I’ve just finished reading the very good memoir by Janine Marsh called My Good Life in France. I “knew” Janine as I’ve written a couple of articles for her very popular website, Good Life France, and I enjoy reading the website and I follow the Facebook page too. I was happy to see that she had written a book and interested to read how she came to be living in France.
I love memoirs and especially ones that are set in France. Janine and her husband found their farm almost by accident when a real estate agent called them into his office on a rainy day, gave them coffee and a few printouts of places for sale. They were headed back to catch the ferry to England and stopped at a couple of them and, bang, there it was, a coup de foudre, love at first sight. I don’t know what Janine saw that captured her heart because it sounded rather dreary, something that her father who was with them, pointed out, but they bought it and set off renovating.
The book takes you through the various things done in and around their house, work in the garden where they discovered that it had been used as a dump site for years, and not just for small things. Then animals came into their lives: ducks, chickens, dogs and cats, and they discovered that they were animal lovers. They live in a place in France that I know nothing about, an area called Seven Valleys in the Pay-de-Calais and Janine writes of the warmth of the people along with the happy celebrations that occur. It makes me want to take a look the next time I happen to be in the north of France.
My Good Life in France can be found on Amazaon in paperback if you are in England and in ebook format. It is scheduled to be in the States by February, 2018 but may come out even sooner.
1. What would you tell someone thinking about moving to France? (I always say to be really fluent in French). Any words of wisdom?
Well I agree with you on the language, even if you aren’t fluent, try your best to speak French as much as possible, it will really help you to make friends. Accept that things are different in France, particularly when it comes to administration. Paperwork, form filling and bureaucracy are a way of life, you just have to get used to it and go with the flow.
2. Were you an animal lover before you moved to France or did that happen when so many animals appeared in your life?
No – not at all! I’ve never had an animal before and never wanted one! Actually Fat Cat is sitting on my lap while I’m talking to you and dribbling with happiness! She just appeared at our back door about six months ago and never left. It started when we found a 4 week old kitten being attacked by a bigger cat in the lovely town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, we bought this tiny wounded bundle home and ever since, animals have been finding us.
3. What are the number counts of the animals in your life?
Currently 6 cats, 3 dogs, 4 geese (but they are all nesting including the boys – on about 60 eggs in total, we are dreading it if they all hatch!), 22 ducks and several of them are nesting and 14 chickens. We also feed 5 hedgehogs who come nightly to the door and if we don’t leave food out, they run rampage over the terrace and knock everything over.
4. What do you like most about France and what bothers you the most? What do you miss back in England?
I love a lot about France, the people and their love of heritage and tradition, the street markets, cakes, cheese, wine, the architecture and beautiful chateaux, sleepy hamlets, the café lifestyle, quirky festivals and the wonderful train service SNCF – I could honestly go on and on! What bothers me? Hmmm tough one, what bothers me? Not a lot really. From my home in France is just 3 hours to central London by car, I can actually be in England in 1.5 hours so I go back and forth a lot because I’ve got family there and because there are things I love about England too and I don’t have to miss them because I’m in the perfect location to have it all.
5. I have found that my friends in France are mostly Americans. Do you have French friends, ones that you can gab with?
I know what you mean, with your expat friends you have a shared heritage and understanding. I have French, American, Australian and UK friends here but if I really want a girly giggle it’s my British friend Annette I turn to. She’s slightly bonkers, absolutely lovely and she would get an Olympic Gold Medal for talking if there was one.
6. Do you have time for hobbies? If so what? I suspect the animals and Good Life in France take up most of your time, not to mention the husband.
I love gardening! This part of France gets lots of rain and the soil is rich. I grow my own veg and fruit as much as possible though I’m going to have to be creative as this year the ducks have figured out they can fly out of the pen and they love the young seedlings! I like to sew too, I’m awful at it but I like the calmness of sewing something. Cooking? Not really despite the fact that my French friends are horrified by my disinterest. I like eating food just not preparing it! I love reading too though I don’t have as much time for that as I’d like, I have 4000 books and we renovated the pig sty to keep them all in!
7. I know from your book that you have come to love the area in France where you live-Seven Valleys-but what other places in France have you come to love? What is special and interesting to you in the area where you live?
There’s not a region in France I haven’t fallen in love with for one reason or another. Alsace, Champagne, Provence, French Riviera, Dordogne, Loire Valley, Picardy, Charente Maritime and lovely La Rochelle. I’m forever ringing Mark my husband when I’m travelling and saying “I want to live here!”. But my heart is in the Seven Valleys – it might not have the sunshine of the south but they say here that the people of the north have the sun in their hearts and it’s true, they are very friendly, welcoming and have a great sense of humour. When you make a friend here, it’s for life.
8. How often do you travel around France? What’s on your list of where to go next?
I travel a lot – I love to discover new parts of France, in fact I’m off to the Loire Valley next week to visit the Chateau de Chenonceau and Clos de Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci. I’m also off to London to see my sister and my son Harry and his lovely wife and their kids. Next month I’ll visit Avignon, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Nimes in Provence, then I’m off to Carcassonne and Montpelier…
9. Do you have any favourite books that are set in France? Did you read a Year in Provence for instance?
I love that book, Peter Mayle’s descriptions are wonderful and one of the biggest compliments I got was from Samantha Verant author of 7 Letters from Paris (brilliant book, so romantic) who reviewed my book and said “Move over Peter Mayle – there’s a new girl in town and her name is Janine Marsh” – woohoo! I’ve read so many fab books about France (I’m addicted to them), I can’t pick just one.
10. Why do you think people are so taken with France and, especially, Paris? What is it that draws so many visitors? I find that women especially want to live in France.
There are so many things about France to entice. Paris, Provence, Marseille, Lille – fabulous cities, UNESCO listed gastronomy, boulangeries where the waft of a just baked croissant will be a memory that stays with you forever, lavender fields, sunflower fields, cakes, cheese, wine, the Louvre, French Alps and awesome Annecy… so so much. I’ve just started a “reasons to love France” weekly series on my website and I ask people on my Facebook page for their reasons and the list is massive, it’s going to take me years to get to the bottom, in fact I may never finish!