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“New Home”

Every Sunday for the last two point five months has been “moving day.” We have been shuffling around France in our little Berly Car (a Citroën Berlingo) with the majority of items belonging to Arlo (pram {do not travel with this one} bag of books, bag of toys, scooter, snow toboggan, etc) from Paris heading south namely, to try and find a place that was suitable for us to settle down for a while.

Each and every place has had its ups and downs, its plusses and minuses, as does every other faculty of life. But if you read this post or even this one or god, even this one, you would already know that this journey has been more difficult than original anticipations had allowed. If there is one single lesson I have learnt over the last couple of months which was acquired solely on this voyage, it has been that perseverance pays. I have a newfound respect for people who do this – uprooting their perfectly good lives to do something really challenging. Because it’s actually not easy at all. And if you’re reading this and thinking, “hey, I did this. It was easy!” and you’re in the same situation as me, then please TEACH ME YOUR WAYS, O WISE AND WELL ORGANISED ONE.

We have found our feet. They had disappeared, like I was in the final months of pregnancy again. We were swimming in the Atlantic ocean with no land in sight, trying to keep our two year old human child afloat, and dry. It was hard work. It wasn’t physically hard, except for lugging suitcases, shopping, and a tired boy up many flights of stairs, but it was psychologically exhausting. And there are certainly two ways to look at facing things each day:

  1. “Glorious! (smilingly) Where are we going to be living this time next week? What trials and tribulations and blockages by the French Government await us tomorrow? How thrilling and worldly!” OR
  2. “How do we create stability in such a capricious environment, for our child? How do we explain moving from one home to the next, when he’s just become comfortable? How do I find a job when we don’t even know where we will live? What does this French parking fine mean?” among others.

Now, I can laugh at it (a little bit). But it reminds me of the aftermath of giving birth to my son, with no pain relief. I was adamant that I would be truthful to all my female friends who wanted to know about it…that it was f-ed. The pain is so extreme that you forget what you’re enduring it for. On a lesser scale, this has been that. And like that too, a marvellous gift was the result – Arlo. And now here we are, stationed in the south-west of France for the foreseeable future, with the French language at our fingertips, and the hospitality and generosity of the French-Basque people leaving us open-mouthed.

We spent the last two weeks living in the granny flat of a typical Basque home in Anglet. And man, did we hit the jackpot with this one. Attached to their home, a couple in their mid 70s and early 80s have become Airbnb Superhosts, sharing their place with strangers every few weeks. Danielle became like a grandmother to Arlo and a mother to Shane and I, dispersing kisses and cuddles in her lovely, warm grandmotherly way at any moment. Willing and able to help with every request or enquiry, she’s a person that when you meet her, you can’t not immediately feel comfortable and welcome and taken care of. Remi, a little more reserved at first, drew Arlo’s attention as he tended his garden of lettuce and tomatoes and kept very active around the back yard and front yard, cutting branches, trimming the grass, cleaning out the garage and picking cherries from the tree. The moment Remi became less reserved may have been the time Arlo spat out a piece of potato and placed it into his hand, and he graciously ate it.

Both Danielle and Remi have a siesta after lunch every single day which, in my opinion, is one of the reasons they are so fit and well in their seventh and eighth centuries of life. They host family and friends very regularly for dinner, coffee or afternoon tea, and they eat the food they grow in the garden every day. We developed a relationship with these people that we will maintain as long as is humanly possible, and we will be forever grateful for how they have aided our transition to life in France. Shane even got Remi doing morning meditation by the end of the two weeks; a certain achievement, especially with a strong language barrier (neither Remi nor Danielle speak any English). I knew we had found something special when we were welcomed into our accomodation with a beautiful traditional Basque cake – (see it here) big box tick for old sweet tooth over here!

Breaking our fast at midday on moving day was something else, too. Danielle and Remi had us over for apéro, with a couple of petit glasses of Tawny Port alongside some biscuits and nuts being the prelude to Remi’s private trumpet performance; of which he had not played for 14 years. Arlo was on Remi’s level after he had poured him two small glasses of apple juice, despite my attempted protestations. Apparently, “un peu du sucre, ce n’est pas grave!”

So this is just a little update for all who are interested in our well being. WE ARE GREAT. We have secured a home with a spacious garden, across the road from a running track and football field, 1.5km to the beach and in 10 minutes from the centre of Biarritz. In Anglet, which some would argue, is even better. I have never applied for so many jobs in my life, and I’ve learnt some valuable skills in writing cover letters and curriculum vitae in French. We have made friends who have all been so generous with their time and willingness to help us adjust, and Arlo already speaks more French than Shane (haha).

More to come, sometime soon.

Peace oXo

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

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