French Onion Soup! tells the story of a mad Scotsman (me) taking his family to live in France.
It’s full of hilarious anecdotes as well as lots of useful information that you’ll need if you are planning something similar. Most of all, perhaps, there is lots of humour…because moving to a different country will make you laugh or cry, and laughing is a lot more fun.
Brilliantly funny tales of the life of a mad Scotsman, his wife, children, two dogs and a cat, who escaped the rat-race to live their dream in a country house in France. In 1993, photographer, journalist and Francophile, Rod Fleming and his artist wife bought a house in France. French Onion Soup! is the first in a series of books describing their life in France.
Today I am spitting nails. I see that I have been lied to. Germany is not the good European nation it sells itself as. It is the same bullying, totalitarian monster it always has been. (This article was written in 2015; things are a lot worse now, in 2022.)
Today I am furious.
And why? Because I have seen Germany destroy a weaker nation for political ends. I have seen Germany destroy all notion of European solidarity. I have seen Germany reveal its true self — the monstrous bully of Europe that cannot suffer dissent and insists that its orders must be followed, on pain of destruction.
In 1871 Germans failed. In 1914 they failed. In 1939-45 they failed — although defeating them cost 72 million lives and the destruction of Europe, not to mention the horror of the Holocaust.
But in 2015 they have succeeded. They have finally achieved their end. They have crushed a sovereign nation, not with tanks and bombers, but with threats and usury.
There can be no question that actually finding a property is one of the most exciting phases of the whole process of acquiring a house in France.
The doorstep that is two inches too low to prevent the quagmire outside seeping into the house, the drainage system made of two-inch pipe that turns the courtyard into a lake when it blocks, which of course it will do several times every winter, the dripping and split gutters, the multitude of little leaks in the roof, the rising damp and the access road that has turned into a single-lane swamp. All of these delights will provide you and your partner – if you have one – with hours of after-dinner chat.
La Fete de la Revolution, also called Bastille Day, was a major celebration in Molinot, the village where I live in France. Every fourteenth of July, the village attracted visitors form all over the surrounding areas, because of the lavish entertainment. Today, it is but a ghost of its past self, but in the early years of the century it was a huge affair, and the children from the village school all took part and put on a mime show. As always, willing adults were drafted in to help.
In 2002 the theme was The Wild West — with a very French flavour.
In 2002, only twenty years ago now, La Fete de la Revolution was still a huge event in Molinot. Sadly this is no longer the case as the life of the village has collapsed as the French country side empties. We were lucky to see it when we did, and to experience the rural life of the Arriere Cote. It is gone and will never come back.
Our memories, however, are happy and something at least of Molinot and our dream life in France is preserved in these images and my writing. I doubt if I’ll ever see another La Fete de la Revolution there, but the ones I remember were amazing. We saw something really special and if the locals did not quite understand us, they made up for it in kindness and the warmth of their welcome.
You can read about all of this in my hilarious French Onion Soup! series of books. The second, Croutons and Cheese! was launched in September 2017.
Penetrating damp is the result of water coming through the walls.
Once you’re sure no water is coming through the roof by following the previous articles in this category—and the saving grace of that kind of leak is that it is very obvious and marks its presence clearly—the next issue is this one. Here’s an excellent overview of the problem.
I’ll take time for another of my provocative asides here. I’m pretty convinced—actually I am totally convinced—that there is no significant problem of rising damp in most traditionally built houses, at least as long as they have been left that way. Note that last bit. I’ll come back to this later.
Meantime, if we discount the possibility of rising damp in most cases, we must look elsewhere for the source of water and there are two issues to address here.
Damp in your old house and how to deal with it. Part Two in a series explaining where damp in old buildings comes from and what you can do to combat it. Most of the advice is applicable anywhere.
Before worrying about how to get rid of dampness that is already in the house, it makes sense to make sure no more can get it first. There are a number of important areas where unwanted moisture can make it into your house. The roof is the easiest to deal with so we’ll tackle it first.
Just about the first thing that everyone notices when they get their dream house in France, and I base this on an admittedly unscientific but extensive post-prandially-conducted survey, is the damp. Unless they have bought in the Midi, of course. For those further north or west, it is a big issue.
Ask anyone yourself. You’ll soon see that this is the case. You might be forgiven for thinking that parts of France were perpetually under water, from the stories you hear. They’re not; it just can seem that way.
In order to get some sense of perspective on this, let’s examine a few facts. Large areas of France are indeed very wet. A quick glance at the map will show that weather systems coming in from the Atlantic under the prevailing westerly wind have a choice; they can either swing up north and east and drench Wales, Ireland, the north west of England and of course Scotland, or they can slip in over the Bay of Biscay and take up residence in France, where they will be nicely bottled up due to the fact that from the Med to the Rhine Basin there is a rampart of mountains which prevents any further progress.
I understand that this is to do with the exact position of the jetstream, a system of ferocious winds at very high altitude.
Normally, summers in Central France are reasonably dry and very warm. Just what the holidaymaker likes, apparently, and perfect for ripening all that lovely plonk.
Not for the French the quaint Anglo-Saxon habit of neighbouring towns staggering their half-days—or even taking half-days in the first place.
On Monday, the whole of France is as dead as that chap they poisoned on St Helena. You know the one. In fact, I think he was responsible for it. And of course, the reason is quite fair; all the shops are open on Saturday so that the people who don’t work in shops can do their shopping, and why should the commercants and their staff not enjoy a proper two-day weekend?