Random thoughts from a French incomer in West Dorset

L’Anglaise when in France, French when in England, I have lived in the UK longer than I have lived in France.

When I started this blog, I mainly wrote about West Dorset as a travel destination in French and in English. With the fresh eyes of an incomer who had worked in tourism, I loved sharing words and images on an area I was falling in love with (yes, I still think it’s gorgeous). Despite some people thinking grockles are a nuisance, I thought if more people find out about the area, the more likely our small businesses will survive, the more hope of a local future for my children, and as we all know, every little grockle helps.

My career started in tourism in the late 80’s in London. I sold holiday to France for ten years, worked in marketing and PR for a small multinational for five years. When my children came along I re-trained as a graphic designer, worked freelance part-time and eventually became art editor on ‘French’ a magazine selling France as a holiday destination and investment hotspot. I went on to write features on family travel, illustrated with my photography. I loved making the mag look good, pushing the boundaries within my editor’s limits and I really enjoyed the writing. The people I met were great. The office politics and the beginning of a new era for print media were an eye opener.

In 2008 my family moved back to my husband’s roots, West Dorset. This blog and my photography on Flickr led to providing content for a blog for The Bull Hotel in Bridport and for other local tourism businesses. Busy finding ideas for my clients, this blog got neglected. Duplicating content was a big no-no according to social media gurus so I listened. They also say it’s bad to ignore your blog, you’ll  lose your readers. Really?

There are many self proclaimed experts out there aren’t there? I’m no expert am afraid, I just love learning. Blessed with a supportive family I have found the time to research subjects for clients as well as my local community and keep doing what I have been doing on and off since I was a teenager, write. I don’t call myself a writer, that’s for the clever ones who write books.

I took to photography later than writing. It was a hobby before I got paid for it. I am partly to blame for Everybody is a Photographer these Days. I have a great camera and a very good eye. My career introduced me to software that improves images; working with photographs from professionals, I learnt what magazines and websites needed and raised the bar for what I think is a good image. Then I embraced Social Media, earlier than others. I still struggle to call myself a professional photographer. They are a cut above the rest of us. 

I became rather addicted to Flickr for the inspiration it provided and the first online community I encountered. My Flickr friends were kind, positive and gave me confidence. Whilst I found it hard to meet like-minded people on my doorstep, there was a whole world of image lovers out there ready to take time to comment on my images.


Making it to Explore felt like some kind of achievement although nobody ever seemed to know how these algorithms worked. When work and voluntary projects took me away from the platform, I realised I had been spending too much time in front of my screen chasing likes and comments.
Only later, when I was contacted by a local shop who found my Flickr stream and wanted greeting cards,  and later still by ‘Far from the madding crowd’ movie saying “Nathalie, your pictures are stunning’ did I realise that the time and effort I had put into putting my photography ‘out there’ with the right tags and on the right platforms meant if somebody looked for images of my micro-world, I’d come near the top. Until other people came along and understood the power of Social Media in my little world, a few helped by me, most without any help from me whatsoever.

I joined twitter originally to get in touch with people around the world. I felt a bit alone in my new big small rural world. West Dorset a big world? Well, if you land in the middle of nowhere not knowing many people close by, it is easy to feel lost.  To label a rural area as small will sound condescending. Typical incomer type comment isn’t? I don’t mean small in a negative way. I mean human size. And that’s a very good thing.

As for twitter, I ended up meeting lots of yokels instead. Well, lots of incomers to West Dorset anyway. And maybe a few locals, I still haven’t worked out how long you have to live somewhere to be a local but I digress, yet again.

I set up a Social Media account for the businesses in my town @BeaminsterB now grown to a community account now looked after by others. It has been fantastic to see it evolve (and painful at times for the lack of help).

Some people have a passion for one subject, they become specialists, maybe even gurus and we turn to them for advice. Others, like me, live abroad, change career, move away. A foreigner maybe, but really just a person who has always wondered why things are the way they are. I’m just the quiet type that tries to understand and is lucky enough to have the time to try and find a few answers. How else do you end up with random thoughts from an incomer?

I get it wrong, I don’t always understand the locals’ way or for that matter the French way or the English way (as for the British, well, where do you start?). I find it fascinating that getting things wrong in this country is often blamed on the person being from the wrong class.  The upper class whisper their woes in private, the working class blame everything on the toffs. And the middle class? Well, we’re busy signing petitions about dolphins, privatisation of the fire service, greedy bankers or the NHS. Somebody has to. 


You can follow me on twitter: natamagat

My photography’s website:

I no longer update Flickr but my old images are there.
Updated February 2013

2 thoughts on “Nathalie

  1. Hi Natalie, you tweeted me about the oil tanker situation off the coast of Dorset. If you drop me an email I’ll let you have the answer I’ve had from my colleague to your question. Best wishes. Jane

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