Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on September 9th 2022.
It’s just over five years since we sold our cottage, bought Olivia Rose and left our much-loved Welsh hills to cruise through Europe. Although we might have left the UK in body, we hadn’t truly left it in our hearts or our minds. Our relationship with Europe, and with France in particular as we spent more time there than anywhere else, was on a part-time basis. We split our year fairly evenly between both countries, loved them both but were fully committed to neither of them and there was a sense of freedom in that. If I was forced to choose I subconsciously still thought of ‘home’ as Wales, even though we didn’t have a home there any more.
I never imagined that I would ever leave the UK to live in another country. It was my homeland and the place I belonged and to leave it felt like a massive decision I would never make. However it is often the way that those big life-changing decisions have a mind of their own, sidling in through the back door, creeping in so quietly that you hardly realise they are there and nudging you down a path in such small steps that no-one is more surprised than you to find yourself at the end of it.
When you add in the random events that lurch into our lives, pandemics and Brexit being two of the worst culprits of the last few years, there are times when it isn’t up to us to choose at all. All we can do is react and hope for the best.
Over the past five years that deep bond I had with my homeland has slowly, and painlessly, weakened. It’s still there and I’m sure it will never disappear completely, but my allegiance has begun to shift. Now when I think of home the image that comes to mind is one of Olivia Rose moored up on a peaceful canal under French skies, or the field at Le Shack, golden and mellow in the late evening sun, with Spot curled up in a plant pot by the door. I’ve no idea how many years it takes to completely leave one country behind and fully embrace another, if indeed you ever do. This process is an emotional journey as much as a physical one, closely connected to how we define ourselves, and it can’t be rushed.
I’m also aware that fate could take a hand and the whole thing could be turned on its head. Serious health issues might force a change of plan, or it might be an itch that won’t go away, something as whimsical as a longing for a cosy tea-room or a pint of beer in a pub and suddenly you find you’ve upped sticks and are heading back to the white cliffs of Dover.
But that’s just life, unpredictable and unknowable. At my age I am fully focused on enjoying the present and not worrying too much about the future.
Heading back to the white cliffs of Dover is exactly what we are doing this week. We’ve lived abroad long enough now that a trip back to the UK to visit friends and family feels like a holiday rather than a homecoming and there is something exciting about that, a different perspective on something that was so very familiar and now is less so.
We’re not quite finished with France yet because we stopped for two nights camping near Calais and were pleasantly surprised at what we found. This is normally an area most people drive straight through, heading further south for the sunshine and the better known tourist attractions. However the coastline on the French side of the Channel is very attractive, with long sandy beaches and pleasing cliff-top walks and we were glad we spent the extra day here.
Make the most of the summer weather that you see in the pictures above– the forecast for good old Blighty is rain, rain and more rain but for once we aren’t complaining as it so desperately needed.
Take care and see you soon.