“My mother was a schoolteacher and my father a university professor; they met when studying in London after the war. I was born in London in 1955, the middle child with an older sister and a younger brother. I went to school in a suburb in the west of London. My great passion was reading history books, but I chose to specialise in mathematics and computer science because I could get good grades with a minimum of effort.
I went to Bristol University in 1973 to study politics and history. I had various manual jobs during my studies and continued to live in Bristol after graduating in 1976 without any real direction to my life.
In 1978 I returned to London in order to try to find something more serious and found a job teaching history in a private college coaching children to pass their exams.
In this same school I met a teacher of English called Julie. My mother was a bit worried when I called her to tell her that Julie and I were getting married so that Julie could stay in England, but she was (and still is) very pleased after they had met.
I then took a three month training course in computer programming and got a job working for Nestles in south London. I stayed with them for two years and learnt about business computer systems. It wasn’t a job that I loved with a passion, but it was fairly easy, well paid, and seemed to have a good future.
We were then living in a flat in a dilapidated terrace which needed a lot of work to be made habitable. Two years later we were able to buy it.
After Nestles I worked as an independent contractor, working in several companies around London. I did a couple of contracts for a Canadian company that sold and installed life insurance systems. In 1986 this company offered me a three month contract to help install a life insurance system for the Crédit Agricole in Paris.
So we came to live in Paris. I had completely forgotten the very little French that I had learnt at school so it was an interesting adventure. I began to find the work more interesting and more rewarding, perhaps because the language barrier made it more challenging. I was working in the Crédit Agricole offices in Montparnasse and we found an apartment to rent in the 15th arrondissement.
We kapt our flat in London and rented it to my brother and his wife. To begin with we continued paying taxes in the UK, but in 1989 we had decided that we didn’t want to return so we became French tax payers.
I continued to work for the Crédit Agricole, but after the financial slowdown of 1993-5 they ended my contract. Meanwhile, we had bought a country cottage at Mahéru in the Orne department for the weekends.
After a few worrying weeks of uncertainty I was lucky enough to get a contract to help to build a new computer system to manage the exchange and settlement of securities between the big Parisian banks. This was in Noisy-le Grand in the eastern suburbs of Paris.
We sold our London flat to my brother and bought an apartment on the rue de Belleville in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. In 1999 I became a permanent employee instead of a temporary contractor.
Until my retirement in 2019 I continued to work for that company. During that time there were a lot of changes made to the financial markets, firstly in France and then internationally with the development of the EU and the introduction of the Euro. These changes meant that there was plenty of work to keep us busy. For several years I worked two days a week in Brussels, and I visited India. We often worked over the weekends and were called to fix problems during the night time. There was a good feeling of solidarity and comradeship during this time.
I had never thought about retirement because I didn’t want to lose focus, but one day in 2018 I realised that I had enough unused holidays to stop working and go and live in Mahéru.
Why Mahéru ?
By chance. In 1990 when we changed from paying tax in England to paying in France, instead of being sensible and saving to pay the arrears, we spent the money on buying a cottage in the country.
We were living in the west of Paris and we wanted somewhere less than two hours away, with a bit of land, and not too far from the sea. So, one weekend in July, we set off westwards on our motorcycle.
The house in Mahéru exceeded our expectations and was quite cheap. Isolated in a field of two acres, old apple trees, grass and wild flowers up to our waists, and the air full of butterflies. We fell for it instantly, even if the house itself had been empty for twenty years and wasn’t connected to the electricity and water.
A new life opened up of weekends spent camping in the old house. Gradually it became more civilised and we had a kitchen and a bathroom. In 2002 we even gave up the motorcycle for the comfort of a motorcar.
What I like about Mahéru :
We were very fond of our close neighbours at La Morillière. Marguerite Le Compte, Pierre and Colette Martin, but now they have all departed.
The life in the country with the birds singing in the trees, Roger Hoorelbecke’s cows passing the house every morning and evening, and the cat that chose to live in our house and to adopt us.
Wishes for Mahéru :
As weekend visitors we didn’t participate very much in the life of the commune. Now that we are permanent residents we have become more involved with some local associations, but nothing specific to Mahéru. It would be nice to have more activities here in the commune. Plant exchanges in the springtime, lending tools, helping each other with little tasks etc.
Portraits Mahusiens : « If you were… »
An animal “A dog, a bit stupid and simple, but affectionate”
A plant “A bamboo. Difficult to control, but green and cheerful in the winter”
A town “Toulouse. I have never been there but I went through the airport late one night. I imagine a town of pink bricks. One day, after covid, we will travel”
A famous person
Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881). A British Prime Minister in the 19th century. He was a great orator, he was born Jewish but still managed to rise to the highest rank. Right wing but a proponent of “one nation conservatism”, the idea that politics and the economy should work for everyone.
A historical event
Brexit – This was a shock for us, why would England vote to cut itself off from its nearest neighbours? It doesn’t really affect us because we have been French citizens since 2008, but it reduces the opportunities for young people. Things that we took for granted.
What are your passions?
Gardening, working with wood, playing the clarinet (badly…)
What are your dreams? What would you like to do, or to be?
To tour the different regions of France. This was supposed to be our retirement project. Cut short by Covid before it had even started.