November 04, 2008

Ready for exile?

So, this was it. The decision had been made. After twelve years of living in London – and swearing I would never leave, let alone to go back to France - this is precisely what I was about to do. Moving back. To France. And not only to France – I mean, after all, Paris would still feel like a smaller and somehow more insular version of London. No, I was taking the plunge, and sending myself, Martin, my running shoes and my climbing gear to Annecy, a small, provincial town nested in the French Alps. Was this really happening to me, the city girl who spent her entire adult life in London? Let get something straight here: I am not the food-obsessed, tick-accent, Paris-on-Thames, type of Frenchie. Until a few years ago, I would even swear to whoever would listen that I so disliked the French and their habit of continuously complaining and hating everything – thereby being very French myself you will tell me, and I will agree. But anyway, things changed, and after all these years, here I was ready to move on, and go… home? Well, it did not feel quite that way. In fact, I was… scared.

Sure, I wanted to leave London. Sure, I may have been until recently a city girl. Sure, I loved shoes, brunches in Notting Hill, feeling like a jet setter courtesy of EasyJet, ending up not doing anything at night because there is just too much to chose from. Still, the runner-cum-climber-cum-cyclist in me has always won against the city-girl and banker, Mrs Jekyll overpowering of Mrs Hyde. And, let’s face it, if your idea of a great weekend is to wake up early, jump on your bike, go for a 6-hour ride, come back, take a shower and go for a two hour session at the climbing wall before your evening run, London is just NOT the ideal place to be. Annecy, on the other hand, had everything it takes, at least on paper. Beautiful mountains, clean air. Check. A flat three times the size of our London pad for half the price, AND a garage big enough for our 6 bikes, mountaineering gear, skis, a small climbing wall, boxes full of summer flip flops and winter boots: re-check. Trails on your doorstep for those off-road runs, so much more fun than running on pavements? Still check. Dive in the Annecy Lake’s pristine water on a hot summer day that beats a London pool full of chlorine and screaming kids any day? Check again. Little winding roads especially designed for weekend cycling rides, or, even better, short lunchtime or weekday after-work sessions (how decadent)? Check, always check.

Not that the “after work” bit was of any relevance to me, mind you. And that’s where the scary bit started. Because I may have been happily giving up the London rat-race and the City job, I was still not ready to become a French version of your average desperate housewife. I only gave up to married life because, let’s face it, when the perfect man comes along and is reckless enough to think he can survive being married to me, it would have been crazy to turn him down. But between being a wife and being ready to add the prefix “house-” in front of it, was a big, very big, step I was not sure I was ready - or wanted to - take. Although I had no second thoughts about leaving Europe’s largest city to become a provinciale, the prospect of also being a chômeur, a jobless, and buying my beloved running shoes not with my own, hard won money but with that of my husband, was a different ballgame altogether!

And then, there was, of course, the issue of the French. Because, everybody will no doubt agree with me, they truly are a piece of work. And I should know, shouldn’t I? In London, it used to be at best funny – of the bittersweet kind – to admit it. But what was I supposed to do now? I could hardly complain to the French themselves, or they would probably try to send me back to where I, no doubt, in their mind now belonged, the visceral enemy: England. Still I figured that, if I learned to shut up even when really annoyed (not easy if you know me, I must admit), I should just about be able to deal with it and not being sent back from where I came from.

So that was it. The decision was taken. Martin’s thesis and my bonus in the bag, we would make our farewell to London, and head off to Annecy. Oh, via Thailand, as one does.


Stéphanie said...

I have one first big thing to say:


Man!! girl you can write!!! I wish I was so litterate, your writting is magnificent, your next project should be a book!! I sure get you with the coming back to France after NYC and Sydney it was sure not an easy task and honestly, I still don't think I go t use to it.
I can't wait for the next post. Keep us posted ;))

NLabib said...

Wonderful! I'm looking forward to reading. xxx

Shenmen said...

Love your prose MAPP! I can't wait for the next post, maybe about getting a social security number or opening a bank account? Carole

Martin said...

Hei Schatz,
I loved every line and just couldn't stop reading even though I knew how it would go on given that I am a character in your story...
Don't let us wait I want the next story!
Gros bisous, Martin

Alex said...

like all the other posts, loved the blog and the writing!

can't wait to read the next one on the recent climbing/hiking/riding/running and....dare i say, skiing? is it too early yet?


ps. now back to my own blog!