Saturday, 5 September 2015

Of Living In Two Places

I've just got back from France.  To do that I had to get a bus into Switzerland.  Then a train from the city centre to l'Aéroport de Genève.  Then an aeroplane back to the UK, a bus to the rail station nearest the airport, a train a couple of stops along the line and then the walk to where I left my van so I could drive back to the boat.  The journey usually takes about ten hours.  Once or twice I have done it door-to-door in seven, but not often.  France is where P lives and works.  He was born there, works there and has always lived there apart from a few months in the USA when he was a child.  I have done this return journey at least once a month since about 2003.  That's how long we have been together.  This is not just a long-term relationship, but also a long-distance one of many hundreds of miles.

P 'n' Me in Geneva - August 2015
I have heard people say that LDRs don't last.  Ours has lasted until now and I don't see that changing any time soon.  There are challenges to overcome, but these are not life-threatening or frightening.  Any problems I perceive are of course merely relative to the general good fortune I experience in my life.  They do, however, take on more significance in the context of an ongoing relationship. For example, I have had to come to terms with often being in the wrong country at the wrong time.   When in France I have often missed events happening in England.  When in England I have missed things going on in France or Switzerland.  When P has a bad day at work I can't just give him a hug until he feels able to face the world again.  When I need a hug I often have to make do with internet relay chat or the occasional telephone call.  I noticed a couple of days ago that his new laptop computer has Skype.  I am waiting until he manages to sort out an account and we'll be able to speak and "see" each other more often.  That is still not a hug though, or being there to help when his back is playing up and making walking (or sitting or lying down) impossible.  We have to hope that our bodies are in good order when we plan to be together.  We don't have the luxury that regular couples have to be able to ride out times of illness or injury.  Two weeks ago when I was with him, so was my cold sore.  This week it was his back problem that has plagued him recently.  The only way he has been able to sleep has been to sit up with legs outstretched on the sofa.  As the week went by he got to a stage where he managed to share the bed for an hour or two.  Then he was forced to get up (very slowly and still painfully) to try to get comfortable on the sofa so he could get some sleep.  I missed reaching out to hold his hand or listen to his breathing in the night.  I can see why many long-distance relationships don't make it.  I don't know if ours is special, but P is special.  That's good enough for me.  He makes it all worthwhile.  As I said, small stuff.  We are at least free to pursue a relationship.

Why don't we just move in together?  It is a question I think about a lot.  If I chose to do that, he would be delighted and would have me move in tomorrow.  Sometimes I wonder if I am averse to commitment. Perhaps I am, but I think my relationship record suggests otherwise.  I still struggle with the French language.  I know I would have to cope if I lived there all the time though I daresay it would only take me a few months to be able to hold conversations with people at a normal pace.  It probably doesn't help that clever P is so bilingual that friends and family in England who have met him only know he is French because that is what I have told them.  He is even cleverer than that.  When we invite friends for a meal he naturally falls into conversing with them in their native language as long as it happens to be French, English, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, Russian or Mandarin.  I suspect he would also make a reasonable go of speaking in Norwegian, Hungarian, Portuguese, Greek or Turkish.  Strangely he doesn't speak Breton or even our local dialect, Savoyard.  To be honest it is too easy for me to get by when he is around.  When I am there we talk in English and when he is out at work I don't go out.  I stay in and work on my writing, my compositions or, this week, updating my websites.

Les Cerises
I have been making the journey to what is in practical terms a French suburb of Geneva for so long that I have seen many changes.  Mostly it is the demolition of lovely old houses and green spaces to make way for more blocks of flats.  I don't know what they'll look like in ten, twenty, thirty years' time, but I suspect  they will not look any better than they do know, or specially how they looked before.  For the first few years I went there the area in this photograph was an orchard of cherry trees.  There was a public footpath through it that became extremely muddy when it rained.  It was our route through to the supermarket or to the station.  Walking through the orchard at night it was a place to stop under the trees to kiss and to confess our love to each other.  These days it is not a place for doing that at any time of day.  Despite changes in the law it is still too risky.  Our cherry orchard has become a street filled with apartment blocks known as Les Cerises - an acknowledgement to its past.  They've even put a bus route through it.  Ah, progress!  There is also a plan to extend and re-route the railway so that it runs from Thonon (the town next to Evian, from whence cometh the water - point of order, Thonon has its own brand of mineral water that tastes the same, coming from the same source, but is cheaper) through to Geneva Airport and provide a continuous shuttle service.  That will make the journey even easier than it has already become.  Work has been going on for a while on that infrastructure project and it will probably be up and running within the next five years.

Despite a perception of the UK becoming a more challenging and polarised place in which to live there is still much to like about it.  I love living on a narrowboat.  I love where I am presently moored.  I enjoy the work I do and the members of my various bands are in the area.  I also love being able to see family members.  I am lucky to have amazing friends.  I love being able to offer a refuge to P when he comes to England.  He also loves visiting and staying on the boat.  I love that he thinks it is cool.

Seriously, compare the views out of our respective kitchen windows.  Which would you rather have? Here?  Or there?

1 comment:

  1. Seriously? Yes, seriously, as soon as I'm no longer attached to my job, I think we'll sell this place and go and live elsewhere, maybe the boat, maybe a bigger boat? I so prefer the view on the river, I really do... and the quiet of the life on the river too. I don't see too much that I would miss here, We're becoming hemmed in on all sides by rampant construction. No, there's absolutely no competition in terms of the view (although I do like those mountains, but the view from here is too restricted). Maybe we need a country house in France and a boathouse in England? What do you think?