After living a busy life - a mother of three, working variously as a writer, an events organiser, a teacher - and thinking maybe there was more to life than starting the day, while it was still dark, on the M25 and finishing it , in the dark, on the M25 - I was thrilled when it turned out that my husband felt exactly the same.
We were fortunate enough to be able to take early retirement, and knew that with a bit of belt-tightening and a bit of land to grow vegetables and have hens , we could live happily.
And so we bought an old barn in the Lot et Garonne - one that was cheap because it needed everything done ...but we were happy to regard it as a glorified tent - for a while.
Now, it is habitable and we live, in sunflowers and vines, with a menagerie of, mostly rescued creatures - donkeys from a friend who had to return home to the UK, a dog we took in when our farmer neighbour died suddenly - and then found, inexplicably, that we had agreed to house his hens, his cats - and, nearly, his hunting pack of beagles. We avoided the last...
For a long time swallows swooped in through the big barn doors into what is now the kitchen - and for many years nested. When the young fledged and flew about the barn, guests were invited to wear wide-brimmed hats - or put up umbrellas - against the inevitable...
Sadly, with cats now sitting beneath the nests with their mouths open, the swallows have moved next door.