I am lucky that my job as a freelance writer is very portable. It doesn't matter whether I write from a Victorian townhouse in Stamford or a petite chateau in France. Writing from home I don't tend to put on any make up, do my hair or bother getting dressed properly. In Stamford unannounced visitors to the house were few and far between, but here in France there is always someone coming down the drive.
I was sat at the kitchen table one day last week working away dressed in some flowery pyjama bottoms and a big chunky knit, my hair scraped up on top of my head. It was a particularly grey and murky day and there was a very autumnal chill in the air before the sun could burn its way through. I'd lit the fire but I was still chilly so I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders.
Tim had gone out to buy me tumble dryer so when I heard a car come up the drive beeping its horn I assumed it was him coming back and demanding my help to carry it into the house. I flung open the back door, still wrapped in my blanket, to be confronted, not by Tim, but by the post woman.
We'd been sent a letter from the postal service asking us to move our post box to the very end of the drive way and she wanted to know if we'd received it? At that point every word of French I knew evaporated from my brain. I tried to explain that yes we had the letter, that we had bought a new box and Tim was going to put it up in the next few days. But the words wouldn't come. I could feel my face getting redder and redder and my glasses started to steam up. I flailed around for the right words and tried to start about 20 sentences without getting anywhere.
In the end she left with a wry smile, utterly convinced that Tim was at that very moment off somewhere making us a new post box. No doubt everyone in the village heard all about the crazy English woman in her flowery pyjamas, wrapped in a blanket and her husband who passes his time making post boxes.
So now I make sure I get properly dressed every morning - and it's a good job too because happily the visitors haven't stopped coming. One of my biggest worries about moving somewhere so rural and out of the way was that we would find it hard to meet people and make friends - but we have been lucky.
The farmer, Michel Dupont, who keeps his cows in the fields around our house knocked on the door on the day we arrived. He pops up every day or so and takes Tim off in his car to count the cows or discuss some branches that need cutting down here and there.
Alain, our nearest neighbour who lives across the field, invited us over for an apéro and we spent three and a half hours with him and his daughter Fred, drinking wine and pastis and discussing the best places to by bread and rilettes in the Sarthe - half in French and half in English.
A lovely mum at the boy's school has kindly invited us all to Sunday lunch - though the trip has been delayed because there is wheat to plant before the autumn gets much further along. We even bumped into the local Mairie wending his way down our very long drive to see us after we paid him a visit at his office.
Our French is slowly getting better, though in certain situations I still go red in the face and have to keep taking my glasses on and off to clear away the fog. We can make ourselves understood though and everyone is happy to chip in with any bits of English they happen to have or help us to find the right words.
Progress with the renovations is slow. Every job seems to require a piece of a equipment we don't own so we find ourselves going backwards and forwards to the hardware store on an almost daily basis. There are bees in one of the chimneys, the gutters are full of leaves and our ladder doesn't reach, and we have an ancient and leaking fosse septic that has meant at points, when we've had guests, we've been down to one loo between ten people.
It's been hard to know where to start, so while the weather is good, with the help of our friends Dale and Claire who have come from England with us to work on the house, we've been tidying up outside and trying to get to grips with owning more than a tiny bit of garden. I have dug out more roots than I care to count and we crawl into bed at night physically tired to sleep flat out until the children wake us up in the morning.
At times we've both felt overwhelmed and like we need someone grown up to tell us what to do next. But slowly we are making progress, tracking down the right people to speak to and hopefully soon we'll have some artisans ready to start sorting out the plumbing and rewiring so we can start restoring all the fun bits.