The Saga of Starting Afresh in the Old Country

I’ve moaned about it whenever I had a fasciculi(?) of internet connection. I’ve gone all dark and dramatic, hinting at technological conspiracies and unfinished business involving trained assassins sent by the French tax authorities. I’ve suffered the slings and arrows of utility companies, local councils, applications for local schools and goods damaged in transit.

So yes, I think you might have gathered that I’ve moved between countries and that I’ve not gone quietly or elegantly.

The carnival of moving...
The carnival of moving…

After 12 international moves and having lived in 20-30 different houses or flats over the years (I’m not counting the places I have lived in for 2 months or less), I have the feeling I never want to move again. Nomadism is for young people, I tell myself. So much easier to do with a couple of suitcases (filled with books and shoes, naturally) than with children, furniture, kitchen ware and everything else.

I know other people’s house moves are deadly boring, but bear with me for one last whinge and I promise afterwards to turn forevermore to reading and other, more interesting and intellectual occupations.

Low points:

  • Leaving a very beautiful location before I was quite ready to let go
  • Moving to an older, more decrepit house which requires quite a bit of renovation (for which I don’t have the money). The first time I touched the kitchen drawer, the front came apart in my hands. Finding all sorts of little things wrong with the house after 3 sets of tenants in 5 years.
  • Not having phone or internet for 2 weeks or more – and realising that you can’t apply for or order things if you don’t have a phone number
  • Not being able to find the most important stuff, while finding pretty much all the useless stuff which you should have thrown out before moving
  • Not having enough UK plugs or adaptors. Remembering they are up in the loft somewhere but being unable to find them in the forest of boxes quietly crumbling away up there. Learning to live once more with unmixed taps.


  • No storage space to unpack all the boxes and therefore no easy access to clothes and other items. (Those built-in wardrobes in France covered a multitude of sins).
  • The first time I plugged in my laptop in the UK, it died. Same thing with my tablet. I also had to get a new phone. So that meant no writing, reading, tweeting or administrating … because yes, I couldn’t remember my passwords and I had to log on from other people’s devices and I must have been driving everyone (including myself) crazy with finding quirky new ways to prove my identity.
  • Starting to look for permanent positions in my field and realising that I will be sacrificing either my time and soul or else money (and my children’s welfare) doing work I no longer quite believe in.
  • Being really tired all the time and anxious about losing track of something important

But it’s not all noir (despite my fondness for the dark side). There have been some highlights too:

  • Our friends in the local area are very excited to have us back and have made us feel very welcome. There are advantages to moving back to a familiar place rather than somewhere completely new.
  • We are close to London and I’ve already had a wonderful day there, watching ‘The Threepenny Opera’ at the National Theatre, and mooching around on the South Bank. After years of living in a rural backwater, you can’t help but be energised by London’s cultural life and metropolitan vibe (as long as you avoid rush hour, of course).


  • The countryside is close by if you do get tired of the city, and we are fortunate enough to live in quite a pretty area, reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows. Best of both worlds!
Finding Mr. Toad and his motor again at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.
Finding Mr. Toad and his motor again at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.
  • It’s so easy to set up services, complain about things and do all the administrative twaddle in English rather than French. I feel I actually know what I’m talking about!
  • Being reunited with old possessions (I am referring, of course, mainly to books, but also my elephant collection or my children’s early artworks and photographs).
  • Closer to publishers, literary events, English language bookshops and libraries. My children nearly fainted with excitement at seeing a whole library full of books in English, instead of just the 1-2 shelves they would see in the local libraries in France.

Still, for the time being, this is how I feel most evenings…

After her long road trip, our cat collapsed in her new home, in the conservatory.
After her long road trip, our cat collapsed in her new home, in the conservatory.

38 thoughts on “The Saga of Starting Afresh in the Old Country”

  1. Oh, I can relate to the trials of moving, Marina – not that I’ve done it as often as you, or internationally but some things seem universal. Two weeks plus for phone and internet connections… and I’m still finding things that have been missing since we got here. Hope you’re settling in a little now and picking up the threads again. Nice to have you posting again! 🙂

    1. Patience is not one of my virtues, so I am struggling to remember that all things will be in place eventually. Thank you for your good wishes – and it’s lovely to be online again!

  2. Welcome back! Moving house is such a chore and I can’t imagine doing it internationally. I hope you and your family are settling in well and adjusting to the changes. Lovely to see you back online, wishing you all the very best for your new home 🙂

  3. Sounds positive, all things considered. I rather like the unmixed taps 🙂 Also, a bit of an offline break – just get a local mobile phone – while you re-organize can take some of the pressure off! But sorry we won’t meet when I visit your “rural backwater” new autumn!

  4. I have a feeling you’re going to be here for a while and you have all the reasons for it to grow in appreciation when you can finally see this move with hindsight, the positives are all quite exciting and the rest will sort itself out, just listen to your instinct and take a cat nap nap now and then, sensible pussy cat! 🙂

    1. I know you’ve had your fair share of moving as well, so you can fully understand. I missed this house while I was away, but now I see all its shortcomings as well – it will be fine once I do all the renovations, but it may be many years in the making!

  5. Welcome back. The upheaval sounds nightmarish so I think you’re allowed a small moan. I hope things settle down soon, it sounds as if there’s loads of positives to where you are now.

    1. I’ve just had a walk by the river today with the boys, watching the boats go through the locks, and admiring the lush greenery, so yes, it’s not a bad place to live… I promise to make the moan as small as possible!

  6. I’ve been lucky enough not to move for many years although we did have the house turned upside down for months while our basement was converted into an office during which time I was still working at home. Never again! I hope you’re soon feeling as happy and comfortable in as your gorgeous cat looks.

    1. Ugh, I can almost cope with a kitchen rebuild (although that meant microwaved meals off paper plates for 2 months when we did it in the last house), but my office is sacrosanct. Otherwise I’d never be able to find anything again. Speaking of which, I am still searching for a hundred odd documents…

  7. Glad you made it in one piece Marina, though it does sound really stressful. Hopefully things will come together soon and at least you have familiar surroundings and friends – which is really important!

    1. I agree with you – having the friends is really important. When we moved to France, we had the familiar surroundings (more or less, as we had lived there for 18 months before), but it took a while to make friends, while being still as much of an upheaval with the move, so it was very depressing to start off.

  8. The worst is behind you now. Bon courage pour la rentrée scolaire. I hope the children won’t forget all their French.

    PS : you forgot one positive thing regarding this move. You moved before UK is out of the EU. Things will be more complicated after. 🙂

  9. It sounds as though you’re having quite the time of it getting re-settled, Marina Sofia! I don’t blame you one bit for your complete exhaustion. And it sounds as though you’ve had your fair share of annoyances and difficulties. Still, I’m glad you’re settled safely in. It’s wonderful to hear you’ve found a pretty location and a place where you can have the best of both worlds. I wish you well as you unpack and next.

    1. It would be lovely (and so much easier) if everything worked the first time, wouldn’t it? It’s the phoning and reconfirming everything 3 times that gets me down!

    1. See, see… all my foreign friends understand the problem of unmixed taps, but my English ones don’t, or think I’m being too pernickety or exaggerating.

      1. I still remember having to use some rubber contraption if I wanted to wash my hair, which fell off the taps at the worst moment, squirting water everywhere! Meanwhile, one side burned while the other froze!

  10. Oh, Marina! You poor thing. It’ll settle, but it’s so hard when it’s still all a crazy blur. And YES, unmixed taps are SO irritating.

  11. Yes, indeed, we seem to acquire more and more as we go along and moving turns into a nightmare! I used to move every couple of years, but now I’m stuck – couldn’t face it! Not until they drag me over to the old folks home across the road anyway… 😉 Glad you made it… it’ll feel like “home” soon!

  12. I love it that unmixed taps is a downside! Brilliant blog Marina. I feel your pain. I hate moving, which is why I do it so rarely (I’ve lived in 3 houses my entire life), but it sounds like you’ve landed in a good place and, once settled, I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

  13. I’m late to this party but wanted to chime in and say I hope things are settling down for you now. I think I moved about 12 or 13 times in the years between 18 and 30 (including moving to the UK then back again 18 months later), then things settled down.When I bought this house 4 years ago I designated it the forever house. You’re right – moving is a young person’s game

    1. Ah, a fellow nomad… you understand perfectly what I mean. I’ve started gardening, and if that isn’t a sign that I intend to settle down, I don’t know what is!

  14. I’ve moved loads too – and we’re hoping to move again soon as our current landlord turns it into a battle if we need any repairs. Arguing over £25 to unblock a toilet while he’s away diving somewhere hot, judging by the time difference in his e-mails. This house is the sort that, when being sold, comes with the warning, “Needs upgrading.” Which he hasn’t done. Like you, I’ll be happy when I’m back in civilization in Glasgow. The move will be hell, but obviously not as bad as yours! I’ll be able to get back into education too.

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