You Move Me by Martin O’Neill

Our very own home in France. At last. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this moment ..!!

Actually, I can. I have been waiting precisely no years, no weeks, no days and no minutes. I haven’t been waiting at all, if you want to know the truth. A home in France was the furthest thing from my mind back then.

It was my wife’s idea, see? “Darling,” she’d said, wafting her MacBook in my face. “Ever fancied running a B+B in France?”!“Have I heck,” I exclaimed. “Who on earth would want to run a B+B in France? Getting up at God knows what time every day to make breakfast for people you’ve never met, then cleaning up after them when they’ve gone. Honestly, who would want that?”!

“Well, I would,” she said, and I swear I saw her eyelashes fluttering. “That’s why I’ve been looking at these.” She plopped her computer into my lap and a rank of pretty white houses stared up at me from the screen. “Have a look,” she said. “See what you think. Perhaps we could go over and check them out.”!“

So that’s what you’ve been doing, is it?” I said. “All this time I thought you’d been playing Tetris, when in fact you’ve been searching for houses in France.”!“

Well, it’s been my dream for years,” she said. “Couldn’t you just give it some thought?”!“

Why would I want to think about that?” I gasped. “The whole idea sounds horrendous. I haven’t spoken French since sixth-form and .. and anyway, I’m far too busy with my job to think about packing it all in.” I was a rather successful graphic designer, you see. Had been for years although I have to admit, if we’re telling the truth again, it had all been going downhill of late. It’s these bloody Johnny-come-latelies, isn’t it? Kids with computers and a questionable college course, stepping on my toes, under-cutting my prices and, dare I say it, doing a far better job than I could ever offer at this crusty old stage of my career. Am I past it? Have I run out of ideas? Can I keep going? All questions I began to ask myself, and then I asked myself another. Why don’t I just move to France and run a bed and breakfast gîte?!!

I was hooked from the off-ramp at Calais. How exciting. Driving on the right, steering past illegible road-signs, heading south in a country I had never ever been to. Yeah, sod the graphic design, I’m staying. The cheery smile from the cashier at the motorway services, the ‘aires’, the empty roads, the .. er, what’s it called again? Ah yes, the sunshine! Oh, I was hooked alright, and we were still four hundred kilometres from our first destination. Ha, listen to me. Kilometres!!!

We dismissed the first eight houses we looked at, and then we found her. The house we would turn into our home. Our ‘forever’ home in France. Our little bit of paradise in the middle of bugger all. Questionable roofing, worryingly-angled shutters and a garden that even Titchmarsh would baulk at. It was absolutely gorgeous. We both did a comical double-take, and knew we’d found our ‘dream’. Eleven months and six days later, we moved in.!!

I’m so bad at house maintenance that I cannot even spell DIY, and the daunting task that lay ahead really only began to hit me as we sat with cold gin and tonics on our first night at ‘Chez nous’. Reality kicked in and I swallowed hard and tried to calm my heart. What on earth have I gone and done? Ask anybody who’s shifted lock, stock and barrel to France and they’ll all say the same thing .. it’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. And there I was, plastering a hallway, laying shiny flooring, plumbing sinks and showers, and all before I’d even unpacked my prized collection of James Bond DVDs. God, the excitement. The trips to the bricolage (one of my new French words) for paint (I won’t mention the price) and cement. The late nights, flopping shattered onto a dusty sofa after another hard day’s work and then, all of a sudden, there it was. Our lovely gîte. Ready to go, ready to welcome our first guests.!!

We photographed it, worked out some tasty pricing, put it up on-line and, I don’t like to brag, but we’d taken our first booking within three days and the following summer started to look really good. And then “Darling,” she said, wafting her MacBook in my face. “Look at our lovely little grandchild. I do miss her so. Can we please go back to England?”!!!