It all happened a few years ago............2008 to be precise.
I made a decision to move to France having spent several holidays here with the family, and had begun to really like the country, its customs and the people. But where to move to? Such a large country. So many beautiful areas. I was in the process of selling my business in England and soon after that, the house. Some friends had bought a property near Ruffec in the lovely Charente region, and had invested in another property to renovate, namely this one, near Confolens, also in the lovely Charente but about 45kms further east. They thought long and hard about it, and as they had much work to do on their own house, put this one on the market. I promptly flew over in the February, saw it and fell in love with it, seeing its potential. A couple of months later I was the proud owner of a house in France!
I moved in March the following year 2008, and quickly set about the alterations and work required to make the house, a house! It had lain empty for at least 25 years. Friends were gathered along the way to help with some of the work, and quite soon it was suitably habitable, of sorts! I had made the decision to try and integrate into French life at an early stage, as well as do up the house, so the decorating is taking longer than I anticipated. I have made many good friends now and I am involved in several groups, clubs and exciting ventures. I am now on the local comite des fetes, and was recently elected conseil municipale for our village! The house has progressed and looks a lot different from those early days when I first saw it.
The first year was good, settling in, learning the language and generally finding out what goes on in a new country. I have been able to follow my Motor Racing too, with an International circuit on my doorstep, le Mans three hours to the north, and the wonderful Circuit des Remparts in the superb city of Angouleme, a mere hour away where this year we celebrated the 70th anniversary of that event. Check out the photographs on the web link. Laura brought Ash, my grandson over on her way to Portugal which was another highlight of my first year. There was more to follow.
The year went the way that most years go here. Sun, wine, music, eating outside, friends, and a slight guilt feeling that I was not doing the regular nine to five any more! That feeling did not last that long I hasten to add! Christmas came and was closely followed by the New Year celebrations and there we were in this year! It was a good time, spent with my new friends and enjoying not having to sink under the pressure of 'retail sales' and having the opportunity to actually enjoy shopping mysely, relaxing and watch everyone else do the work and take the stress that I used to do! No regrets. I served my time, now it's my time to live and enjoy it.
During last year I bought another property next to mine which will give me the chance to allow visitors their own house, with a huge living space, kitchen, two bedroms and en-suite and a family bathroom, all done to a high standard. It should be ready by this coming Easter. I have further added another three small houses and some land to my protfolio, all within meters of my own house. The idea is to renovate these, to offer an Arts Centre with studio area for work and presentations, photographic space with natural settings, as well as areas for music, films, readings and anything else I can think of. Watch this space!
I have been to many live music events this year too, the best one being Rochefort en Accords, which is again being held at the end of August. It was a great mix of styles and individuals, culminating with everyone 'jamming' on stage. We also have Blues and Jazz Festivals withing easy reach at places like Limoges and Cognac. Check out the photographs on the AutoGraph Photo link.
I am working with two super friends in Confolens with the development of an Arts Cafe and Gallery. Confolens is renowned for its International World Music Festival and we want to continue this theme throughout the rest of the year. With other Galleries and Art outlets in the area, we hope to put something back into the Charente department.
This past year has seen Roo and Amy, Laura and Ash stay with me and we all had a wonderful 'part' family get together for a week in the fabulous summer, in time to have a great spell at the Music Festival here in town. Only Jo was missing and I hope she will be able to come over and see where I live, sometime in 2010.
I celebrated a rather large birthday back in March and was so pleased that out of all 75 people who came along and danced the night away, only two were from a time before I came to France! Tony and Eileen from whom I bought the house. I organised a Car Rally for our village and plans are afoot for another next summer, bigger and better! A group of us are staging a play in June. We have hired a castle for the weeknd and with about 30 children on stage we should make the ramparts sing! It's a great place here, tucked away and very special. You should see it. More news will appear on this blog later.
Now we are in reach of Christmas again and another year stretches ahead. Lots of work to be done here, both at the houses and with the planned projects, as well as getting on and having a good time! Photography is taking a major part now as well and I am working on a book on Historic Motor Racing and an exhibition too. I will try and do a monthly update to this blog and share my life with all those of you out there who might be the slightest bit interested!
Roll on summer and then MullBerry can do some more tan topping like he did last year! See you.............