Over the last six months or so, I’ve really enjoyed writing pieces for The Good Life France, and today, I’m excited to be hosting it’s editor, Janine Marsh, to tell me about her new book, My Good Life in France, out now, published by Michael O’Mara.
Here’s the synopsis, to get you in the mood…
It’s a short journey across the English Channel from the UK to France but the differences are enormous as you’ll find out when you read My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh.
One dismal, grey February day, Janine took a day trip to Calais to buy some wine for her dad. She returned a few hours later having put in an offer on a bargain basement barn in the rural Seven Valleys, Pas de Calais, something she had not planned for or expected.
Janine eventually decided to move with her husband to live the good life in France. Or so she hoped. Getting to grips with the locals, taking in stray animals at an alarming rate and renovating the dilapidated barn, which lacked heating or proper rooms, with little money and less of a clue, she started to realize there was more to her new home than she ever imagined.
Warm, uplifting and effervescent (like a glass of your favourite champagne), Janine’s voice and humour bubbles right off the page. These are the true tales of her rollercoaster ride through a different culture – one that, to a Brit, was in turns surprising, charming and not the least bit baffling.
As somebody who would love to do this, I had to ask Janine some key questions…
What would be your ‘top three tips’ to anyone tempted to follow in your footsteps?
- I bought an incredibly cheap, dilapidated bargain bucket house in a town I didn’t know on a whim. I’d gone to France to buy wine for my Dad on a miserable wet, cold day at a time when the cafes were shut and it seemed like a good idea to look at houses! This is the only house in France I visited, I pulled up outside its location in a muddy cul de sac and a ray of sunshine burst through the clouds, bells started ringing at the local church, a duck was quacking close by and it sounded like laughter. I felt like I heard fate calling me. Although it worked out for me – I’d recommend you do a bit more homework on the area you want to live in.
- Never go to a public swimming pool wearing “normal” swim shorts if you’re a man. You have to wear skin tight Speedo style trunks in France – it’s the law. There are lots of rules in France, some are fun to discover like this one (well sort of fun if the pool is full of Daniel Craig look-a-likes though in my opinion there are more Ed Balls than Daniel Craigs). Some rules are not such fun and I recommend you make friends with the staff at your local town hall who will generally help you to settle in and explain the rules to you.
- Never try to hug a French person. They don’t hug. They kiss – a lot. 2 kisses, sometimes 3, 4 or even 5 depending where in France you are and what your relationship is. I’ve seen people kiss at the till in the supermarket, kiss their colleagues at work in the morning, commuters kiss on trains. But hug – non. If you try to hug a French person most likely they will be horrified.Quite why you want to press your body to theirs is beyond them.
What has been your highlight of the move so far?
Ooh that’s a toughie. The street markets, learning to cook, discovering the local traditions and the French love of heritage. Honestly though, the most joyful moments for me are when I wake in the morning and I open the back door to let the dogs out, the cats in and take food to my chickens, ducks and geese and put wild bird food out. I never had an animal in London and I didn’t intend to get an animal in France. Quite how I’ve ended up with more than 60 animals is beyond me but they bring me great happiness and I now know that I would like to come back as one of my own cats as the maid service is fantastic. Oh yes. I like French cakes too. They make amazing cakes in France. And bread. Cheese. Wine. I will stop now.
And what about The Good Life France – how did that come about?
Well you’ll have to read the book for the full details but… in a nutshell, renovating my French house, taking in stray animals and giving up city life for rural bliss seemed to fascinate my friends and family. They would ring me constantly to ask if I’d managed to work out how to fit a fire, grow a pumpkin, wormed the cat, mended my broken finger (renovation on this scale is not for the faint hearted). They were incredulous that we learned how to replace a roof, build walls, lay 100 tons of concrete and a whole lot more. They wanted to know about my crazy neighbours, the giants I met, the amazing food I ate and the places I visited. When you’re flat out renovating it takes time to explain all these things so my husband suggested I start a blog. My friends dubbed me “The Good Life France” after the UK sitcom series about a couple who gave up city life to try to live off the land so that’s what I called my blog http://www.thegoodlifefrance.com/. In the first month I got 480 views – I was ecstatic! 6 months later I was getting 60,000 views and now I get more than a million page views a month – to say I’m humbled that people like my writing is a massive understatement. After a while I decided that I wanted to be able to write longer features, share more pictures so I started a free ezine called The Good Life France Magazine and it’s become one of the most popular magazines about France. It’s completely free to read, download and subscribe to and here’s the latest issue: http://bit.ly/TGLFMAGSpring2017