In 2014 we found out that the house we were renting in Cornwall, England was going to be sold. Our landlord broke the news to me standing on my kitchen doorstep, heavily pregnant with our fourth girl, due in just a few months time. The huge old Georgian house we were living in was on a dairy farm with a lovely big allotment where we kept chickens and hung out with the kids in a playhouse Jude, my builder husband, constructed entirely out of old pallets. He also built me a greenhouse out of salvaged window frames and I had plans to grow flowers in every part of that piece of land that I hadn’t already filled with vegetable plots. We love being outside and it was blissful to have only a herd of Friesians as neighbours.
So when we knew we had to leave, we discussed our options and decided that we really didn’t want to do the sensible, boring thing and find a nice little council house to move into, which is what everyone in England on a low income is expected to do, so we came up with a plan to emigrate and follow our dream of living in a sunnier clime. My mother in law has kept a holiday house in Normandy which Jude had been renovating for her for several years before we met and almost immediately started a family, so it seemed logical for us to start by moving there. They had originally bought the house with the agreement that he would be able to renovate one of the barns into a home for himself after he’d finished the main house.
We moved to France in 2014, when our youngest was only three months old. It turned out that Jude’s mother didn’t want us to rent her house or use Jude’s barn, so instead she offered us a piece of land to build on. We spent that first year buying and renovating three old trailers which we converted into a single storey building with a separate kitchen and water from a well Jude divined for and built himself.
We ended up living in those leaky old trailers for two years and whilst it was hard work living without proper amenities, using a compost toilet and fetching drinking water from the village, and with all of our belongings piled up in an increasingly decrepit secondhand marquee (which I had found on Freecycle in Cornwall) we had to believe that we are doing the right thing and that one day life would get easier.
In 2016 we gave up on the idea of a new build, moved out of the trailers and into the house, which Jude’s mother had in the meantime decided to put up for sale, so we have lived with the nagging worry that one day someone will come along and buy it, rendering us homeless. In the meantime, we are grateful to be in such a wonderful, happy place and it feels good to finally have a real home, even if it is not yet our ‘forever home’.
Adapting to life in France has been hard at times and often frustrating, but our girls have settled into their new lives well and the older two have only vague recollections of England. All are now fully bilingual. Jude and I have separate businesses here which are thriving: his hard landscaping and groundworks business is in high demand and I have my little Etsy shop where I sell beautiful and quirky French brocante online. At the time of writing, La Corbeille is temporarily closed on Etsy, due to damage to my storage and packing area caused by the terrible storms that raged across Normandy this winter.
We have no idea what is going to happen next, but with our pretty little plot of land up for sale, there is hope that we can one day get to work on our long-held dream of building and running a little gîte business which will give us a bit of stability in what has been an eventful journey so far… and maybe there is still a chance that we will find our place in the sunshine too.
The story continues…..