En Gard: Reflections of rural France

Sandy Thompson writes: Moving from an English city to a French village is like moving to Pluto. Another world. Not exactly the chance to re-invent yourself, more an opportunity to be the person you always knew you were – given half a chance. ‘En Gard’ describes the adjustments and the changes we have undergone, in attitude, in manners, in the colour of our socks. There are daily adventures, excitement and traumas, and some straightforward hard slog. The book is a patchwork; a reflection of our lives here. It also includes what Steinbeck called ‘hoopdedoodle’; descriptive asides in the form of letters to friends.

We found our house on the Internet. It was both beautiful and cheap. It turned out to be in a lovely village, in a lovely part of the Gard department in the far South – but old and neglected.

The main characters in the book are ourselves, and our neighbours, a gypsy family of seven. They have dragged us kicking and screaming, singing and dancing, into French rural life. Our understanding of all things French has been accelerated by our relationship with them; what is important and what isn’t, the nuances, the food and wine and especially the pastis. They live life passionately and not always happily or smoothly. Life alongside them is a dangerous cocktail of guns and alcohol, pig rustling, horse racing, ‘Ann Summers’ parties, a capella singing and much more.