A New Life in the Sun: the British expats in France who became TV stars
- Credit: Archant
Fiona Lapworth and her husband Kevin never dreamed of being on TV, but then they moved to France and that all changed, as Fiona explains…
Why did you decide to move to France?
In April 2014 my husband Kevin and I were involved in a motorbike accident. We were on our way to Scotland but we only got as far as Leicestershire and Kevin ended up in hospital for two weeks. We didn’t have any life-changing injuries, just a few broken bones, but it was enough to make us stop and think. At that stage we both had jobs where the alarm went off at 5am and we were out the door at ten to six; the rat race of living. After the accident we started thinking ‘Life’s too short, there’s got to be something else we can do.’ When he was off recovering, Kevin started watching A New Life in the Sun on TV and it just grew from there.
How did you get involved with the show?
At the end of series two, they had an advert asking anyone who wanted to appear on A New Life in the Sun to drop them an email... so I did! It moved fairly quickly after that. We had a Skype interview and they said they liked our story. We were about to start packing boxes two weeks after that and they sent a guy down to start filming us getting ready to leave the UK. They’d never had anyone do the full move from the UK and starting afresh like that before.
What was a typical day of filming like?
The film crew would arrive, we’d all have a cup of tea and a bit of a chat, get the microphones on, and the crew would ask us about our plans for the day and then decide what bits they wanted to film as it was happening. We’d all stop for a bit of lunch in the typical French way and talk about what was going to happen for the afternoon.
What kind of things were they keen to get on camera?
They wanted to see the obstacles that you had to overcome – nothing in life is plain sailing, as we all know. Unfortunately they couldn’t get here the day the boiler broke. That was a bit of a nightmare, the mess that was left and the hassles that we had – that was a stressful day! I think they like to see when something goes wrong, how you deal with it and how you cope – I didn’t cope very well!
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You’re based in Vienne. Why did you choose that area?
We typed in ‘houses for sale in France’ and we could have been still sitting here 10 years later trying to go through them, so we had to narrow it down. We wanted somewhere a little bit further south, just because of the weather. Then we looked at areas close to airports such as Bordeaux and drew an 80km radius around it. The biggest pull of our village is that we have the Circuit du Val de Vienne, the racing circuit for cars and motorbikes – although we had an accident we are back on the bikes and we are still bikers. The area is also five minutes from the River Vienne and the beautiful viaducts. My husband has always lived near a river or the sea and I’ve always lived near the south coast and so we wanted to be beside water. This area just ticked everything.
How did you find your house?
We found a website by English-speaking French estate agents, which made it easier. We went on the site, put in a price bracket and some requirements, and we sat night after night, trawling the internet, marking properties on the map, walking up and down the streets on Google Maps trying to find it. But sometimes you just look at a house and go ‘oh wow’. When we saw our house we thought it looked like the kind of house you would draw when you’re a kid. It’s like a big doll’s house. It just had that from the outside first of all and the space of the rooms inside; having electric, having water, having a gas tank fitted was quite a big plus so it seemed to tick all of the boxes for us. We first saw the property in February of last year and we moved over in the July and took a booking for our first guest for two months later.
Why did you decide to open a chambres d’hôtes?
Neither of us has been in the hospitality industry, but I had experience working with people. So from the point of view of the customers, it seemed like a no-brainier. We like people and my husband loves the cooking side so we offer the table d’hôte. We still need to earn money – we’re not old enough to be able to retire but we didn’t need to earn as much money for a better quality of life.
Did you enjoy being on camera?
Ask me again after it’s been on the TV! I think I’ll have to have a glass of wine to watch it. I’m excited but a little bit nervous. We know what was filmed but we don’t know what will air and you do think ‘Oh what did I say; what face was I pulling!’ So there is a little bit of trepidation. But the whole team were fantastic. A lot of the time we forgot that we even had the microphones on.
What do the French locals make of your TV appearance?
I know we’ve been spoken about in the town. They think it’s a bit of a crazy thing. I think they think we’re just the crazy English people on the TV programme!
What’s the best thing about your life in France?
The more relaxed lifestyle that we have. We chose to earn less but have a better quality of life, and that’s really important. Having had a little awakening, we know that life could be very short; you never know what’s going to happen. We had a lucky day in effect, because we’re both still here. But you never know what tomorrow brings so if you’ve got an idea or dream, do it. If it doesn’t work at least you can say ‘yeah but we gave it a go’.
Find out more about Fiona and Kevin’s B&B, Chez Keona
See Fiona and Kevin on A New Life in the Sun from 19 March at 4pm on Channel 4. Catch up on past episodes on All 4
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