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

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

I know that I haven’t posted much yet, and more importantly I haven’t posted much about living frugally. But that’s about to change. The road to get here – to get to the point where we are physically resident in France – has not been easy. Any of you who follow my Instagram will know that.

So putting on my psychotherapist’s hat for a moment, if we want to know the present then we must first understand the past.

I’ve not always been brilliant with money. I came out of university with debt, student loans, and credit cards. I knew things weren’t good when I had to use a credit card to buy food. I even worked to try to earn enough to get by but it all ran out really quickly. I lived off my loan and shopped cheaply. My friends and I now joke about the dubious quality alcohol we used to drink – a poor man’s copy of Lambrini as I recall – but the truth was we couldn’t afford anything else.

Having my first job as a graduate was great and paid reasonably well, but I already had debts and was living with someone who earned a very meagre wage. I ended up subsidising our lives and somehow would always end up with nothing at the end of the month. Credit cards seemed like the obvious way to fix the situation, but of course it wasn’t.

I slowly became aware of the amount I was spending. Driving to work and back each day cost £30-£40 a week and I felt it keenly (shout out the Southampton’s traffic issues!). I was presented with an opportunity to make a change after I received a pay-out after a car-crash of around £3,000. At the time I knew that I had credit cards, a graduate overdraft and a loose understanding of how much I was spending at the time. £3,000 wasn’t going to make much of a dent in the balance, so I could decide to spend it (I wanted lots and lots of things back then, mostly from Topshop and ASOS) or I could use it to pay off some debt. To facilitate making the decision I decided to draw up a spreadsheet of all outstanding credit cards. I was horrified to learn that my grand total was around twenty-seven thousand pounds of unsecured debt. Aside from some fantastic memories of trips to America and a few places in Europe, a full wardrobe and an overfurnished home I really didn’t have anything to show for it.

Thankfully, I decided to tackle my financial denial and paid off a card. I proceeded to learn more about how to limit the expense of paying my cards off – moving to zero percent cards and doing some damage limitation on the interest. I quickly learned how addictive it is to pay off debt, to which I almost entirely credit the moneysavingexpert.com forum. If you’re in the UK, have debt and are unfamiliar, I highly recommend checking it out.

My frugality ebbed and flowed over the years, but when I decided to leave my career in IT and retrain to become a therapist I knew that I would be exchanging material comforts for psychological ones. Being self-employed added an additional strain to this adaptation and the years where my business was starting out were some of the hardest of my life. I had a large mortgage on a house that I had once intended to sublet the rooms of, however, due to some personal changes (i.e. getting into a serious relationship!), that didn’t come about. It meant finding a large mortgage payment every month along with covering bills and my newly rented office. Looking back on it now I almost wince. I remember taking a temporary role doing admin in the NHS for six weeks, and its no lie to say that I cried when I received my first incredibly meager payslip.

Fortunately necessity is the mother of invention, and I adapted my outgoings as much as I possibly could to limit the need for income. I ran an airbnb from my house. I sold things on eBay, I did small one-off jobs and opened another small business to supplement my therapeautic income. I easily worked 60 hours a week toward the end of my time in the UK. I was exhausted.

Do you remember where you were when the Brexit vote was reported? I do. I felt bereft. It was all anyone could talk about. It felt like grief, and in a way, it was. I was grieving the idea that I would never get to France. That place that I had loved but recently overlooked as I strove to make it out of the red. I certainly couldn’t afford to go on holiday there and it had grown distant in my memory. So I was poor, my country had voted (in my opinion, don’t @ me) to make itself poorer. I had ridden out the last recession in a well paid job using credit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride out another.

My partner is brilliant. He supports all of my crazy ventures and I feel as though he is my biggest cheerleader. But I wasn’t sure how he would feel about a suggestion to leave the UK. I knew I didn’t want any more debt, so I researched house prices in France (truth be told I had been a part-time French property tourist through various websites for years) and we worked out whether we could feasibly survive on what equity we had in the UK. It was obvious that one or both of us would need to continue to work – and I had enjoyed so much success with my psychotherapy business that I wanted to carry on whatever we chose.

Would I say that I am an impulsive person? Yes. Is my partner? Less so, but after a wine… also yes. So we made the decision that precipitated the adding of thousands of micro-tasks (and some positively maxi-tasks) to our joint to-do list. We decided to move to France. Over the coming weeks I’m going to go into the various ins and outs of that process, as well as any financial learnings which we have gained along the way – so that any of you following us might have some more insight than we did.

Speak soon – L x

Even stranger to type!

We’re here, nestled in the Limousin countryside (or Haute Vienne as it’s now known) on this grey Christmas Eve watching films in front of the wood burner, both cats installed in their respective beds of choice.

But let’s go back to just over a week ago, to completion of the sale of our UK home. After sleeping on the floor of our bedroom (having put our beds into storage the day before) we rose knowing that this day would be the culmination of well over six months of effort and stress. The final packing of the car had to be done – including getting the cats into their travel crates and fitting in our last few bits.

Reader, it was horrible.

The big new/old car could not contain the massive amount of things we had hoped (the cat crates were huge, but with such a long journey they needed to be). The night before we had played an interesting game of Tetris with our various possessions and managed to get most in, however we were forced to concede that no plants whatsoever would be able to come with us, and bulky things like our duvet, pillows and blankets, the Hoover and a few boxes from the kitchen would have to stay with our lovely and generous neighbours (who’s house we have filled with stuff and we owe them dearly).

Once that had been attended to we were ready to go, at 8am on the dot. My partner drove the first UK leg and we managed to get to Folkestone for our channel crossing early. By noon we were onboard and enjoying the thrill of knowing that we would only be going one way this time.

Personally I’d never been on Le Shuttle before but it was a perfectly easy and quick experience, if at a pricey £154 for two adults, a car and two cats. We were soon out the other side and crucially, in France.

We stopped briefly for a quick espresso, then drove on to continue our journey. Around 10 hours of shared driving later having passed some gorgeous french countryside we were still driving but soon to arrive out our intended location: our rental gite for the next two months while the purchase of our house goes through.

And that’s where you find me now. Sat in front of the fire about to pour myself a Baileys and watching reruns of River Cottage.

Wishing you all a very Joyeux Noël and I shall have more updates in the next few weeks as we get really settled, and crucially complete the purchase on our french house!

Au revoir!

Laura x

* follow me on Instagram *

Well, that’s a strange thing to type.

By this time next week, I do hope that we shall be on our way to Folkstone to make our planned channel tunnel journey to France. Buying a one-way ticket felt like a big moment. It is a big moment. I’ve been talking to people on Instagram this week about the process and it is a weird feeling now that it all seems as though things are starting to come together.

For so long we were wrapped up in getting the house sold, choosing a house in France, sorting pet passports (!!) and the myriad of other tasks which needed to be correctly and meticulously resolved so that we can move. I think the delays to our exchange happening on the house in the UK became the most intense period of this process. As so much investment of time, energy, hope – and not least money – had already been sunk into working towards this outcome.

Now we are almost there, seven days to go. Our LeShuttle ticket is booked. We all have our passports ready (yes, even the cats). We’ve booked our storage and are working on an inventory. Work for me is over, my partner is finishing the last days of his role. It’s so weird. Brilliant, a relief, but also now a bit scary.

The only time I’ve ever had this feeling before has been in the run-up to my first marriage – where six weeks of intense planning resulted in a very stressful lead up to a brilliant party and overall fantastic day. I remember distinctly though that I didn’t really realise that I was getting married until I sat in the car with my dad, on the way to the ceremony. There has been so much to do, manage and set-up that my consciousness hadn’t had the chance to appreciate the gravity of the situation. I feel that now too.

Except for the fact that this time, I don’t feel fear. And I hope that is because this is the right thing to do for us. That we are going to make changes to our lifestyle so that the things that we currently don’t enjoy in the UK can be put down. And replaced by some of the things that we love in France. Also, it really feels like an adventure. And for me, this is probably the biggest, riskiest, most exciting thing that I have ever done.

So please do wish us luck. We haven’t even tried to see all the people that we love in the UK, and with airfare between Bristol and Limoges being as low as £5.99 with Ryanair for a single ticket, I don’t feel a sense of finality. I know that we will be back. Probably not for a few months while we sort things and move into the new place, but my hope is that this new life gives us both more time for us, for spending with the people that we care about, and for doing the things that are really important to us.

I may not blog again before we go, but I am working hard at becoming more active over on Instagram and started with my ramblings on Instagram stories this week. Do check them out if you’re a fan of inane waffle and predominantly unkempt hair… speaking of which, I just bought a beret because I’m a walking chiché and I couldn’t help myself.

So for now, au revoir!

Laura x