We thought that moving to the quiet, unspoiled countryside of rural France would mean that we were less social than we had been previously in Bristol.

We could not have been more wrong!

The last few weeks have flown by in a whirlwind of a family visit, work, lunches out with friends, our village fête and catching up with our neighbours. We’ve been so lucky to be invited to so many lovely things and we’ve enjoyed them all immensely. We have found that a major difference between our old lives in the UK versus our new french life is that we have the time to choose whether or not to do things. Okay, we’re still running round like crazy trying to get things done on the house or make our various businesses work, but with us both working at home and keeping our own hours for the most part, we have the choice of how to spend our time.

We have so much more time together, living like this has been everything that we asked for in terms of being able to spend our mornings together, to be able to cook and eat out in the garden – to be able to go to bed at a decent time, but if anything it’s given us a little too much time together. Living this way in a country where you are each other’s go-to person for mother-tongue company is intense. It’s been really useful to schedule in time with other people to make sure that we don’t drive each other crazy or take each other for granted.

One of the ways we seem to chronically overshare these days has been when it comes to our respective work. With my closest English speaking person almost permanently available to me I have inevitably shared business plans and ideas with G, and in turn I’ve inadvertently overstepped the line in terms of the suggestions that I make to his business. It’s really, really hard to stay separate when the only thing to make that happen is a decision or action that you take – choosing to do things separately or learning to keep quiet when your partner doesn’t want your millionth idea on how they could be doing things slightly differently.

So yes, these last few weeks of social distraction and responsibility have been great, for loads of reasons. I got to spend some long overdue time with my brother, we had a lovely lunch with a friend talking about creative things, as well as going to our french coffee club and looking into buying goats at the local fête (I very nearly came away with two goats after some very effective selling from the French lady that I met!).

But we are now back to normal. It’s a bank holiday here in France today so we’ve done some washing, cooking, gardening and watched some TV while slowly rebuilding our energy levels.

As for me, I shall continue to try to recharge over the coming week. I have lots of clients booked in but a quiet weekend ahead where I intend to do absolutely nothing and enjoy it immensely.

Bonne soirée!

Laura

Ever since last week when my article was published in French Property News (the June 2019 issue if you’re interested!) documenting our motivations for and the logistics of moving to France on a budget, I have been the fortunate recipient of dozens of emails from people just like me, asking the question:

“Could I do it too? Could I move to France?”.

Of course this is totally subjective and individual to every circumstance, so I’ve been emailing back and forth with some of those who got in touch to talk about the cost of living, what it’s like to work here, what it’s like to set up a business, socialising, shopping, the house buying process – you name it! I appreciate I haven’t been here that long compared to many of those whom I meet, however the process for doing all of these things remains very fresh in my mind and I hope the information I have shared is useful – at least I know it’s up-to-date!

They described me as “young” – success! 🙂
Some familiar looking pictures here, eep!
Upset not to be included in the article, of course

The other pleasure I’ve had this week has been to start noticing the roses that came over with us from Bristol making their way out into the sun. It feels like such a long time since I last saw them in flower, and so very much has taken place since then. They’re a very welcome reminder of the rhythm of the year and how close we are getting to enjoying our first French summer.

Pink is a popular colour with guests, obviously
The climber without anything yet to climb
Brightest of all

In less fun news, after our escapades moving wood, which took over all of my previous post, I, unfortunately, have been the unwilling recipient of aoûtat bites – we must have disturbed some larvae in the woodpile when we picked up the very seasoned wood in our commune – so these tiny red spiders have very rudely been injecting me with their saliva so as to extra-digest my cells and eat me. As I say, rude.

It looks as though I have provided quite the buffet, as the left side of my waist, chest, back of my neck and stomach are pretty much covered in enormously raised red welts which have been almost unbearably itchy over the last week and a half. Last night I had to liberate a bag of frozen green beans from the freezer and use them as a cold compress to relieve the itch, nine whole days in! Anyway, if you’ve ever had this, I sympathise hugely. The only thing I can compare it to is like the intense healing stage of a tattoo – but for the fact that this has been going on for over a week, and I have no promise of a pretty image afterwards. Still, I have seen my skin turn to colours that I never imagined possible, so there’s that. Merci, France.

Bitten to pieces :s

Back to positives though, I’ve also had the pleasure of reading how our story inspired so many of you to put your houses on the market, and some have already sold! I feel like the UK property market has something to thank me for at this point 🙂 But seriously, to all those who made this brave move, I salute you. It’s not easy to take the first steps to turn a dream into a reality, but if I can do it, anyone can. One step at a time.

Standard weekend lunch al fresco
New garden chairs for doing precisely nothing

As I say to all of those who emailed me and anyone who needs advice about their move,

PLEASE DO EMAIL ME

I read and answer all emails and if I think I can give you some useful information or help, I will.

Our latest addition, this was in the garden when we arrived

Happy French househunting!

Laura x

The post title doesn’t lie. I’ve quite literally, got so much wood I don’t know what to do about it. And for some reason related to living this french life for almost six months, that makes me incredibly happy 😆

When I lived in the UK I cared not for wood, beyond maybe eyebrow pencils or laminate furniture from ikea. Now look at me. I love wood so much I’ve quite literally got a rash. I’m wood-sick.

Those who have followed my Instagram posts for the last few weeks will know that we recently took the big (and expensive) step to take out five big trees from our front garden. It was a two day job by professional tree surgeons – plus we had electrical cables and telephone cables tangled up in there like a hot mess.

The work went like clockwork and we were really pleased with our new view…

BUT unfortunately we were grossly unprepared for just how much work it would be to process all of the leftover wood. Coupled with some truly biblical rain over the following days – and though we could ill-afford it – we had to make the executive decision to buy a trailer.

She doesn’t have a name yet so do let me know if one comes to mind 😂

Over the following week and a half we must have made around EIGHTEEN trips to the déchetterie and back. Thank the bois-gods that we have a green déchetterie in our commune, otherwise I might have just upped and left and moved back to the UK (though to where I have no idea, Victoria Coach Station maybe? I do have previous…).

SO, after numerous scratches, strained muscles, cuts and bruises on my thighs from the wheelbarrow with which I’ve become so intimately acquainted, we are DONE. The garden is clear, and it turns out it’s fecking massive:

Oh and dusty AF. I feel like I’ve literally been sneezing twigs all week.

Those of you who know me personally will know that I like a challenge. Hell, those of you who don’t know me personally will. Just look at the state of this blog!

International move? Check. ✅

No job to go to? Check. ✅

Not yet fluent in the language? Check ✅

Seriously limited budget to do it all on? Check. ✅

So, no sooner had we completed the relocation of easily more than a tonne tonne of chopped wood that we processed to dry out in our grange, our morning of waste-wood shifting was over and after a quick session with one of my clients we headed over to a house in our commune… because I had taken it upon myself to buy 2 cords of wood from one of our neighbours via leboncoin and for us to shift and stack it by hand. What fun! 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

Three hours later and some strange looks from our neighbours (who I’m sure were saying, in perfect French, “those British people are absolutely mad, how can they want more wood?”) we had all 2 cords spread out in the top garden, along with bags and bags and bags of kindling. Here’s some of it:

All good, you’re thinking, lots of wood. Nice warm winter or two ahead. And you’d be right. Future me will be toasty warm. Unfortunately though, present me is sat on the sofa watching the Eurovision Song Contest (on French TV bien sûr!) covered in a bitey rash from some little critters that were in the wood and saw fit to eat me. Coupled with my skeeter syndrome it makes for an itchy evening.

So now I’m going to kick back and drink my Noz foraged Magners to recover. Speaking of which, have you checked out my Facebook group, The Noz Appreciation Society yet? We have a good laugh at our borderline obsessive Nozzing 😆 49c a can! 🥂

And for the eagle eyed among you, you will have seen my article in French Property News this month (June 2019 edition). If you read it do let me know what you think! It’s surreal and hilarious to see myself, G and the cats in print. We had a right good laugh about it and I’ve already had so many emails and messages from readers who liked it. Just flipping lovely.

Anyway, I wish you a bonne soirée and when I stop scratching I’ll get back to posting more frequently on Instagram as usual 🙌🇫🇷🥂

Laura x

Thanks everyone for your comments and supportive messages after last week’s post. I think that it was a perfect storm of a quieter work week ahead of spending the most money we have on anything here in France (besides the house itself bien sur!).

I have held off posting this week so that I could include the before and after pictures of our tree felling escapades over the last 48 hours. The whole event was preceded by a bit of a sleepless night for me as I was nervous that the trees wouldn’t come out without damaging the electrical cable which ran directly through the middle of one of the conifers, as well as two others which were touching the phone cables of all of our neighbours’, and I was keen not to fall out of favour with everyone within the first few months of being here!

As a side note, we have already been here in France for almost six whole months – so for those of you who have been following me since we got here – and there are even some of you who will have been following our escape from the UK from the planning stages of last summer (!!) – that’s the fastest six months of our lives that I have ever known! As we were wheelbarrowing wood up to the top of our garden yesterday evening I took the moment to lie down on the grass and reflect on all that had passed.

From selling our UK home, living in a gite, buying this place and making it habitable, we have come so so so far, and yet still have so much to do. However, I have a feeling that’s a theme that I’ll be coming back to frequently!

So for now, we can bask in the glory of this week’s big win. And our new, phenomenal view. What do you think?

Today is a bit of a pensive post, and that’s the sort of mood I’m in at the moment. It’s not a typical upbeat canter through a brocante so if you’re looking for that, I apologise – but today I’m going to talk about how I feel five months into living here.

Firstly, I feel very lucky to live here in France. I have realised an ambition that I held for most of my life. That’s a really great feeling – but a less great feeling is that around not having any money.

Secondly, let me be clear, I am not truly poor. I recognise that I am very privileged, I own my own home here. I have no mortgage. I have a small amount of savings in the bank. I have no debts. I work. Believe me when I say that I wasn’t always in this fortunate position.

And I would have none of those things without more than a decade of riding the ridiculous rollercoaster that was working for my old corporate employer, being sent to offices all around the UK – wherever they deemed fit – and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of the roles they put me into. And I work now, as a self-employed person, as a micro-entrepreneur. The very nature of this work is that the income is up and down.

But right now, here in France, on this grey Thursday afternoon as my partner unloads our new lawnmower from the car, I feel poor. And by poor I mean, I worry about money. I worry about it all the time, it’s probably been the most important thing in the world to me. Not because I am greedy, or need it to feel important. Quite the opposite.

Spending considerable periods of my life without enough money have created within me a sort of radar for financial struggle. It has moulded me into a person who is financially anxious. As a therapist I know how to work with anxiety, I know the tools I’ve learned as a professional and an individual to use to keep myself in a good place and to communicate honestly and openly about financial issues with my partner.

But there is still the low omnipresent hum of watching the pennies (or more accurately now, centimes). I imagine that will be there for all of my life. It’s not debilitating, it’s not sadenning, it doesn’t impact how I feel about myself (too often anyway). But it is there, and it is learned. It is a learned response to escaping poverty. Of never, ever wanting to go back there. It’s the drive for much of what I do and the way that I behave (in the wider scheme of things, i.e. it contributes to me being a driven person, solution and goal focused) and it is something that I notice doesn’t exist in other people.

If you’ve ever been poor, I mean really poor. Not just unable to book a nice holiday, but using a credit card to buy food poor, I sympathise. I’ve been there. It changes you as a person – I think it can’t help but change you. It’s the whole reason that I created Frugal France in the first place because I knew that once we moved here that money would be tight. I knew I was volunteering to be less fiscally comfortable than I had been in the UK.

So I suppose the point of this post is not to bemoan that decision but to acknowledge it. That for all of the lovely pictures that I and my peers post about our lovely lives here, the images of blossom on trees and lambs in fields, that isn’t and never could be the full story. That for many of us, money is a big thing to consider, and that living here in France is not cheap. Especially when many of us have downsized our belongings and arrive needing to buy tools, renovation materials or new cars.

So I’d love to know what your tips are for living really frugally – do let me know in the comments.