Just a year ago today we were in Cynthia’s (Tricia’s sister) basement putting the finishing touches on packing for our move to France, our friend Dave was set to pick us up on the 14th to take the three of us, Tricia, Neville, and me, to the airport. This was an endeavor that began in earnest at the end of 2021 – already two years behind schedule thanks to COVID.
Moving to a different country is always a challenge so we had a lot to do just to satisfy the French thirst for documents. Dave, who has himself worked and lived abroad in the Middle East and South Africa reminded me that the large companies he worked for took care of most of the details. We hired a consultant for advice but the dossier gathering was on us. And of course after arriving we have had plenty of situations to try our patience, but as they say here, C’est France!
Now lest anyone think that the French bureaucracy or the French culture (i.e. frequent strikes that cancel trains, etc.) has dampened our affection for this country I felt I needed to relate some of the highlights of living here. My plan was to do a blog titled “The Five Best Memories From Our First Year.” But… I came up with a list that I could not pare down to five so will just pass on some good memories now and then.
This is a photo of one of my favorite moments since arriving here, it was on 14 April, 2022 – the first time Neville went outside since we kept him inside for the first month. Tricia’s comment was that he must be thinking, “Is this heaven?” There is quite a backstory to this moment.
Neville was an outdoor cat before we moved into our Martha’s Vineyard condo in Mukilteo where he became an indoor cat with only his catio for going outside, and it was quite small. So if cats have emotions I would think all this space to roam felt great, like “heaven.”
Just getting Neville to France was quite an effort. The EU is quite demanding on their pet requirements, and of course France adds more just because C’est France. Between vet visits, Fedex payments to the USDA in Olympia, and some stressful moments because of narrow time requirements, we had a complete dossier on Neville and had spent over $800, not counting the extra that Delta would be charging us to take him in the cabin with us. We were doing all this while we were packing to move and shipping household items to France, I am sure Neville had no idea what these boxes represented in his life.
Adding to our stress was the vet’s diagnosis in January that Neville had a serious kidney failure in progress, he talked about needing regular IV’s of fluids etc., just to survive, quite serious. I doubted that he would actually live to make the trip to France. Well make it to Normandie he did, after 21 hours in a carrier – checking in at the airport, waiting for the flight, ten hours under the seat at my feet, then a four hour car ride to where we live in Normandie. Neville did quite well. Oh! And never an IV.
It was spring and warm, Neville loved his rural yard. The old picnic table is good for sharpening claws, sleeping in the sun, and helping me sketch.
We did have some cool days that made a fire necessary, our main source of heat. Neville exchanged the gas fireplace at the condo for a place in front of the wood stove.
It did not take him long to make our 230 year old cottage his own, settling into his bedroom, where he allows us to join him at night.
So here we are one year later and Neville is as healthy as can be expected for a 13+ year old. He doesn’t go out as often nor for as long, so he is slowing down a bit, but that is what all us senior folks do.
Thankfully he has not lost his touch when it comes to hunting, he is our mighty hunter. I am pretty sure of the count, though Tricia might come with a different number, but I think this is close: 1 in the house while we were gone, the neighbor found it when she came to feed him. 1 or 2 outside, 3 more inside. He always brings them to us for approval, looking quite proud don’t you think? We do live in a rural farm setting so there are mice, but with Neville on the job we sleep well – except of course when he catches one in the night and brings it upstairs while we are sleeping.
Neville has his own Instagram @Nevilleofnormandie and he would love it if you followed him there. He is often featured on Tricia’s blog, Travels Through My Lens and her photos are far better than mine.
One of my fondest memories is that Neville is getting to spend his senior years in this wonderful place that he loves. As I write this he is sleeping in the sun in a basket we found at one of the many brocantes in the area. It warms my heart.