I’m currently sitting in rural France, cheese and Calvados country, where I’m continuing to work on the potential escape pod and get it up to our standard of habitation.
It’s strange how being out of the UK for a week some of the anger and horror of the UK political scene gradually ebbs. Here a couple of cars go past each hour, the local roads are virtually empty by UK standards and free of potholes, the sun is warmer, the food is excellent, the locals are friendly, there are wild flowers along the roadsides, parking in the local town is free and the loudest noise today has been the bumble bees as they bumble around searching out the early flowers. The supermarket, when it’s open, which excludes Sundays and evenings (I’m sure the neighbours didn’t believe me when I said we had a 24 hour one near us in the UK!) sells locally sourced vegetables which have far more flavour than anything in a UK one. The bread is all fresh and tasty, making UK supermarket efforts taste like plasticized cardboard. At night it’s pitch dark, the stars are stunning, with no evil orange glow from the nearest town and the silence is unbelievable, the UK has a constant background noise.
The silly thing is that I’m further inside the EU here than at home. There are corrupt politicians here, politics still happens, but it seems much more distant. I don’t think it’s because I don’t have such a stake in it. People resent long-life light bulbs and new rules on septic tanks but it’s no big deal. They tend to nod quietly and ignore the rules which make no sense or intrude too much. The French state has always been bureaucratic but fill in the forms, jump through the hoops where you have to, pay the taxes, then it leaves you alone. It doesn’t intrude all the time staring you in the face like the UK. There isn’t the micromanagement or the obsession with political correctness and health and safety. You are meant to take care of yourself, think for yourself, and take responsibility for yourself. People do just that, and also look out for their neighbours.
This area is full of small tradesmen and small businesses. As most houses are detached and well spaced small tradesmen can, and often do, work from home without disturbing anyone, many houses have basements and outbuildings. Registered tradesmen are allowed a notice in front of their house, and driving around you see not just plumbers, electricians and carpenters but there is a geo-heating engineer (at least that was what I decided it translated to) and a medical supplies distributor not far from here. In the UK they would need the overhead of an industrial unit.
This area is rural and has quite traditional values, so even Paris is somewhat like a different country. Someone once told me there were only two nationalities the locals didn’t like; Americans and Parisiens! But I think part of the relaxed attitude is because the local commune is run hands on by the elected local Mayor. The Mayor has immense power, over everything from planning to housing benefits, and while I expect there is plenty of opportunity for cronyism there is also plenty of opportunity for quick common sense actions and decisions. Everyone knows who he is and where he lives, and he knows almost everyone in the village. Things get done, the village is always clean and tidy and well maintained and every year sees a few more improvements as needs show themselves.
It’s still possible to buy a small rural house round here needing renovation for under 50,000 Euro, I wonder why anyone is left in the UK?