Heads Above Water

Ten Years of Total Immersion

Lots of people have asked for a next instalment of ‘Heads Above Water’ and I did originally intend to write one, but there was a bit of a problem. The next stage of lives in France was centred on our gîte business.

Now, running a gîte is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be made of extremely stern stuff before you stick a toe into the shark-infested waters of the hospitality trade. Or hostility trade, one might say. I think everyone going into the business foresees well behaved guests who are a joy to have around and who become lifelong friends. And whilst that happens, it doesn’t happen that often… The reality is that running a gîte drives you to drink. Hopefully alcohol rather than bleach, but don’t bet on it.

It’s hard work, physically and mentally. Spring-cleaning a house from top to bottom in a few hours each Saturday is exhausting. The departing guests invariably leave late and the arriving ones turn up on the doorstep anything up to four hours early, happily expecting everything to be ready. And there’s not only cleaning and lawn-cutting, but unexpected repairs. We have had to deal with everything from broken beds, cracked windows and glued-back-together chairs to holes drilled in the sink, screws removed from the oven door and straightened-out coat hangers. It is truly astonishing how many items that last for decades in your own home cease functioning within hours in a rental property. “It broke,” rapidly becomes a catchphrase.

On a day-to-day basis we’ve watched with increasingly twitchy eyelids our blankets being sunbathed on, our antique furniture left out in the rain, lights left on all night, windows left wide open in downpours, our garden bench and sunbeds dragged (literally) for miles around the place and even temporarily taken off in trailers. We’ve been asked for wood for the fire in mid-July when it was 25 degrees centigrade outside. We’ve seen people have a fantastic holiday yet base all their feedback on the fact that there wasn’t a pizza cutter….

See? This is why I felt unable to write the sequel. It could easily have turned into a rather long rant, and that’s not cool.

So, seeing as our ten-year anniversary of moving to France is looming, I decided that a look back at the more exciting events that have occurred during that time would be the best idea for a follow-up to ‘Heads Above Water’. I’ve begun work on it, so watch this space.

And don’t worry, I shall save all those gîte-related bizarrities for some future novels!

The story of our first years in France: Heads Above Water

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