ACCIDENTS can sometimes be wonderful things, and events which at first appear calamitous can turn out to have happy endings – just ask Scottish artist Lex McFadyen and his husband Brendan Docherty.

After years of travelling across Europe, they decided to put down roots in France, splitting their time between there and their Argyll cottage. But the universe, it seemed, had different plans.

While on the ferry going over to sign the paperwork for the house they wanted to buy, the pair got a telephone call from the vendor who wanted to up the agreed price.

“We thought: ‘we aren’t offering any more’,” said McFadyen, 64. “So we got a map out and literally stabbed it with a pin because we had to find somewhere to stay. It landed on Noyers-sur-Serein in Bourgogne.”

READ MORE: Praise for Booker nomination from Nicola Sturgeon was 'amazing', says Scots author

The pair rented a gite, fell in love with it, and began looking for somewhere to buy in the village that very weekend. “We were in a small local shop, and there was a wee piece of paper stuck to the side of the till saying ‘house for sale’,” McFadyen said. “So we asked the woman behind the till, who said her sister was selling her home. We viewed it and had an offer accepted.

“It was a bit of serendipity rather than planning. We landed in Noyers by accident and bought a house by accident but it’s worked out quite well. It’s been nine years, and we’re still enjoying it very much.”

The National: Glasgow artist Lex McFadyen (64) and 65-year-old Brendan Docherty..

Anyone who has ever grappled with France’s famous bureaucracy knows what a beast it can be. A mix-up with McFadyen’s birth date during their application for a medical card left him three days younger than he actually was.

“We laughed about it at the time,” said Docherty, 65, “But it affected the Covid passport and trying to cross borders because the papers didn’t match. It was a nightmare.”

Of course, that paperwork glitch paled into insignificance compared to the challenge that Brexit has posed. “Brendan opened a small gallery in Noyers, and the very first show was the same night Brexit was announced as going to be happening,” McFadyen said.

“People were coming in, French people especially, and they were saying ‘we’re so sorry’ – they understood it was awful for us. We did say that Scotland hadn’t voted for Brexit, and we were outvoted by the larger population. They understood Brendan and I were fairly devastated, and there was a lot of emotional sympathy from the people in the village.”

The National: Glasgow artist Lex McFadyen (64) and 65-year-old Brendan Docherty..

In other places, that outpouring of support might be surprising, but Noyers is home to people from around 22 different countries. Coupled with the French people’s understanding of the two countries’ long history, it makes for a cosmopolitan mix McFadyen and Docherty are delighted to be part of.

They have established a gallery in the village, and McFadyen said: “We highlight as much as we can art from Scottish artists. We want to try to make it quite international, but there is a bit of a catch on your CV to have a gallery in Europe and be a working artist in Scotland.

‘IT just really impresses upon people that your work is available to go around the world, and we’re doing our bit in that respect for Scottish artists.”

The move across the Channel also had a big impact on his work. Known in Glasgow for his portraiture, he took time out while their new house was being worked on to look at his new influences, and shifted to French landscapes and still life. The result has been profound.

The National: Glasgow artist Lex McFadyen (64) and 65-year-old Brendan Docherty..

“I sell art back to Scotland, and people are quite blown away that my work has changed radically during my time here,” McFadyen said.

“The audience I had in Scotland has changed. Other galleries that didn’t show me before because my work didn’t quite sit with their clientele have asked me to join them.

“I’m now showing at galleries that 10 years ago, knew my work but perhaps didn’t see it as being part and parcel of their stable of artists, so it made a huge difference. It’s made my accessibility a lot broader.”

READ MORE: 'This is a huge moment for Scottish music': Mercury Prize nominee on making shortlist

Life is good then, for the Glasgow pair, but would they ever consider coming back to Scotland permanently if Brexit was reversed?

“I think if we became part of a Britain that was ‘unBrexited’ I don’t think it would change the way we’re living right now, this is our life,” McFadyen said.

Docherty added: “Pre-Brexit, we could almost drift and make a decision year by year about what time we were spending where, that was a real attraction. When the Withdrawal Agreement kicked in, we had to make a choice.

“It’s not what we wanted to do, but we had to do it because we wanted to remain European and still be able to spend more time in France, so who knows? At the moment, we’re staying here but never say never.”