I thought it would be fun to interview myself about the Big Idea so I sat, myself down and asked myself a few questions and this was the result:
What motivated you to decide to make the big move to France?
(Takes a slug of wine and pauses before replying) Well…I was made redundant a couple of months ago and realised I had 2 choices: stay in the UK and look for another job, not an easy thing in the current economic climate, or take the opportunity to do something we’d all been talking about for years – move back to France, open a B&B and be our own bosses. I’d been falling out of love with my job for a while – though I wish I’d jumped before I was pushed! – and this just seemed like the perfect solution to looming unemployment (laughs).
But having lived in France for a number of years, I knew that it offered so many more opportunities for our family – I don’t want to pretend that it’s some kind of a Holy Grail that will solve all ills but it represents a new start, a chance to step off the endless conveyor belt. I think the old model – job for life, pay off the mortgage, retire, potter around the garden and die – is changing. I’d rather be an early adopter! (laughs)
Why France? Why not Australia or Canada, for example?
(Laughs) Good question! It would certainly be easier for our 6 year old than expecting him to learn another language. The answer is partly the great experience I had living in France previously, partly budget, partly ease of access to the UK – I’m not sure we’re ready to be quite so inaccessible to friends and family. I know my mum would miss my brother and it would be virtually impossible for friends with kids to visit. At least if we’re in France it’s just a hop across the Channel. Plus France is still the most popular tourist destination in the world, don’t you know! (laughs)
Even so, it’s a huge decision – what impact will it have on your family?
This is the question that keeps me awake at night. I know there’s no going back from this, and that it will impact most on my son who has the least say in this decision. We’re expecting him to integrate into another language and learn not just to speak it but to read and write and be educated in it. Home schooling is a definite option – I always wanted to home school but didn’t have the opportunity because I had to work full time. I’ve seen first hand how difficult it can be for English kids thrown in at the deep end, but then they weren’t my kid. He’s pretty equable, like his dad – my hope is he’ll settle in without too much difficulty. I told him French kids didn’t have to wear uniform and that they only go to school 4 days a week – I think he’s sold! (laughs).
My mum is coming round to the idea – I was surprised she was so cautious as I thought she’d jump on it. But she’s keenly aware of our tiny budget and is a welcome brake on my ‘fuck it let’s just do it’ attitude. As for my husband, he can’t wait to sit in the local cafe with the dog, and Equipe and a coffee and watch the world go by (laughs).
Seriously, a big driver in all of this is the better quality of life that France – and most of Europe – offers: better schools, better healthcare, better food and wine, better weather – could it be worse? It comes down to that horrible cliche the work/life balance – it’s been all out of whack for me for a while now. This is the opportunity to rebalance – to spend more time with our son, to enjoy life again.
Won’t you miss the UK?
I’ll miss friends and family, but if we choose the right area then we’ll be able to get back and say hello occasionally – and I know from experience that people do love an excuse to come and visit you when you’re somewhere nice (laughs). Plus technology has moved on from when we last lived there so we’ll be Skyping a lot to stay in touch (laughs). And we have friends in France that it’ll be nice to see. But, yes, I imagine we’ll pack a box with some marmite and baked beans – though most French hypermarkets have a rayon of produits anglaises these days (laughs). But we’ve worked out that Leclercs = Sainsburys, Carrefour = Tesco, Super U = Morrisons, Intermarche = Co-op and the local market/boucherie/boulangerie = Waitrose. Though Aldi and Lidl aren’t like Aldi and Lidl in the UK at all…
Why should anybody choose you over any other B&B or gite or chambres d’hote?
Because of my sparkling personality? (laughs) We won’t offer anything that you can’t find in other B&Bs across France, we just aim to offer it all in one place and better -home-made jam with your fresh baked croissant, musettes for your ride – just think of us as the Team Sky of B&Bs! (laughs)