OF A FILM SCHOOL
Paton continues his monthly diary about the Salignac Film Foundation
Now that I had arrived in France with most of my goods and chattels
it was time to get organised. The electricity, water and telephone all
had to be changed to my name. Insurance policies arranged and the final
signing of the papers for the house (and the paying of the cheque. Ouch!)
Despite French bureaucracy all these things went reasonably smoothly
at the time. The water was to prove a bit of a problem later. But having
gained entry to our new home and put the furniture in roughly the right
place, though this was a bit of a nightmare because my partner, Fiona,
and I had made out a paper plan of where everything was to go before
we left Scotland. The memory plays tricks. Rooms that we thought were
large, we had seen them empty of course, and now that I was here they
had suddenly shrunk. Especially when one or two pieces went in. Not
to worry, I had a large cavÈ where I could store the surplus.
Fiona and I could sort things out when she arrived in a couple of monthís
In the meantime, I had to set up our Internet connection as this was
going to be essential to our business. Now, just before I left Glasgow,
I had bought a new computer from a friend of a friend.
This was part of a cancelled order from IBM in Italy to Portugal. It
was explained to me that the keyboard had to be changed but all the
software I would need was installed in it. This was delivered to me
on the day that I was loading the furniture into the van. So I had a
brand new computer in a box loaded on. I should explain that, although
I had used computers for film editing, accounts and letter writing before,
I was an innocent when it came to the Internet.
When I opened up the box in France, and read all the destruction manuals,
set it up and switched it on I found that some of the software was in
various languages. These was compounded by the fact that I had bought
the printer, scanner and monitor in France which all came with French
software. I now had a somewhat schizophrenic computer! Plus the fact
that the access disc for my Internet connection was entirely in French.
Despite all these setbacks I managed to connect, with some help from
their helpline. All in french of course. I then had to start design
of our web site, something I had never done before. Daunting. I had
no local expertise to count on. It is a small village in rural France.
No computer shops here!
However, in between stripping the wallpaper in the bedroom, which seemed
to have been put up with impact adhesive and sorting out the computer
to communicate with me in english, I slowly managed to design the web
site. This involved a lot of midnight oil being burnt but I succeeded
in getting the look that I wanted. The computer now speaks english to
me with the odd exception but it is amazing how used to its little idiosyncrasies
I have become. I am also a total convert to the world of the Internet
and e-mail. I never thought that would happen to me. An old codger.
In the meantime, Fiona was still working in Scotland. She was also trying
to find out the rules and regulations regarding our cat's emigration.
We had conflicting advice from The Ministry of Agriculture, the French
authorities and vets. Eventually we decided to go for a 'pet passport'
that involved a long series of vaccinations culminating in a microchip
being inserted in her neck. All this was to cost a fortune. Once all
this was done, the cat was ready to travel. A friend did remark that
it would be interesting to see what would happen if the cat was put
through a supermarket checkout scanner. So far I have not put this to
the test. But if the cat ever gets run over, then the microchip is being
recovered. At that price?
With our plans slowly moving forward and the end of June was approaching
when Fiona, the cat and the remains of our furniture were to leave for
France, I was managing to be reasonably well organised for their arrival.
I had, obviously, made contact with the local cafÈ owners as
well as the shopkeepers. This groundwork was to prove useful in the
future despite the fact that they could not understand that we wanted
to live here permanently.
The great day when Fiona arrived, having travelled with the cat and
furniture in our friend Andy's van down from Scotland. Our greatest
concern at that time was the cat. How would it travel? Had we done the
right thing with the passport? Would she settle in to her new home?
Well, she was very happy in the van, the French authorities didnít
give second glance when she came through the Chunnel and within 2 hours
had settled into the French way of life. So much so that she now sits
on our doormat preening herself for any passing tourist! It is us that
have had the problems of settling in to a new life, a new country and
a new business.
Incidentally, when I moved many years ago to a small town in The North
of Scotland, I was told by one of the locals "Barry, you know that
every small place has it's village idiot? Well not here, we just take
it in turns."
Well rural France is a bit like that.
© Barry Paton 2001
NOW FOR THE ALTERNATIVE VIEW! Update
"A WOMAN'S VIEW".
When I heard the inevitable words " you'll love it", I immediately
thought the opposite.
My partner and I had been thinking about moving to France for a long
time, it wasn't therefore a spur of the moment "Oh wouldn't it
be wonderful?" idea, we had done our homework properly
about work prospects, house requirements with a space for me as a dance
studio, and would the cat like it ? Very important, the latter one!
As we no longer had family ties, it was decided to put the wheels in
motion for A Big Change, especially for me. I was the one who had to
weigh up more pros and cons of it. I also knew from
my friend's reactions , that either they thought I was completely mad,
or they were very envious, wishing they themselves could do something
similar. I was constantly told "You can always
come back" which seemed to me to be very pessimistic, perhaps hoping
we would fail ? Or we were deemed to be very brave, setting off for
So with all these thoughts, I became , as you can imagine, a little
Barry had gone to look for a house, in the region of France that we
both knew very well, I was still in Scotland working, and I was alternately
very excited at the prospect of a life abroad, and then equally feeling
what have I let myself in for?
However, the new proposed house DID seem ideal,. I just had to see it.
We went out one February weekend, the weather was glorious, and I was
full of optimism and goodwill! We reached our destination, and I remember
thinking " Is this it ?" It was so hard to visualise correctly
what Barry had described, and anyway, I was feeling a little pressurised
, it was such a big decision. What if I didn't like it? I really didn't
have enough to compare it against, and counted on "the man of my
life " (A French expression, I now understand ) to have made the
correct choice, we did usually have similar tastes.
We firstly had to go to the lawyer's office in the village , to sort
out the inevitable paperwork, and for me to meet the owners of the house.
All was moving pretty fast, and it seemed to be going slightly out of
my hands. I still hadn't seen the house , either, which rather worried
me. So, with the owners, two friends of theirs, the estate agent (A
stunning looking French woman, whom I had taken to and liked) and Barry,
we made a little procession down the street. My first impression of
the house was not good. Where was the pretty house with blue shutters,
and a balcony I so wanted ?
Never mind, I proceeded, with all eyes upon me, but I knew it was hopeless,
to make such a decision in such a short time. I would need to come back
for another look, by myself, if possible. This was arranged for the
next day, and I was then able to walk around all the rooms and start
to imagine life there, plus where would all the furniture go ?. All
the typical woman's things of how to make a comfortable "nest".
It was all beginning to look more hopeful, much to Barry's relief.
The next problems were to concern Gemma the cat, and all the vet's bills,
the task of sizing down all our belongings and wordly possessions as
they were so numerous, I knew I couldn't take everything with me! That
is hard for a natural born hoarder! After all that, reality sank in
with saying goodbye to people. I had wanted to have a big party, but
realised this would actually be too painful, and it would be too sad.
After all, I wasn't really going THAT far, it wasn't the other side
of the world, or was it ?
Everyone promised to be in touch, and would come to visit frequently
in the summer , they said Well, I am still waiting, nearly a year on.
We will see if the hordes descend upon us in the hot summer months.
Most probably , they will arrive when we are busy working , or we will
see on the doorstep, the very ones we have come all this way to avoid.
This was only the tip, of what would become our daily life in rural
France. There would be many funny experiences, as well as many lonely
moments too. It would all be part of life's "rich tapestry",
and certainly as my Scottish granny used to say "you learn as much
as you can, you never know when you will need it !" How true. I
was to learn a great deal over the next few months, and often things
about myself I never knew.
We will see, but at least the cat called Gemma is happy, but that is
The Salignac Foundation.
Part One: The Big Idea