This post was first written as a contribution to a blog hop in which I took part in 2012.
Dr Johnson once described second marriage as, “The triumph of hope over experience.” Moving to France after falling out of love with England could be described in similar terms.
First, there’s courtship. You’ve found the house – it was basking in the late spring sunshine with the cuckoos calling and the bright green oak leaves rustling in the breeze. Of course, it was love at first sight. Now comes the delicious anticipation of sunlit days and balmy evenings, spiced with the frisson of yet unknown but legitimate pleasures.
Then there’s the honeymoon period. How long this lasts depends on your particular disposition. But, as far as France is concerned, everything is new and wonderful, to be savoured with voluptuous enjoyment. There are so many things about rural France that you never experienced in rural England: the lack of traffic jams; the restaurants where you can eat a five-course meal for 12 euros and still have change for Le Figaro; the quaint but engaging neighbours; the daily buying of bread; the fêtes; and the wine bought at the local cave for a few euros.
Then disillusionment seeps in, like a draught through a badly-fitted window. Why didn’t anyone tell you how cold it can be in winter and how much you would have to spend on heating? Why do you have to produce your grandmother’s birth certificate to effect the simplest of administrative tasks? Why don’t the shops open between 12 and 2 o’clock? Why don’t the artisans turn up when they say they will, or even supply an estimate for the work? Why is the language so difficult? Why do the French always wait till everyone has arrived before serving the drinks? Why is it so different from England, when the two countries are only 30 miles apart?
It’s even more disappointing, though, that you can now get Marmite and Bisto in the supermarket. Surely, that’s not what we came for. But what did we come for? Doubt now sets in with a vengeance. It’s at this point that thoughts turn to divorce, to scuttling back to Blighty, to our first love, to what we were brought up to comprehend, even if we don’t like it.
But then you start to realise that you have become deeply attached to this difficult companion. So, onto the final phase – reconciliation. Even if aspects of French life and the closed book that is the French psyche are bewildering, would it be any better back in England? Would we be happier sitting in traffic jams on the M25 or the M6? Would it be better shopping at Tescos than at HyperU? Would David Cameron be any more sympa than Nicolas Sarkozy (or the yet-to-be-tested François Hollande, if he gets in)? Would the English winter be more bearable than the French variety? And would the idiocies of the British nanny state be any more palatable than those of the modèle français?
There is no perfect place to live on this planet. Wherever you choose to call home has its downsides. But, like marriage, it’s not a bad idea to make a thorough acquaintance with your intended before taking the plunge.
Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved