I’m a dreamer, and a hopeless romantic. When I came to France I was following (some may say foolishly) a lifelong dream to live a more creative life. Of course I rapidly realised what a huge underestimation and short-sighted dream that was, and set off on the long hard climb to set up a business and survive in Languedoc, which can seem, to many, a very foreign land within a foreign land.
As an immigrant, one of the things that has to come high up the priority list, is integration. If you want to feel a part of the place you’re living it’s crucial to know a few local faces, to be seen as part of a community, not a drain on it.
In my small French village there were 3 places I got to know fairly well fairly fast – the boulangerie, the tabac (general all purpose store), and the café.
As a single white female I can remember extremely clearly how it felt walking into the crowded bar for the first time. Time stood still and tumbleweed could have blown through as about 100 pairs of male eyes turned to stare. Luckily, I had a large Weimaraner at my side, or I’d possibly never have had the courage to get through the door.
The bar owner at that time was Franck, who isn’t known to be the chattiest of folk. I tried very hard to strike up a little light conversation, and he seemed genuinely a bit sympathetic to my predicament.
As time and life moved on, I was growing my web business and Franck fulfilled his own dream of moving on to work at another, larger bar/cafe – La Grille, situated on the corner of Capestang square. With so many tourists and English speakers in the area, Franck needed a bilingual website, so I created one for him.
To complete the website header I needed a design, so I doodled a logo on the back of a napkin with a marker pen and it seemed to fit – so there it was. (I still have the original sketch in my studio).
Jump forward another year or 3 and whilst enjoying a drink in Capestang square, possibly before or after lunch at La Grille, I glance up and see my doodle – about 2 metres tall on the side of a building!
It is still there now, appearing on Facebook, Instagram and holiday photos galore.
Every time I see it I can’t help smiling – one of my doodles playing its small part in a piece of ‘local’ history.
Franck and his partner left La Grille but we are still in touch, and I’ve since built a 2nd bilingual website for their new much larger restaurant by the sea.
He also commissioned me to sketch it for him.
Thank you for this inspiring and positive story. We need a few of those right now. Congratulations, too, on making your way all this time in a new land. I know how hard that can be. Best of all is that you see yourself as an immigrant, committed to your adoptive country rather than an expat, who’s just passing through for a few years. An excellent post.
Thank you Martin – it has (and continues to be) an interesting journey for sure!