Five years ago we left our large, brand new house in Co. Cork, which we’d built ourselves, for a two-hundred-year-old hovel in Creuse, France (actually, two, plus a crumbling barn, and not forgetting 75 acres of land and lakes).
Why, oh why? Why did we aspire to go down in the world, to leave the country where we could communicate successfully and actually use our painstakingly acquired professional qualifications to make a living? Why did we abandon all that and go abroad where, at least at first, we would be scratching a living so far below the poverty line as to be complete out of sight of it? Insanity? Bloody-mindedness? Misguided romanticism? The spirit of adventure?
None of the above. Quite simply - necessity. It was the only thing to do.
We couldn’t carry on in Ireland the way we were. After fifteen years there, it was time to go before Chris’s work-related stress made me a widow and the cost of living got any worse. And so we changed our lives by moving to rural France to run a gîte and carp fishing business and do a little llama farming on the side.
We are: myself, Stephanie, author and freelance editor and now also llama farmer and gîte cleaner; Chris, ex-quality assurance in the chemical industry, now carp lake manager, DIY expert and mole hater; three totally Frenchified children, namely Benj, currently nearly 20 and at University; Caiti 17 who regularly wins national school awards, and 10 year-old free spirit Ruadhri; Nessie our dog who came with us too, but all the other animals – alpacas, carp, cats, goats, guinea pigs, hens, llamas, rabbits, turkeys – have been accumulated here.
Moving abroad is tricky at the best of times. With kids of 14, 11 and 4 at the time it became even more of a challenge. But with persistence, a positive attitude and, let’s face it, no alternative, we’ve made a success of it. It’s been far from easy though. Many people harbour notions of an idyllic rural French ex-pat lifestyle, sipping wine and watching sunsets. That rarely exists. Reality is French bureaucracy, exploding composting loos, leaking roofs, viciously cold winters without central heating, living off savings, self-doubt, frustration and depression.
I began my blog in July 2009. With its honest view of what it takes to get established abroad, my blog, Blog in France, has encouraged and educated current and would-be ex-pat families, as well as entertained everybody, or at least I hope it has. The overall tone is optimistic and light-hearted and variety is the key. I’ve picked what I think to be a nice selection from the first couple of years’ worth of entries, which I’ve arranged by months. So from January to December, you can see what living in rural Creuse is like for an Anglo-Irish family who took the plunge and have never looked back. (OK, maybe just the odd glance!)