I suffered with insomnia for many years and joined the group of people who realise they can learn foreign languages at two in the morning courtesy of the range of obscure television programmes the BBC air for night workers and insomniacs. I never learnt Spanish, but I did learn that I had to resolve the insomnia. It IS exhausting. I also acquired an extreme sensitivity to sound. People breathing made me agitated. My husband snored and even moving him to another room down the hall and closing two sets of doors were not adequate. My ears would strain for every snort or snuffle. Friends would have to find spare rooms for me when we stayed. I have slept in hallways, on sofas, even in the car to avoid human slumber noises!
But I loved my work as an accountant, I went self employed in 2006 and filled my time with clients, tax planning, renovating a Edwardian House. I also found that crawling into bed at two o-clock in the morning, that magic hour, absolutely exhausted, bypassed the insomnia extremes and I would somehow sink into a static state, often with my eyes open my husband informed me, like a vampire in slumber. Dream sleep alluded me. Over the years it took its toll, but I didn’t notice, and divorcing, remarrying, redefining my goals and life and ultimately coming to France, just seemed another set of events that I swept through, determined as ever and resilient.
Children had not found a place in my life – I loved my work. I did the heels, the suits, the lipstick and enjoyed the feminine, but my working life was with the boys, in manufacturing and finance and over the years the lack of children had a huge benefit career wise. It isn’t easy juggling career and families. My friends have found it frenzying and some like me have opted to go childless. But four years ago I became a step mum to my husbands two teenagers. It was fun, cost me a fortune to get them to Grammar schools and rent in London where the schools were. The comprehensive school system, whatever anyone tries to tell you, is NOT as good as grammar schools. The school you attend is forever on your CV and blights it. You can come away with as many qualifications as you can muster, but the name counts.
The teenagers came of age and we cut the strings, we had to as money ran out. Costs in London were rocketing in 2015 and they found work and their absent mother made arrangements for them to be able to live with friends until they could head for university. They found this difficult and made their views known. But as a step mother I cannot be wholly responsible, when their mother caused their move to us in the first place. I had fulfilled my promise to get them through school prior to university. I had to commit to my new business [Ion Syrup] and to clear debts and sell my home. This was not an easy decision and meant effectively we would have to move to France where the offer of a barn and land that we could pay for outright and never have a mortgage, was too good to bypass. We had spent four years renting, dragging our furniture from badly maintained rent apartment to another, with greedy landlords stealing deposits along the way, and washing mould off walls and having to lay plastic bags on the floors as the carpets were so wet from rising damp.
Credit checks became a menace and the deposits to rent grew. To rent in London you needed at least three months rent, around £3500.00 to move. Landlords gave notice each year to enable them to increase revenue. Keep the outgoing tenants deposit over some trumped up reason, a micro scratch on a wall, and then demand two months rent up front from the incoming tenant. No wonder HM Revenue and Customs have come down hard on landlords – they make money.
With a lot of penny pitching we sealed the deal in 2015 and started the stressful transition. Back and forth from France to UK, working off laptops in McDonalds as our property was not habitable, with no utilities or working septic tank was rural idyll and actually fun, as far removed from capitalist London as you could get and we felt we finally had the hope of a home. UK headed for Brexit and the banks became aggressive. Councils made money from car park fines and we were bombarded by court orders where companies conveniently failed to apply payments, or change our addresses or any other excuse they could come up with. With no financing from banks to support our business aspirations, the credit card became our best friend. The flat we borrowed in Kent gave us a roof over our heads, but was due to be sold, so being homeless effectively, in 2017 we decided to move to France permanently.
The stress took its toll. Moving to France meant downsizing my work dramatically as I couldn’t afford the increasing software and licence fees to run my practise. I also realised that although the internet is flexible, it is not flexible enough to accommodate clients who want to physically meet you. Ambitions had to paired down and then this spring our business Ion Syrup faltered. My husbands brother would not manufacture and without this we would now have to bring the business to France. Without licenced premises this was impossible. The barrels remain in Romania and all the hard work from 2013 is in the air. In fact it is almost in the clouds – a dream that will not be fulfilled. I have had to swallow the loss of money and re-group.
This photo is of me was taken last year in September, after a few months in France working on the barn you can see in the distance. I felt elated, sun drenched and young at heart. We returned to the UK in October to finalize paperwork and finally rid ourselves of all the connections you acquire running properties. Some companies were still billing us for the property we had sold back in March and failing to close accounts.
Then Mother Nature took her revenge. Dramatic as that sounds, it felt that way. I turned 50 this week. As I look in the mirror today, tired and rather agitated over the past, the grey hairs have arrived, the wrinkles and the odd hair on my chin [note to self to ALWAYS carry tweezers]. The compact of correction make-up does not match my skin tone. My hair has lost its bounce and yesterday I cut it shorter. This feels like giving in, but to be honest with all the mucky barn and garden work, washing it short is easier. It will regrow and that is what I must do too.
My husband says its a phase to get through. He says I should give myself a few months to heal, to work though the angst, the bitter thoughts and draw inspiration from the achievement of finding this wonderful place. And it is wonderful. It is freedom, it is a new start, it is fresh air and it is our home.
I also know that our faces show our soul, so right now I am going to head for the kitchen, make myself a late breakfast of farm eggs and home made flat bread. Find my husband and give him a hug, because today he said he loved me regardless of my wrinkles and say to you, please evaluate your happiness. Make changes however difficult. If your family or friends do not understand, then they do not understand you. Make them understand and if they cannot, walk away.
This blog originally started as a place for me to share my new life, starting new businesses and how with some grit determination you can make changes and achieve dreams. But it is also become cathartic and a way to release my thoughts. I wont be bemoaning every little grey hair, or momentary crisis on here, but sometimes it helps.
Now where is that husband – probably in his workshop being manly sensible. This woman isn’t on menopause, she is on woman pause and regrouping.