2001-2008

[I’m leaving this page as it was before Chris died.]

In 2001 we made the most dramatic change in 30 years: Chris took early retirement and we came to live in the south of France. This is proving to be a successful move, as witnessed by the happy smile so often on Chris’s face.

So far he can list three significant achievements (apart from once again doing most things round the house after my second hip operation).

As well as becoming an even more excellent cook, much appreciated by our French friends, he is well on the way to becoming an expert on Languedoc Roussillon wines (did I say ‘wine bore’? Nooooo.) Tasting is naturally a major component in this ‘science’, reading the lit of course, and now he also spends hours building a bigger and bigger database on local wines, of which there are thousands.

For the first time in his life he has taken up gardening, and his vegetable patch grows in size and splendour each year. This is no easy task, as our terraces are extremely stony and have been uncultivated for decades, and when he prepares a new bed, he systematically sieves them. Watering is a problem, as we currently have no ‘source’ and rely on the municipal water supply, which is expensive. It has to be said that weeding is not proving his strong point … Still, it is worth the effort as we enjoy the delicious, fresh tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes, aubergines and peppers.

After an initial period when Chris left me to do all the talking (no choice, he says…) his French has suddenly leapt forward. His ability to read French and his vocabulary were always better than mine, and now he suddenly has the confidence to take part in most conversations. Only his inability to express complex concepts in French continues to frustrate him.

Chris is not totally uncritical of life here: he has some predictable acerbic things to say about politicians and administration – and driving habits (one of his great pleasures as a non-driver is the freedom and pleasure of his daily trips on his scooter). But on the whole he is happier living in the French countryside than he has ever been in cities and universities.

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