Charente retirement

Moving to France has meant a slower pace of life for one couple, as Deborah Curtis finds out

Barbara and Kelvin Housley moved to Charente in September 2002 choosing to retire to France because they had enjoyed holidays there over the years and were drawn by the lower cost of living and the attractive house prices. “Our life is much calmer here,” says Barbara.

“The traffic is virtually nonexistent in our area and the pace of life is much slower. There is no clock watching and that’s good for your blood pressure! We find the people here very polite and friendly and the lack of crime is a real bonus. We don’t have to lock our doors or worry in the supermarket about leaving a handbag on the trolley while we look on the shelves.”

The economic downturn has taken its toll on their finances but it hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm for retirement in France. “We have moved house twice since we have been here, mainly because the cost of living has risen substantially and we have lost a third of our pensions with the exchange rate,” Barbara explains.

“We have downsized each time and now live in a Charente hamlet in a three-bedroom house with an attached garden, a large barn and a garage in another garden on the opposite side of the lane, which has a potager, a big washing line and hen houses though we don’t have any hens!”

They settled in quickly thanks to their efforts both to learn French and to get to know their neighbours.

“I already had schoolgirl French and we both took individual courses in the language as well,” says Barbara.

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“We have been very lucky with our French neighbours wherever we have lived. They have given us fruit and vegetables and helped to look after our dogs and cats if we have been out for the day.

“It helps to speak some French and they appreciate it when you try and get involved in the French social life. We have shopped for our elderly neighbours in the winter when there is snow and they can’t get out of the village.” Their mutual love of golf has been a great way to meet people, so much so that having a home near a golf course was very important to them and has led to them having a wide circle of friends.

“We have a huge circle of friends at the golf club: French, English and Dutch and if we let it, life could be one social whirl!” laughs Barbara.

They have been very impressed with the French healthcare system. Since they have been in France Kelvin has suffered from bowel and bladder cancer and they cannot speak highly enough of the care he has received.

“The healthcare here is the best in the world,” says Barbara. “We couldn’t praise it more. Our GP is a very kind and caring doctor who rings in the evening to see how her patient is and makes appointments with the specialist herself.”

Barbara and Kelvin live within driving distance of Barbara’s daughter Sarah, son-in-law Zak and grandchildren Josh, 7, and Harry, 5. Being near to her family is the icing on the cake for Barbara.

“My daughter and her family live just two hours away, so that is a bonus,” she says. “Some people who come out really miss their grandchildren and end up going back to the UK after a while.” In fact, they can’t think of a downside to living in France.

“The pros of life in France are definitely the laid back way of living, the good food, the countryside and the friendly people,” says Barbara. “We just love it here.” LF