At a risk of sounding British, leaving the UK to work from France isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…
‘Ooooooh! You live in the French Alps!’ squeal most people excitedly (yes, even males) when I repeat my address for the third time for them because two foot of unexpected overnight snowfall has resulted in a spectacularly bad Skype connection. For most people, i.e. anyone who doesn’t do it, living and working from abroad means sipping wine at one pm having fleshed out the first part of your novel that morning and wafting home via the boulangerie and local cave. Top glossy mag commission workload permitting, obvs.
Listen, you end up drinking at lunchtime because you haven’t GOT any work, the novel is languishing in its primary stages, mocking your indolence every time you switch on your laptop and the boulangerie is shut because every bloody shop always is for three hours every single bloody lunch time. I will quickly clarify that this isn’t going to be a violently xenophobic blog* about how long it takes to get a Gallic workman to come and look at your Wi-Fi because I myself dwell amongst casually xenophobic middle class Brits living abroad (in their second home, of course), whinging about how you just can’t get a decent cup of tea and how the French workmen have abominable timekeeping, etc, etc and frankly IT’S PAINFUL.
I became a work-abroad freelancer by accident. When I left London for the ski resort of Morzine in 2005 (having decided that quietly weeping in the office toilets of a London magazine every day was probably a ‘bad sign’) I vowed I was going to sack off writing forever and trade it in for a simple life of mountain air, snowboarding**and cleaning toilets.
A ski season is actually the ideal, pre-made escape package for many people who have had all the joy thrashed out of them by work in the capital. You get accommodation, food, a bit of spending Euro and as much piste as you can fall over on in exchange for being what’s known as a ‘chalet host’ aka: looking and cleaning up after guests and answering the question ‘had much snow?’ exactly forty eight times a week. After one or two seasons of this however, you start loathing anyone who comes on holiday and the ‘public service’ part of working in the public service industry begins to be about as fun a dose of Shingles . And so you have a choice: go back to England? Or try and do something else abroad?
I selected option two and here I am still trying to make it work (and for the boulangerie to open).
Plus, that unfinished novel is still mocking me. But more on that later. Hmm. It’s after midday. Wonder if the Cave’s open instead…?
*well, maybe a tiny bit now and again.
**despite being 30 plus. I should probably get some dignity and take up skiing but I can’t bear the bruising all over again.