Letter from France...
A Stoke ferry couple report on their French experiment and comment on the differences in culture between the two countries.
Hello to all at Stoke Ferry
We left Stoke in 2001 to live in France (Charente Maritime). What a journey we have had. After living in a comfortable bungalow with all our needs met we went to living with an outside loo and ceilings down around us. Still what an adventure this was to be. It proved that we could still live basic and be happy. First we had to get used to the space around us (2 acres) and how to maintain it. The idea of a potager (vegetable garden) sounded great but the work involved is incredible to keep it going just the way you like it. When we had Colorado beetle on the potatoes, we rushed to a neighbour to see where to report it. She then went to the mayor who shrugged his shoulders and didn't bat an eye lid. We understand it is very common here. In the UK of course the authorities would come and torch your crops.
The other thing that is so totally different is when you have an infestation of anything. In the UK you tell the council. Here you find a little man whose job is to rid you of the unwanted pests. Ours was a hornet's nest in the roof. 90euros for 5 minutes work and using our own ladders.
We have gone from a derelict station house with a 70ft old barn to the house and pool which we have been able to let for the past 3 years and converted half of the barn to accommodation suited to us. We do have the supposedly beautiful galleried first floor in the barn that everybody gasps at. But actually I am fed up with the ladders up to the roof space to dust the beams. They are always hanging in cobwebs no matter how hard I try.
Our very latest news is that we have sold our beautiful station house and are coming back to the UK. Because we are looking for another five year adventure, we are thinking of buying a boat to live on the Norfolk Broads. To do this we have to dispose of everything that we have ever owned, as there will not be room on the boat for anything but the basics. We did the France thing without speaking French (not by choice, we really tried but found it impossible to remember from one day to the next). So, now its time to move on and we feel that the Broad's life will be as gentle as we are used to here.
I will keep you posted on our new journey.
Regards to you all
Anne & Robert Salway