I live in a very beautiful place. Not exactly where I'd planned on living but, hey, the best laid and all that...
At 15 I knew I wanted to live in France, marry a Frenchman, live happily ever after. England was not for me. I was born and brought up in the south of England, not far from the coast, France always just over the watery horizon. I studied French. It was all in place. So how exactly have I ended up in the rain-soaked North West of this smitten Isle, my Mediterranean spirit caked in mud and mist?
There begs the question. Well, I can well and truly blame my husband. An easy target I know, but true. He comes to me one dark November eve down south and says ' How do you fancy Manchester?' 'Not a lot', says I, up to my neck in builders rubble and baby crap, the cracks in my facade apparent but gone unnoticed. 'Ok' he says.
So how was it that barely 5 months later I found myself driving up the M1, tears streaming down my cheeks, to a whole new world, a counter-intuitive move away from everything I hold dear. My family; my friends; the house where I'd given birth to two of my children and whose expansion and renovation I'd endured with newborn baby at my breast; my beloved Europe receding ever further from my grasp. It was a curious experience and one that many before me have gone through at the mercy of work, the armed forces, the diplomatic service - and in our increasingly fluid society one that will occur with ever greater frequency. It wasn't as if I wasn't used to moving, starting all over - I had done it a number of times before, to France, to Italy. But this was different. I was exhausted. I didn't want to start again. I didn't want to have to find new friends, new schools, new doctors, dentists and candlestickmakers. I had done all that. Several times. I'd had enough. Three children under four and a husband working all hours was difficult enough. And yet, and yet...something was drawing me to this corner of the world. In the end it was me who said I thought we should give it a go. Weekly commuting is death to family life, let alone a marriage, so that wasn't an option. I was tired. Tired of everything. And the hurly burly of London was getting me down, exhausting me further. Everything a struggle, everything a battle - even parking the car. Planes screaming overhead, no room in the schools. Jostling with a pram through the crowds on the pavements. So many people but all so anonymous. I needed space, peace, time to think, breathe, reflect. To regroup. That's why I wanted to give it a go. And, you know what? I don't regret it. Not one bit.