“I’m Keith Eckstein and seven years ago I saw the light and moved to Brittany. I do apologise for the horrible photograph – it was the subject’s fault rather than the photographer’s….”
After spending what seems to be a lifetime working in Corporate IT in London, I now find myself living in Brittany and, after six years working in the local pig abattoir, I am now running an IT Support and WebDesign business.
I detail my daily life on my blog…. www.BretonDiary.com
When I am not working on Web Design and IT support, I enjoy reading & writing (well, I’m not sure I enjoy the writing but I do it anyway!). I also spend a lot of time mushrooming or just wandering – I detail my mushrooming forays on my mushrooming site… www.mushroomdiary.com. I also write about IT at… www.kmeckstein.com
So how did I find myself over here (where it is rumoured that God comes for his holidays, when he is bored with heaven)? To find out, please read on….
I moved to France in November of 2002. Before that, I lived and worked in London, originally as an IT contractor and then as a senior engineer and team leader for ICL. I finished my career as an IT Service Manager for ICL in March 2002.
In June of 2001, I realised that I had suddenly stopped enjoying my job – just like that, no warning, no hint – until then I was the typical Gung-Ho manager, prepared to live and die for the company. Even today, I find it hard not to answer the telephone with the words… “ICL, Eckstein.”
I spent a couple of months thinking about a move but I realised that to make a real change, the move would have to be quite drastic. I took the first three weeks of August 2001 as my summer holiday. I stayed at home. It was hot and for three weeks I got up, had my breakfast, walked to the shops, bought my bread, cheese, meat (or fish) and wine for lunch and the evening meal. The rest of the time, I sat in the garden reading books about chefs, books about people who had moved to Italy & France to buy olive groves and books about gardening.
My back garden was more of a back yard but, in pots and planters, I had about a dozen tomato plants (herbs, as well) and it was delightful to just sit in the sun, reading, watching the butterflies and having the occasional sip of wine. For three weeks, my mobile phone was switched off (for the first time in many years).
I went back to work and, when asked, explained what I had done during my holidays. “Just like living in France”, one of my colleagues suggested. That was it! I realised. I’d found the answer. For the next week I researched on the internal ICL intranet and discovered that there were opportunities for field service engineers in Brittany (my favourite part of France); we had UK based accounts in Brittany that I could possibly get involved with – in other words, there was way to live the sort of life that I now realised that I wanted to, without having to leave the company. Because of my previous success for ICL, I felt that I could probably persuade them to finance an intensive French course, as well.
I let my boss know what I was thinking, she was very supportive – I promised to keep her informed.
Unfortunately, that was Monday 3rd September. Just over a week later, everything changed.
My client at the time was based (in the States) on the sixth floor of the South Tower (the second building to be hit). They only suffered one casualty (a heart attack) but, of course, lost all their IT. I had an engineer over there at the time and he was unable to communicate with us for a few days – a worrying time.
My move to France would have to wait. The next six months were very stressful but, eventually, in March 2002, my leaving party came round. It took me another 8 months to move to France and, after 9 months living in a delightful little village called Ruffiac I moved (in order to be nearer to work) to a small hamlet called Les Croix, just north of the medieval market town of Josselin.
Just before my first Christmas in France, I went to the local ManPower employment agency and got a temporary job. It was in a chicken abbatior – a bit of a change for me, to say the least. The job only lasted for a week but, in that time, my initial revulsion turned to enjoyment – mainly because of the kindness of my colleagues who took pity on the English Idiot who not only didn’t speak French but also, had no idea about working in an abbatoir. After Christmas, I went back to ManPower and got another job – this time in a pig abbatoir (the largest in Europe). I started out on a one week contract and worked there for over six years before being made redundant for health reasons (I suffer from severe central sleep apnea.)
Just over 2 years ago I met the gorgeous Jilly , who shall henceforth be known as The Girlie!
She has helped me through a difficult period of illness (detailed on www.BretonDiary.com), puts up with my occasional grumpiness (and tendency to be a reclusive hermit!), and generally (and always), makes the sun shine for me – even on rainy days!
We now live together (with her son Josh), near Redon in southern Brittany.
All the best