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A Summer of Speed Bumps – 2017

The Summer of 2017

I cannot believe we are nearing the end of August. When the year began, I was exhausted, stressed and desperate to leave London. Now I’m sweating my tits off in the South of France and my biggest worry today is drinking enough water. (Tomorrow the worries will be trickier, but to illustrate my point…)

This blog was meant to be a record of the whole experience, except this is my first post in over a month. Oops. As usual, life got in the way (in good and bad ways) and time has flown faster than I ever believed possible. Turns out there is never enough time to do everything, even when you quit your day job.

In two weeks, we are packing up our stuff and leaving Antibes. The plan is to do a mini road trip up the west coast of France and then swing back east towards Calais, to hop on a ferry back to the UK. We need to see friends, family and figure out what to do with all our stuff in storage. What we’ll do after that remains to be seen.

But what has happened while we’ve been out here? Well… it’s not been uneventful.

June

Ahhh June. It was probably the most creative month of my life. I felt so inspired and free to just work away on my own projects. Somehow, I was insanely positive and certain that I was going to make it work. And I did. I got my first two content writing jobs, for new travel and film industry websites. It was a bumpy month in terms of my relationship – my boyfriend and were living together for the first time, in a foreign country, and we both struggled to adjust. I turned 26 at the end of the month and then we hit the first big speed bump: Tom had a cycling accident.

Luckily, it was caused by a fault with his bike and not a car or other third party. But it was still very frightening when I got that phone call. He had been travelling at about 40km/hour when his peddle broke, sending him flying into the tarmac. Thing is, we’d argued the night before (I can’t even remember why) and I’d left that morning without saying goodbye. Sod’s law, he had a crash in the middle of nowhere. When I think about how much worse it could have been and the last words we’d said to each other, I still feel a wave of fear. Thankfully, he was ok and there were some real angels around that day. Several people helped Tom get help and an older couple even drove him and his bike home. Then our amazing landlady took us to A&E. Tom was in one piece but he left with most of his left side covered in bandages.

The problem was his bike. It’s a really expensive racing bike and the parts needed to be ordered; it was going to be weeks until he could get back to training. He found solace in eating whole bars of marzipan and freshly baked flan from the boulangerie.

July

I had regularly writing work, a couple of book reports and my novel to keep plugging away at. It was a busy month but a relief to have money coming in. Tom was working at a bar and pining for his bike like a missing limb. It tried my patience to see him wasting time on Netflix when we’d worked so hard to have this summer to pursue our dreams. He asked me how I’d feel if my laptop & writing was taken away from me – wouldn’t I be moping around too? I still think he cursed it, because a couple of weeks later my laptop died. The motherboard and the ram would cost €600 to replace and I sure as hell didn’t have that kind of money to splash. (Content writing is fun but it pays peanuts).

Tom understands my pain and lets me use his laptop for work and writing. I’m way behind on my word count goals but at least everything was backed up via Dropbox. I’d probably have a full-blown breakdown if I’d lost my novel, which just passed 100,000 words, and I can’t think about how much is left to write or I’ll never finish it.

Finally, Tom got his bike back. Just a few days later, he had a second crash and this time a car was involved. Fact: the French are terrible, appalling drivers. They bomb around on whiny mopeds when they’re young and then upgrade to cars, only to drive them with the same disregard for safety as they did when their max speed limit was 30km/hour. Anyway, I could rant forever. A driver turned left into a parking bay without checking the cycle lane and Tom smacked into the back of him. Again, it could have been so much worse. Tom escaped with just some nasty whiplash but his bike’s front fork was snapped clean in two. It was a tough pill to swallow.

A lovely distraction arrived in the form of my best friend. She flew out to visit me for five days and, not gonna lie, we spent about 75% of it lying on the beach. It was so good to see her face and show her around Antibes. We found the best pizzeria in Nice and ate way too many pastries.

August

Another month, another speed bump. The two websites I’d been working for announced they were closing up shop until September. They gave me very little (no) notice and so the work I had been counting on for August disappeared in a flash. That’s the danger of casual work and freelancing! So it was a difficult start to the month in terms of motivation – limited creativity due to lack of computer, stress due to lack of paid work and the end of our trip looming closer. I felt a lot of pressure to make a decision about what to do next, where to go, whether to find a new home in the UK or keep travelling. I still don’t know.

Tom’s bike was repaired by mid-August. That means that in total, he’s had six weeks without a bike – half our trip and half his training time wiped out. I can’t fully comprehend how frustrating it must be for him, practically starting from scratch after such a long break. But he’s back in the saddle now and masochistically chasing the highest, steepest hills he can find. Freak.

And me? I’m working on a commercial production at the moment. Yep. I caved. I swore my days working in production were over – no more logistics, call sheets, budgets and bullshit. But a job came up, they needed someone in the Nice area, and I didn’t have much of a choice. Gotta have money in the bank to fund the creativity, after all. The shoot is in our last week here and I’m trying to cram in as much writing and creative time around it as possible. (Hence why today is for writing only – tomorrow I will worry about my tax return, production nonsense, how we’re going to get home with three – yes THREE – bikes.)

And that’s about everything that’s happened this summer! It’s not all gone to plan but then I’m not really sure what the plan was in the first place. That was the appeal of it, in a way, leaping into he unknown.

Next?

Moving to a different country, even just for 3 months, has been easier than I expected in some ways (finding work) but harder in others. Being holed up most days, I’ve not had much chance to get out and make friends here. That’s right, you play that tiny violin! If we keep travelling I will definitely get a part time job; I underestimated how much I need a variety of social interaction to take me out of my own head now and again. Crazy, but I’m not a complete hermit after all!

In less than a month, we’ll be back in blighty. I don’t know how long for. I don’t know what we’ll do. I do know I’ll be eating a big roast dinner. But I also know that, despite the speed bumps, taking the leap was still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That’s gotta make it a success, non?

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