Neighbours. The programme, not the ones next door. People just popping in. Having time and space to yourself but knowing that someone will come by with shortbread or maybe farmhouse fruitcake if you're lucky, and tell you to hoover and clean out the fire- but not before a cup of tea. Fish And Chips has acquired almost holy status. I couldn't tell you the last time I had it, not in March, not at Christmas, not in September... a year has passed without fish and chips. This is how I know I have been abroad, even though most of the time it feels like I could be anywhere; it's a different life but still one with British friends, days with tea and cakes and nights out with beers and dancing, painting with my own old oil paints. How do I know I'm in France? The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and creperies are so everyday I barely notice them. (Yes, I am so blasé and Parisien, get me.) No, it's that I'm painting still lifes, and rooftops with chimney pots under illuminated skies, and every sketch of a picnic in the park features a bottle of wine or six.
Watching Gavin and Stacey is a big fat slice of home. We watch it when we're feeling a bit down or homesick. Then it makes us laugh at the truth in it, the ridiculousness of their and our friends, the nightclub scenes and at the fact the French wouldn't get it at all. And because I had the same car as Gavin, but with
better seat belts; multi-coloured. Then it makes us cry, because Nessa has her baby. And because if we love home so much (we'd have Smithy's baby if we could) why are we determined to keep moving on, going somewhere else?
It's all very well our friends having babies, careers, houses, live-in boyfriends and a settled, all-laid-out life; but we reckon that there's something else we should do first. We hope that by travelling, working badly paid jobs for pocket money, improving our languages, and meeting all kinds of dodgy characters that we're not wasting time. We're spending time, making excellent, unforgettable friends and memories, even when we're doing nothing, or sitting in a clinic waiting room for 3 hours on a sunny day. We'll remember these days and they'll make bloody good stories- they already do- and when (if the experience hasn't put us off the idea FOREVER) we have children, their friends will think we're really cool because we 'travelled'. 'When I lived in Paris for a year' does have a certain ring to it.
Anyways, even if it's a complete waste of time, I'm not stopping! (Au-pairing- hell yes, but general mainland European life- no.) Scotland, Tunnocks, and fish suppers will always be there. Touch wood. And in the meantime, just because it's temporary, doesn't mean it's not home.