I've often mentioned how small our place is for four people and that we'll have to sell up and move before long. The big question is: where shall we go? We live in the centre and have a stimulating, intelligent group of friends courtesy of our children and are within walking distance of pretty much anywhere we need to go in Toulouse i.e. shops, work etc. The choice is to either move out into a neighbourhood or disappear off to become car slaves in the 'burbs. Now, Toulouse is a good city, but there aren't many city neighbourhoods which interest us, or at least, me. Anywhere west of Fontaine Lestang is car-burning territory and many others just seem to be populated mainly by prime-time TV viewers and weekend hypermarket shoppers. OK, I'm a snob, and I freely admit it, but I firmly believe that where you live is more important than what you live in. You can always renovate and redecorate your house but you can't change a neighbourhood. You're stuck with your environment.
There's a neighbourhood in Toulouse called Côte Pavée. It's mainly comprised of houses and the schools, both public and private, are very good. We could afford something there, but not as large as we'd really like. There's a little town outside called Pibrac, which is very international, has excellent schools, a railway station and, unfortunately, high property prices. The average income per household is in the top 3% of the country. Still, we could get something there, but, as with Côte Pavée, it wouldn't be as large as we'd like.
We're demanding, you see. We want our children to have both extra English and Spanish at school (not available everywhere), live as close as possible to Mrs. Fingers' workplaces (always around Airbus) and be near enough to serious greenery that we can pop out at the drop of a hat and overdose on chlorophyll, not to mention being able to swan around in at least 140 square metres with a spare bedroom and an office. We could do this is if we went another 15km further out, but that would mean a different calibre of school.
So off we went this afternoon to have a closer look at Côte Pavée and maybe ask a few passers-by if they knew of anywhere up for sale in the area. This being Sunday, it was even quieter than usual, and no-one crossed our path. Even there, though, a thought nagged away at me, namely that I think I'd be bored shitless in a neighbourhood like that. Quite frankly, I'd rather be in the middle of the action (as we are now) or sitting in an isolated farmhouse about 10 miles out of town. These (sub)urban solutions seem neither fish nor fowl. Convenient they may be, but we don't spend every single second of our lives either at work or getting the children from school. When we are all at home, enjoying family life, we're still stuck in the middle of concrete surrounded by neighbours watching game shows on TV. Live in the country and you can just jump on your bike and go for a ride, take a walk in a field, take the car somewhere you've not been before without having to negotiate city traffic etc. The list goes on. Plus, if you do live in a larger place, you can invite people over for the weekend, even if they do just live half an hour down the road; it lends another dynamic to existing, valued friendships.
I know millions upon millions of people all over the world live in cities and suburbs, but I can't get away from the feeling that there's more to this short life than that. Especially now I'm stopping smoking, I really do want the rest of it to be a life and not just an existence.