Out of touch

Liv­ing in ru­ral France for the past seven years means that Gil­lian Har­vey isn’t al­ways up to speed with the lat­est trends. And that isn’t al­ways a bad thing…

Living France - - CONTENTS -

She might be a bit be­hind the times in ru­ral France but Gil­lian Har­vey wouldn’t have it any other way

Any­one who’s been to ru­ral France will know that it’s a bit like step­ping back into the past (only with the in­ter­net, satel­lite TV and other mod cons). It’s one of the rea­sons many of us move here – to em­brace a sim­pler, less con­sumer-driven life. What I didn’t re­alise un­til re­cently though was that I, too, am stuck in a time warp of my own mak­ing.

The re­al­i­sa­tion came to me late last year when I was flick­ing through the TV list­ings and found a show claim­ing to doc­u­ment ‘The Rise of the Hip­ster’. Other than the jeans, I’d never heard of this term, yet clearly in the UK it had be­come a ‘thing’. The same thing hap­pened re­cently when some­one on an in­ter­net fo­rum men­tioned the trend for ‘hygge.’ “Is it a bit 2016?” she mused. De­spite hav­ing heard the word, I had no idea it was a ‘thing’.

I’m not com­pletely out of the loop. I have a com­puter and I’m not afraid to use it. I buy the oc­ca­sional mag­a­zine (both English and French ti­tles). I lis­ten to the ra­dio. I watch TV. But, work­ing from home and liv­ing in a ru­ral com­mu­nity, I’m not con­stantly bom­barded with all things mod­ern.

The ex­pats with whom I frater­nise are a mixed bunch – all with their own unique style, rang­ing from what I’d like to call ‘rustic’ to more clas­si­cally dressed. I have sev­eral French friends who are al­ways quirk­ily coiffed, and I often ad­mire their ease of style, or the cut of a par­tic­u­lar skirt or coat. But all of th­ese peo­ple have very dif­fer­ent looks, and I have no idea whether any of them are ‘cur­rent’.

In a way, liv­ing in a quiet area in France has en­abled me to be­come a more au­then­tic ver­sion of my­self. I so­cialise with peo­ple of all ages and in two dif­fer­ent lan­guages. I am calmer for hav­ing the lush green of trees and fields stretch­ing forth from my of­fice win­dow. (I say “of­fice”. Be­fore baby num­ber five came along, I had a ‘real’ of­fice. I’m now writ­ing from a desk tucked in a cor­ri­dor. Still, the view is the same.)

But it also means that in terms of evo­lu­tion, I’ve pretty much stuck to the 2009 ver­sion of my­self. My smart­phone lies ne­glected in the bot­tom of my crumb-filled hand­bag most of the time; my mu­sic col­lec­tion has re­mained stocked with old favourites; I’ve pretty much been wear­ing ver­sions of the same out­fit for the past eight years. I’ve nei­ther be­come more French in my style, nor up­dated my take on all things Bri­tish.

In­stead, I’ve re­mained static while fash­ion, lan­guage and tech have moved on. I am baf­fled by mu­sic streaming ser­vices; per­plexed by young men with large beards on UK talk shows.

At the same time, I feel pretty re­laxed about the fact that I’m out of date. Here, I don’t feel pres­sure to have the lat­est gad­get, and def­i­nitely don’t worry too much about the fact that un­less a band rose to fame post 2010, or gets reg­u­lar air­play in France, I prob­a­bly won’t have heard of them. I know that, out­fit-wise, any­thing goes at the school gate, and am pleased that I am bring­ing my chil­dren up in a world where I’m not con­stantly screen-locked. All I have to do is wait un­til there’s a ‘noughties re­vival’ and I’ll be right back on-trend.

Gil­lian Har­vey is a free­lance writer who has lived in Li­mousin for seven years, to­gether with hus­band Ray and their five young chil­dren

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