Manny's Blog

Mum, Actress, Singer, Teacher… Indie publisher — Renovating and Living in France

Living in France

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!

Joe’s frequent travels for work were the main trigger for our decision to take the children out of school in 2007 and spend a year on the road with them in a Leyland Tiger bus we converted ourselves. We called our adventure “welcome to the world”… it was an unforgetable magical and precious time, and led us to our current life here in rural France.

By huge good fortune, we met a French family on our travels, who live in our current home town of Tence. We exchanged email addresses, and months later, we came to visit them. We’d reached a bit of a turning point, and were ready to settle down – we completely fell in love with Tence, and the way the French live in this relatively undiscovered (by Brits!) heart of France. We spent a summer in the campsite here, in our bus; then decided to rent a house and see how things went. That was in 2008, and we’ve never looked back!

The children settled effortlessly into school, college and lycée, and have excelled. Can’t tell you how proud this makes us – both of them and of our year’s worth of home-schooling on the road! Luke is now about to finish his first year at university in St Etienne, having got his science bac last summer.

I truly cherish the life and lifestyle we have here…

I love…

The Weather – real seasons – 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 three years here, the beauty of my drive to work often takes my breath away.

I love…

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!)

I love…

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 cinemaartistsmusicianssculptorsgreat  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.

I love…

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!

I love…

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 in 2009, I just told my students when the last class was… when we went to Cannes last 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.

I wrote an article for if you’d like more details of how we found ourselves living in France… Here’s the link:

Round the world trip led us to France