I am sitting in a farmhouse kitchen overlooking a crumbling stone wall where blue tits swoop in to eat sunflower seeds from a birdtable. This is my third day in French life, 11 more to go. Life, already quite calm and quiet in Portland, has been reduced to an absolute stillness here. An old way of life, where the only warmth comes from a couple of stoves so you spend your days sitting in the kitchen with your family, sharing stories and silences. You don't go off and sit on your own in your room because it's bloomin freezing out there.