We are very much a part of our local community and totally integrated.– Elaine in France
I am bilingual and dual nationality – English by birth – born and educated in Bristol. I live with my partner, who is retired, in the Mayenne countryside. I’m self-employed as an interpreter and until last year I also taught English in companies. 18 months ago I took over as editor of PES Solar and Wind Energy magazines so do very little teaching now. I’m a town councillor here in La Dorée and was President of the Bocage Mayennais Intercommunal Tourist Office until May 2017, when it was dissolved. I remain a volunteer for the Villes Sanctuaries en France and the cluster spiritualité Atout France. This means attending meetings and doing various things to promote the VSF and the cluster. One of them involves visiting tour operators in Paris explaining what the Shrine towns have to offer both the pilgrim and the tourist. We have many friends here and love our way of life. I am also active on twitter.
Having been here for over 17 years we were unable to vote in the referendum – we did apply to vote though. I doubt BREXIT will affect our situation here as I have dual nationality and have paid in to the system for 17 years now and more before that in my younger days. However, some of my clients are very concerned – particularly those pensioners who have never worked here and have seen the value of their money decrease even more since Article 50 was triggered. Some have told me they have noticed a slight change in the attitude of the French towards them, particularly the French admin personnel, over the last year. There is no real evidence for this though.
We are very much a part of our local community and totally integrated. We have many friends of all nationalities and often have get togethers. I would say our main friendship group is French, but we have many visitors of different nationalities and also have some expat friends. Language doesn’t seem to matter – there’s just a feeling of warmth and sheer pleasure at being together.
In 2011 we hosted the renewal of vows in our garden, for my childhood friends, who now live in New Zealand. There were 110 people from 14 different countries, not just Europe. Everyone, including our local friends, mixed together and a good time was had by all.
Personally I want my children, who also have dual nationality and my grandchildren, my sister, her family and our friends to be able to move freely throughout Europe. Why put up unnecessary barriers?
As soon as I saw someone say (I think it was Boris Johnson) we will get our independence back in the lead up to the referendum I knew the leave campaign would win and we would face BREXIT. Independence from what? I just couldn’t believe all the national furore it whipped up… Do people really think the rest of the world will want to trade with us now? The commonwealth was dropped when we joined the EU so why would they want us now? We hear Theresa May talking about trade deals with India – has India suddenly become rich overnight?
Although this is probably not relevant, I am an apolitical socialist. I believe if there was one education and one health system things would be a lot different in the UK. I also believe you can’t run the public sector along capitalist values – implicit in this there are winners and losers, or winning and losing schools and hospitals and this shouldn’t be acceptable in modern Britain or Europe.
Elaine is just one of the volunteers to our Citizens’ Panel.