The final chapter of a novel acts as a conclusion to a story, tying up neatly all the characters, relationships, trials and adventures that have come before.
The final chapter of my own autobiographical novel was played out under Marseille’s autumn sky. The sun slowly setting on nearly three years of overwhelming joy and happiness in France.
The majority of the adventure took place in Paris. In and out of classrooms, bars, apartments, libraries and bookstores. Across crowded bridges, along cobbled canals, in attractive squares, through bustling markets and underground on the teeming Paris metro. The gradual improvement of a new language, the gathering of friends, the discovery of new recipes, games, drinks and pleasures.
I’d dreamt for many years about living in the French capital. Simple pleasures like my daily visit to the local boulangerie, sharing une raclette and watching the snow fall gently on the streets outside. The reality indeed lived up to everything I’d ever hoped for.
Every story though has its difficult passages and the challenges of living in another country were greater than I could have ever imagined. A constant battle with strange and foreign customs provided much agonising. A monthly appointment at the bank would cause boundless amounts of trepidation. A script had to be carefully penned in advance before tentatively joining the queue, waiting patiently in line before I could let the fight commence.
Even greater were those scenes involving my various landlords. Disputes over rent, deposits, rules, noise, cleaning and cleanliness were a constant source of argument and disagreement.
Other than these darker paragraphs the majority of the story was an enormous success. The characters I met along the way added colour, vibrancy and verve to the story. Lead astray by drunken Russians, in the company of talented artists, writing with Americans and sharing coffee, literature and language with the French.
The South of France provided the setting for the end of the story. Three immensely enjoyable months living by the beaches, close to the ports and along the Côte d’Azur. A fascinating contrast to the hectic life in the capital. Deep into autumn the sky was still a deep blue, the terraces still thronging and the parks still alive with the sound of families enjoying the clement weather.
Living abroad gives you a real sense of freedom away from the confines of your own country. An opportunity to absorb oneself into a new country full of exciting traditions and opportunities.
Bref, profitez de la vie et vivez votre aventure à l’étranger!
All images © Mark E Hill