Journey to a New Life – Part Two (Local Life)

One piece of advice that we were given, by a number of French and English people, was to integrate.  Don’t shut yourselves away behind your doors and only emerge to go shopping or back to England to visit.  This was never going to be an issue, as we’re not like that.  We revel in becoming part of local life.  We get to know the village inhabitants and try to be as visible as possible, without being over the top and a potential nuisance.  The most common question at the moment is ‘Vous êtes a Boubers maintenant?’ (You are at Boubers now?)  meaning, ‘Are you here to stay?’  They are surprised, and relieved, to find we are resident.  Out of a population of around six hundred and twenty, about twenty homes are holiday buys.  There are also a number of other English residents and we are gradually meeting them.  It’s not uncommon for someone to knock on the door, greet you with ‘Hello!” and introduce themselves.  One couple even told us they knew how much we had paid for the property!  I have to admit to finding that a little disturbing.

So we followed the advice. As well as having some of our neighbours help with moving into our new home, in the first couple of days we popped down to the bar for a coffee and to show our faces. We discovered, at this point, that the only coffee served was café (espresso) and I was lucky to get a decaff! The people who run the café are (otherwise) very accommodating and patient. In fact, all the villagers are patient, which was most obvious when we first arrived and our French was about as accurate as a Flintlock. They just waited until something understandable came out or we looked pathetic and asked for help.

repasdesaines
Meal for Seniors.

Last week came the epitome of our acceptance. The mayor – another very pleasant man – had informed us of the special lunch that was taking place on Sunday 23rd. It was for the Over 65s in the village! There are, apparently, a number of such events for the ‘venerables’ throughout the year. As we had registered at the Mairie with our dates of birth, he knew Dave qualified and, as his wife, so did I. He made sure, on three separate occasions when we met in the street, that we wouldn’t forget. When we met him at the venue on the day, he was pleased to see us and said he would have come to get us if we hadn’t turned up. After all, he knows where we live.

In the event, it was a very pleasurable afternoon. I say afternoon; we started eating at about one o’clock and finally left at six! The owner of the bar/restaurant had provided the seven course (???) meal and his wife and daughter, along with another couple of women, served it. All the food was outrageously good and there were, thankfully, long gaps between courses. The whole thing was paid for by the ‘commune’.

The next village event is the Remembrance Day in the square on November 11th. France has a great respect and love for those who gave their lives for them and we intend to be there.

memorial
Village war memorial. Credit to Adele James for the photo.

Journey to a New Life – Part One

It has been a long time since the last blog post, as access to the server was patchy at best, non-existent at worst.  Thank Orange France – another story for another day.

There have been many changes to family life in the last five months.  We have found, negotiated, bought and moved into a house in France.  This wasn’t the original intention but looking for the right house, at the right price, in the right area had been nine months of fruitless searching.  First, the market just seemed flat.  We had looked in ever increasing circle until we were even considering the West Country.  This would, however, have been at least a five hour drive – six, if you add an hour’s break which, at our age would be required – from any family and this was not an attractive prospect.  Even so, anywhere we could afford was in an isolated position or so small that we would have been uncomfortable.  And we had sold our house, so the clock was ticking.

mappasdecalais
Map of the Pas de Calais

So we ended up in France.  Not a big city like Paris or Rheims.  Not a wine region (although that would have been cool) but a small village of less than seven hundred people, nestling in the Pas de Calais.  It is still, very much, a farming/rural community but that doesn’t mean we will be keeping cows.  Chickens, perhaps, and the odd duck, but nothing large and potentially dangerous.  Or that needs milking.

So when we decided that we would make this move, we started looking at one storey ex-farmhouses (fermettes) – thinking ahead to the years of our dotage.  We looked at lots online and then actually viewed some, but they were all in worse condition than they appeared in the photos.  On top of that, because they were constructed using a certain type and length of tree trunk for the roof beams, they were only ever ‘so’ wide, with one room running into another or a corridor running the length of the building.  The first option made the rooms less private and the second made them smaller.

housefront
Front of the house

Then we saw Our House.  To begin with, it is three storeys, the top one being a loft conversion up to a possible thirteen years old. It was offered with six bedrooms, two bathrooms and a downstairs cloakroom, kitchen, salon (posh lounge) and salle (day to day lounge)/dining room.  It also has cellar and a range of outbuildings, as well as a half acre (about 2200 sq.m.) of garden. When we first saw the details it was way out of our range but, within a month, it had come down to a reasonable (for us) price and we agreed a deal with the owners.  So, here we are.

The house was actually built as the mayor’s house, by the mayor, in 1908.  His granddaughter lives next door in the house he built for his mother.  The house has quite a history and there are tantalisingly interesting stories abut the property that will be uncovered, I hope in due course.  We shall all have to wait for that.