Fifty's happy, The Husband's happy, I'm happy. Our little house is almost hovering off the ground with all the happy good vibes. But, (always a but isn't there), I've got an enormous amount of stuff to do to get the good vibe house back to normal (in saying that, the Husband really did try to keep it clean, but his clean and my clean are two very different things) and some serious Fifty time to get in (first scheduled long walk is in T minus 80 minutes).
So in the meantime my Peeps, I've got something different for you. Today, it isn't all about me (huh?!) today, it's about Keith over at Taste of Garlic.
Taste of Garlic is a blog about blogs in France. Keith searches out all the expat life in France blogs and posts reviews about them. What's not to love, right? It's great, because I like reading blogs about people going through all the same cross cultural confusion as me, and he finds them for me (and all his other readers). Well done Keith, very generous of you.
Since Keith is always doing the reviewing, and occasional interview, I thought it would be fun for a change to turn the tables, and ask him a few questions to find out what makes a mild mannered English bloke (I think he's a tad naughtier than mild manner but mild mannered goes so well with English bloke, don't you think?) want to blog about expat French blogs, and what got him to Brittany in the first place...
(And selfishly today, Keith's done all the work for me so I didn't have to post and I can hang with Fifty and clean. Well done again Keith).
SL: Why Brittany?
K: Most of my family holidays, when I was young, were spent in Cancale. They were simple and happy times. I suppose that I was always destined to end up here. Brittany isn't really France, you know - it's more that that! It is the part of France where most French people would rather be! I was born in Cornwall (from where the Bretons originated) so perhaps I was just following my ancestors over?
And you know, Brittany really is a special place!
We may not have the culture of Paris but we do have a unique culture all of our own. And anyway, Paris is only 4 hours away on the TGV.
We may not have the gastronomic choices that are available in Lyon and Paris but, with our great local produce, we don't need them.
To quote from some novel or other....
"This is a soft and gentle land, this place, and I find that I am treated here, not as a stranger from another country but, as someone who perhaps lived here once, long ago, and who has recently returned."
I suppose that to sum up; for me, in Brittany the towns are all like villages - everyone knows each other and everyone cares.
And our cities are just big towns.
And anyway, the clocks all run a little more slowly in Brittany than they do in the rest of France.
SL: What made you decide to start A Taste of Garlic?
K: Of course, I have my own blog at http://www.BretonDiary.com and I read other blogs as well.
I was finding it hard to keep track of some of the other Life in France blogs that I was reading and thought that perhaps other people might be having the same problem. I also thought that it would be a good laugh to interview people that I respect (and would like to emulate) in a tongue in cheek way.
Most of the writers that I've interviewed so far (http://www.atasteofgarlic.com/category/interview-writer) have been up for it!
Once it started moving, A Taste of Garlic seemed to develop a momentum all of its own and, apart from a slight gap over the last few weeks, I have been able to post an article every day of the week.
Now, there seems almost to be some sense of community about Garlic. I've made plenty of friends through it; and I'm sure I'll make plenty more.
SL: Favorite interview subject for A Taste of Garlic?
K: If we're being totally honest... I do have a soft spot for Karen Wheeler, whom I interviewed in January (http://www.atasteofgarlic.com/interview-writer/the-karen-wheeler-interview) - if you've read her wonderful book (Tout Sweet), you'll understand that she came over here almost on a whim and she seems to have survived.
Then again, to be allowed to interview Joanne Harris (who, in a way, was partially responsible for my moving over here) was a great honour.
I'm still waiting on Gordon Ramsay (lived here for 3 years when he was starting out), Rick Stein (did a TV series about French food) and Nicholas Sarkozy (not sure what he does) to get off their collective arses and agree to be interviewed!
SL: Is there any standard topic that an expat in France will eventually blog about?
K: Yes! Every Paris blog will, sooner or later, mention dog poo! Every Life in France blogger will, at some time, complain about French bureaucracy! Some talented blogs combine the two!
Having said that, the one topic that, I believe, has popped up in every blog that I have reviewed (and I would double check but.... there are quite a few blogs now!) is the weather!
The French can talk for hours about the weather and, apparently, we can blog about it almost as well.
I welcome this!
I call it a form of integration!
SL: After reviewing so many expat blogs, and living in France yourself, you are a bit of an authority on moving to France. What advice would you give to someone who has experienced their 'A Year In Provence' and is ready to chuck it all away and move here?
K: To be honest, the only advice I could offer is to not follow my advice!
I did it all wrong; I came over with no money, no job and no real idea of how I would earn a living!
Still, if put on the spot, I would say.... (a) rent before you buy, (b) learn French, (c) try to integrate (even if it's only popping to the bar for a beer every evening), (d) support your local businesses, (e) read A Taste of Garlic religiously, (f) learn French, (g) try not to compare your old home with your new one (especially prices) and, most importantly of all..... (h) learn French!
Read lots about the experience of others who've already made the move.
Read A Taste of Garlic.
Buy books about moving to France.
Buy books about moving to France from the online bookshop at A Taste of Garlic!
SL: What do you love most about France?
K: Sometimes I can walk past a boulangerie and the smell of fresh bread transports me back to childhood holidays. I can see a particular shade of blue and, all of a sudden, I'm 14 years old again - fishing off the harbour wall at Cancale. I know that you can never go back but there's no law that says you shouldn't try to preserve happy times.
I also love the food, and the seriousness with which it is taken.
I love the way that France is different - and proud of it!
I love the pride that the French take in their great products (and in some of their less great products, as well!)
I love that, in Brittany at least, Family still matters!
SL: What drives you crazy most about France?
K: It would be trite to say "The English" but.... I don't have much time for the sort of Expat who constantly complains about how bad things are over here (and I'm sure to nut the next person who complains that you can't get Malted Milk biscuits in France!) I suppose that I'm still amazed that I'm expected to be friends with someone just because we were both born speaking the same mother tongue.
I used to find that people, complete strangers, would introduce themselves to me in the bar, or in a restaurant, by saying....
"Oh, you're English. You can always tell, can't you? We've just bought a place in Josselin. 20 Acres of land, 18 bedrooms; it was very cheap. We're planning to turn it into a Gite complex. Dodgy Dave from Dagenham is coming over to do the work (as long as we can keep him off the wine) - all cash in hand, you know. Got to count the pennies. Toby has got a problem with his four wheel drive - aren't spares expensive over here?"
And then go on to ask.... "And where's your house - how many acres have you got? What type of four wheel drive do you drive?"
They'd always go a bit quiet when I'd tell them that I lived in rented accommodation, rode a push bike and worked in the local abattoir! I wonder why?
Realistically, the most irritating thing is not knowing my way around the bureaucracy. During a recent period of illness I found that I didn't know which forms to fill in and what processes would take effect. None of my French friends told me because they assumed that I would automatically know these things.
But (and I'm trying to be serious now), perhaps most important of all - and certainly what drives me the craziest is that most of the French guys I know (and certainly none of the French girlies - but that's to be expected) don't seem to have the faintest clue about football.
I'm talking real football here; the sort that's played in London by real men (apart from the girlies that play at Emirates!) and supported by real fans (see previous comment about Arsenal!)
English football supporters know (in a way that the French will never understand) that football isn't a matter of life and death - it's far more important than that!
SL: Favorite French movie?
K: A very hard question to answer! I suppose it has to be Diva. I've seen Diva about a million times and each time I discover something new. It was Diva that instilled my enduring love for Opera!
Having said that; I could watch Jean de Florette and 37 degrees (Betty Blue) over and over again, I'm always up for a Swimming Pool session and have got to be Mesrine's no 1 fan!
I also liked Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis and think that Monsieur Ibrahim is an undiscovered classic!
However... A good bottle of wine, a quite night in - I guess it'd be time to watch Diva for the millionth and oneth time!
SL: Warm sunny day; Pastis or Rosé?
K: That's very kind of you. Perhaps a small glass of Rosé whilst the waiter goes off to fetch the Pastis?
Now time for Fifty cuddles.