Willkommen Bienvenue Welcome

Welcome, gentle readers.

This is an everyday tale of regular folk, who moved from Sheffield to the deepest Corrèze in France Profonde and thence to the rather more cosmopolitan Lot in search of something… different. We certainly found it.

The Lot is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Reputedly, a famous TV globetrotter was asked where, of all the places in the world he had visited, he might return to. He answered, ‘The Lot’.

Fans of Channel 4’s Grand Designs will know that we built a somewhat quirky straw bale house-with-a-view here in the Lot, not far from the celebrated Dordogne river. You can read all about it in my book,
Bloody Murder On The Dog's Meadow, or watch the re-runs of the programme on More 4, or view it on You Tube.

After a break in the proceedings to write a book or two, this blog now takes the form of an everyday journal. Sometimes things happen, sometimes they don't (but the art school dance goes on forever). I hope it will give you an entertaining insight into what it's like to live in a foreign country; what it's like in the slow lane as an ex-pat Brit in deepest France.

I shall undertake to update this once or twice a week, unless absent on leave. Comments always welcomed, by the way, but I do tend to forget what buttons to click in order to answer them.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March: Crossing bridges

It's blossom 'n' birdsong time once more. The hunters have packed up their rifles and spring is in the air. The lawn, such as it is, has had its first cut. But word has come there none on our request for citizenship.

My ever optimistic wife believes that it will come before May because the current government recognises in our family three potential voters for their party in the forthcoming elections. I don't believe it will come. We might have had an avis favorable from the prefecture, but I think the minister is sitting on our dossiers under instructions from the Man at the Top.

'Mais, Monsieur Président, there is a favourable opinion. They won't be a drain on the state. They might even contribute to the nation's well-being.'

'Je m'en fous, Monsieur le Ministère. The bastards are British. This Brexit mess is their fault.'

'To be fair, Monsieur Président, I think you'll find that they were denied the right to vote in the referendum.'

'The bastards are British, I say. They'll receive no presidential favours from me. Sit on their dossiers until I tell you otherwise.'

And so, I feel sure, the minister sits, while the president fumes as his time in the sun runs out. Next incumbent could well be Madame Le Pen. She may indeed admire Great Britain for showing the French nation how to wriggle out of the European Union, but I doubt whether she or her minister will be inclined to offer Brexpatriates any favours. Besides, would we want to stay under a government of the far right?

More to the point perhaps, if the current minister sits on those dossiers until his or her time is up, knowing the way that the administrative machine works (or doesn't work) here, when it's time for the next one to occupy the seat, in all probability we will be told to start all over again. Having been through the whole protracted and expensive process once, I for one am not inclined to go through it all again.

In any case, the Jews of Nazi Germany were presumably legal citizens back in the 1930s. What a dreadful dilemma that must have been, particularly at this time of year – when seasonal beauty seduces you into believing that all is well with the world. Even if the writing on the wall is there for all to see, it takes an act of single-minded courage to abandon all your worldly goods and head for some foreign land and a very uncertain future. Far easier to kid yourself that you can't make out the writing clearly enough and opt to stay in the hope that things will sort themselves out in the long run.

Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it in the time-honoured British tradition of bridge-crossing. Let's just cross that bridge when we come to it, shall we Nigel? Presumably, that's what they did for the last 20 years or so of the British Raj. Until the time came when action could not be put off any longer.

Aha! you say. You must have just finished re-watching The Jewel In The Crown. How right you are. Granada's brilliant adaptation of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet. It has been many years since either of us saw it for the first time and we'd forgotten much of it – although the bloody climax on a train came back with surprising clarity. I'd forgotten the superb production values, the stunning scenery in the foothills of the Himalayas, the excellent performances of Peggy Ashcroft and Tim Piggott-Smith (as the loathsome Ronald Merrick) in particular, the awfulness of the expatriate community with its exclusive clubs and the kind of blind belief in its own inviolable right to rule others. Even here, even now, you hear echoes of this attitude in the type who, rather than learn Johnny Foreigner's damnably tricky language, simply raises his voice to make himself understood.

It's over now, let it go. I shall return it to the safe-keeping of my father when I see him next month. We can claim our lives back. My wife had also forgotten just what a hunk Charles Dance was in the series that made him a minor star. So I'd better get down to some semi-serious body-building in an attempt at least to outline some appealingly rippling muscles and bulging biceps – not just to please my partner, but also in preparation for the coming season of mowing, strimming, weeding, uprooting, cutting back and generally trying to keep on top of riotous nature.

The trouble is, any kind of physical labour leaves me aching all over and too stiff afterwards even to take off my socks unaided. You are getting old Father Sampons, you shall wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled. Spending too long at the computer, in fact. Get up offa that thang and get outside and get in training for longer days and warmer times. Mens sana in corpore, and all that. Even the most seasoned bridge-crosser needs exercise and fresh air.

The birds are singing. There's no excuse.