Hacking It

“So you couldn’t hack it in Europe,” said the British border agent as we headed from Calais to Dover with one last vanload. She’d asked what the purpose of our visit to the UK was and we’d told her we were moving our household goods out of France and over to the US via a shipping container from England.

Couldn’t hack it in Europe?

This was not the time for a debate on semantics. But her statement instantly rankled. I felt judged.

Hack it? It’s not something you do in France. There was nothing to hack there. The very idea of moving from the US to “Europe” speaks of removing oneself from hacking it. The old ways are too entrenched and ingrained and there’s no cutting through, only finding ways around. Maybe that had been part of the problem with the place. If I was ready for an underfunded early retirement, maybe it could have worked.

Now, getting out – that’s been a different story. That’s like coming up out of the jungle with a machete, whacking vines and undergrowth and worse out of the way to reach daylight. It was so effortless, getting there. Kind of like treading lukewarm water, being there. But getting out?

Maybe because no one sells their house quickly in France, or anywhere, these days, we’d had it too easy. Not enough challenges. Not enough hack it. But since the house was sold it’s been an obstacle course. Trying to satisfy the strict US visa requirements at the same time as trying to find and fund a house in upstate New York from thousands of miles away. Packing and moving a houseful of music equipment and some furniture to a friend’s garage in England, and then a storage facility big enough to bring a shipping container to. Seeing the cost of the container jump from six down to three and up to eight thousand dollars, and then back down at least a little.

The US house purchase went through just as a hurricane watch started for the eastern part of the country and all insurance companies stopped writing home insurance policies. And they said the high winds and possible flooding were headed right for New York City.

“The house is a good two hours from there,” I said, worrying about friends and family in the city being sent to shelters and worrying, just a little, about the storm bearing down on our uninsured new home.

But there was no time to worry because Eric, who had driven a rental van back down to SW France, filled it with the last of our boxes and furniture and headed for the port at Calais, had been involved in a traffic accident. He’d had to leave the now-undrivable rental van full of our stuff not far from where we’d broken down almost five years ago and travel back to England by taxi. (And as foot passenger on the ferry, though I like the idea of him rolling off the boat at Dover in a French cab.)

The hurricane spared the city and a few hours later I started seeing posts on Facebook about trees falling and catastrophic flooding near Woodstock and and on up into Greene County. Our new county. There were films on the internet of houses and even whole villages being taken out by floods.

We found out the next day the house was okay. A lot of people weren’t so lucky – that part of the country was declared a disaster area. I felt guilty calling to get our electricity turned on, knowing how many people had been without power.

And finally we rented yet another van and took the ferry back to France, one last time, still trying to believe that moving everything to England first had been simpler and cheaper than trying to ship from France (and the moving companies all confirmed that it was). We drove to a garage near Lille and transferred our stuff from the disabled van into the working van and returned to the car ferry. No tearful farewell or regretful last looks – just a determination to complete the journey without using a public toilet or eating anything in a French service station, ever again.

The border agent was looking at me, holding my passport in her left hand and the ink stamp, instrument of my freedom to hack it, in her right.

So you couldn’t hack it in Europe? I gave her a sickly smile and nodded.

11 thoughts on “Hacking It

  1. Jansen

    Wow. Like that comment was all you really needed to hear at that moment. You are RIGHT. No one "Hacks it" in France or Europe for that matter. Visiting here and actually living here are completely separate things. People come here for different reasons, and they stay for different reasons as well. Jolynn & I are on the path for Naturalization, as our interests remain en France. We will miss your unique perspective of France. Best of luck with your move. Cheers, J

  2. David

    This entry pisses me off, on your behalf. I will be very happy once you two are over here and settled into your new home. Safe safe travel to you, peace and affection.

  3. Ed Ward

    My friend Peter has noticed something he calls the Three Year Itch: Brits who save up for retirement down here because they've had ever such nice hols, and finally buy a place, move down, and…three years later they're returning, screaming and hollering, back to England. This is probably who the woman thought she was dealing with. Not that this makes her remark any less insensitive. Very sorry I never got to see you guys here, but it does seem like the whole situation was making you crazier than you need to be. Upstate New York has some very nice things to recommend it, and I've often thought of it as someplace I might go if I wound up, um, not being able to hack it here. Best of luck in your new place!

  4. nocoates

    Sounds like amazing material for a few songs, or at least some patter for the shows you are now actually going to be able to play! I look forward to seeing before too long, given that we're practically neighbours, give or take an 8-hour drive. Safe travels!

  5. Jim S

    Welcome back to the good old USA, just in time for a year of election insanity. You'll be pinning away for la belle France before you know it!Hope this means we get more Amy and Eric shows soon. All the best

  6. the fly in the web

    Cheeky besom!I think if you'd been in France earlier you would have found things easier…there was much more 'System D'….much more willingness to sort things out…than in recent years.When system D went…so did we.Not without, of course, a chorus of how we couldn't hack it….

  7. clr

    I don't know when it was decided that, in this life, we need things to be as difficult as possible, that it's wrong to wish that things be easier, or to take control to make it easier. Hack it? Most people would have just soldiered on. She probably wishes she could say "I can't hack it" and make that kind of change in her life. That's usually what that kind of judgement means.I got the same when I moved back to the States from the Middle East. There is no hacking it there, either, and I'm not sorry I got out before they started sending suicide bombers to stand next to my regular ATM.Safe travels.

  8. neil d

    We drove through upstate New York on the way back from hurricane exile in New England, and it looked like the only real problem was if you lived in a flood plain. (Irene ended up being a ton of rain but very little wind.) But yes, very glad your new house is okay. And judging from the many folks we know who've relocated to the Catskillsish area, you've picked a great landing place – out in gorgeous countryside but close enough to civilization that you don't feel entirely isolated.Finally, include me in the list of people whose reaction to this post is: "Yay! They're moving to my coast! More shows for me!"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s