I wrote this in the lead up to going to France ten years ago. It sounds quite pompous now and rather smug but it was how I felt at the time about being trapped on an island. I went to France again at Christmas; a snap decision because I just wanted to get away. This time though I was much happier to return to a place of light.
There is a restlessness in me, a pony tugging at the bridle, jerking her head up
There is a restlessness in me, as the autumn leaves stir in irritation, flitter around
Themselves, ornamental and useless.
My passport stares back at me, wanting to be stamped with foreignness,
The photo stares unblinking. “Well?” The expiry date panics me.
Routine rebukes, the TV programmes are disordered and dull,
Old habits pall, old delights dull.
There is a restlessness in me, a longing for sun on olives, pastis,
an unfamiliar tongue.
A hankering for difference, for unfamiliar tastes, for chocolat and frites,
For waiting for the Metro or the tube, a chance to collude about the weather
And the traffic on the autobahn.
There is a restlessness in me, the malls fill me with familiarity, of
“Gidday, how are ya?”, “What cha doing for Queen’s Birthday?”, and
Everyone gets a bargain and red dot specials and the Lotto numbers
Aren’t. I ache for difference, for flower markets, de and la and
Winter is closing me in, the art galleries are shut already, the rugby fields
Are fresh and I am stale as old bread.
Contempt is breeding, multiplying with discontent, packing boxes are
Alluring, change of address postcards beckon seductively, I long to cut
Off the phone and electricity.
Farewell me at the airport will you? Say goodbye and bustle home
for shepherd’s pie before it gets too dark
and I’ll be duty free.
I think back now to how I began to plan this adventure, I dreamed, I went on websites, looked at properties, read books about people who had moved to France, I watched all those TV programmes about people starting new lives. I then applied for six months off work which I was granted. All those quotes about things falling in to place seemed to hold true for me as soon as I did that one thing. I found a family who wanted to rent my house for six months, they had a son a little younger than my Sam and so he could literally walk into Sam’s uniform, his books, toys and so on. I consciously made the decision to trust that the family would take care of my things and that packing them away could damage them more than leaving them out to be used. What was the worst that could happen? A few breakages? That’s life. I hired a Eurodrive Renault Clio Turbo for the maximum number of days. It was close to five months. When I went to pick it up, it was the most gorgeous lavender colour. http://www.renault-eurodrive.com/en/source
Today I learned that the quote below is not by Goethe at all but it holds true just the same. “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
“Okay, if Goethe said it, what is the source work? Without locating the source, we can’t claim these lines are by Goethe—or any other author.
The Goethe Society of North America investigated this very subject over a two-year period ending in March 1998. The Society got help from various sources to solve the mystery of the Goethe quotation. Here’s what they and others have discovered:
The “Until one is committed…” quotation often attributed to Goethe is in fact by William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. The actual final lines from W.H. Murray’s book end this way (emphasis added): “…which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. “
Apparently Goethe didn’t even write the couplet at the end. No matter, I do think boldness does have magic and power in it.
It was frustrating that many people told me how lucky I was to be having an adventure as though luck had a major part to play. Luck had very little to do with it but planning and dreaming and then doing was more important.
I borrowed all the money from the bank and the mortgage was covered by the rental on my house. I can’t recall now how i actually found the house in France but there are lots of websites,house swaps and so on if you are keen to try it. I landed upon an English couple’s house in the tiny hamlet of Campgast which lies at the foot of the Pyrenees about 40 minutes from Carcassonne, and hour from Perpignan and a little more to Toulouse.
How strange, I just looked up a map to insert and found “my” house in Campgast up for sale on
This is how they describe the area:
Fully Renovated Barn with terrace and 3 double bedrooms in the hamlet of Campgast near Puivert The house is a fully renovated barn with 3 bedrooms in the hamlet of Campgast near Puivert in the French Pyrenees. The house has been fully renovated to a high standard with wooden or tiled floors and beams. Downstairs there is a large lounge with a wood burning stove. The kitchen area is fully equipped with electric oven, gas rings, microwave fridge/freezer. There is also a utility room with washing machine, toilet and hand basin. Along the corridor is a study/dining room Upstairs there is a modern shower room with toilet, washbasin and bidet. There are 3 double bedrooms on the first floor and a sunny south-facing terrace Campgast is a hamlet in the Aude department of the Pyrenees. It is 1 mile from the village of Puivert with its swimming lake and Cathar castle Activities This is an area of stunning natural scenery with a wide variety of cultural and outdoor activities .Places to visit include the medieval town of Mirepoix and Cathar castles such as Monségur and Puilaurens. In winter the house would make an excellent base for a ski holiday. This is excellent walking country with the long distance path The Cathar Way (le Sentier Cathare) going past the village. Horse riding and mountain biking are also well catered for. White water canoeing and rafting facilities are available in nearby Quillan. The house is situated about 1 hour from the walled medieval town of Carcassonne and its airport.The beaches of the Mediterranean are about 90 minutes drive and Spain and Andorra are easily accessible.
Which is all true of course and when I was looking these descriptions always made things sound idyllic as though going somewhere else would repair my broken heart. It didn’t but it did give me a lot of joy and a lot of fun and new friendships which will remain all of my life.
I lay awake planning and scheming and …worrying. I made Sam a tag, a little like Paddington Bear and on it were contact details, phone numbers and emergency contacts in case something happened to me. We were going to a place where I knew no-one and my closest friend and staunch supporter of us both lived in The Netherlands. What if I died in an accident? What if we got separated somehow? I had school girl French Sam had nothing beyond “Bonjour”. What if people were mean to us, it was a tiny village, they may hate the English and not want to help us?
I decided there were the “if only” scenarios and the “what if scenarios”. I went for the “what if ” rather than the “if only I had gone to France” one. I managed the “what ifs” by deciding if it didn’t work out I could come home or go to England or just do something else, have an extended holiday and make the most of being in Europe. It was decided and I left New Zealand on January 1, a new year, a new beginning.