jackie&john skype

In our last episode (and it WAS an episode), we revealed that our two-month winter rental in Mexico had fallen through, taking our winter vacation rental money with it. We also said we were applying as housesitters to mind three goats, five chickens, and a cat at a farmhouse in Central France. The menagerie needed tending for three months.

The house is in the Centre Region, near Poitiers, and three days later its owners, the very British John and Jackie, emailed us to schedule a Skype interview.

While we waited, Tom confidently worked on his packing list while I frantically investigated more housesitting gigs in Europe. I skipped over all the horses, the woman who ran a cat shelter, the cat with the heart condition, the incontinent elderly dog, the giant turtle, the foul-mouthed parrot, and the pooches who must sleep in bed with you and also shed big time. (“Must love vacuuming!”) I sent out twelve more inquiries.

But nothing seemed right. So, on the appointed Sunday morning, we fluffed our hair and Skyped John and Jackie in France. Finally, there we were, two couples in our 60s, face to face across an ocean. They love their house in France, but professional reponsibilities are drawing them back to the UK for three months. The goats (rescue goats) do not need milking. One must be willing to occasionally tend the donkeys at the neighbors’. The garden and swimming pool (does that spoil the image?) need no tending in winter. A river runs through it.

I explained Tom’s selling points: he knows goats, he used to raise donkeys, and he has kept chickens. Also, he can fix anything and he loves cleaning. Really.

Tom explained my single selling point for this job, which is that I speak French.

The village down the road

The village down the road. (Credit: Google Maps)

The house is on the edge of a small village with one supermarket, one bar, one restaurant, and two bakeries. This sort of serenity is vaguely terrifying for me – what, no shoe stores? No Indian restaurants? No Zumba? No bead shop? Am I really going to be forced to start that novel I’ve been postponing for forty years?

But Jackie reassured me that there was a busy community of likeminded folk from all over the UK and Europe, and a lot of things going on. Also there are bicycles and a Peugeot for us to drive (more later). There were bigger towns, possibly with shoe stores, all around in a shortish drive. A quick check of the train schedules showed me that I could be in Paris in ninety minutes. Sold.

As a final incentive, Tom whined at the end that if they did not take us, we would be homeless. This is not at all true, which John instantly spotted because he kindly said, “Sad story. Enough violins.” You can see this moment in the photograph at the top of this post: I am the world’s best left-handed air violin player and I went right into it.

They were to interview one more “young Scottish” couple and get back to us in 24 hours.

A long 24 hours they were. Tom slept with his phone next to the bed, ringer volume up. Advertisers binged us awake all night. Twenty-four hours came and went. We kept checking our phones and computers. Tom paced. Tom went to the gym. Finally he sent off an email that just said “Are we in, or are we homeless?” Not homeless maybe, but shameless for sure.

Jackie wrote back instantly with the good news.We’re in! I jumped around the living room yelling “WE’RE GOING TO FRANCE!” We texted our children, who were duly excited. We opened a bottle of cava. Tom bought a French phrase book. We made airline reservations. The next night we opened another bottle of bubbly. And we just looked at each other and said: “What do you think it will be like?”

Which is, of course, the thrill of travel. You never know what it will bring.

Three months in the French countryside. Here we go again.

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