poor attempts at DIY, the house was overrun by mice, the electrics we discovered were dangerous, the plumbing poor…..the list was endless. But we could see beyond this disaster and could visualise the home we wanted it to become.
We found one person who was keen to oversee works for us whilst we were back in England, but once he realised that we had higher standards than he was able to offer he put us in contact with another Brit, Gavin.
Gavin was a builder by trade and he turned out to be a good friend over the years that he did work for us on the house. Under him the house became a home and he helped us realise some of the dreams we had.
The mice problem, which I thought was just a few little ones who made it into the house when it was closed up, turned out to be a whole town of them living beneath the wooden floor. This was what Gavin discovered when we asked him to take the flooring up and set a more permanent floor in its place. As he lifted the floorboards he was greeted by a swarm of mice happily going about their business under our feet. I was so glad I was not there on the day that was discovered. It made me laugh that my poor attempts at humane mouse removal, accompanied by huge personal anxiety had been so futile. I was reminded of the time when I was on at the house with just my two small children for a week or so. I had got the humane mouse trap set up in the kitchen and one morning discovered a mouse firmly trapped in it. I got the kids dressed and put the humane mouse trap in a carrier bag in my car and drove furiously for 3 miles with said bag, trap, mouse and 2 small children, before releasing it into the wild. How it’s little mouse mates have been laughing at me, back at the house, as they continued to party under the floorboards.
We had some wonderful times in the house, whatever the weather, we always had fun, found lots to explore and the children had plenty of time without distractions of television to indulge in imaginary play with tea sets, dolls or playing in the vast garden.
As is always the way wherever I go on holiday, local dogs seem to find me and we temporarily provide food and company for them. Our French neighbours did not seem to mind that their dogs, suddenly renamed by us, became fixtures in our family for a couple of weeks. And that is how we came to be foster parents to Molly, a scatty, lively mutt who bounded in the house as soon as we awoke in the morning and spent the day racing around the house and garden. She terrified my youngest daughter as she had a habit of leaping up at everyone but thankfully that did not put her off dogs for life.
During our recent visit to the area we decided to look up Gavin, we had been sending cards every year to him and up until 3 years ago had always had one in return. We couldn’t remember where exactly his house was and as anyone who knows Brittany will know that addresses mean very little in the middle of the country, so we headed to his 2nd home, the local bar. Sadly we found out that he had died nearly 3 years previously. We wanted to pay respects to him and were advised to visit the Mairie, which we did. They were delighted to see us as they thought we were family. As they had not been able to contact family immediately after he died the Mairie’s office had arranged for him to be cremated and his ashes stored in the paupers building at graveyard. His relatives back home had decided to leave his ashes there, which we found absolutely heartbreaking. If they had known where the ashes were being stored I felt sure they would have at least wanted him to have a more pleasant final resting place. As friends we had no rights to do anything and so all we could do was leave flowers in his memory at the graveyard. A sad end to a visit to an area that held so many happy memories and a definite closing of that chapter in our lives.
Now we are ready for the new chapter and in a couple of weeks will be heading to a different part of France in the search for our new home. I hope we find as much happiness there as well as good friends like Gavin to help us on our way.