Interview With Rosemary Border Rabson

Rosemary, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be an expat.

Everyone calls me Rosy. I am Rosemary Margaret and narrowly escaped being christened Margaret Rose after the Little Princess. I am 72 and have been married to John Rabson for 43 years. I have worked as an Open Competition civil servant, a teacher of English as a foreign language, a lawyer and most of all a jobbing wordsmith.An online search under Rosemary Border brings you many pictures of rosemary (my favourite herb, as it happens), numerous mugshots, only one of which applies to me, and the covers of some of my titles. My favourite is The Piano, published by OUP. Under Rosy Border you will find my Pocket Lawyer series, but also a lot of Rosy Border images. Here is my favourite.

In 2005 John and I made the decision to live in France. We were both in our 60s. We had visited France several times a year for many years and liked it enough to consider living there. We waited patiently until our only son had emigrated to California and the last of our Aged Relatives was no more. We ruled out the areas popular with Brits. French was my degree subject and John’s command of French, particularly in relation to IT and amateur radio, was excellent. We had visited rural Burgundy several times and liked it.

You run a fundraising initiative called Charity Cottage. Tell us about how this works, and who can stay there.

Possibly the most space-saving option is to point readers to my Expat Focus piece Welcome to Charity Cottage.

All are welcome, and are asked to donate to Combat Stress according to their means and inclinations. We pay for utilities, insurance, etc ourselves: we are not in the holiday rental business.We have met some interesting people through Charity Cottage – see this article.

Favouritism is obnoxious, but we are especially fond of Steve, a Combat Stress ‘old lag’ and his partner Julie. They came in 2013; and again in 2015, when their stay coincided with our party to celebrate 10 years in the Morvan. See this article.

Along with your husband John, you throw dinner parties majoring in cottage pie and curry puffs, which have been a hit with the locals. In your opinion, what is it about food that brings people together so well?

Do not forget the toad in the hole and my trifle made with crème de cassis instead of sherry! Sharing good food and wine in congenial company is magical. Our dining table seats 8 and we can seat 30 on the patio. We like to mix our visitors from the UK and elsewhere with our French friends. Here in the Morvan we know how to relax and enjoy ourselves.

What did you find the most challenging when you first moved to the Morvan?

Not a lot. We spoke the language and the previous owners introduced us to their friends, and our elderly poodle, Gussie, who had lost a leg many years earlier, attracted much sympathetic attention. The first French she learnt was, “Oh, l’adorable petit toutou. Comment a-t-il perdu sa patte?” (“Oh, the dear little doggy. How did she lose her leg?”).

What is your favourite thing about living in France?

The Morvan; I can’t speak for Paris or the other big towns. The gentle pace, the good manners, the courteous drivers, the wonderful fresh food and delicious local wine, the way 12 euros will buy a good lunch with wine, the way well-behaved dogs are welcome in restaurants, the confident, well-mannered children who hold up their faces to to be kissed…

If you could give one piece of advice to people who are considering their first move abroad, what would it be?

Do your homework. Research real estate, the tax régime, the health service. Learn the language. There is plenty available on the web.

Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I do embroidery – I hand hemmed this tablecloth and napkins, and adapted transfers from an old Woman's Weekly for the embroidery.

I also enjoy patchwork. This example features fabric from my late parents’ silk scarves and ties. I sew by hand, never having learnt to use a machine.

We have played French scrabble at our dining table every Wednesday afternoon for 10 years with the same old buddies (biddies?), Simone and Claudine. It is all very relaxed; trawling through the dictionary is positively encouraged. There is coffee and cake and chat.

By contrast I play two or three games of English scrabble with Beardie, an affable Yorkshireman, early every weekday morning on the ISC site. He and I have been scrabble buddies since before we emigrated. My ‘handle’ is Tinygus and my notes plug Charity Cottage! That is, of course, where we came in. Do call or email – like Bilbo Baggins, we are fond of visitors.

You can keep up to date with Rosy's adventures in her Expat Focus column. To find out more about Charity Cottage, take a look at the official website.