To answer fully would have taken all day. I had a million reasons for moving, most of which I knew she would never understand in a month of Sundays. So, to keep it simple, I explained that after working in London for 35 years the time had come to get away from it all. I needed more space, more countryside, more fresh air and more of the little things that she and her community took for granted - like fresh baguettes and lizards running up granite walls. She remained unconvinced and responded by saying "ah yes, but you have Robbie Williams and Marks & Spencer while we only have a cheap supermarket and Johnny Halliday." Her obvious love of Robbie Williams clearly confirmed that she was suffering from too much sun, or maybe an over indulgence of sensibly priced champagne - either way, another couple of darned good reasons to move here.
I was aked the same question last Friday when I visited the vet's for the dogs' annual booster vaccinations. Told the young man in the white coat that I found England claustrophobic - too many people, too many cars, too little space etc. - and that I'd initially given it a year just to see if I could handle the big step abroad. If I didn't like it, I'd go back (wasn't true of course - couldn't afford to return). Said I'd been here five years now which, considering my appalling French, he found hard to believe.
Driving back home from the vet's, I idly pondered this question further. Seems so long ago now that I can hardly remember my reasons for emigrating to the back of beyond. However, I do recall being thoroughly pissed off with that dickhead Gordon Brownarse and his insane plan to get everyone hocked up to the hilt in debt just to create a ludicrous money-go-round, thereby giving the false impression of national wealth. All seemed barking mad to me. People were spending money they just didn't have, based on the daft assumption that property prices would continue to rise. I really did find it scary. If a financial birdbrain like me could see the crash coming, how come the so-called experts couldn't? And that's one of the main reasons I got out while I could. Furthermore, as Britain was no longer a manufacturing nation, how would they ever recover? Aaaaand..., as a large proportion of the population was rapidly approaching retirement age, how would the country afford the massive expense of taking care of the elderly, especially when New Bleedin' Labour had ruined pensions and put bugger all aside in readiness for the Boomer generation hitting Zimmer frame age? All I could see was doom and gloom. I remember now.
I remember too the first time I drove along this very lane I was driving now. I had just met up with the son-in-law of the house seller and was following him to view the wreck for the very first time - he in a little white van and me aboard a Honda Fireblade motorcycle. I'd whizzed over to France to view a shack about thirty miles away. Thought it'd make an ideal holiday home. Arrived at the estate agent's to be told that they'd sold it the previous day. So I was now operating 'plan B' - the viewing of another potential holiday home, simply out of idle curiosity. Didn't really fancy it from the description or the region but, as I was here, I thought I'd may as well ring up and arrange a viewing. So there I was, driving along that lane following that little van.
Despite being in a mood that matched the grey weather, I remember being uplifted by the beauty of the valley lane as it curved left and right following what appeared to be a little river. After a couple of miles, the route zigged and zagged up a forest hill to a tiny hamlet where the van in front hung a left around a church and came to a halt by a dilapidated house. First impressions are always important. The house was rubbish but it had good proportions, big rooms, some interesting stonework and a marvellous view (not that I could see much through the morning mist). There was a certain peace and character about the place that clicked. I didn't want to like it but I did. Or maybe it was that ride along the valley that did it.
Even after five or six years of driving that valley road, it still continues to enthrall. Especially at this time of year on a sunny day. So, returning home from the vet's pondering reasons for coming here, I decided to stop off and give it further thought down by the valley stream. Here surely was one of many good answers to the question of 'why?': a beautiful valley, a babbling brook, a sunny day with honeysuckle scent, totally quiet with no sign of cars or people, just a distant herd of cattle and a passing hawk..., take your pick. But if I cited any of them as reasons for settling here, neither the vet nor my neighbour would really understand. They'd think I was barking. But it makes a whole heap of sense to me.