Two Steps Backwards


Looking back, I am shocked at our sheer ignorant optimism when we bought our French farmhouse all those years ago. And really quite surprised that we lived to tell the tale.

The combination of pole-vaulting interest rates that found us paying an astonishing 20.9% on our mortgage and the recession of the early 90s left us almost penniless and on the verge of homelessness, with a small menagerie of animals to provide for. What was in our favour was the price of French property, and we managed to scrape together just enough buy a near-derelict farmhouse with no water, no sanitation, no heating and an electricity supply consisting of one socket and one light-bulb dangling at waist height, but sufficient land to support our two retired horses. Out we came in a truck, with five dogs, two parrots and a few sticks of furniture. 

While I lived here looking after the animals, my husband spent most of his time in England working to earn the money to keep us all and buy materials to make the house habitable.

The washing machine lived behind the house, attached by various leads to the electric socket and an outside tap, and discharged itself into the garden. The loo was a plastic box in an old pig sty, and the bath was a plastic bucket; the kitchen, which lived in a barn at the end of the garden, consisted of a collection of mis-matched units in a violent shade of yellow, a pillarbox red fridge and a cooker that shuddered and sent flames flying from every joint each time I lit it.

The dogs and horses frequently disappeared, sometimes for days at a time, to my enormous distress. But they always returned, often attached to a French farmer who had found them wandering down the road or playing with his sheep.

Life in la France profonde was a world away from busy towns, dense traffic and perpetual noise. Tractors were common, cars rare. Wildlife lived all round us and quite often in the house. My early attempts at French conversation were not always entirely successful. The lack of ambient light at night meant that every star was visible, and the only sounds were of nightingales and owls, or the eerie squeal of a fox. 

Life was far harder than I had anticipated, but it was also wonderful and rewarding and 16 years later we are still here. If we had to do it all over again, would we?

Yes!

Could we?

Maybe. :)


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