About me

Vanessa Couchman

Midi-Pyrénées, France

I’m a refugee from corporate life. I took a first degree in History at Oxford University longer ago than I care to remember. Early on, I worked in publishing for 10 years. I then took a masters degree in business administration at Warwick Business School, went into public sector research and finally decided there was more to life than the four walls of an office. My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in southwest France in 1997.

My day job is running my own business writing serious stuff for clients. I also write about life in France and about writing and literary history for magazines and journals.

Front cover final

I am also a novelist and writer of short stories. My first novel, The House at Zaronza, is set in early 20th-century Corsica and during World War I. I’ve recently finished a second  novel set in 18th-century Corsica and Marseille. Further novels are jostling for position in my head.  

When I’m not doing any of those things I like food and wine; yoga and walking (antidote to the first interest); music – anything by Mozart, especially Don Giovanni, or Chopin; creating a garden out of a rocky wilderness; and annoying French bureaurats (oops: Freudian slip, of course I meant ‘-crats’), especially by hanging onto my maiden name, which completely bewilders them.

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49 Responses to About me

  1. Joyce says:

    Hi

    My name is Joyce, I am a marketing executive at expatfinder.com which is a leading expat information and services website.

    I saw on your blog that you are and expat. I wish to interview you to further share some of your tips. The questions are mainly about the housing, the daily life etc.

    It just takes 5 minutes (or more depending if you have lots to say 🙂

    Of course, if you accept we can add a link to your blog or some of your website.

    If you are interested to participate at this project, please send me an email at interview@expatfinder.com.

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks for the contact. In fact, WordPress put your comment into the spam bin and I’ve only just found it. An easier and surer way to contact me is to go to the Contact tab in the top bar. That is pretty sure to get to me – and that’s what it’s there for. I will reply by email to you request.

      Like

  2. Hi Vanessa and thanks for visiting and following my blog. Compared to you I’m a newbie expat – just two years and I’ve never regretted a moment of it. I’m living just on the borders of Aude and Ariege so you can’t be far away. Good luck with the blog, I’ll follow it with pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you for following me back. Glad to hear you’re enjoying life here. We know the Aude a little since we spent a couple of holidays at Bize-Minervois before moving here. Our 19 years here have gone in a flash! I expect you will find the same. Look forward to reading your blog, too.

      Like

  3. Pingback: LOCATION, LOCUTION: Uprooted from life in the UK, Vanessa Couchman writes novels about people with roots | The Displaced Nation

  4. Congratulations, Vanessa! I have nominated you for a Liebster Award. I think the hard work you have put into your blog deserves recognition. You can find out more about the award on my blog here:
    http://ayearinperigord.com/2014/11/23/liebster-blog-award-paying-it-forward/
    It’s now up to you whether you choose to accept it. I hope you do.
    All the best, Graham

    Like

  5. Much thanks, Vanessa, for following First Night History.

    Like

  6. What an interesting life! I’m stopping by after reading Jane’s review of your new work of fiction. Somehow she found me in rural Indiana and we keep track of one another via the Internet. I am a former newspaper reporter and editor and homeschooling mom with my first novel in the works. And, I’m 61. So, you can imagine how encouraging your foray into fiction is to me! I’m looking forward to reading your book. I’ve been to England several times, but never to France. I hope someday to change that! Thank you for sharing your life with your readers.

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you for your comment, Ingrid. It’s good that one can be in contact with people on the other side of the world! I hope you enjoy my book – and that you get to France one day. And good luck with your novel.

      Like

  7. By the normal operation of serendipity, I have just found your blog, and am glad I have done so. Just a couple of weeks short of my 65th, I am dipping my toes into the pool of writing fiction, and shall follow your blog and web site with interest. My main blog is Our parking space on the Information Super-highway

    Like

  8. James says:

    Hi Vanessa
    I wanted to get in contact with you
    Can you send me an email so I can reply to it please
    Thanks
    James

    Like

  9. MELewis says:

    I’ve nominated your blog for a Liebster Award – hope you’ll accept!

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m honoured, thank you! I had one of these a couple of years ago but lost the badge when I changed blog theme. I’ll pop over to yours and make my grateful (but not tearful!) acceptance speech.

      Like

  10. Alastair Gordon says:

    Hello Vanessa, You may remember me from Macmillan days in Basingstoke! But I retired from all that 6 years ago. We own a house in the Spanish (or, rather, Catalan Pyrenees) and although we do not live in it we spend much time there. I do enjoy reading of your experiences which are in many ways similar to ours, especially the unexpectedly cold winters.
    One of my retirement occupations has been to translate into English the diary of a Spanish Civil War veteran who lived near our village and which was published locally a few years ago. He is, or was, a short while ago, still alive and I have discussed the book with him. He was exiled with the Republican forces when Catalonia fell to Franco in January 1939 and ended up in a refugee camp at Septfonds which I am sure is near you but I can find no trace of it. Do you know anything about it? I do know the French were not proud of their record in looking after Spanish Republican refugees and may have conveniently erased all trace. Any thoughts?

    Best wishes

    Alastair (Gordon)

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Alastair,
      Nice to hear from you. I have replied by email with what I know – which is not a huge amount – but will certainly pass on any additional information I get.
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  11. Kerry Dwyer says:

    Hello Vanessa
    From another refugee from corporate life living in South West France. I am pleased to have found you here.

    Kerry

    Like

  12. Debora says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    I am writing a blog post about Toulouse and I found some very nice pictures on your site. Can I use some of them, citing your site as the author? My blog is http://da-scoprire.678voli.it/ (in Italian language) and I am writing about various cities, mostly in Europe.

    Thanks,
    Debora

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Debora,
      Thank you for asking. Yes, you may use the photos provided you credit my site, as you indicate. Please let me know when you have published your post about Toulouse – I’d like to read it. I understand a little Italian.
      Regards,
      Vanessa

      Like

  13. Richard O'Neill says:

    Dear Vanessa,
    I was a bass at the Puycelsi concert and also father of the organist. I am treasurer of the SW France Oxford University Society and wonder if you would like to join. We have a website at
    ousswfrance.co.uk which gives a good idea of our events; It would be good to have you as a member and I’m sure you will find a number of new or old friends among our members.

    Richard O’Neill

    Like

  14. Sherrie says:

    Hi Vanessa

    I’ve been reading your blogs for many months and love your area of the country, so much that we are planning to move there from the UK mid September, we have sold our house (fingers cross) and now need to find a winter rental just for the two of us while we house hunt and check out what it is really like in the winter having spent many summer holidays there. You don’t happen to know of any winter rentals in your area do you? I am finding it exceedingly difficult to find much available there.

    Thanks for any help/advice you can give.

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Sherrie,
      Right now, I don’t know of any winter rentals but I will ask around a bit. Sometimes gîte owners are happy to rent their gîte out over the winter but you need to bear in mind that they might not be well heated since they are only for summer occupancy. If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know it can be cold here in winter!

      Another option is to see if people might want house sitters for a couple of months in the winter when they go off to warmer climes. There are various websites that bring people together for that purpose. A couple of reasonable ones are http://www.housecarers.com and http://www.mindmyhouse.com. You could try registering on those.

      There are also a lot of people who live here only in summer and who might be prepared to let someone live in their house for a couple of months. You could try putting a notice on Taglines, which is a news/events blogsite for Tarn-et-Garonne, Tarn, Aveyron etc. Run by Val Johnstone. Her email is taglines82@gmail.com.

      If I hear of anything that might interest you, I’ll email you directly.

      Good luck!

      Vanessa

      Like

  15. Alison Gabbitas says:

    Help Vanessa. My husband and I moved out to France in 1989 and quite by chance on holiday, found St Antonin Noble VAL and Septfonds having come from Lot et Garonne. We happened on the Fete de Battages and have been coming to the area several times a year since. We have also been members of the aeroclub of Septfonds and have landed there on several occasions. We too have tried to find the dolmens having taken that same track to get to the airfield. Today is May22nd and we were in St A last week! I found your comments while trying to get info on the monument at the side of the road from St A to Montricoux. A fascinating area and one we really love.

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Alison, nice to meet you and I see you are following, for which many thanks. This is a beautiful area with plenty to see. I found one dolmen but have no idea where the other 14 are at Septfonds! I expect you found my post about the French Resistance, which included the Maquis d’Ornano monument on that road between Saint-Antonin and Montricoux. Worth a look when you are next over this way.
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  16. Thank you Vanessa for your message. Would like to wish you all the best with your current project on WordPress.

    Regards
    Michael

    Like

  17. Hi Vanessa
    I just read your blog and found it interesting. Please let me tell you something about myself: My name is Michael and I run a small company offering international relocation services for people moving around Europe. What we are looking for is a blogger like you who can write an article (kind of a guide) based on your experiences while living in a foreign country for those who are planning to move to the same as you country.

    If your article (s), if helpful, unique and interesting it will be published on our website http://www.europeanrelocations.co.uk .

    The information we would like to be included in the article are:

    • information about local culture and customs
    • practical information about finding accommodation and jobs
    • and possibly some information about local officialdom and immigration policy

    You might like to write it in English or other European language. You can also support your article with links to the third party sources of information.

    Ps: If you already own a collection of interesting articles we would like you link them to our website. We will obviously pay for it.

    Hope you can help

    I look forward hearing from you.

    Michael

    Like

  18. Sharon says:

    Ravie de trouver votre blog ! Ancienne habitante américaine de la Bretagne, repatriée aux USA depuis peu, je trouve que la vie compagnarde en France me manque énormément. Mais je crois que votre blog m’aidera avec ça ! Merci de prendre le temps de l’écrire.

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Merci de votre gentil message. La France doit vous manquer. Je sais qu’elle me manquérait si je revenais en Angleterre – quoique pour le moment nous grelottions de froid! Cela ne peut pas durer.

      Like

  19. KateSwaffer says:

    Hi Vanessa, I’ve nominated you for my Forget me not Award. I enjoy reading your blog, and love your photos. Keep writing, reading, enjohying music and food and life, and most of all recording your memories. Here you go…
    http://kateswaffer.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/the-forget-me-not-award/
    Cheers, Kate

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks so much, Kate, that’s really kind of you. I’ll come over and get it when I have a moment. I have another award as well that I have to pass on to 5 other people – you are on my list. Will be in touch soon.

      Like

  20. Kate Swaffer says:

    Hi Vanessa,
    I read your response to the Kick Off 2012 with Project 365… I am quite new to blogging, but have posted 135 blogs since starting on 27 August 2012, 134 of them since I set myself the challenge to blog every day since 2 September 2011 (I didn’t know about the WordPress challenge). My life goal is to blog something worthwhile and interesting for others, for the rest of my life, as I am following my own journey of dementia.
    I agree there are lots of bloggers out there who use blogging as their medium, but who perhaps would be better served to use a social networking site instead.
    I’ve enjoyed finding and reading your blog via the Daily Digest.
    Cheers,
    Kate

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. I perhaps expressed myself a little harshly in my response to the WordPress post about Project 365. However, I was rather cross with them for encouraging people to blog when, as you say, they have other ways of expressing themselves. I really felt that some blogs deteriorated when people followed the challenge to post every day without having something to say. You have set yourself a worthwhile goal and fall into my category of people who do have something to say; and I wish you all the best on your own journey.
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  21. Ross McCulloch says:

    I can’t seem to find your contact email. Basically I wonder if I could tap into your local knowledge, as I’m looking to locate a large quantity wooden wine boxes. Obviously the supermarkets would be a first port of call, but I wonder if the high-end vineyards would have a surplus.
    Any pointers would be gratefully appreciated.
    Seasonal greetings
    Ross McCulloch
    rossmcculloch@hotmail.com

    Like

  22. PiP says:

    Hi Vanessa,
    I could not find your email address hence my note in comments – please can you contact me regarding an Expat Focus Recommended Website Award.
    carole@expatfocus.com

    Kind regards,
    Carole

    Like

  23. Hi Vanessa,
    Our blogs appear at ‘ A taste of Garlic’, and I would like to send you an email about our new online magazine, but feel that this is not the place to get in touch with you about it. Could you please send me your mail address?
    Thanking you in advance,
    Kind regards,

    Caroline

    Like

  24. Dear Vanessa

    I’ve just read an interesting article you wrote for Expatica which has lead me here. I thought you might be interested in joining our network at http://www.survivefrance.com Hope to see you there!

    Kind regards

    James

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi James,
      Thanks for telling me about your network. In fact Catharine had already asked me and I haven’t yet had time to do anything about it!
      Regards,
      Vanessa

      Like

  25. Hi Vanessa,

    I would be interested in “chatting” with you about a project I am developing; Global Expats. Pls. go to http://www.global-expats.com and About Company which explains the entire project in detail.

    One of the first products of the company/association is a series of travel guides, and thought you might be of assistance. I can send you the book proposal that I have prepared, which explains the project in detail.

    I have already written the “skeleton” guide book, but am looking for someone with experience in the writing/publishing field to help develop the entire project.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    PS If you think bureaurats are bad, try dealing with the Spanish ones during a divorce from a Spaniard!! See the article on http://www.quotidiandissent.com/post/876761269/of-exes-and-expatriates

    Like

  26. Pingback: Welcome to my blog about life in France « A writer's lot in France

  27. A says:

    Hi Vanessa: I just finished reading your Top 10 Survival Tips article and really liked the “tone”. I am writing because I am hoping to get information on an affordable tax preparer who could give me an estimate on what my taxes would be after I (hopefully) retire in France. (I am a resident of the USA.) I also would like to know if it is possible (e.g. after living in France for 5 yrs) to get onto their health system.
    I am learning the language and doing gobs of research, but objective and accurate info. can be hard to come by.
    Many thanks for your consideration and time.
    A

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi A, thanks for reading my blog and I hope you found the Top 10 Tips helpful. I can’t really help you directly on either of your questions (taxation and health system) since I am an EU citizen and the rules are probably different for US residents. However, as a first off, there are a couple of websites you might find useful:

      www[dot]internationalliving[dot]com – is aimed specifically at US citizens looking to live abroad and there is a lot of helpful info on the site. They also publish a monthly magazine.

      www[dot]expat-blog[dot]com – a forum for expats of all nationalities. If you go to the France section you’ll find blogs by Americans living in France. Some of them might be able to help.

      You don’t say what region you hope to move to, but you could see if there is an American Expats Association there(there certainly is in Paris, but I can’t remember the exact name). Try Googling it.

      I hope this helps and good luck.

      Vanessa

      Like

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