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…
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