Summer 2005. I am in the middle of a lake about twenty miles west of Nevers, Burgundy. The sun is shinning and the silence is an absolute silence that I have rarely experienced in England – at least not in the South East.
Today is my birthday, and as our Kayak drifts gently through the crystal clear water, I think how lucky I am to be sharing this tranquil moment with my family around me – my wife and children in the Kayak, my mom and step-dad back at the lodge. I’ve had phone calls and birthday cards from family and friends, each of them with special meaning. I am moved by the generosity of those who are close to me – before leaving England for France, friends treated me to a wonderful meal and enough book vouchers to keep me quiet for years to come.
We have been seriously considering moving to France for most of the decade. I have spent years learning French. We always take our holidays in France. I often dream of its beautiful and varied countryside, delicious food, relaxing way of life and unspoiled towns. My mom – perhaps inspired by my wish to live in France – moved to Normandy to live in a longère set in idyllic countryside. My father-in-law had twice lived in Paris and our visits there always left us in awe of this magnificent city. These family connections have fueled my obsession with this country, but my feelings towards it are beginning to change.
Twenty minutes later, I nearly jump out of my skin as a low flying French fighter plane rockets over the lake and disappears into the distance, leaving me shaken and confused.
At the end of our holiday in Burgundy, we stop at Saint Valery-sur-Somme near the port from where the ferry will return us to England. We start to notice things we prefer about England to France. The French villages and towns we once dreamed of would be too quiet for our kids. Working here will always be a problem for someone whose French is only good enough to get by on holiday. We don’t want to leave behind all those special people whose kindness made my birthday so memorable.
In a mediocre restaurant in Saint Valery-sur-Somme, we agree to return home, buy a dog and settle down. The kids are very excited and we are relieved to put an end to all the deliberation over France. We are also happy to be staying in Buckinghamshire.
Spring 2009. We emigrate to Germany – it seems our desire to move abroad was simply too strong to resist!
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