All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Ignorance is bliss

I count myself singularly unfortunate in landing in France when I did and where I did.

Having travelled in France for years, I liked the climate in the Loire Valley and noted that the prices were decidedly reasonable. Holidays in Eymet had given me a horror of what was to become Dordogneshire with its black socked and sandalled Brits in the markets and the pseudo stockbrokers upcountry in their bijou residences.

The voyage of exploration in the 1980s decided estate agent who allowed me to plough through his badly printed factsheets and then provided me with keys..where they existed...and vague directions and sent me off for the day suited me very pressure, no 'buy it now before prices rise', just the enquiry at the end of the day whether I had found anything I liked.

I found some wonderful places...the house with wallpaper picturing the worst excesses of the French Revolution covering cracks into which you could insert your hand....houses without said wallpaper where the cracks furnished a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside...houses like the Marie Celeste where the remnants of the last meal mouldered on the kitchen table...houses with vaulted cellars where the bats hung immobile all day long....just don't mention the question of sewage disposal, proper water supply or telephones.

I bought a small house on the edge of a very rural commune, and this was my mistake, on hindsight, in discovering what France was about.

The place was not crawling with senators, members of the national assembly, media personalities, big business owners, or any of the untouchables who run the country. I had bought only a small house, so none of the local building mafia regarded me as likely prey. I was not running a business, so I was competition to nobody. The commune was composed of ordinary people trying to make a living, and it was among these people that I started to discover life in rural France.

I then made my second big mistake...I improved my French. I had scraped through 'O' Level French many years before, had later made an attempt to upgrade my skills, but the big push came when I found myself in rural France and had to get to grips with the language as a priority. I now know that this was where I went wrong in preserving my dream of life in a new country. Had I been unable to read the local newspaper, I would not have found things to disturb me....I would have been reassured by whatever crap was being dished out by whoever was speaking to me...had I gone one better, as did most of the British expats who came over in later years, and refused to learn the language at all, it is possible that I would still be thinking that living in France is wonderful!

Why did I never listen to the old saying
'Ignorance is bliss'!


  1. I am really glad I found you! This is almost a bit nostalgic for me as way back in 2003 I looked at buying a property in France. There was a spell when you could buy really charming old gites and farmhouses very very cheap (but like you said no sewerage, running water, electricity and floor!)
    It became somewhat of a pipe dream for me, but a divorce came and went and my life changed.
    I'll be sure to read some more and see how you managed it x

  2. Mammasaurus, I found you through Sarah Hague's post about the first blog post...and I'll have a lot of reading to catch up on!
    I managed it...and managed to come out at the other end relatively unscathed...

  3. Fly, what fun to be pointed towards your first post. I know I could have found it for myself, but I've been tending to read your more recent posts first and hadn't gone back as far as this. You certainly started as you meant to go on. :-)

  4. Perpetua, it was a good idea which I think originated with Mammasaurus...more power to her elbow if she has ideas like this!

    The blog came about because I was tired of explaining to incredulous family and friends that while some aspects of life in France were absolutely super...others left something to be desired.
    This was not what they were accustomed to hearing in the media.
    So I decided to write as if writing to friends, but in just one place...a blog.

    I had no idea how many friends I would make through blogging!
    Or how much I would learn from other bloggers, not just about blogging, but by being allowed into their worlds.

    Perhaps someone could start an 'end of first year' blog post thingy...

  5. another good idea, Fly. I get to my first blogging anniversary in February, so if I remember (a big if) and if it hasn't been done before then, I'll have a go.