I never thought my French was any good, to be honest. I had learnt it in school many years before and not practised it for over fourteen years. But I was perfectly capable to talk to the notaire and understand the contract, as well as his jokes. An hour later, we received the keys and drove off to our new home for the first times as owners.
Our property comprises of a renovated barn that has been done-up to a very high spec and a farm house that the previous owners rented out as a gite. As charming as the farmhouse was, it was also in desperate need of some love, but at least it came furnished. We weren’t going to receive our furniture and all our belongings until the next day, so we had to sleep in the farm house, where the furniture and (fortuitously) two single duvets had been left for us. The living-room, despite its gorgeous fireplace, was adorned with a couple of modern, out-of-character, butter-coloured sofas and a dirty cream armchair that should have been discarded long time ago. Occasional nice touches like empty bottles, iron egg holders and antique furniture, were eclipsed by plastic flowers, curtains with balloon prints, bright blue tiles and exposed pipes and wires. We spend our first evening noticing everything that was wrong with the place and sharing a meal of pork with apple sauce and potatoes, purchased earlier from a mini-market in Navarrenx, using nothing but a sharp small knife – literally the only piece of cutlery we found in the cupboards and drawers of our new house.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I am famous for falling asleep in the most uncomfortable of places, but I wasn’t on a holiday somewhere, knowing a warm a cosy flat waited for my return in London. I was going to live here for, more than likely, the rest of my life. What was I going to do with myself in the middle of nowhere, in rural France?
Having expected the possibility that I wouldn’t be anywhere near a civilised shop, I had come prepared with supplies of dry shampoo, roll-on deodorants, make-up, conditioner, toothpaste, creams and facial masks from Boots, as well as kimchi, spicy paste and soup soya sauce from the Korean shop in Tottenham Court Road. I never imagined that a week later we’d find a shop in the nearby village where they sold everything from laundry baskets to SMEG fridges, nor that I would find l’Oreal roots concealer in the local E.Leclerc supermarket. Sure enough, none of these shops turned out to be within walking distance but pretty much everything was a maximum 20 minutes away car ride. However, as far as exotic spices were concerned, I had not been mistaken, expecting them to be rara avis*.
The next day, our belongings arrived. Three hours later, all delivered, assembled and partially unpacked, we took a look around the barn, which was to be our main residence for the first year.
Let’s just say that everything we owned and had crammed in the two-bedroom flat in London, seemed minuscule in the vast space of the converted barn.
‘I guess we’d need to buy a lot of furniture,’ said my husband.