I was recently asked, by a couple of kind followers, why and how I moved to France. This is the simple answer.
When I was very young I went on two different 'exchange holidays' with French children of my age. One was to Dieppe, on the north coast; the other to a small village in the Champagne district. I must have been a precocious child, because I could see at once that this was where I wanted to live.
After college I did a spot of teaching, and during one Easter holiday we rushed off down to S W France, where we stayed in the house of a friend. At the nearby town I couldn't help looking in estate agent's windows, and one house caught my eye. We drove about 100 kms due South and pulled up outside a pair of impressive stone gateposts leading to the courtyard of a recently abandoned farm. Within the gates were the house, a huge barn, four massive trees, several other stone-built buildings (there's more of it round to the left); all with about one hectare of good quality land.
'I'll have it!' I said to the agent, before even getting out of the car. And that was it; after the unbelievable rigmarole of selling our home in Wales, coping with dreadful French paperwork and money transfers (this is now SO much easier), my wife and I, two children, and the dog, moved into home No 1 in September 1972.....It's at moments like this when you sit down and say to yourself 'What the fuck have I done?'.... I was just 25 years old.
Once habitable, my intention was to run a 'Painting Holiday' centre, where painters would come, have use of studio space, do their own thing, and receive critiques in the evenings over a glass of wine (if required).
I advertised in The Times newspaper, and we soon had enquiries. But our visitors were all NUTTERS; some dangerously so. A non-stop procession of certifiable eccentrics who made us permanently nervous. We abandoned the idea quite soon, and I took up stone-cutting instead (windows, fireplaces, arched doorways, etc).
We've moved house a couple of times since then, and are now very happily ensconced in our small cottage (below) overlooking the most wonderful open countryside. We are just about 300 metres from the first house, above.
OK, I've never earned a fortune and it hasn't always been easy, but my 3 children (one was born here) all had the most perfect childhoods, we grow a lot of what we eat, have an almost endless supply of wild mushrooms, and still manage, somehow, to make ends meet.
Would I do it again? Not sure; but probably. Yes of course I would!
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