London ball

Why I gave up London perfectionism for a relaxed life in Languedoc

For many years – most of my adult life, probably – I started each day with a list of how Victorians often started their days with prayer. I have used lists to create calm and order; to make sense of what was often overwhelming. The lists were my prayers.

So, given my personality, sometimes it’s a challenge to live a smoother, slower life. Ever since I moved to the village of Marseillan, in Herault, in the south of France, last September, I’ve been trying to let go of my London habit of eternal activity: that creeping, underlying belief that ‘having too much on your plate is a sign of virtue, success and popularity.

I still work as much here as in the UK, tending to the wreckage of an old house. All of this should be pretty anxiety-provoking for someone as busy as I am, but somehow it isn’t. Maybe it’s because, despite the endless list of things to do in our new home, I still feel like I’m on vacation. We have come to Marseillan on vacation for so many years that, on days when the weather is a little strong, the simple fact of going down to the port for the mussels and fries gives me a summer-spring in my approach.

When we moved here my husband and I vowed not to become obsessed with renovating to the point of stalling all other things. We had seen this happen to other people and it was both terrible for them and terribly boring for everyone. We knew we had to live here, work and go out and do things just for the fun of it so that this house we love didn’t fall on a huge to-do list, sucking all the fun out of our big adventure.

We let the house take its time. Our priority is to fix the roof, wiring and central heating, but we don’t rush into other more aesthetic decisions like demented decorators with a clipboard fetish. We live with; let it be. This has been a challenge for someone formerly known as the Checklist Czar of East London, but it has its rewards.