On the first day of December 2016 I got an email telling me we had to move out of our rented house by 31st January. I burst into tears.
Not because I love the house. It’s a nice size, in a great place and we have fantastic neighbours, but I cried because of the stress I’d had finding the place. Landlords in Bristol hate cats. Or maybe it’s the agents, I don’t know. But if you have a cat and want to rent, you’d better be ready to live in a shit hole, or jump through a lot of hoops.
We’d begged and cajoled, written letters direct to landlords, argued and fought about how we were going to find a new place to live with two cats in the family. When the flat we’d previously rented was sold it had taken me the best part of three months – which we were fortunately granted – to find a decent house for us all. I couldn’t go through it again.
That night I lay in bed, tears dried, considering the new reality. I laughed to myself about the flippant comment I’d made back when we’d moved in, “I’m never doing that again in England,” I’d said, “If we got evicted from this house before we wanted to move I’d pull the kids from school and go to Barcelona and just work it out.”
And that, I realised, was exactly what I wanted to do. Only… Barcelona? I wasn’t sure I was ready. So what were our options?
There was a house in Italy belonging to James’ late dad’s partner. It was on the market, but it didn’t look like selling in a hurry and I thought G would be happy for us to live there until it was. We’d visited twice and loved the village. Although James was the only one with any Italian. Hmmm. The village was pretty remote too. And the house didn’t have wifi, which we would need if we were going to work remotely. I dreaded to think how long it would take in a rather remote Italian village to get wifi installed…
Then there was our small studio high in the French Alps which we’d bought at Easter with some of James’ inheritance money. It was an investment – a holiday place for us we could rent out for some income – and so that our skiing holidays essentially paid for themselves. It was 29m2. Quite small. For a family of four. With a cat and a hamster? Hmmm. For six months? But on the plus side it was warm and cosy with a view of the mountains. We’d been to the village and surrounding area a few times before we’d bought the place for mountainbiking, and we’d been at least five times since, getting the flat rennovated and ready to rent out. And going skiing! It had started to feel like our second home – we were all relaxed there – the girls would walk together through the village because it was small and safe and friendly. James and I both spoke French; the girls did a bit at school. I felt my heart flutter. The idea sat well, something about it just felt good. I signed and knew that now I would sleep. In the morning I would speak my idea out loud to James. And then it would begin to happen.