Life in a Postcard: Escape to the French Pyrenees
by Rosemary Bailey
Many of us share a daydream.
In idle moments, we delight ourselves with the thought of leaving Britain’s grey climate behind and making a go of it in some sultry foreign locale. And if we’re really ambitious with our daydreams, we think about transforming some exotic ruin into a splendid place to live.
Rosemary Bailey and her husband, however, did more than just daydream. The beguiling Life in a Postcard tells how the couple were travelling in the French Pyrenees in 1988 when they were smitten with a crumbling medieval monastery which they later bought.
Surrounded by peach orchards and snow-capped peaks, the area was rich with traces of the long-vanished monks: the sunken crypt, the stone arches of the cloister, the frescoes in the 13th-century chapel.
Whenever they could, the couple visited Corbiac over the next few years, until they finally summoned the courage to relocate from urban London to rural France with their young son.
With only the earnings from their freelance writing careers to support them, they performed the Herculean task of restoring the monastery to its former glory. Reading this utterly unputdownable account, it’s easy to share the dream that drove the couple.
But this isn’t just aspirational wish-fulfilment; Bailey is mercilessly frank about the considerable strain put on their relationship, as well as the various horrors of living in a leaky, run-down property.
But despite all that, the enjoyment of Life in a Postcard comes from our sharing this vivid evocation of the beauty of French Catalonia (with its famous cooking), and the tempting possibilities that (with the kind of determination that Bailey and her husband possessed) we too could be living a life like theirs. And if we can’t, this book is a highly diverting substitute.