Sunday, 13 October 2013

Back and forth...

This blog seems to be becoming as much a news medium for family and friends as it does a vehicle for reflecting on athletic pursuits, and this post will probably see an emphasis on that side of things too.
I’m writing this on the good ship Bretagne MV, crossing back to Portsmouth from St. Malo for the third time this year. I’ve been out in France for the last 10 days, Mrs Monmarduman for the last six. I spent the first three riding my bike round Brittany, in the expectation that it would be one of the last opportunities to do so.  I then drove down to Limoges, picked Mrs M up from the airport, and we had 3 days house hunting. And then finally we had another couple of days back in Brittany at the house.

The trip’s had a surprising outcome, in that, for the moment at least, we’re suspending the house hunting further south. This wasn’t due to the properties we saw or the area we were in – to the contrary, we know now precisely where we’d like to be, and we saw a couple of beautiful houses. It was more a feeling that we were embarking on too much change, too quickly. Well that and the fact that Brittany’s weather and scenery have put on quite a show for us in the last couple of days.

So let’s go back a bit. Going into this break we’d accepted offers on both our British and French houses. The British move is further advanced – we’ll probably be moving on the 25th of this month. We knew that from the start of January Mrs M will be working from France, initially on a trial basis, meaning that if we didn’t find anywhere we could buy quickly, we’d have to find somewhere for her to work from. But that wasn’t necessarily a problem – we know plenty of people with gites that are unoccupied in the winter months.  The plan seemed settled and thought-through.

The plan itself hasn’t really changed all that much. As I lay awake for much of Tuesday night, dissecting and worrying about every single part of it, I thought it might.  But I didn’t say anything to Mrs M – I struggle with any change at first, even stuff as trivial as painting a bedroom a different colour. The usual pattern, however, is that after initial misgivings I settle into and enjoy the change. But not voicing the nagging doubts just seemed to make them worse.  We talked of course – about the houses we’d seen, the areas we’d been in, but I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’.  Gradually it became clear why – there’s nothing wrong with the change itself, but we’re doing too much of it too quickly.  Moving one house is quite a big deal; selling two simultaneously brings practical challenges as well a feeling of dislocation. Selling two, and one half of a partnership not only relocating country, but to an unfamiliar part of that country, was too much for my little brain to deal with.

Fortunately, as we talked and drove back to Brittany on Thursday, it turned out that it was for Mrs M too.  So, the outcome is that whilst we’ll still move in the UK, and she’ll still move to France in January to work her 22 hours a week, we’ve withdrawn our Breton house from its sale, and that’s now where Mrs M will be based, along with our cat, who doesn’t know it yet, but who will emigrate alongside her owner. Which is just as well, because as we sat on our sofa yesterday afternoon a couple of mice strode out from behind the cooker with the confident air of beasts who knew they’d have the place to themselves again before too long.  I managed to dispose of those critters by the end of the day through a couple of handily-placed traps, but I’m sure they’ve plenty of friends and relatives waiting in the wings. The cat will have a field day.

So those are the basic facts.  We have, of course, spent large parts of the last 48 hours gathering evidence to support the decision we’d already taken – citing to ourselves everything from the slightly unethical treatment we’ve received from our French estate agent to the fact that Mrs M won’t have to start from scratch in Brittany in terms of network and friends. But one thing that is unarguable is the loveliness of large parts of Brittany, and the fact it’s terrific cycling terrain.  Without seemingly riding up anything that you could clearly call a hill, I did nearly 10,000 feet of ascent in the 160-odd miles I rode last weekend. It’s easy to ride hard there. But not necessarily quickly at the moment, though my refusal to contemplate changing down into the little ring on the hills doesn’t help progress.

So there we are. More Brittany for a while yet. The Dordogne is not off the agenda completely, but we need to see how Mrs M feels at the end of her work trial – she might be desperate to get further south having endured a Breton winter, or being in the north might have worked out very nicely. In the meantime, I need to find my next running or cycling target.  I don’t like not having a purpose; just doing it for its own sake never sustains me for long.  Suggestions please…
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