Life in France has turned out to be very different to how she thought it might be, but for mum-of-five, Gillian Harvey, living in this rural heartland couldn’t be better
Since moving to France in 2009 we’ve learned to adapt to the situation we’re presented with, in more than one way. Seven years ago, if you’d asked me what my vie en France would be like, I’d have described browsing authentic markets with a basket over my arm, digging over my vegetable-rich allotment and conversing fluently with my French neighbours over apéritifs.
In reality, we’re more likely to be filling our trolley at the local supermarket, sighing over the few measly tomatoes we’ve managed to cultivate after forgetting to water and weed, and stumbling through French conversation in a haze of semi-comprehension and eager ‘ouis.’
Other realities of life in France have required adaptation too. The low population in my area can mean rather than heaving with life, villages, parks and even the beach can seem rather barren. But, as my mum always used to advise me in the endless summer holidays of my youth, I have learned to “make my own fun”. Winters are filled with long lunches in friends’ homes; away from constant stimuli, I’ve found more interesting ways to spend my time, and on wet weekends we’ve learned to kit ourselves up and get outside anyway.
And in these moments, the fact that we’re guaranteed to have parks and lakesides almost to ourselves can add to the adventure. With all my children under eight, they need close supervision, but if no-one is there to pose a threat or block my view, I can let them have a freedom they’d not have access to elsewhere.
More columns from Gillian Harvey
When we decided to visit the lake with some friends this weekend, the kids raced off to paddle in distant pools, played tug of war and discovered treasures in small pine cones, water-worn pieces of driftwood and the sparkling surface of faux-jewelled rocks. It was wonderful to watch them running in the fresh air and paddling in their wellies.
Because, once again, despite the brain-busting, headache-causing pain of perfecting my conjugation, or the fact that I often forget the market is in town, let alone stroll down with a basket, I remember to say to myself: This. This is why I’m here.
Gillian Harvey is a freelance writer who has lived in Limousin for six years, together with husband Ray and their five young children.