Our local bar is run by an English couple and when we moved here we were rather disappointed when we realised that the heart of the community was not run by locals. Had we been in a position to afford to go drinking, we had rather hoped the local bar would be a good place to converse with our French neighbours.
A run of programmes such as 'A place in the sun' had advertised our region as one of the cheapest in France and therefore increased the steady flow of British migrants to a flood. What we thought was a little French village is inhabited by a huge number of us.
Neil had started French lessons before moving here, and it was our aim to befriend our neighbours and try to integrate as much as possible. This was hindered somewhat when our closest neighbours suddenly lost their son in a tragic road accident soon after we moved. Although they have always been friendly their grief made it difficult to become close, and finding something to say would have been difficult enough in our own language, let alone our adopted one. So now we have a friendly but not close relationship with them.
We also hadn't bargained for the scale of the difference in culture, sense of humour and lifestyle. The French are very different beasts to us, and although we have made some good friends we feel we will never really be accepted totally here by the French.
It is with mixed emotions then that our social life is mostly spent with our English friends. As much as we were loathe to go down that route on arriving here I just can't imagine ever getting to the stage where I can just have a really 'good laugh' in French. Even the French friends we have made here despair of their 'backward thinking' compatriots and nightmare bureaucracy.
Tonight was the final nail in the coffin for our integration. We went to the bar as there was a fish and chip van there, and purchased cod and chips twice.
We took them to the lake where we walk Tess and sat at a picnic bench with our bottles of salt, vinegar and Heinz tomato ketchup. So we are failed integrators.
Do you know what... it was bloody lovely!!!!!