It’s time to crank poor, neglected Blog in France back into gear. What with the anxiety and awfulness of Coronavirus, and Brexit becoming worse in every way by the second, I’ve been rather weighed down by worry lately to the extent that my creativity has been completely flattened. Normally one to dash off a thousand words a day, I’ve scarcely strung a few sentences together for months. But, time to resume writing mode.

We’re coming up on our fourteenth anniversary of moving to France. Our franniversary? The farm became ours on 28th June 2006, and we spent ten incredibly busy day here after that, but we didn’t officially move in until 13th August of that year. Even then it was only with what we could fit in our two cars (which included Nessie the dog who took up a whole boot to herself, quite rightly) and our small trailer. The bulk of our possessions arrived a couple of weeks later by (quarter-full) container.

So, what’s the status report after our fourteen years here? Our carp fishing holiday business, which we launched on 1st August 2007, is going swimmingly, although this year, for obvious reasons, we couldn’t open until 4th July whereas usually we have a start date in mid March. Our two venues of Notaire’s Lakes and Alder Lake are very popular with anglers, and are home to some stunning fish. When we’re not working, Chris and I enjoy our sporty pastimes of cycling and geocaching. We now have our lovely campervan, Precious, too. We’ve only managed to fit in one mini-camping trip since getting her last winter, but we’ve had many enjoyable days out in her. Having ready access to kettle, hotplates and a private bathroom has revolutionised our outings! Chris has his model planes and computer programming activities as home-based hobbies, while I continue to enjoy sewing and knitting, and, normally, churning out a few books a year.

We still have llamas, but not as many as in the past. Windy, Lulin and Georgie are all fairly elderly ladies now, aged eleven and upwards. We also have alpaca Ted, who’s about seven. They spend their time mooching about in their colossal field.

We no longer keep pigs, goats or sheep, as part of a conscious decision to downsize on the livestock front. On the pet front we have six cats, the oldest of whom, Roly Poly, dates back to May 2007, whilst the three ‘babies’ are seven or eight years old now! Dear old Nessie passed away in July, so we just have Tobi on the dog front. Poultry-wise we have one goose, one duck, two turkeys and goodness knows how many chickens. We were meant to be reducing their numbers too, but thirty chicks insisted on hatching this summer. Over the last few years I’ve become very fond of exotic birds and currently have a canary, numerous zebra finches, two Japanese sparrows, two cockatiels, one budgie, one Bourke’s parakeet and one Gouldian finch. I need more!

The make-up of our household has changed since our last franniversary: Irish members now outnumber the British ones, thanks to Chris obtaining citizenship earlier this year. I’m hoping that by August next year there’ll be a French family member – me! It’s over a year since I submitted my dossier, but I always knew it would take time. A lot of time…

Our three children are now all adults. 2020 has been difficult for them all. Due to Covid the eldest two were laid off, one permanently, and youngest son Rors came home from Uni in March for the rest of the academic year. Being a home-based student has been difficult and stressful, particularly when things at the teaching end appear to have been rather disorganised, so he’s taking a break from studies for the next year. Things are thus rather up in the air for them.

So it’s a slightly odd franniversary this year. The threat of a second wave of coronavirus hovers, with the inevitable disruption to working and family life, and the financial effects of the first are and will be felt for quite some time to come. The weather is bizarre too: we’re suffering yet another heatwave and drought, both of which seem to have become annual events. But being here is something to celebrate, marking as it does a truly life-changing moment of starting new lives in this country, so we’ll make the occasion with at least cake and ice-cream!