Living France - - LIFESTYLE -

Hav­ing re­tired from his job in the Po­lice force, Christopher Jackson, 61, moved to Creuse with his wife Anne, 59, in 2007. Keen to in­te­grate, rather than be­come part of a Bri­tish ‘clique’, Chris vol­un­teered for var­i­ous lo­cal com­mit­tees, such as the comité d’an­i­ma­tion (which or­gan­ises lo­cal events) on ar­rival. “I didn’t want us to be known as the ‘Bri­tish couple’,” he ex­plains, “but sim­ply as Chris and Anne.”

Chris first ran for the coun­cil in 2008 when he was ap­proached by the would-be leader of a group op­pos­ing the in­cum­bent team. “There were two teams of 15 for the elec­tion, and un­for­tu­nately I was on the team that lost!” he ad­mits. “It didn’t really bother me though, as I’m not par­tic­u­larly po­lit­i­cal. It was just a way of ex­press­ing my in­ter­est in be­ing in­volved lo­cally.”

How­ever, in 2014 with the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions loom­ing, Chris was ap­proached again. “Some coun­cil­lors had re­signed,” he ex­plains, “and the new mayor ap­proached me. This time, there was only one party, so we got in un­op­posed. That said, I wasn’t at the bot­tom of the list. I had more votes than some of the French mem­bers. It was quite a sur­prise!”

De­spite his ‘fairly flu­ent’ French, Chris does strug­gle at times with the in­tri­ca­cies of some of the de­bates, es­pe­cially as the monthly meet­ings are not par­tic­u­larly for­mal. “Some­times coun­cil mem­bers talk over one an­other,” he says, “and it makes it hard to fol­low the thread of an ar­gu­ment. Even though my French is al­most flu­ent, there are times when the de­bates and crosstalk pass me by. But if I don’t fully understand an is­sue, I ab­stain from vot­ing.”

Chris feels he has really be­come part of the com­mu­nity as a re­sult of his par­tic­i­pa­tion in both the coun­cil and lo­cal com­mit­tees. Whether by be­ing in­volved in the coun­cil or con­tribut­ing in an­other way, Chris feels it is very im­por­tant to be an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in the com­mu­nity rather than a ‘to­ken Anglais.’ “I’ve found over here that peo­ple are very wel­com­ing, but if you really want to in­te­grate, you have to be proac­tive and seek peo­ple out rather than ex­pect them to come to you.”

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