With only two weeks until the release of my latest novel, the French escape series continues. Today’s feature comes from fellow author Suzie Grogan, who left the UK for French pastures new a couple of months ago.
Welcome to France and to my blog, Suzie. Now it’s over to you.
We started to make tentative plans for a new life in a new country about three years ago. Our two children had left home and were making plans for a future in London. We lived in a small town in Somerset in a terraced house on a rat run and were fed up with being bullied in our own road by impatient drivers trying to save about 5 seconds on their journey. Life was speeding past with them and we wanted a change. It was a medium to long-term ambition as I would never have left my elderly mum in the UK, and my husband’s job was full on, but we knew we had to make sure we could afford it and were prepared to wait. The devastating Brexit vote just made us more determined to leave, to continue to feel European. There are many things to love about the UK, but the politics is not one of them.
We had enjoyed staying in the Dordogne and in the Languedoc but both are expensive and too hot so decided at that stage on the Poitou Charente. We scoured the internet but our budget was low, a writer’s income contributing far too little to the pot. We made plans to visit and explore the region, but 2017 turned into a nightmare year for us. My Mum passed away in May, and my father in law died in October. Things mounted up and our grief and low mood put everything on hold. In our financial research we had also misunderstood the French health system and with our dodgy health histories thought we couldn’t afford a move anyway, so the escape tunnel was blocked. Or so it seemed.
At Christmas, my cousin phoned. He had been renovating a house in Brittany and he and his wife had moved over to France permanently. Living in Huelgoat as he does, he felt it was just the sort of place for a writer and a would-be potter/ceramicist (my husband’s great passion and hobby). He invited us for a visit in February and hardly knew what he had started – 6 months later we are here, in a house we have bought on the edge of Huelgoat, in Finistere, within 200 yards of the forest and a 10 minute walk to the lake, both of which act as a magnet for tourists, helping to keep the village alive and vibrant. The countryside is stunning, the people welcoming and the lifestyle so much more relaxed, even with all the bureaucracy that inevitably comes with moving to a new country. My husband has taken voluntary redundancy and after two months of me living here alone on weekdays he is now home for good. Thank goodness – I like to think of myself as a feminist but I was too often being taken by surprise by midnight trips to the basement to turn the electricity back on, late night hornet invasions and an internet outage for a week, during which time I had no landline or TV either.
As a couple we are continuing to work and are taking steps to establish our businesses in France. We are nervous of the impact of Brexit, but feel the best way to secure our future here is to make sure we become part of the French way of life as quickly as possible. I have two non-fiction books commissioned and am working with authors editing and proofreading their own projects, something I want to build up alongside my writing. I also have two novels written but not edited (the hard part…) and am determined to get that cosy romantic Christmas novella finished asap!
What new things have we got used to?
I am a vegetarian and the veggie options are not brilliant in Brittany. In a way that has proved a bonus as we now cook at home more often when we might have nipped out for a take away or pub meal in the UK.
The relaxed way of life – Brits are so wound up! I still struggle with the idea that I can’t have everything within ten minutes of thinking of it. 24/7 consumer power hasn’t hit Brittany yet – long may it last.
What do I miss?
Not much yet to be honest, but I know I will miss bookshops and good old charity shops seem few and far between.
What do I definitely NOT miss?
British news. I have started watching the news in French, not just to improve those all-important language skills but to see the world from a different perspective. I genuinely think people here, and in the rest of Europe, are bemused by the UK at the moment. We are thrilled to have made our French Escape and can’t wait to build our new life here.
Suzie Grogan is a writer, researcher, editor & proofreader. Her non-fiction titles include Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for mental health and Death Disease & Dissection, focusing on Georgian medical practices. She has had further books commissioned, one focusing on the trauma of WW2 and another following in the footsteps of the third person her marri
age – poet John Keats. She also writes fiction and loves penning a good ghost story. She lives with her husband and rescue dog Teddy and loves exploring the forest and coming home to chocolate, a good strong cup of coffee and the opportunity to annoy her children on Facetime…
www.nowrigglingoutofwriting.wordpress.co.uk (blog slightly neglected during the move!)
Twitter @Keatsbabe and @shellshockedbritain