For some reason the number of people writing to me asking for advice on moving to France has escalated in the past few weeks. Strangely, none have asked the position in relation to Brexit. Just as well, for who could answer at this stage in the farce?

But all have asked: Would you return?


Now, let’s move on, for I have answered why several times in my column and I always write on the premise that some of you will remember previous columns and I do try to bring fresh thought.

And that’s why I always tell the truth here. My memory is so shot these days anyhow that it’s much easier to do so than remember lies.

So, once again I replied with the usual advice: Rent before buying; see your chosen area in every season; remember leopards don’t change their spots and if you love cities you won’t become a potage-churning countryman/woman.

(Look to me as a prime example of that folly.)

You can’t run away from problems so you’ll bring all your old baggage with you. And if you don’t really like the man/woman you’re with, you’ll grow to hate them in the silence of La France Profonde.

You will take to drink….either for life or for a brief time before cutting back when you realise you’re eyeing the vin at 10am because you’re heading ‘poolside.’

Renovating that blond stone wreck will cost at least, at least, double what you budgeted for; one romantic log burner will in no way heat all of the house; even the South of France gets cold, very cold.

It will take years, especially in the country, to make a good French friend. They cleave to their families and friends made in the early school days.

When, if, you do though, you will have a friend who will go to hell and back for you and be astonished at your emotional displays of gratitude.

"But I’m your friend," they say, as if that’s the simple requirement for anything, anything that may be asked of them.

If you’re lucky enough to have a neighbour as a friend, then you’re family. As Pierrot said to me long ago: "Ma voisine, ma cousine." My neighbour, my cousin.

And then, I warn, there are the self-described expats – Les Anglos as the French call them.

Like dogs sniffing the air and scenting new blood, they will initially beat a path to your door or, in some cases, shuffle up on a Zimmer.

The invitations will overwhelm you and there is nothing more thrilling to a newcomer than the words: "Aperos….poolside 5pm."

Parties are given and you’ll be introduced as the latest prize find. With your new glowing tan and linen wardrobe you’ll be introduced to people who disturbingly all look the same. No, not like "them."

The women have the neat bob and the over-made up face of the sixty somethings; the men still gather in their own corners, Panamas askew, chinos belted with an old school tie.

But they are kind and your social life is a whirl so at first you ignore the sidelong looks when you talk politics or silence a dinner party table with a "bollocks" when rot is being talked.

And slowly you’ll wake up, look around and think: Would I break bread with these people in my old life?’

Once the answer is no…you’re dead. And then you write about them and you’re not only dead, you’re well and truly buried. Or more likely cremated. Tant pis.

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But of course that won’t happen to more tolerant, kinder souls who aren’t cynical hacks and don’t write columns.

So I peddle back on that piece of advice merely warning that rural Anglo/France is the land of Chinese whispers.

With bugger all else to do beyond market day, indoor winter bowls, bridge, and aperos…gossip is the main sport.

And I say, look to the younger Anglos, the ones working hard to have a balanced life. The ones who don’t live in a past where they were the bosses or the, allegedly, masters of the Universe.

They’ll be fun and being open they will have a host of French friends to whom, with luck, you’ll be introduced.

Downside? Johnny Hallyday and the equivalent of the birdie dance at every gathering. Hell, has to be better than bridge, non?

Anyway, now I have a new rule to add. The fine art of snivelling and grovelling.

French civil servants who can make or break your life with an extra demand for documents may be, may be, susceptible to both.

I base this purely on the success of appealing a €2000 bill for a year-long leak from my hot water boiler which discharged gallon upon gallon of water into my field. My normal bill is €100.

I abased myself in the email; begged; pleaded; pictured myself in rags gnawing on the small bones of murdered house martins etc etc. Shocking.

Today a letter tells me that after due consideration they will grant me "relief" on the amount. New bill to follow.

Actually, depending on what Brexit brings, I may need to add grovelling to the top of my list of advice.