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Barry Paton continues his monthly diary about the Salignac Film Foundation in France

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 time.

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


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 the unknown.

So with all these thoughts, I became , as you can imagine, a little confused.
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 another story.

Fiona Alderman
The Salignac Foundation.

Part One: The Big Idea

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