It's 45 years this month since I moved to France; I don't remember the actual date.
September 1972 was cold, and the vendor's wife (who just happened to be at the house the day we arrived with goods and chattels) kindly welcomed us by lighting a fire in the main sitting room fireplace.
She took a bale of straw from the barn, stuffed it into the huge open fireplace, and to our horror, LIT IT.
It was at this moment that I realised that the French did things slightly differently to us Brits.
We've had some wonderful adventures along the way, made some wonderful friends, and, as far as I'm concerned, there's still a lot more fun to come.
I was 25 when I bought our first big old farmhouse (we've moved a couple of times since), and on reflection it was a pretty wild gesture. My French was rudimentary schoolboy, my knowledge of French ways almost non-existent, but my enthusiasm was boundless; it was the perfect combination. The property contained wonderful old stone barns, studio space, land, and a small chestnut wood; I had bought myself a home which seemed to contain everything I needed. The house itself had not been lived in for a year or so, but was in good shape; other than having no bathroom.
For the first time in my life I felt totally liberated. My two children (a third arrived later) also revelled in that freedom, and along with our scruffy mutt 'Hamlet', they took complete advantage of what our new bucolic life offered.
Of course a few 'minor blips' have occurred en route, they always do; but it's a sign of having such wonderfully friendly neighbours that we've only had to cope with a couple who aren't.
As it happens, we are now facing another 'minor blip'; a relative newcomer is trying to turn our tiny peaceful hamlet into a holiday park, with a number of semi-buried shipping containers for accommodation, playgrounds, pool, restaurant, etc. We are not amused.
Sadly this is our second unexpected case of unpleasantness in just over a year. One really wonders how certain people can live with themselves. Last year it was classic hypocrisy, this year plain greed; two of my absolute least favourite human traits.
So cheers! I still adore my little world (even though I may occasionally want to stop it and get off), and I hope that you are all able to say likewise about wherever you have chosen to settle.
(Above photo) Cro's usual sartorial elegance; in ratting clothes (at the new home 1973).