This time last year, we were packing up our lives in the UK to head to France for a new life. Hard to believe that on Tuesday, it's a year since we arrived. I still vividly remember pulling up on the lane by our house at dawn and climbing over the fence with the cats precariously balanced in their travel cage so we could get them into some shade and fresh air after a hot 14 hour drive through France.
Such a lot has happened in 12 months. Issy is virtually fluent in French while Iain still only knows the basics, the ground floor of our house is completely unrecognisable while the upstairs is still utter chaos and we have had our ups and downs settling in. Suddenly we have a teenager who has more of a social life than I do (hard to believe, I know,) borrows my clothes and shoes on the quiet and sees me as a never ending well of cash advances and a handy cabbie for the many parties and sleepovers she plans each weekend! It certainly hasn't been plain sailing - there have been tough times, disappointments and frustrations along the way but I have never doubted that we did the right thing at the right time.
Lately we have also got a bit more balance back in our lives after a pretty manic few months. The plan was to take life a little easier down here, enjoy the weather, the beautiful surroundings and explore the Riviera and its environs. Instead, life became even more crazy and full on than it was in the UK and after 20 odd years on that treadmill, it was time for a rethink.
It's funny, I think the perceived wisdom is that our life here is all about drinking rose, lying by the pool in the sunshine and wondering which village restaurant to try next. The truth is the shopping still needs to be done, so does the cleaning and then there is the little matter of work but today I actually ticked the 'rose by the pool' box all afternoon and it was rather lovely!
Yesterday I went racing in the Voile d'Antibes regatta with Mat and Milly on board their beautiful yacht The Blue Peter. The forecast storms never materialised but the wind was up and it was questionable whether the race would take place. We got the go ahead and I can't describe how exciting it was to be counting down to the start along with all the other classic yachts in Antibes harbour. We got off to a great start and the boat was flying. Mat's mates were all crewing and they are serious sailors so everyone was doing their bit as they had had a disappointing couple of days at the start of the regatta. For much of the time, I was clinging onto the boat and sliding from one side of the deck to the other trying to keep out of the way as they tacked and guided the yacht into the best position. Mat kept asking 'Are you ok, are you scared Karen?' but I can honestly say fear wasn't happening, it was just very very exciting, even when the waves washed over us, soaking us all to the skin. We were cruising at 13 knots and on course for a possible win when the coastguard sounded his horn and cancelled the race.
We were gutted, especially as we were not far off the finish but unbeknownst to us, two boats had been damaged in collisions due to the high winds, which were getting stronger, and one yacht was completely written off so it was just too dangerous to continue. The mood on board was jubilant nevertheless and we hit the owners marquee for a celebration drink. My white Abercrombie shorts will never be the same again and I was rocking the bag lady look, wandering around Antibes looking dishevelled with my hair matted with salt and sea water (one shop owner gave me a very strange look when I popped into his trendy boutique to try on a T shirt - luckily for him, I bought it!) but the adrenaline rush was amazing and it's a day I won't forget.
I might have embraced France wholeheartedly over the last year but The Apprentice final has just started so a bientot......