Apparently there is this thing in France about leaving. I read in Tout Sweet, a memoir by Karen Wheeler, that if you’re visiting someone and at some point you wish to leave, you have to express the desire to leave long before you actually plan on leaving because a whole ritual of ‘Are you sure you can’t stay for one more drink?’ and ‘Yes, I’m sure,’ of taking little steps towards the door and continuing to chat for at least another hour is guaranteed to take place. Karen called it The Long Goodbye.
Following our third house-hunting trip to France last week, we found our dream place: a farm by the river Saison, a stone’s throw away from both the Atlantic coast and the ski slopes of the Pyrenees, comprising of a farmhouse and a converted barn, goats, chickens and 4 hectares of land. We have spoken to the owners and agreed to sign a pre-contract that will (hopefully) see us moving to France and into this stunning place latest by October.
Which means that I am about to start my Long Goodbye to London.
We’ve been together a long time, London and I. It hasn’t always been easy. We started off on the wrong foot and it took me years to get over its bitterly winters and underwhelming summers, its challenges in finding a job of the desired level and even of finding a normal boyfriend in a city of emotionally-unavailable high achievers. But we made it work in the end. I stuck with it and London repaid my stubbornness. Now I have a career, friends, a husband, even a cat. I made London my home.
I’m not moving to France because London is no longer my home. I’m going miss her ‘like animal’ (to quote my dear friend Judit from Hungary). I’m going miss it all: the good, the bad and the ugly all the same. I’m gonna be haunted by good and bad memories. I’m going to miss the beautiful flat I shared with Jamie, and Anne, and Pernille, and Annebet, and Archie, and Chris on Leman Street, where I’ve felt the most at home in my entire life of flat-sharing in London. And where coincidentally I lived during The Love Project. I’m going to miss the summers in Regents Park playing softball with my colleagues at Havas, the sweet smell of fresh cut grass and linden trees. I’m going to miss the evening runs on the Southbank of Thames, that saw me past Tower Bridge and Tate Modern, and even all the way to Westminster. I’m going to miss the silly Friday night pints of beer at the pub with work-colleagues. I’m going to miss the Secret Cinema and all the dress-up events past and present, rivaled only by New York, as far as I know. I’m going to miss my yoga classes and my evenings with the girls and the productions at the Royal Opera House, and the shops, and Covent Garden and, boy, I’m going to miss the coffee. The French serve coffee that would kill a horse and don’t think much about frothed milk so no more lattes and flat whites for me (note: I might have to invest in a coffee machine). I’m going to miss Shoreditch, and Spitalfields and the bloody hipsters with their fancy cafes and their MacBooks. I’m going to miss the Vietnamese, the Thai, the Indian, the Japanese, the Mexican, every type of food in this world that isn’t French, because, let’s face it, I won’t be finding any of it in a small village in the Pyrenees Atlantiques.
I’m moving to France because this is how life works. It keeps on moving, it keeps on needing change and challenges. Because I am at an age now when I am desperate to spend more time in nature, to linger over things, to sip my drinks slowly and to chew my meal languidly, to see the trees flowering and the birds coming and going, to spend time with my husband and even, maybe, dare I, bring a child into this world. Because the time has come now to enter a new (and hopefully terribly exciting!) chapter.
I guess I better start The Long Goodbye. I only have six months left in London and we all know how time flies.