Why I’m letting go of London perfectionism for laid-back life in Languedoc

1/9/2022 6:30:00 PM

🇫🇷 A new start in the south of France has let Debora Robertson (@lickedspoon) relax into rural living, abandon the habit of busyness

France, Life

🇫🇷 A new start in the south of France has let Debora Robertson (lickedspoon) relax into rural living, abandon the habit of busyness

A new start in the south of France has let me relax into rural living, abandon the habit of busyness – and allow myself to do things badly

For many years – most of my adult life, probably – I began each day with a list in the way Victorians often began their days with prayer.France has hinted that its strict UK travel ban could be loosened as countries start to lift their Covid restrictions on Brits flying in.Android .When it comes to fashion we rarely put much thought into design features, whether that be an embroidered pattern or some glitzy sequins.

I used lists to create calm and order; to make sense out of what was often overwhelming. Lists were my prayers. Spokesperson for the French Government, Gabriel Attal, acknowledged that the news would come as relief for many looking to visit France on a working capacity after the "list of compelling reasons, notably professional" was extended. So given my personality, it’s sometimes a challenge to live a gentler, slower life. A pensioner in one part of the capital complains that a bulb now costs 25 pesos ($1) and 450g (1lb) costs 240 pesos, four times the price in September. Since moving to the village of Marseillan in the Hérault department of southern France last September, I’m attempting to let go of my London habit of eternal busyness: that creeping, underlying belief that having too much on your plate is a sign of virtue, success and popularity. It states that all arrivals must have an "essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated". I am still working the same amount here as I did in the UK, while in addition wrangling the wreckage of an old house. Whilst there are pictures of Viking gods, particularly Freyr, sporting headwear that resemble pompoms on top, which make them a key feature of Scandinavian folk costumes.

This should all be quite anxiety-inducing for someone as steeped in busyness as I am, but somehow, it’s not. Britain is now also taking steps to make travelling easier, including removal of some pre and post departure tests for arrivals in the UK. Ajero kingpins make so much cash from these transactions that banks, especially the small ones out in the provinces, sometimes have to close to the public while they process the sacks of money being deposited. It could be because, despite the never-ending list of things to be done in our new home, I still feel like I’m on holiday. We came to Marseillan en vacance for so many years that, on days when it feels a bit much, just walking down onto the harbour for moules-frites gives me a summertime-spring in my step. The changes to these rules do not apply for unvaccinated passengers. When we moved here, my husband and I promised each other not to become obsessed with the renovation to the extent that it blocked out all other things. In 1986 Fidel Castro, then Cuba’s dictator, discovered that a garlic farmer was making $50,000 a year—ten times a local surgeon’s wage at the time—by privately selling what he had left over after meeting his quota for the state agriculture system. We’d seen this happen to other people and it was both terrible for them and terribly boring for everyone else. In this case, they will be asked to take a PCR test to confirm the positive result and self isolate immediately. The phrase pom pom actually derives from the French word 'pom-pon' which refers to as a 'small woollen ball attached to a garment, especially a hat, for decoration.

We knew we needed to live here, to work, and to go out and do things just for fun so that this house we love doesn’t descend into one massive bricks-and-mortar To Do list, thus sucking all of the pleasure out of our great adventure. We’re letting the house take its time. It is still possible to travel to a number of countries, but many of these have made it significantly easier for vaccinated passengers, such as in Spain, Italy and Germany, where they can enter without self isolation by proving their vaccine status. Thousands of rabbits died last summer in an outbreak of haemorrhagic disease. Our priority is fixing the roof, wiring and central heating, but we aren’t rushing at the other, more aesthetic decisions like demented decorators with a clipboard fetish. We’re living with it; letting it be. In New Zealand the strict Managed Isolation Quarantine rules remain and passengers cannot travel to the country without a 'critical reason'. This has been a challenge for someone formerly known as the Checklist Czar of East London, but it comes with its rewards. Then again, Cubans cannot live by allium alone. So whatever reason you believe to be true, at least now you can go forward knowing a little history.

For example, I had intended to hog the room with the best view of the harbour for my study, but as we began living in the house, that didn’t feel right; it didn’t flow. Read More Read More. Moving my study to the opposite side of the hallway made more sense. When my friend, an architectural historian, came to visit, she said the room I settled on would certainly have been the office of the person who built the house. It was where he would have received his clients: it has the best mouldings, a beautiful tiled floor and a marble fireplace – perfect for showing off. The benefits of my extreme altruism in giving up that view are twofold.

First, I have my desk in exactly the right position to peep at the peepers peering through the front gate (say that quickly after a few glasses of picpoul de pinet, I dare you). Second, it’s the perfect spot to watch the birds in the apricot tree pecking at the feeder. If you visit my house, I’m going to feed you, whether you come by taxi or the power of your own wings, so I made sure the birds were well catered for almost before I’d unpacked our own china. I often get up early and sit at my desk, waiting for them to come. This week’s guests have included sparrows, robins, blue tits and blackcaps.

It’s not all Snow White and her enchanted forest, however. Our neighbour has an extensive buffet of bird feeders in her garden. Would the birds even find my fat-balls? I have been trying hard to shrug off my old-life competitiveness, but I admit to you that the first time I saw sparrows swooping around my one humble feeder, I did an air punch that would have befitted a winning contestant on MasterChef. Each day, I attempt to become more patient, to allow things to unfold in their own time. Breathe in, breathe out and let village life happen.

Even when the 10 people in front of me in the supermarket are all paying by cheque. (The French still love a chequebook: 80 per cent of the population still use them, compared with 27 per cent in the rest of the Eurozone. It’s been so many years since I wrote a cheque, I had to look up how to do it online. Still, pleasingly, my Crédit Agricole book comes with pictures of French rural life on each cheque.) Uncertainty is stressful and taking pleasure in small things helps.

For me, that includes having cheques with cows on them, tending my houseplants (which have to satiate my love of gardening until I can plant a garden), eating a perfect Paris-Brest pastry in the afternoon, watching the sun on the water and hearing the cowbell-clank of rigging against mast. It’s also a daily delight to find new places for old possessions; things I had stopped really seeing in my old house because I was so accustomed to them. There’s an American concept of “shopping your closet”, which is rediscovering the clothes you already own instead of buying more. I feel like I am doing this with my house, one mirror, painting and armchair at a time. I am also shrugging off the paralysing quest for perfectionism and allowing myself to do things in a less than precise way: better to get things done than let them fester on a list because I need to research, practice and make flawless.

I used to be quite appalling at taking up new skills and having instantly to be the best at them, which made whatever it was just another chore. I am now allowing myself to do things badly. I am channelling Phoebe from Friends running through the park like a child because it is fun. Every afternoon, in all but the most disgraceful weather, a group of women meet in the little square in front of our house. Some days, there might be three or four of them, some days as many as a dozen.

Some have little dogs on their laps, or larger ones that scrabble about among the sage in the flower bed. The women chat and laugh, some standing, the older ones sitting on the benches. In the winter, they’re here in the late afternoon. When we were summer visitors, I used to see them in the cool of the evening, sitting in the shade of the palms. They are the embodiment of art de vivre: the small, regular habits and valuing of ritual and connection that elevate and enrich daily life.

The days go slowly, but the weeks go quickly. I can barely believe it’s four months since we arrived. What I have learned is that we all have the same number of hours in the day. Use them slowly. Have you started a new life abroad? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below .

Read more:
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For many years – most of my adult life, probably – I began each day with a list in the way Victorians often began their days with prayer.France has hinted that its strict UK travel ban could be loosened as countries start to lift their Covid restrictions on Brits flying in.Android .When it comes to fashion we rarely put much thought into design features, whether that be an embroidered pattern or some glitzy sequins.

I used lists to create calm and order; to make sense out of what was often overwhelming. Lists were my prayers. Spokesperson for the French Government, Gabriel Attal, acknowledged that the news would come as relief for many looking to visit France on a working capacity after the "list of compelling reasons, notably professional" was extended. So given my personality, it’s sometimes a challenge to live a gentler, slower life. A pensioner in one part of the capital complains that a bulb now costs 25 pesos ($1) and 450g (1lb) costs 240 pesos, four times the price in September. Since moving to the village of Marseillan in the Hérault department of southern France last September, I’m attempting to let go of my London habit of eternal busyness: that creeping, underlying belief that having too much on your plate is a sign of virtue, success and popularity. It states that all arrivals must have an "essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated". I am still working the same amount here as I did in the UK, while in addition wrangling the wreckage of an old house. Whilst there are pictures of Viking gods, particularly Freyr, sporting headwear that resemble pompoms on top, which make them a key feature of Scandinavian folk costumes.

This should all be quite anxiety-inducing for someone as steeped in busyness as I am, but somehow, it’s not. Britain is now also taking steps to make travelling easier, including removal of some pre and post departure tests for arrivals in the UK. Ajero kingpins make so much cash from these transactions that banks, especially the small ones out in the provinces, sometimes have to close to the public while they process the sacks of money being deposited. It could be because, despite the never-ending list of things to be done in our new home, I still feel like I’m on holiday. We came to Marseillan en vacance for so many years that, on days when it feels a bit much, just walking down onto the harbour for moules-frites gives me a summertime-spring in my step. The changes to these rules do not apply for unvaccinated passengers. When we moved here, my husband and I promised each other not to become obsessed with the renovation to the extent that it blocked out all other things. In 1986 Fidel Castro, then Cuba’s dictator, discovered that a garlic farmer was making $50,000 a year—ten times a local surgeon’s wage at the time—by privately selling what he had left over after meeting his quota for the state agriculture system. We’d seen this happen to other people and it was both terrible for them and terribly boring for everyone else. In this case, they will be asked to take a PCR test to confirm the positive result and self isolate immediately. The phrase pom pom actually derives from the French word 'pom-pon' which refers to as a 'small woollen ball attached to a garment, especially a hat, for decoration.

We knew we needed to live here, to work, and to go out and do things just for fun so that this house we love doesn’t descend into one massive bricks-and-mortar To Do list, thus sucking all of the pleasure out of our great adventure. We’re letting the house take its time. It is still possible to travel to a number of countries, but many of these have made it significantly easier for vaccinated passengers, such as in Spain, Italy and Germany, where they can enter without self isolation by proving their vaccine status. Thousands of rabbits died last summer in an outbreak of haemorrhagic disease. Our priority is fixing the roof, wiring and central heating, but we aren’t rushing at the other, more aesthetic decisions like demented decorators with a clipboard fetish. We’re living with it; letting it be. In New Zealand the strict Managed Isolation Quarantine rules remain and passengers cannot travel to the country without a 'critical reason'. This has been a challenge for someone formerly known as the Checklist Czar of East London, but it comes with its rewards. Then again, Cubans cannot live by allium alone. So whatever reason you believe to be true, at least now you can go forward knowing a little history.

For example, I had intended to hog the room with the best view of the harbour for my study, but as we began living in the house, that didn’t feel right; it didn’t flow. Read More Read More. Moving my study to the opposite side of the hallway made more sense. When my friend, an architectural historian, came to visit, she said the room I settled on would certainly have been the office of the person who built the house. It was where he would have received his clients: it has the best mouldings, a beautiful tiled floor and a marble fireplace – perfect for showing off. The benefits of my extreme altruism in giving up that view are twofold.

First, I have my desk in exactly the right position to peep at the peepers peering through the front gate (say that quickly after a few glasses of picpoul de pinet, I dare you). Second, it’s the perfect spot to watch the birds in the apricot tree pecking at the feeder. If you visit my house, I’m going to feed you, whether you come by taxi or the power of your own wings, so I made sure the birds were well catered for almost before I’d unpacked our own china. I often get up early and sit at my desk, waiting for them to come. This week’s guests have included sparrows, robins, blue tits and blackcaps.

It’s not all Snow White and her enchanted forest, however. Our neighbour has an extensive buffet of bird feeders in her garden. Would the birds even find my fat-balls? I have been trying hard to shrug off my old-life competitiveness, but I admit to you that the first time I saw sparrows swooping around my one humble feeder, I did an air punch that would have befitted a winning contestant on MasterChef. Each day, I attempt to become more patient, to allow things to unfold in their own time. Breathe in, breathe out and let village life happen.

Even when the 10 people in front of me in the supermarket are all paying by cheque. (The French still love a chequebook: 80 per cent of the population still use them, compared with 27 per cent in the rest of the Eurozone. It’s been so many years since I wrote a cheque, I had to look up how to do it online. Still, pleasingly, my Crédit Agricole book comes with pictures of French rural life on each cheque.) Uncertainty is stressful and taking pleasure in small things helps.

For me, that includes having cheques with cows on them, tending my houseplants (which have to satiate my love of gardening until I can plant a garden), eating a perfect Paris-Brest pastry in the afternoon, watching the sun on the water and hearing the cowbell-clank of rigging against mast. It’s also a daily delight to find new places for old possessions; things I had stopped really seeing in my old house because I was so accustomed to them. There’s an American concept of “shopping your closet”, which is rediscovering the clothes you already own instead of buying more. I feel like I am doing this with my house, one mirror, painting and armchair at a time. I am also shrugging off the paralysing quest for perfectionism and allowing myself to do things in a less than precise way: better to get things done than let them fester on a list because I need to research, practice and make flawless.

I used to be quite appalling at taking up new skills and having instantly to be the best at them, which made whatever it was just another chore. I am now allowing myself to do things badly. I am channelling Phoebe from Friends running through the park like a child because it is fun. Every afternoon, in all but the most disgraceful weather, a group of women meet in the little square in front of our house. Some days, there might be three or four of them, some days as many as a dozen.

Some have little dogs on their laps, or larger ones that scrabble about among the sage in the flower bed. The women chat and laugh, some standing, the older ones sitting on the benches. In the winter, they’re here in the late afternoon. When we were summer visitors, I used to see them in the cool of the evening, sitting in the shade of the palms. They are the embodiment of art de vivre: the small, regular habits and valuing of ritual and connection that elevate and enrich daily life.

The days go slowly, but the weeks go quickly. I can barely believe it’s four months since we arrived. What I have learned is that we all have the same number of hours in the day. Use them slowly. Have you started a new life abroad? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below .