In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France is a humorous travel memoir.
Susie had a life-long ambition to live in rural France, and when the recession of the 1990s took away everything that Susie and her husband Terry owned, they made the decision to leave England. With little money in their pocket they bought an eighteenth century farmhouse in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of France. The property had no sanitation, no water supply inside and a very limited source of electricity―but what it lacked in facilities, it made up for with peace and tranquillity.
In July 1995 they packed their five dogs and two parrots into a small van and headed to their new home. Susie would live there full-time, while Terry returned to England to find work to finance their new life. The next four and a half years were a steep learning curve, not helped by the coldest winter, the hottest summer, a hurricane and numerous accidents. They’d coped with the unexpected, survived many crises and dealt with tragedy, but at the time of publishing they’d spent twenty-three years in their French home.
I was amazed at Susie’s ability to cope, especially with the demands of friends and neighbours who on numerous occasions seemed to take advantage of her kindness and generosity. Susie was also someone who would always put an animal’s comfort before her own, thus she collected quite a menagerie of oddballs to keep her company. I admire her spirit and determination and thoroughly enjoyed this amusing, informative and unusual memoir.
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Susie and Terry dream of living in France. The dream comes true, but not in the way they had imagined.
Yes, the countryside is spacious and peaceful. On summer nights the stars skim the rooftops, the owls hoot and the nightingales sing. Sunflowers smile from their fields. The wine is cheap and the baguettes are crusty. Very crusty indeed. The French neighbours are generous and gentle.
But then come the drug addicts, builders who cannot build, demanding compatriots, undercover cops and unwelcome guests. Susie begins to lose hope of attracting the fabled French philanderer and, far from appreciating their new home, all the animals do everything they can to make life as difficult as possible. With her house literally crumbling around her, the number of odd characters she manages to attract are matched by all sorts of creatures appearing from in and out of the woodwork. Terry almost dies, and Susie’s resilience and good humour are tested to the limit.
Sometimes it feels more like taking part in a musical comedy than starting a new life in France.
As the date for Britain leaving the European Union draws close, and British living in European countries still have no idea what the future holds for them after Brexit, Susie looks back on the beginning of her life in the country she loves and has called home for 23 years.