Battled through another grey day here on the south coast – tempers grouchy and moods as damp as the drizzle that fell all day. Imagined us chez nous with the sun beaming down, rose chilling in the fridge, ready to welcome back guests for an apero and kick back for the evening on the terrace as the sun goes down and you only need a sleeve much later when the vast open skies are drizzled with stars and you can see the pale wash of the Milky Way.
I want warm, the kind of warm that hugs you like a cashmere pashmina or the best kind of bearhug from a best mate. I am sick and tired and weary of being cold and miserable, of living on an island where those adjectives don’t just describe the weather but the kind of people we’ve become. That’s a hugely pessimistic and generalised statement – and chasing the greener grass for the sake of it never brings happiness. After all the French – with their long holidays, 35 hour working week, excellent health and education system and good standard of living – are legendarily pessimistic with anti-depressant use and suicide on the rise.
I’m not so sure that it’s pessimism . My French friends are fatalistic, certainly – the Gallic shrug is no myth. I remember when my dad died, the paramedic who told me shrugged and then intoned ‘c’est la vie’. And I accept that my specs – if I needed them – would have the rosiest of rosy lenses. After all, when you choose to move to another country and embrace another culture you’re not looking for the negatives – this move is all about looking for and finding the positives, of becoming an optimist again. Like my dad said, it’s about being a citoyen not a subject of her Majesty, of enjoying the benefits of a culture that still believes in a sense of society and common pursuit, that hasn’t – as yet – adopted the two tier system that disadvantages the many for the benefit of the few. Where liberte, egalite, fraternite actually mean something. That’s been my experience and one I want to know again.
Of course, there’ll be no going back. And my rosy (or rose) tinted specs will have to work overtime on occasion, I know. A lot will depend on finding just the right house in just the right location. On having ways of earning money that don’t depend on seasonal rentals. Even a would be optimist has to be prepared to have her parade rained on occasionally. But give me a seat at a cafe in a small town square on market day when you can’t hear yourself above the hubbub and you have a basketful of good things to eat and the sky is a clear blue that could outfit all the world’s Navies and the air is the kind of warm that embraces you like a hot date and I’ll be that thing I find I rarely am these days in these cold, damp isles – happy.