An Artist's dream in France?

My reasons for coming to France? Less stress, not working 9-5, better schooling for the children, better weather, having more time with the family, a bigger house, smaller mortgage, being closer to nature to name but a few.

I came to France in January 2002 with my husband and two children aged 12 and 14, two rabbits and two budgies (the children refused to come unless they came too). There was no heating in our rented house and although we had been told how warm it was here, we endured temperatures of –25 that first winter. Better weather, um, I was reserving judgment on that one.

We found a house, got a cheap mortgage until the Bank pulled out 2 days before we were due to move so we ended up borrowing from a different Bank and paying way more per month than anticipated. A smaller mortgage? This wasn’t looking good.

Six weeks into our move, my husband is offered a job in Vienna, Austria and was leaving that week. He had been due to start a job here. 7 months later, my 13 year old daughter decided she couldn’t possibly live without her friends and went back to the UK. 4 years down the line having been separated from my husband for the most part, my marriage broke up. Better schooling for the children and family time were now also off the list.

Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say and I still had son to consider who was doing brilliantly at school and well on his way to getting his Baccalaureat. Despite not speaking French, he was thrown into the French system. He didn’t have to redouble and seemed to integrate really well. Reason to be cheerful number 1. Better schooling for one child at least.

Whilst living in our “dream” home, we had a chimney fire, two 20 year old trees blew down in a storm, we lost half our roof in another storm, my cat got run over and “la pièce de resistance”, I and the house were hit by lightning! I had just finished renovating it when the beautiful new inox tube that cost 700 euros and no one would ever see, got hit by a rare type of lightning, conducted through our kitchen, arced in my direction in the living room where I was standing in bare feet, threw me in the air and caused nerve damage to my feet. Being closer to nature? I didn’t want to be that close!

Now that the house was totally annihilated, we had to sell it. Meanwhile, I had to put up with a French builder who just didn’t understand French! No matter how many times I asked him not to smoke in the house, he continued. Oh and the best thing of all he did, it was very creative, he ran out of sisal carpet so he cut little squares and did a patchwork effect on the landing! Less stress? (Sigh)

Eventually the house was sold and I moved into my son’s apartment. It was only meant to be for a little while but when my marriage broke up, I was stuck there with 2 new kittens, 2 budgies and a moody teenager. So much for a bigger house.

On top of that, I was also trying to get my career as an artist off the ground so found myself sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by canvasses and paint. Working 9-5? More like 5-9. At least I enjoy what I do.

After 6 months I found a little house to rent with an attic room and views over the vineyards. Here I thought I could paint and reflect on what to do with my life. I hurled myself into my art and people actually seemed to like what I was doing. A year later, I took part in a small exhibition in Fayssac where I met my new partner. Joe is Hungarian, speaks English and lived just 10 minutes down the road! He’s also a musician and a website designer. When I’m not painting, we play music together. He plays the guitar and I the saxophone.

Like most artists, we struggle to pay the rent but we live in a beautiful country, do what we feel passionate about and live in a better climate. I guess the moral here is, be careful what you wish for, it might just come true only it may not be exactly how you imagined it!

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