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Friday, March 20, 2009

There and Back Again

Biz News - Fans of the more unusual Talbert Briars might want to take a look at this Ebay auction, on an odd piece done a couple years back for a special order. No new pipes from me, though, for reasons that are about to be obvious....

It seems like it has been a terribly long time since I have updated this blog, especially since the days when I could manage new posts each week, sometimes even every couple of days. Not so in 2008 - For us, like so many others, it has been a very difficult year and I have been too busy simply trying to stay fed and sheltered to keep up with my online writing. This may change soon, though, for today's picture is the harbinger of major news -

My wife and I are moving back to the United States!

We've lived nearly seven years in France. It's time. There are a multitude of reasons for the move - some expectedly angry and unpleasant, others fortuitous and perfectly timed. I may tell some harrowing stories in the future, but I don't want to dwell on specifics for the moment. Suffice to say that in one bright swoop, circumstances lined up ideally to enable us to make another transatlantic hop on our shoestring (nay, non-existent!) budget, and we chose to grab the opportunity. I write this sitting amidst packed boxes of books and clothes, and if all goes well, we should be leaving Brittany to return to North Carolina sometime in late April or May.

I depart France with the same jumble of extreme feelings I've had through all my time here. The people are wonderful, the bureacracy is a nightmare. The scenery is stunning, the communication is an eternal struggle. For every incredible vista of ruined castle overlooking rocky seaside cliffs, there are a dozen entreaties to government offices and business administration officials. It's nation where complete strangers will fly halfway across the country to bring you a bottle of their favorite wine, yet you have to literally scream and threaten violence just to get a fonctionnaire to acknowledge a fax. Living here has been like life with a beautiful trophy wife - lovely to look at, yet terribly difficult to maintain. But I know I will miss the place terribly, despite all the hassles, as we settle back into the relaxed, insular, Shire-like rythym of life in North Carolina. I can't help but think of Frodo Baggins, and wonder if I, too, will feel as though I'm "going back to sleep".

One aspect that I'm certain won't go back to sleep is my pipemaking - Talbert Briars will continue and carry on as always, and I look forward to once again being able to compete with the ranks of American pipemakers on an even footing, unhampered by the horrible dollar-to-euro currency imbalance that has dogged so much of our time here. It's also going to be a wonder to really be able to focus on my work again, without the pressures and immense weights of worry we have suffered for so long. All pipemaking will be shut down for the next several months, and our workshop is now closed in France. Some of the French machinery may be sold, some is definitely going with me, but it will take a long time to design and build our new workshop in the US, and until then there will be no new pipes (For those who may be interested, we have exactly two pipes remaining in stock for sale - one Ligne Bretagne and one Talbert Morta. Contact us soon if you're interested in either, before they get packed!)

I know the pipe community will probably have questions for us, but I'd ask that they be either posted here as comments, or held back until I can assemble a FAQ for this move, which will answer some of the obvious inquiries like, "Will Mortas and Ligne Bretagnes continue?", "Are you selling any of your stock and tools?", "Will your stamping change?", "Will your pricing change?", and so on. I have enough to do with the move, I'd as soon not have to type replies to the same questions many times over! And some questions have no answers as yet... The Ligne Bretagne stummels and hardware are going with me, for example, but I have not yet decided if they will change name. Morta pipes may continue if I can secure a reliable source of high quality blocks, but the material is hard to come by, and I am not interested in producing a substandard product. Time will tell...

In the very near future, the website will go offline except for a front page linking to this blog and our "Life in France" blog, where I hope to chart the progress of our move and our reactions to re-immersion in the American lifestyle and culture (Things I look forward to - KFC, good Mexican food, easy talking, and being able to get things accomplished without fifteen notarized attestations from the mairie and the préfecture plus stamped copies of every utility bill we've ever had and our marriage license. Things I do not look forward to - Loud, belligerent people, US non-health care, and Paris Hilton... though I think we have managed to foist her off on the Brits now). People interested in this social stuff may want to add us back to their Favorites for a bit, because the blogs are likely to be more active soon.

And speaking of, I'm currently looking for a good title for the "Life in France" blog if anyone has any ideas, since "An American Pipemaker in Brittany" won't work anymore. I'm going to miss sights like this being outside my front door...

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