Guest post: Adventures Before Dementia, with Bebe Butler


This mid-life-moving story-thread is proving very popular with you all and we have another lovely one for you here today, from reader Bebe who, together with her husband, wanted an adventure before dementia set in and moved to France. Bebe will be writing regularly on her adventures for TWR, so check back soon for her second post.

Well, it’s almost a year since I decided to hang up the fashion boots I’d been wearing for over 40 years (they HAD been getting a little tight of late) 2 years after my official retirement date and wondered if gardening shoes and cosy slippers may not be a more comfortable form of attire.

I know we all say age is only a number but there does come a time – and mine came at 67 – when you realize there’s more to life than commuting, sitting in meetings and cramming all your household tasks into too-short weekends. Not to mention wondering when you will ever get the time to attack those piles of unread books that seem to have mounted up by the bed. Or feeling the compulsive urge to get the sewing box out or pick up a pencil and sketchbook again. Anything other than meet yet another deadline ………

So after a lifelong career in fashion (doing pretty much the same as TWR’s Jane) it was time to step out of life in the fast lane. Well in my case, hardly the fast lane, more commuting between Chelsea and Piccadilly every day, via the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris twice a year. It may sound glamorous, but I was never the archetypical F’Rower and pastures new were calling.

Cue the first BIG dilemma. Where were those new pastures?

Retirement meant London was no longer an option financially and so I had to face the sad fact that I’d never realize my dream of being one of those batty old dears that frequent Chelsea and Soho (not sure why Jane and I share a common interest in wanting to morph into an eccentric old dear).

And then suddenly, after two years of flirting with Hastings, swooning over Oxford and having a heartbeat moment in Liverpool, I was seduced. Not by a tall dark stranger – I don’t think T.O.M. (The Old Man) would have approved – but by a house.

And not just any house, as M&S have taught us to say, but by Chez Gigi. A small but perfectly formed house in a small and perfectly formed medieval town called Montmorillon, in Haute Vienne, South West France.

bebe-garden-france-04And that was it. I was a goner. Literally gone.

From 30 years of living in a flat on one of London’s busiest roads to a house in a secret garden where instead of squealing buses and hospital sirens (we lived slap bang between two major hospitals), ducks, church bells and the sound of the river flowing are the soundtrack of our daily lives.


It’s a long way from Chelsea — about eight hours door-to-door since you ask – and for the past six months we have been busy adjusting to a new way of life in a town whose chief claim to fame is a Macaroon Museum. And not many towns can say that.

It may be a long way from home but at our age (T.O.M is 73) it’s all about adventure before dementia and I am hoping Jane and Amanda allow me to come back with more dispatches describing life from the French front line along with the occasional round-up of what’s happening for us Womensroom-ers on the runways (we so will, in fact we’ve commissioned a small series from Bebe, A)

As John Lennon so memorably said, life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.



  • We are practically neighbours! and I thought I was alone here in my love of TWR blog for keeping up with London life. Montmorillon is so lovely and our nearest “big town” I live in Queaux, a fabulous little village that clings to the steep valley of the Vienne river – following my dream working full time as a painter, no longer squashing my passion into the edges of my day. Maybe our paths will cross one day.

  • I can understand why you fell in love — the house and the village look gorgeous. It’s funny, isn’t it, how sometimes you have a set idea of what you want and when the moment comes, something completely different and transformative presents itself.

    See you at the Macaroon Museum?

  • Sarah says:

    What a lovely post, I look forward to hearing more about your life – it sounds tempting… p.s I am wondering why is there a little portrait of General de Gaulle (if that’s who it is) on the wall outside your house?

  • sue evans says:

    Hi Sarah, yes, it IS General de Gaulle. The plaque was here when we bought the house but we are not sure why. We think the original owner bought it in a brocante and thought it was a good idea to cement it in the wall. IT’s a bit strange because on the opposite side of the coin we have 5 caves on our allotment which were used by the French Resistance to store their weapons in the war. Sue

  • Amanda says:

    Umm, five caves?!!! How exciting, I look forward to hearing about those…..Axx

  • Judith Solecki says:

    Makes me want to pack my bags! I would love to know if you are accepted by the locals?

  • Monix says:

    And like Steffi – do you speak the language? ( Gosh I sound bossy!)

  • Sarah says:

    I need cave photos now!

  • Lizzie says:

    Lovely lovely post Bebe … so can’t wait to get over there!

  • sue evans says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Judith, yes the natives are very friendly — we live on a lane between a couple of old blokes who have been here forever and spend their lives watching the river flow. Literally. One gave me a bunch of home-grown parsley yesterday and theres another chap who gives me lots of gardening tips. And MOnix, no, I wouldn’t say I was any where near fluent but am getting better with practise ! And Lizzie, get those tickets booked ……. x

  • Sandy says:

    What a wonderful post! Makes me want to put the house up for sale, and go see the world with my retired husband. How do the locals treat you and T.O.M. since you’re now residents?

  • Judith says:

    Looks idyllic and all the pictures have better weather than in the rusty old North of England!! All fine here though Dad is getting frailer and unsteadier.. lovely Easter card you sent btw… thank you for that, he apprecicates it. Nice blog too… really enjoyed reading it and look forward to the next installment!!

  • Lucy says:

    oh my gosh you are amazing! I am fast approaching 50, on my own, and nearly finished raising four children inSW London. Was feeling a bit terrified and wobbly about the FUTURE until I read your post. Now the world seems to be my huitre. Good on you.

  • Nancy says:

    what is your blog called? i would love to subscribe.. your adventure makes me dream of an adventure of my own..
    thank you for sharing your lovely experience..

  • sue evans says:

    Lorraine, I can;t believe what a small world it is ! I see from Facebook that you are a friend of Pat Gregory !!

  • sue evans says:

    Thanks Nancy. I don’t have a blog yet, just testing the waters with my guest posts on TWR.

  • sue evans says:

    Lucy, it’s never too late to follow a dream — it’s YOU time now — go for it and most of all, enjoy ! Imagine spending your life thinking, If only ……..

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