Don’t call me lucky!

OOH, you are lucky to live in the South of France. I hear this so often and occasionally I reply…

NO, I’m not. The only time luck entered the equation was the last step. Let me explain.

I moved to France, Angouleme  to be precise ( it’s 1 hour north of Bordeaux) in 2003.

I was not delusional. I knew jobs in France were rarer than rocking horse manure.

Naturally, I still harboured a hope that I might get a little job in a local hotel or similar.

Nope, nothing doing, so back to Plan B or is that Plan A? Always good to have both to hand.

It took 3 visits, staying in the cheapest possible hotels whilst scouring estate agents for rental property.

Seriously, would you rent to a middle aged ( I plan to expire quite close to 100)  single, self employed female who works outside France?  I didn’t quite realise then but I had something that Fiona Harrold talks about…

A sense of entitlement. Yes, the odds were stacked against me but I just needed 1 person to believe in me, when I said I will pay the rent…somehow. I wasn’t without an income but being self employed as a short term live-in carer is not without its precarious side. Booked for 2 weeks. Great. £1000 ( before tax) Phone rings. Client gone into hospital. Back to the drawing board. However, in 18 years, I have only been without work once, for a 2 week period and you can catch up, if you can face doing a month straight off.

So, back to Angouleme and my unconscious mindset of determination and good old-fashioned stubbornness.

My boss is going to kill me but you have an honest face ( see below)

Would you trust this woman? 😉

and so I will draw up a contract for the appartement opposite the Cathedral. So said, an estate agent in Angouleme. We are still friends to this day.

I moved again in Angouleme, this time there was an element of luck attached. I was in a shop and asked if anyone knew of a flat in a quiet area. The one opposite the cathedral was on a main road.

A lovely lady in her 80’s took me by the hand and said. You will be my new neighbour. Perfect. Almost.

I still get goosebumps when I think of Angouleme, as my first French home but it suffers from ‘British weather’ and it is difficult and expensive to commute to and from the UK.

Nice has 300 days sunshine ( we are in the other 65 slot today) and flights to the UK are frequent and cheap. Sorted.

If I thought renting in the Charente region was tough…People had warned me. It took 11 months with all my worldly goods in storage before I found an estate agent who would even ‘look at me’. But I would not give up. Month after month I would stay in a seedy hotel by the station, in between working for UK care agency, and trudge around estate agents until I found the one who would give me a chance.

You really mean it, don’t you? This was an estate agent in La Colle sur Loup. Apparently, something about the fact that I had sat down and it was 11.45 ( perilously close to lunch) with my arms folded, saying. I’m not leaving until you find me something… did the trick.

I stayed in that appartement and village almost four years. It was modern, built in 1973 and didn’t have a soul.

It had lovely views and my life revolved around bed, bath and balcony but it wasn’t home.

Then one day I was driving into the hills with a friend when we came to Tourrettes-sur-Loup. We were heading a lot further north-west but I suddenly said. This is it! She asked if I wanted to stop, get out, look around. I said there was no need. I had found Angouleme in the South of France. A medieval hilltop village.

Now, THIS is home 🙂

It took another 3 years before I could move. The usual debacle with estate agents. No money, no husband, no chance!

One estate agent in Vence was willing to take a risk on me but she couldn’t find anything. This is such a lovely place, no one wants to move!! Then last summer I put a small advert in the local shop. English lady writer looking for quiet appartement etc.

Now here is where the luck comes in. An American couple who own property in the village had run out of wine. A visit to the local shop ( not normally frequented) was the obvious choice. They saw my advert and the rest as they say, is history.

So here I sit in front of my log fire, with a view to take your breath away.It is 20 kilometres down to Antibes.

I have more friends here in the last 3 months than I made in the previous 4 years. This place has a soul and a wonderful market every Wednesday morning. And to top it all, the Mayor has invited all newcomers to a cocktail party at the Town Hall on Tuesday evening.

I can just see him nodding now, as I tell him about my plans for an English library.

You know the saying… Build it and they will come?

You have to envisage what you want in life, otherwise if you can’t see it, how can others?!

Some of us are born ‘at home’ some of us have to struggle to find it.

But, oh boy it’s worth. Lucky, moi?  No. Now do you see why I get cross when people say that?

Or if you insist on using that word…You make your own luck.

Make 2012 the year you realise your dreams. I have.

4 Responses to “Don’t call me lucky!”
  1. helenducal says:

    Just to update you all. The cocktail party with the Mayor was cancelled due to what some locals are calling ‘British weather’ ( and blaming me for it!) aka SNOW. Everything ground to a halt by mid afternoon last Tuesday. So instead of Monsiuer Le Maire nodding his head I was shaking mine. Plan B…where did I put Plan B?
    And now, Saturday evening and it is snowing again. Was it something I said?

  2. Wow! This is inspiring (if sobering) as I want to live in France in retirement (if I get there!) I speak French and have been there many times. I’m always happiest in France.

    So…OK, you are not “lucky.” But what lovely life!!!

  3. I have so many happy memories of family holidays in Cannes, Antibes, Juan Les Pins, and a little place up in the mountains I think was called Chateauneuf du Contes. When I moved to Kefalonia part of the reason I liked it there was because the landscape and beaches reminded me of the South of France. I agree you make your own luck, but sometimes luck can either make or break despite our hardest efforts. Long may you keep making your own luck and may the other sort stay on your side too. We’re back in the UK but maybe one day we’ll find our place to rest although I have the feeling we’re destined to search forever …

    • helenducal says:

      Hi Michele.
      Thanks for your response. You know I resisted writing this for some time as I have been accused of being smug, in the past. Is it a fine line between a sense of entitlement and being smug? I really think the ‘Brits’, if I may lump them all together for a moment, have a hard time will success. Other people’s and their own. Attitudes vary such a lot but I have found a far more positive attitude over here in France and that alone helps me…succeed.
      Here, I tell people I am writer and they are immediately curious. In the UK, more often that not, people roll their eyes.
      I have been reading books and following advice by Fiona Harrold for over 10 years and she never fails me. Recently she said, #1 thing you need to do to bring about real change in your life( I am paraphrasing) is to change your environment.
      Do you know, deep down where you truly want to live? Then make it your goal otherwise how can you be happy?
      Hope this doesn’t sound like I am stating the obvious?
      I just had to reply to your gloomy last sentence…


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