You May Find Yourself Living in France
January 25 2021. A month since Christmas and 26 days since we left the UK to start our new life in France.
Going back to collect our cats and pack-up the house was a stressful experience, but put into the context of what many families, especially those with children not at school or no job or money, are going through right now, it seems extremely churlish and inconsiderate to write about the stress of our ‘glamourous’ new life when people are suffering real hardship.
We feel guilty about our good fortune, because we both come from backgrounds where nothing has been given to us before. We have worked for everything we have achieved, and both us know only too well how it feels not to be able to make the rent, pay the bills or scrape enough money together to buy a pint of milk.
The house would be regarded as modest by some, as it’s a townhouse, on a busy main road, that needs a lot doing to it. To us it is like a mansion, with rooms with high ceilings, a basement, attic, outbuildings and sprawling back garden with planning permission for another property. It is twice the size of our ex-council house that we were paying astronomical rent for back in the UK.
A print of David Hockney’s Garrowby Hill painting is already hanging in the sitting room. In our former home the painting dominated the room, here it’s like a postage stamp as it hangs, temporarily for now, above the fireplace.
Garrowby Hill is an area I know well as we cycled many times up its steep and winding incline as kids. I went back on my bike a couple of years ago when I rode the coast-to-coast route across the north of England from Morecambe to Bridlington.
Hockney said the natural light in Bridlington is like Los Angeles, which is stretching his artistic licence a bit. This part of Yorkshire, The Wolds, is known as Hockney country as the artist lived on the coast for a period in the early 2000s and painted those magnificent landscape pictures.
Going back and cycling up to the top of the Wolds reminded me how far I had come in this life and how far there is still to go. Many of the scenes Hockney painted, especially the ones of the trees, have disappeared, cut down by farmers reclaiming the land or hedgerows for husbandry purposes.
Hockney’s painting also reminds me of Yorkshire and my roots. I left home at 17 and have lived and worked in far-flung places including Hong Kong, Bahrain, Europe and The United States, eventually making my way in journalism, lucky enough to earn a living doing something I enjoy, but not regarded as ‘real’ work from where I come from.
I always dreamed of living in France and being a writer, or a foreign correspondent with an apartment on the Left Bank of Paris.
As Hockney’s paintings remind us, nothing is permanent, but a beautiful world is out there, if you are prepared to go and look for it.