Yet I drove back from Jarnac this morning with a big grin on my face, counting my blessings.
The sun was shining (again), I passed the school where my youngest is happily ensconced enjoying a terrific education and I was driving through some of the most glorious countryside in Europe. I had been to the bank where I was welcomed with "Hello Mr Downie, how are the girls?" as I walked through the door and has stopped for a sneaky coffee where I was welcomed with "Hello Graham, big game for Bordeaux tomorrow".
What really sums it up though is something we saw on the main 8pm TF1 news last night. My eldest suddenly shouted "That's Luc, he's in my class".
They were running a piece on our neighbouring village Segonzac which is the first in France to be awarded Cittaslow status and had visited her school.
I have blogged about this before but to re-cap, Cittaslow is an international movement of “slow cities”, its symbol being a snail. The movement was first launched in Italy in 1999 and, based on a charter of 70 obligations, pushes cities and municipalities to develop actions revolving around improving quality of life, encouraging local businesses and economies, and respecting the surrounding landscape.
Segonzac is currently undertaking a number of “slow city” worthy actions, such as opening up a new public park, bringing back local businesses, rehabilitating pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets, and creating community gardens.
In our 24/7 world of constant communication I can't tell you how satisfying it is to live somewhere where the art of stopping in the street and just having a good chat with your friends and neighbours is alive and kicking. Where smiles and politeness are real and not manufactured and where community is something found offline rather than just online.