Sunday, November 09, 2008
Leaving France was rather painful for us. After five years in situ we were leaving behind friends, a language that we had learned and were growing to love, a deeper understanding of French society and the way to get along and enjoy life. The move itself was fraught with difficulty since we were obliged to rid ourselves of a large proportion of our belongings. As a result, all our furniture and an enormous number of books had to be sorted, packed and shipped back to the UK.
Our grumpy removers proved less than helpful and the move turned into a logistical nightmare. For a couple of months I was running eveywhere with an A4 lever arch file packed full of documents (tax, banking, ferry bookings, flight bookings, rental car bookings, insurance, car import documents etc etc etc ad nauseam).
At one point, I hardly slept for three nights due to packing and tidying and had to organise a last minute van hire in order to come back to France and rescue some of our belongings from a kindly neighbour's basement where we had temporarily left them. All of this while somehow attending work meetings with business partners, putting on a cheery face and a good show as if nothing were remotely wrong.
There were upsides however. We had a wonderful farewell party in our garden attended by nearly all of our friends. The weather held, the food flew off the tables and everyone drank too much (since we couldn't bring our drinks cabinet to Norway). And then there were the friends who rallied round and helped us to survive relocation, looking after the children for us as we packed box after box of belongings, helping us to shift unwanted furniture and to feed us when all our kitchen utensils had disappeared.
And, unexpectedly, the French postal service proved a useful ally in our moment of need, providing an excellent forwarding service for our mail. Their best service: the one that helps you to leave the country...
Now, every time I receive another package with the jolly little Sempé-inspired cartoon on the outside, it fills me with a nostalgic glow. And that word: "Réexpédition" has such a grand and adventurous ring to it, as if St Exupery himself had delivered it. It goes a little way towards recompensing for the fact that every book delivered by La Poste during the past five years has been snapped in half by some maladjusted postal sorting machine...