Tag Archives: work

Refresh — Regroup — Relaunch

You may have noticed a significant absence of posts for the last three months — and that’s because Mark has been working away like a busy little bee over in the 1400s house. And I’ve been carefully building a base of clients for my writing and editing business.

We took a much-needed weekend escape at the end of February — over to the far western side of Normandy in beachside Brehal. We didn’t do a lot — ate, slept, read, watched movies, and had a few outings in the icy cold weather. But it was a good break and we came back feeling refreshed.

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

On an afternoon drive along the seacoast, we stumbled upon this medieval chateau ruin from the 14th Century in Regneville sur Mer and had a quick walk around. It’s a tiny but very pretty village facing the sea.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

What was meant to be a short hop back over to England for Mark’s parents’ 40th anniversary party ended up being a two week visit instead. It’s always wonderful to visit with them and see all of the other assorted family and friends, but everyone in the house ended up sick as could be with whatever lurghi was hanging around England at the time and I ended up in A&E getting meds for a chest infection when our local GP couldn’t see me. Aarrgghh!

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

We arrived back in France exactly 4 weeks after our icy cold visit to the seaside in Brehal — and everything here at the farmhouse in Notre Dame de Fresnay had burst into bloom!

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Down by the duck pond.

Down by the duck pond.

We’re preparing to move on from here in three very compressed weeks. But we’re headed to the OTHER large house belonging to the owners of this house — and we’ll be there for 6 weeks whilst Mark does renovation work on it. I’ll send pictures of that project as it progresses.

The REGROUP and RELAUNCH part of the title refers to us regrouping, going over to England for several weeks at the end of June, and trying to decide if we want to settle down or continue to work and travel for awhile longer. That’s a longer stand-alone post about the turbulent social and political factors at play here in Europe right now, so we’ll save that for another time.

I have to be truthful, it’s one of those things that sneaks up on you a bit as you get older — the mental cushion of a home base. And right now our ‘home base’ is a huge storage unit full of our possessions in England — one we refer to far too often when we reach for something and then realise that it’s in the $%^&£@! storage unit!

In the next couple of months, we will be relaunching ourselves away from here. And I have ALSO just relaunched my personal website — but I’ll leave that for a follow-up post.

Back soonish!

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From AU to the UK to the EU in 5 weeks!

I’m tired just thinking about it — but we have gone from Australia to the UK to France in the very short space of 5 weeks. Seriously — whew!

We don’t bounce back energy-wise as fast as we did 20+ years ago — so we were well into Week 2 in England at Mark’s parents’ house before we started to shed SOME of the jet-lag. But even when we first arrived in France in the 3rd week of November, we were still exhausted.

Once we had the shopping and car insurance and ferry reservations and so forth sorted out, we drove in the wind and rain to Portsmouth to take the night ferry to Caen. I had booked a cabin so we could get some sleep, but the staff hadn’t finished cleaning the rooms when we arrived, so we ended up getting very few hours of shut-eye.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Arriving in France, we drove through persistent rain towards Caen and then south to the town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives and onward to the nearby village where we will be living for the next several months as Mark does a large renovation project.

The house was built over several centuries — but the oldest section is from the 1400s. And the part we are living in — the red brick section — is from the 1800s. We even have a resident mouser named (badly!) Caramel who SHOULD be named Rocky because he’s such a sturdy bruiser of a cat. However (ahem!) — he has now adopted Mark and he follows him around like a puppy. So much for the cat’s stand-offish reputation!

The Normandy renovation project.

The Normandy renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark's new playmate -- the cat in residence.

Mark’s new playmate — the cat in residence.

The town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives is quite stunning and given the fact that they were occupied by the German army during World War II — a remarkable amount of truly old and lovely buildings are intact.

Every Monday morning, there is a large local market that takes place both inside the medieval market hall (another post about that coming soon!) and in the nearby street and huge parking lot. The range of fresh produce, cheese, wine, meat, seafood, and more was a wonderful surprise.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

And finally — a hello from our next door neighbours on ALL sides — the lovely cows of Normandy. I’ll be back with more slices of life-in-France in the next few days. Enjoy!

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

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Being Brave and Bouncing Back

Global turmoil and sudden economic instability are beginning to feel less like out-of-the-blue events and more like a set of ongoing challenges to deal with in perpetuity.

To look specifically at the UK and realise that the ‘architects of destruction’ — Cameron, Gove, Johnson, and Farage — have ALL resigned in the two weeks since they schemed and plotted to unravel the decades old alliance with Europe — who could have even imagined such a thing? No matter who ends up inheriting the reins of power as the successors to BREXIT, they will need to have carefully considered solutions ready to implement without delay.

Enough of politics for now…

After our ‘body-blow and mental angst’ reaction to BREXIT — my husband Mark thought he was prepared to just summon up a stiff upper lip and stay in Australia even if it wasn’t our first choice. But then, after two or three days of feeling shell-shocked by that decision, he told me that he hadn’t realised how badly he was going to feel if Europe was totally off the table as an option. That was an interesting admission from the sort of man who usually just gets on with things without whinging. I’m going to be honest — we were both wandering around in a fog and deeply depressed.

We’ve had a variety of ups and downs and rapid changes in our 22 and 1/2 years together, so it isn’t surprising that we were able to brush ourselves off, infuse ourselves with some bravery, and bounce back. It is clear now that whether or not BREXIT is ever actually enacted — there are going to be several years of transition. And during that transition period, we still have a chance to get back to Europe, get back ‘in the system’ in one country or another, and sink our roots into a part of the world that brings us joy.

I called our previously chosen real estate agent, he came over on Tuesday night and we signed our listing papers, and on Wednesday he brought the staff of his office through on a brief tour so that they knew what the house looked like and what the pertinent features were.

In the weeks ahead, I plan to keep you apprised of our progress as we hopefully sell quickly because the market is simply plummeting right now. Brexit didn’t just knock the stuffings out of the financial markets in the UK — it bounced half way around the world and punched us in the gut, too. The value of our tiny pensions have dipped, the banks are suddenly tightening up the money supply, and according to our real estate agent — the values of houses here in our town are a stunning 16% lower than they were a mere six months ago. The time to go is now — not a few years from now.

Wish us luck — seriously! Good vibes add to the energy of success and we need to summon up as much of that as possible. And where are we heading? First stop — back to our beloved France!

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

And perhaps Mark will be watching the Tour de France LIVE again next year instead of on television. He would love that.

Allons-y!

Copyright ©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
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Haven’t Disappeared Altogether — REALLY!

It has been ever so long since I updated the site and there are a lot of reasons for that. Short explanation…

1. Some health issues (now completely resolved!)
2. Buying a house
3. Moving and unpacking (and that is still an in-process situation)
4. Renovating

Additional delaying factors…
1. Trying to decide whether to stay in Australia or go straight back to Europe
2. Busy with the stock photography (surprisingly, on the upswing!) and uploading
3. Writing not one but TWO books.
4. Being a total nut-case and signing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and trying to produce 50,000 words of a rough draft novel in 1 month. Did it — in 15 days with not enough sleep. But the novel isn’t done and will probably end up being about 70,000 words. So yes, I still have the rest of November to slog away.

 

NaNoWriMoCertificate

 

Got oddly Mother Earth-ish (small doses!) and decided to try doing a smidge of gardening after over decade away from that and have been remarkably successful thus far.
 

Freshly planted garden bed.

Freshly planted garden bed.


 

Seriously? It has been so long since I did one of these posts that I had to go back and refresh my memory on the html coding!

Plan to TRY and do better with keeping up on this site once again. Lots of things are percolating now that our lives have settled down and there are some big plans afoot.

Also — am rebuilding my portfolio with a new agency. Plan to upload weekly (fingers crossed!) or more often examples so you can see what’s up for sale as stock. As soon as I get several more dozen images up, I will post a link. In the meantime, here’s an example of what I will have on there for one time rights.

 

Sydney Harbour Bridge on a stormy day.

Sydney Harbour Bridge on a stormy day.


 

More soon!

 

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A Taxing Situation in France

We still ache for France — we cannot lie about that. And when people here ask us why in the world we returned to Australia, we tell them quite honestly that we were unwilling to throw away any chance of EVER retiring in 20 years simply because the French government wanted 53% of our income in taxes. And so we are back.

The situation is apparently even worse now and we’ve only been gone a few months! This article in The Local from France shares the latest tax rate being imposed on the population — a whopping 56.61%!!! But we had barely finished gasping at that number as I read it aloud to Mark when I added the information about the planned increase in 2014.

How in the name of all that is sensible and reasonable can people survive on less than 44% of their income??? The current French policies are ruining the future of their country. And reading this article today has simply reaffirmed to us that we have made the correct decision for our future.

Yes, we miss our former French life and yes, we might eventually purchase a small house back there for our retirement years, but no, we will most certainly NOT be paying such a huge whopping chunk of our income to President Hollande and his cronies. It’s a personal opinion, but I think the future of France is being washed away as more and more young people leave France as soon as their education is complete and more and more older expats choose to opt for France as their country of residency if and only if they are retired. These trends are sad, chilling, and quite counterproductive for a place that we love so dearly.

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A Tiny and Pretty Dusting of Snow

There you go — I have changed the Weather Widget! Now you can see what the conditions are as we travel around the UK.

In contrast to the bucket loads of snow that has been dumped on the USA and parts of the UK, we had a charming bit of snowy dusting yesterday morning — not a lot, as you can see, but just enough to sparkle, look pretty, and NOT make the roads treacherous. And we had errands to run in the afternoon, so it was good not to fret about road conditions or whether icy streets have been visited by the grit truck.
 

A small & soft snowfall across the deck toward the garage & garden.


 

View out the side window toward ever-so-slightly snowy Norfolk fields.


 

We’ve locked in the first of our travel dates and we’re leaving Norfolk around the 20th-22nd of February. First stop — Newcastle. It’s a place that’s been of interest to us for awhile — ever since reading several articles about how Newcastle had changed its industrial image and had become a vibrant place with a strong cultural scene including museums, film festivals, and art galleries. We are quite looking forward to this!

Back to work. I’m trying to sort out my huge photo backlog!

More soon…

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Hugely Busy — And I Never Left My Chair!

It wasn’t exactly the day I had planned, but we are certainly hoping that it was productive. Since we’ve received the newest information from the immigration department over the last couple of days, we’ve learned that they expect Mark to get straight to work if he is sponsoring me to be a new resident — not travel around on a wee holiday whilst mulling over this spot or that. We may still get to do a bit of that travel in the next few weeks, but it is quite likely to be a very reduced schedule. Ah well…

After writing a new CV for Mark this morning that reflected the last year of working in France and then getting the hang on the online upload functions of several websites, I have managed to upload Mark’s CV and cover letters for 3 positions today. The 4th position was with a town council in North Yorkshire and there was an 8 page application form to fill out that included all sorts of scenarios like how would the candidate respond to this or that situation and whether or not we were related to anyone on the local council. THAT one took hours to complete!

We’re feeling so happy and optimistic right now. And wouldn’t it be simply grand if we landed in a new place that we just loved?

Everything is going well for us personally, we’re finding it easier in so many ways since we are back in a place where we can understand every word that is said instead of straining our brains for a translation, access to something as basic as eye tests and dentists is easy and straightforward (definitely NOT the case in our part of France!), and in spite of the very bizarre food scandal involving horse-meat being sold as beef in the UK, life is good and we are very pleased to be back in England.

There are big FAT snowflakes falling softly outside as I type this. Life is good!

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