Clivehaddow's Blog


The French Connection


After losing touch with my friend Simone we have manage to reconnect. We previously worked together in South Africa. She subsequently moved to England – but now lives in the small village of Genneton in France.

Below is an article she has written for our blog….

Simone Clarke

French Folly

At a social gathering in the UK (actually pretty well anywhere in the English speaking world)

 “Your daughter tells me you live in France? Whereabouts in France?” (hmmmmmmm !  thinking how to answer) “Do you know Nantes?”“No”“Errr – The Vendee?”Giggle “No”“Western France?”

“Whereabouts is that then?”

(SHEESH!!!!) “Well you go to Paris and then turn right and drive for  6 hours!”

“Oh wow. Hey Eric, this is Paula’s mum. She lives in France”

“Oh right – whereabouts?”         (Eeeeeek!) “Well you know Paris?”    “Yeh”

“Well  …………………………………………………. I don’t live there!”

Sometimes it’s really hard to believe that France is the most visited country in the world!!!!!!!!

 The other questions I am asked are even harder to answer –  “How did you find your place, and why France?”  The answer to this is somewhat allied to conversations I used to have just before we made the move. “Oh you are so brave moving to a foreign country!” which knocked me back as to me the UK, where I lived for nearly 3 decades on and off, is not my native land. France WAS foreign to me,  but no more foreign than England as my mother’s family was French speaking.

Simone's house in "Genneton"

 We decided to go looking for a holiday home in France nearly 20 years ago, at the end of one dreary summer when it seemed the sun never shone for more than an hour a week. With the long British winter to look forward to, one September we set off determinedly on the night ferry, landing in France very early in the morning and driving southwards. As we crossed the mighty Loire River, the sun burst out. We had a raft of appointments with estate agents and spent the hot sunny days bouncing around the countryside in cars driven at a speed, and with such nonchalance, that we had our eyes closed half the time. At each stop, we would dismount, with our stomachs clutching our spines, to view the most amazing assortment of wrecks and ruins.

Simone with her two daughters Lauren/Kim

Our list of requirements stated “habitable, good roof, a bit of land”. We fell in love with a few unsuitable places, stared aghast at some places that whilst, far from being what we would call habitable, were certainly being inhabited – sometimes even by human beings! Eventually we came upon our little house, dozing in the warm September sun. It wasn’t pretty, there was no “bit of land”,  and it was slap bang in the middle of a village that ostensibly lacked the smallest bit of charm. It had a roof – that was a good starting point. The old lady who had recently lived there had done so in only one room. The toilet was in one corner, the stove in another, and the telly strategically placed for both! We later discovered a two seater outdoor privy in a tumbledown shed – his and hers?

 The washing facilities were a big sink in her one room. The floor was concrete upon which had been laid layer upon layer of vinyl flooring and plastic sheeting. The removal of each layer revealed yet another, and it was running with water. The smell was unbelievable. The other downstairs room was totally bare. Upstairs was an open granary with the most unbelievable collection of junk imaginable – old telephone books, old magazines and newspapers, broken bits of farm machinery, bags of ancient charcoal, bottles of all types from medicine to booze to perfume, all encrusted with the dirt of ages. There were places were the floor was so rotten that people had fallen through but the beams were solid oak and massive and the death watch beetle had given up the unequal struggle of feasting on them a couple of centuries before. The house is 400 years old, and since moving here have discovered that many in the village have a connection to old Mere Dupont’s house (as it is still called 20 years after her death! ) Till relatively recently we did not have a street name or number as the old postman knew everyone (and all their business to boot) – hardly surprising with a population of 350 which includes all the outlying farms and hamlets!

Back at the social gathering, the next question is “So what’s it like living in France?”

(Whoa!  – BIG question!) I usually just say “I love it!” cos I do. But the real answer is that it’s like living anywhere. There are days you get up and then wish you hadn’t bothered! There are days when the world smiles kindly on you and life flows sweetly. The village itself is very small and very out of the way so every shopping trip is an expedition. When we first bought the house, EVERYTHING used to close for 2 hours at least at lunchtime. Its very disconcerting to arrive somewhere at midday and have the doors firmly shut in your face, and a half an hour trip back home. Now at least the major  supermarkets are open but little else. The pace of life is human paced – slow with time to stop and chat. Family is so important and Sundays are set aside for family gatherings. Most things are seasonal and much awaited through the year – people grow their own produce a lot and not much stuff is imported so we eat strawberries and asparagus and artichokes and grapes etc etc only in their season. Those who grow stuff are generous and we are often overwhelmed with gifts of produce. When I had  3 peach trees all producing abundantly, I used to go around the village leaving bags of fruit on doorsteps because nature is sometimes a bit over generous. Our neighbours are generous with their tolerance as well – there has been a huge influx of Brits into a tiny French community and there is little hostility and a lot of openhearted welcome.

 And the final question “Are you planning to stay in France forever or would you ever go back?” And like all the questions, this too is unanswerable. Who knows what the future holds? At the moment I am content. Perhaps one day my needs will be different but I will let the future lie over the horizon for the moment.


If you are interested in the “Genneton region” here is a click to Wiki.


August 9, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. lustig!!

    Comment by Hildegard + Willy | August 10, 2010 | Reply

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