la vie francaise

1 April 2009

What is this mass exodus from France I keep reading about? It must be some hack on holiday, short of a few quid, making up these stories as it has no basis in fact.

I love my beautiful Moulin in Aquitaine. And yes there are quite a few British people who also love the French country way of life. They are not rich, playboys - those people choose the Riviera and the Provence to offload their booty.

The first wave of British here were mostly early retirees who wanted to make their money go further by buying up the cheap pretty old stone houses that the French no longer want to live in, to restore them and be self sufficient.

The second wave were craftsmen and their families often the offspring and relations of the retirees. As long as you were qualified and prepared to join the French system and speak the language there was a nice living to be made in a healthy rural environment. We are knee-deep in British builders, plumbers and electricians and the French artisans really know their craft.

The education is great. All the British kids are bi-lingual. They eat proper lunches. Schooling is secular. The health care is also great. I had a very impressive experience of this when I had an emergency gall bladder problem. The food is simple but fresh and you know who farmed it and where it was farmed. I even saw three houses with ‘vendu’ signs on the way back from market. The trick to successful living in France is to always remember you are in a Socialist Republic – then you won’t go far wrong.

There are always people who do not make a successful adjustment to la vie francaise – usually those who do not want to make the effort to speak the language and make French friends, and those who are unqualified to work. Anyone with proper training and some entrepreneurial skills is welcomed. Recently the French even changed their complicated bureaucratic system to make it easier for foreigners and locals alike to set up entrepreneurial businesses.

It is true that the older British people here are suffering at the moment. The weak pound and low interest rates in the UK make it hard for them to make ends meet on their pensions and savings. Quite a few are below the national poverty level. So the French Government are making up the difference. How shameful to our own Government. Here liberty, fraternity and equality appear to be the real thing.

At the bank you can get interest free mortgages for first time buyers, an interest free loan to make your house eco friendly, 2% on current accounts and 5% on savings. The old Europeans are being hit by the financial crash as a knock on effect but they may be justified in being cross with the British and their "special relationship" with US for instigating this global crisis in the first place.

Of course there a still a lot of problems in France as in any place but nothing that a large bottle of St Emilion Grand Cru won't sort.

I am exhausted. We have just finished clearing and logging the fallen trees from the river; damage caused by the recent hurricane, and we were very proud when our farmer neighbour congratulated us on our "civisme" which is a big thing over here.

I am now very much looking forward to getting back to Blighty and becoming thoroughly British again. Bring on Les Roast Bifs!

I see that my friend Paul Grant, the Headmaster at my old school in Dagenham, Robert Clack, is making the news again. The school has had its second "outstanding" rating from OFSTED in a row. When he started as Head, to change the awful culture he inherited, Paul drove around in the school’s van collecting truanting pupils and returning them to lessons. He suspended 300 pupils during his first week. Now THAT’s what I call determination! Well done everyone at Robert Clack. I am so proud to be one of your supporters.

 

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