George Bernard Shaw once said that ‘A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell’. I’m here to analyse whether this is true. He could have meant that a holiday from work or school forever would be hell but I like to think and therefore I’m testing out the theory of actually moving to a place that was once your favourite holiday destination. Will that place still hold all the carefree, luxurious magic that it does when you escape there for a few weeks of rest and relaxation, or will paying tax and contributing to the debate about what time the village lights should be turned off kill that magic for you?
My favourite holiday destination was always Roquecor in the south of France. A tiny hilltop village near Toulouse, far from the coast and in the rural mainland. I have been visiting since I was a little girl and to me it always represented peace and happiness. For that one or two weeks a year I was free, even at four years old I think I loved the segregation from daily nursery and weekly ballet lessons. As I got older that feeling of escapism grew, particularly depending on the unfolding dramas affecting my life at different times.
People are now saying this trip I am embarking on, taking the plunge of escaping abroad is just that; escaping. I will confirm now that this is all in the name of journalism but I know that deep down I am hoping for the reassuring joy and tranquillity that I experienced annually on holiday in Roquecor, but is that all it’s supposed to be, a holiday? The day of departure arrived much sooner than I had anticipated. All my affairs were in order, my accommodation sorted out.
I had opted for a beautiful maisonette as there would only be me and my boyfriend, Adam, going out there. He has decided to come indefinitely, quite possibly for good if the dream lives up to all that is anticipated. He was won over by the lure of cheap wine, French bread and better weather. As an aficionado of the French language and a trained teacher, he has managed to wangle his was into being the English teacher at the local primary school. My job as a journalist is highly mobile and I will continue to pursue with this career and also start work on my novel.
On the way to the airport I think about all the things that I’ll miss and the things I won’t; fresh milk, re-runs of The Vicar of Dibley and Blackadder, and London yobs (which obviously falls into the latter category). Then suddenly I realise, and it shocks me that I haven’t thought of it before. Not only am I emigrating abroad but I’m swapping a vibrant city for a remote village. Suddenly my mind swims with things that I will miss and with the realisation that even the overcrowded underground in the middle of summer becomes something I yearn for, well almost. The maisonette is delightful, full of charm and character.
It is on the main street through the village but it is nothing like the main roads in England. It is a small ‘rue’ with flower baskets hanging on every house and the traditional shutters adorning them. It is the ‘tour de guet’ the watchtower to the village that is ours. Basically it is the gatehouse, the first house on the road into the village however we will only occupy the top part of the five story house which we enter straight from the road as the rest on the house continues down into the hill and a sloping path reaches the front door at the bottom for the other tenants.
Inside the property is quintessentially French and when you open the windows in the back room you easily have the most breathtaking view you could imagine. You are on the top of a cliff with nothing but countryside and fields full of bright yellow sunflowers. We unpack and decorate the property with our personal touches, all we can do seeing as it is ready furnished. A celebratory gin and tonic is rapidly concocted from the supplies in the larder and we head out to the terrace at the front of the house.
Beautiful, sun kissed French children hurriedly skip up the hill talking excitedly of their fathers boar hunting trip. They abruptedly stop when they see our pale inquisitive faces, whisper to each other for a moment and then give us broad grins and a chorus of ‘Salut! ‘ rings around us. I grin back at them, then grin at Adam and realise that I have grinned like this for a long time. Will I continue grinning like this? Only time will tell and so for now I’m going to go and enjoy, as they say, the first day of the rest of my life.