Welcome to A Couple of Cornflakes in France, the diary of two people living-out the dream that began in 1991 and never faded. We hope you like our site, and visit often, journeying with us as we restore this 1920’s French home to its former glory.
In the Beginning:
Our French Adventure began in a shepherds’ hut in the Pyrenees in the summer of 1991. Rob was fencing a stretch of land across the ridge of the mountains to mark a border between opposing villages. The local people could not agree about the land and thus a scheme was developed to separate their roaming livestock.
Whilst we enjoyed the sound of bells ringing ‘Heidi’ style from the necks of herds of sheep and horse, the local villagers looked on as their great delineation plan took shape. No longer would horses from one side of the mountain stray to the other; unless, of course, they made their way leisurely around the end of the fence – the money did not stretch to fencing the entire mountain range – just a section.
And so our love of l’Hexagone was born in the mountains; crouching in the shade of tractor wheels for a daily lunch of local cheese, dried meats and crusty bread, showering en plein air with a makeshift shower fashioned from a black hosepipe and a tin can wound around the chimney. The hose was supposed to warm the water in the sun creating a less breath-taking ablution – it didn’t work. That summer we celebrated Bastille Day at the running of the bulls in Céret – a safer version than Pamplona where contestants chase the bulls down the street with the aim of grabbing the ribbon (and prize-money) from their heads.
The following year, Rob fenced a plot of parkland in the Loire in preparation for La Chasse. Tens of kilometres of deer fencing along with cattle grids that could lose a small child were erected in order to keep the wild deer and boar neatly contained for the arrival of autumn’s orange-clad hunters, and we spent several happy months in a ramshackle farmhouse on the park. We made our own furniture from spare fence posts and ate outside every evening, cooking on wood fires and chatting over tumblers of wine until we could no longer see the telegraph pole at the corner of the field. We grew accustomed to buying from the local markets – seasonal veg that hadn’t seen a tap never mind been thrust into swathes of plastic and meat that was raised so wholesomely we almost knew the name of each cow. Chickens came with heads and feet attached and fish was so fresh you could have revived it with a bucket of water. And we always said we would return.
The following years saw travel around the globe; lengthy trips to Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, the obligatory car purchasing-road trip around Australia, cultural stays in Cambodia, Cuba. We did everything independently, including building our own house back in the UK, raising pigs, chickens, geese. And we continued to say we would return to France.
When you reach the point that you prefer a 1000 mile round trip from just North of Manchester to Boulogne-sur-Mer in order to purchase decent wine; when you realise that you know the layout of Auchan by heart but still struggle with your local Tesco then that’s the point when you need to make the decision.
It’s taken from 2011 when we first put together a plan for selling our house (but that’s a whole other story) and has necessitated many rejuvenating trips across the channel to keep our cave and our esteem fully topped but now we are here.
On September 28th 2014 at just before midnight we stepped across the threshold to our new life with just a basic plan, a lot of ambition and, above all, a love of all things French that we have nurtured and developed over the last two and a half decades.