Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.
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Five things I love about living in the French mountains…

I never would have thought I would find myself and my family living in a little house in rural France (had I known, I certainly would have tried harder to pass my French O’level while my brain had better powers of retention!)… and yet through a series of brave decisions and chance encounters… here we all are!

I truly cherish the life and lifestyle we have here…

1. The Weather – sure it gets cold here, but the seasons are just so startling and distinct…

the snowy ‘winter-wonderland’ Winters…

make the arrival of Spring all the more precious with the fields full of jonquils…

and then the social outdoor living of Summer (although I do miss the sea)

Beautiful Lake Devesset

and the dazzling colours of Autumn.

Even after two and a half years here, the beauty of my drive to work often takes my breath away.

2. The time taken to eat – The norm is a two hour lunch-break… the norm is the family eating together, for lunch and supper; simply but wholesomely… no plates of food on laps in front of the tele; no grabbing a sandwich or all eating separately. I still find I’m learning to appreciate mealtimes for the company and the chance to break away from work and individual projects, and really communicate. Sometimes we get it so right it makes me glow with pleasure!

Joe's first chicken pie - a stunner! (I came home from work to find he and Beth had made it!)

3. The social life – somehow we’ve found ourselves in a town full of people we all want to spend time with… this tiny town has a cinema; artists; musicians; sculptors; great  live music and a really open heart. One of the things I love is that parties and social gatherings are full of all age groups hanging out together. This is such a pleasure – no-one is embarrassed by their parents or grandparents; everyone greets everyone with a kiss (in fact three in Tence) …

three kisses...

school-friends, teenagers, parents in the playground… it’s such an accepted ritual, that there’s never any uncertainty or awkwardness, and it seems to connect everyone, and inspire a strong community spirit.

4. The French passion – I find the get-off your-butt and protest about what bugs you, (instead of moaning about it) really refreshing! The Strikes are oft mocked by the Brits, but I’ve never heard a single complaint from the French about inconvenience caused… it’s the price you pay for having your say, and they value their right to “manifest” highly.  The recent strikes had Harry protesting outside his Lycée, followed by a day of debates in the school hall. I love that he’s discussing politics and feels he has a voice worth listening to, rather than just celebrating a day off!

see if you can spot Harry!

5. My Teaching! Not only did I never think I’d live in France… I never thought I’d end up being a teacher!  I now find myself teaching English for the Chamber of Commerce in businesses, factories, restaurants, to bosses and workers; sometimes in groups, more often in twos or one-to-one. Always adults; (except for one group of lycéens last year)…

and of course, because they have chosen to be there… they all want to be there!

I’m a ‘vacataire’, which means I choose my hours – I take holidays when I want (of course, I get no holiday-pay, or job security… but when have I ever had that!). When we shot the film last year, I just told my students when the last class was… when we went to Cannes this year, I booked myself a week out. I  think the students get a kick out of the fact that I’m an actress, and are always supportive and interested.

More than anything else though, I have found something I’m good at, that brings in regular money, and which I enjoy. I never found that in the UK – of course I adored every minute of every acting job I did, – but they weren’t frequent enough to make a real difference to the family finances.  Admittedly the children were younger, but whenever we were in financial difficulties, I could never find any work that made sense in terms of childcare/wages/availability. Joe’s work so often took him away, that I felt I needed to be at home, and yet even with four young children, I used to feel guilty that Joe had to carry the burden of “supporting” the family. I must add, this never came from him – it was my problem … and I know I’m not the only mum who’s had these conflicting feelings!

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  1. Blandine says:

    Dear Manny,
    Je t’ai toujours vu si positive. A voir le bon côté des choses et à construire une famille si belle.
    Aujourd’hui c’est à moi de construire une famille et j’espère faire aussi bien.

    1. mannyatkins says:

      Merci Blandine,
      I’m so pleased you have found such happiness… Good Luck my good friend. Bises

  2. Tara says:

    Manny such a refreshing read and a real insight into your life there. I miss you so much but it is great to hear how you seem to have really got the balance right. A simple life based on family values a strong community and an environment of nurture and adventure. I am so glad after all the giving and supporting you have found something for yourself in the teaching.
    “Happiness is when everything comes together at a single point in time, meeting perfection.” Goran

    1. mannyatkins says:

      Yes, the one thing I didn’t mention was missing the family… that certainly is the tough bit. Can’t wait to see everyone in November – til then the internet does a pretty good job of keeping us all in touch, doesn’t it?! XXX

  3. sophiekey says:

    Living the blogs Manny… And think this is the best one yet. It’s so evocative and uplifting. Careful though… You’ll be inundated with Brits abroad all wanting to move to Tence if you’re not careful!!

  4. sophiekey says:

    I meant loving the blogs of course… Although I’m kind of living them too!

    1. mannyatkins says:

      I like – “Living the blogs…” ! xxx

  5. Thank you so much for this posting!! I have always had a love affair with France from afar, living in the states! You have made my dream to visit France feel a little more real! Thank you for that!!! 😉

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