SITTING, looking back at my newly painted kitchen, we decided that I’ve had some form of a breakdown that has fortunately been confined to a colour splurge. "What possessed you?" asked my son, speaking in the kindly tones reserved for small, fractious children or losing the plot parents.


"It’s like being inside a bumble bee," he added.

There is a truth in that. The walls should have been a clear, uplifting yellow and the cabinets a washed French grey.

Instead – and I picked the colour myself – they’ve an undertone of a rather sickly green in the mix.

The painter did ask if I were quite sure after the first brushstrokes. Did ask several times actually, but I’m a great believer in bashing on. It saves time.

The grey on the units, again picked by me, is darker than I meant it to be, and for some reason, I bought a black sink, black dishwasher and black oven.

"It’s the Bat Cave," said Pierce.

"I like it anyway," I said defiantly. "It’s a statement."

We looked at each other.

"I’m not well, am I? I think I’ve had a breakdown, or a late mid-life crisis, and we’re looking at it."

He nodded. It seems the only logical conclusion. We laughed, with an edge of hysteria.

The kitchen, my hobbled gait, the breathing difficulties as the temperature climbed over 35 degrees, all served to disturb my son on his weekend visit for my birthday.

God knows it disturbs me, as between the leg and the lungs, I seem now to be at the mercy of the weather which dictates both how well I walk and how well I breathe.

Yet I cannot face going back to hospital for more x-rays, more tests. It seems half my life here in France has annually involved a hospital stay, usually after an accident.

Before that, barring the odd riding break, I was not accident prone and was pretty healthy. In my whole working life I only had four weeks ‘sick’ leave following the birth of my son.

Sadly, although I’m resilient in many ways, probably because of that, I am not now when it comes to my health.

Unless taken in hand, I am all too ready, like the elderly of ancient tribes, to turn my face to the wall and my back to the world.

"If you could go back to the moment you – stubbornly – decided to flee for France, would you do it again?" Pierce asked as we supped on a fine Burgundy at a fraction of the price he’d pay in London.

Many of you have asked that over the years.

"In one way it’s not a question I can answer," I told him. "There is no point in having regrets. You do something because at that time you wanted to do it. What happens next is entirely in the lap of the gods.

"Yeah, I’ve had a bad few years with my health, but that could have happened anywhere."

The COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to give it its Sunday name – would have been diagnosed the same in Scotland or England and I was heading for it the second I picked up my first fag.

"Should I have explored other options after I was made redundant? Yes, I should, but in many ways I panicked and ran.

"Should I have come to the countryside instead of a city? Definitely not."

Unquestionably my time in France – or rather my time in La France Profonde – has changed me.

And, in many ways, not for the better.

Although a natural loner I am/was also gregarious, liking to party, to mix with all types, all ages.

My friends were younger, some older, and, living in an edgy city, working and playing flat out, kept the approaching years at bay.

In France, after the first couple of years of middle-class dinner party boredom and too little work, I started to pass time, not make it.

And, as I grew more irritable with my lot, I isolated myself and was isolated. Now, the English speakers I see most of, I pay…they do work for me.

"Bloody hell," said Pierce when I told him this. "What happened to you?"

At this point, for the conversation has been going on, off and on again over two days, we are lying by the pool. The heat has intensified and the odd wasp has given up and gone to ground.

Around us the wildflowers have erupted this year in a colour actually not dissimilar to my kitchen. As will the sunflowers.

I don’t answer.

"It is all so, so, very beautiful though," he concedes. "For many, many people this would be their ultimate dream, wouldn’t it?

"They would come here and fall in love with it all."

They would, I tell him and it’s why, just because I still yearn for other things, I write of its beauty, its timelessness, my moments of oneness with all life’s mysteries.

And there are many, many such moments and days, and then others when I berate myself for my still discontented self amid such bounty.

"Don’t the readers get confused with your twists and turns?" he asks. "Didn’t you say you were moving?"

I did.

They do and they don’t.

Life is twists and turns.