At Home in the Pays d'Oc

On Friday the 23rd of October 1987 my husband Patrick and I closed the door on our London flat and embarked on an adventure that was to last for 27 years. At the end of it, our lives would be transformed beyond all recognition. Of course, we knew none of that at the time. All we knew was that we were setting out, with enormous excitement, to complete the formalities and furnish and settle in to our new holiday home in the Languedoc.
 Three hours or so later we reached Calais, with our van and trailer loaded to the gunnels with household goods. We lumbered off the ferry and, ignoring a small official with a large hat who kept bellowing ‘Fret! Fret!’ at us, we made our determined way to the domestic immigration channel. The small official pursued us, and when he paused for breath I explained politely that, no, we weren’t freight: we were an inoffensive English couple taking some household goods to a maison secondaire. We had all the paperwork, I added helpfully. For a second this gave the small official pause, then he brightened. ‘Douanes, Douanes’ he said, gesturing towards a dilapidated hut off to one side of the docks. Dutifully, we made our way to the Douanes, the customs shed.
The customs officer peered disdainfully through his little window at the dusty Ford Transit sagging on its springs, at the laden trailer with here a chair leg, there a lamp shade poking out from beneath its insecurely tied tarp. Ignoring the fact that I had spoken to him in French, ‘Do you heff an eeenventory?’ he sneered.
Luckily a savvy friend had put me wise. ‘You’ll need an inventory,’ she said. ‘And make sure it’s detailed, if you want to get through customs without too much delay.’ It was good advice. So, taking a deep breath and a large notebook I plunged into the depths of what had been our dining room, but now looked very much like a furniture repository. Two hours later I emerged, bleary-eyed but satisfied with my labours. ‘Two arm chairs, leather,’ I had written. ‘One sofa, matching arm chairs; three side tables; two lamps with brown ceramic bases; two lamps with orange ceramic bases, five drinking glasses, green, small; six drinking glasses, green, large; six knives with red handles; six forks with red handles; six dessert spoons with red handles; five tea spoons with red handles…’ and so it went on, for page after page, and all copied, in triplicate, illicitly on the office photocopier.
We produced the document. It ran to 27 pages; it was written in English with a French translation for each item. It landed on the ledge with a satisfying thump.
‘Mon dieu!’ The customs officer smoothed his moustache with an agitated finger, ‘Passez, passez!’
We waited until we were a kilometre or two beyond the docks before we allowed ourselves the explosion of laughter we felt was our due.

Synopsis
On Friday the 23rd of October 1987 my husband Patrick and I closed the door on our London flat and embarked on an adventure that was to last for 27 years. At the end of it, our lives would be transformed beyond all recognition. Of course, we knew none of that at the time. All we knew was that we were setting out, with enormous excitement, to complete the formalities and furnish and settle in to our new holiday home in the Languedoc.
Patricia Feinberg Stoner is a British writer: a former journalist, advertising copywriter and publicist. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin she joined a local newspaper, The Liverpool Daily Post, as a trainee. Quickly discovering she was a terrible reporter, she switched to feature writing and since then her career has revolved around the written word.

As we join Patricia and Himself on their French adventure, the real life dramas of being an expat in France open up to us, including ‘friends’ both English and French, the French system and the little idiosyncrasies which make living in this wonderful country such a challenge – sometimes. Of course we also share with them the wonderful events and meals they join in as part of the Morbignan community, and the friendliness of their French neighbours, well most of them...

Sometimes though we can find our lives changing just like that, other changes come more subtly, such as the ones which took place after a little stray brown and white dog, who came to be called Purdey came into their lives. Dog lovers will understand how important the needs and happiness of our canine companions can be, and so they found themselves spending more and more time in France.

The author Patricia, in this captivating book takes the reader on a voyage of discovery, a celebration of the years her and her husband spent enjoying their French home, both for holidays and all the time. Living a life others only dream of is wonderful but are they still living there? You will have to read this enthralling story to discover the answer…
Living in France magazine, May 2017