s we flew out of Bristol Airport I was reminded of The Last of England, a painting by, if memory serves me well by John Everett Millais. It shows a young couple, the artits friends, sitting in a boat making their way to Australia I believe. He is hirsute and bears his situation with Victorian stoicism. Her face is half hidden by a bonnet but this cannot hide her meek demeanour or her resignation at being sent half way across the world, far from friends and family on a one way ticket with little chance of return.
My wife and I are not so miserable. We are on the adventure of a life-time, a long-held dream at last fulfilled. We have not burnt all our bridges in England; we still have a house and have not bought a property in France. I am following the advice of Sebastian Faulkes’ wife and calling this a year out, a gap year. This way I need feel no sense of failure if we decide to return home. But I doubt we will.
This is the last of England for us.
We had a swift and trouble-free flight courtesy of Easyjet and even managed to take some of my mother’s ashes on the plane with no problem. We did something we have never done before and caught a taxi at Nice airport for the half-hour ride to Menton. Hang the expense, our bags were heavy and we were exhausted. Not only that, the charming young French taxi driver gave us French lessons. When she told us that all the British house-buyers were pricing the locals out of the market we cringed but she did not seem to blame us personally.
We arrived at the Hotel Moderne which we chose because this was the first hotel I ever stayed at in Menton. Then a quick evening walk and a cup of tea at the Mandibule Restaurant.
Our new home
The view over the apartments to the Mediterranean was breath-taking. I could not see Corsica for the weather was cloudy but the sun sprinkled itself on the waves and the seagulls traced headlong paths across the view. Home at last, I thought, home at last.