Expatriate’s story from Peta living in the Normandy region in France.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…………………..”
Sunlight hits our bedroom window early and I’m off for a jog with one of our dogs ; acroos our field, past the cows, up towards the Haras to look at the new foals born during the warm summer night, and as far as the church, standing above the valley, just as the bells toll 7 a.m. Apart from the usual hares, rabbits, foxes, swallows and owls, a deer stands in my path this morning before fleeing through the woods. No cars or people disturb us. Back home, I make tea for us, feed the dogs, ducks and donkey and set the breakfast table for the guests staying in our chambres d’hotes. People over-sleep because of the peace and quiet, which gives me more time to tidy the kitchen and listen to the news and meteo on Radio Manche. Today, I’m pleased because I have understood a lot of it and identified several phrases learned from Celine !
The couples staying with us want information about Normandy – where to go, what to see. I suggest some outings – Bayeux, Mont St Michel, Vire, the beautiful chateau at Balleroy, the forest at Cerisy, the picnic lakes or the stunning countryside around Abbye d’Hambye. My husband mans the computer, responding to e mails and enquiries. We clear up, tidy the rooms, change beds, discuss plans, fight with the garden.
The vet arrives at 11 a.m. to vaccinate and micro-chip our baby donkey. It is a lengthy, bureaucratic process, but completely unhurried by this charming, friendly, good humoured professional. We drink coffee together in the sun, on the patio, chatting.
After lunch we complete a form to take part in a local classic car show – the club is very interested to see my husband’s chevrolet ! Then it’s off to the bureau of the local macon who promises to inspect our crumbling wall very soon and prepare an estimate. We’ve had really good reports about his work from Dominic, who commissioned him to build his elegant, modern house nearby.
A brief stop for supplies in a local supermarket, a walk with the dogs and it’s 5 p.m. Gilles, our neighbour, suddenly appears at the gates. he knows I’m a trained nurse – would I do him a favour ? His dog is not well – could I possibly give the animal an antibiotic injection ? Bien entendu ! Half an hour later, I return home with a bottle of Bordeaux and a saucisse sec !
No more guests tonight so we treat ourselves to dinner near the coast – a small, friendly restaurant producing delicious food. By 10.30 p.m. we’re walking on the wide, sandy, empty beach at Utah. Artists would sell their souls for that special, clear, luminous light sparkling off the sea.
Have we enjoyed the experience ? Yes, very much.
Have we any reservations about it ? Yes, several. There have been good days and bad days. But this has been our own personal adventure – stepping from one life to another. Our days in this lovely part of France have been enhanced by having a grasp, however small, of the language. I accept that I will never attain fluency, but the best advice for anyone proposing the move is :- find a teaching/learning method that suits you, do the homework and aim to speak French as well as you possibly can. Without language, one is isolated. You cannot express yourself, integrate, enjoy a joke nor get the best out of people. Concentrate on building a vocabulary and you’ll receive a warm reception. Contact gradually becomes enjoyable, not stressful.
After all, choosing to live in another country suggests you have an adventurous spirit—– accept the challenge of the language !!