Have your cake and eat it too

When we lived in the UK, we participated in many monthly health awareness raising events. Partly because my (last) job was a Cancer Information Specialist working within the Library Service – so was aware of just about every health campaign that exists. In fact, it was during one of these that I ended up becoming vegan for a year or so. I took part in Veganuary in January 2017 – but found it very hard so resorted back to eating a bit of cheese, but then dabbled with veganism for the following year or so, before moving out to France and finding that I really struggled without all the “meat replacements” that are readily available in the UK (I can eat Quorn but this doesn’t seem to have made it to France yet, but not Seitan which is available, and can only tolerate small amounts of Tofu). So, I conceded that sticking with vegetarian was the way to go henceforth. At least I tried!!

This year Martin and I done our usual January detox in which we attempt to recover from the excesses of Christmas. It’s funny how we always say we will “treat ourselves” by eating cakes, chocolate and our body weight in cheese, but then we end up feeling really ill afterwards – fat, bloated and in my case awful skin rashes. It’s hardly “treating” ourselves.

We aimed to cut out alcohol, meat and fish, wheat, dairy and sugar. Loosely following Carol Vorderman’s Detox for Life.

We managed the alcohol part absolutely no problem at all – neither of us drink much anymore, and obviously being vegetarian the meat was not a problem, we had only been eating occasional fish, so that didn’t bother us either. The wheat was not too bad – I have discovered red lentil and chickpea pasta which I love – and it doesn’t bloat me out like regular pasta does. But I could not manage to stop eating my favourite bread.

However, dairy was a big problem – out of all the dairy products it is only cheese and yogurt that I can manage to eat. I am lactose intolerant – and they both have some of the lactose removed in the process. I heave at the mere thought of drinking cow’s milk – I cannot stand the stuff, and as much as I like cream, any more than a tablespoon really upsets my tummy.

But I love cheese – all types – so I didn’t manage to cut back on this at all.

However, the really big shock was mine (and Martin’s) complete inability to cut back on sugar!

It seems that the bad habits of the past few years of Pain au Raisin, cookies and cakes (both at friends’ houses and also since I was lucky enough to get a fantastic Kenwood Food Mixer, I have been venturing into cake making myself) have crept up on us and we realised we were both suffering from quite bad sugar addictions.

Having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes (Mum and Uncle Peter were both borderline and managed well through diet alone) and knowing damn well that when I lived in the UK my blood glucose levels were high up within the pre-diabetes brackets – I know only too well that I can’t afford to let this become too much of a problem. I’ve been in denial for the past few years – struggling with weight gain – mostly around my tummy – all the classic signs of insulin resistance – middle aged spread, daily headaches, carb withdrawals, grumpiness after eating carb heavy meals, carb cravings, constantly hungry.

On top of all these things I am trying to eradicate Helicobacter Pylori and the resulting gastritis and sugar is a big no, no for this, and hyperglycaemia increases the risk of cancer in people with H Pylori – so in short, sugar will stop me clearing it – AND if I don’t clear it sugar will increase my chances of gastric cancer.

And, apparently Covid-19 raises your blood glucose – so if you have issues with high blood glucose and were to catch Covid-19 then this could be an issue.

Martin also acknowledged that he had a big problem with sugar too – not with weight gain – he’s as skinny as a pogo stick but he finds it impossible to say no to sweet things and cake, and he also gets very grumpy after eating sugary things – often resulting in the two of us having silly arguments just because we were having sugar crashes!!

So, we decided that we would both participate in Sugar Free February – a national campaign that in the UK is organised by Cancer Research UK. We decided that we would both do it as it’s easier to resist temptation if we are both saying no to sweet treats.

Martin is the one with a sweeter tooth than me – I will only eat it if it’s there and put in front of me – whereas Martin will go out of this way to seek out cakes!! So, it was only fair that I at least tried to make some sugar free cakes and treats. I also planned all our meals to include foods with naturally occurring sugars to help him cope with his sugar cravings.

In the aftermath of our “not very successful” January detox and the lead up to Sugar Free February – we discussed my “pre-diabetes” and decided it would be a good idea to get a Blood Glucose Monitor Testing Kit. One of the big challenges for me living in France is not really knowing how I can get routine health checks conducted – and I am a bit fearful that if I have some blood tests done to check for diabetes my readings will be high enough that the (over exuberant at times) French doctors will simply put me on metformin  and then it will be a vicious circle of being on a drug that makes you fat, and a condition that gets worse when you are fat. I’m much keener to manage any health issues with diet than medication having watched family members being prescribed drug after drug to the extent that no-one really knew which ones were for the issue and which ones were for the side effects.

So, we embarked on Sugar Free February in very good spirits. On the second day I had an awful headache which I know from experience would be a sugar withdrawal headache – this was explained to me very well by a wonderful GP that I had in the UK – she drew me a chart once which I still have!!

It explained how, even though I was sticking strictly to a diet throughout the week because when the weekend arrived and I “treated myself” my body wasn’t able to get into fat burning mode and my sugar levels were all over the place – lots of sugar over the weekend and then no sugar from Monday – by Wednesday I would have a sugar withdrawal headache. Even though I understood this – I could never quite manage to grasp the concept of having to stick to a healthy eating plan ALL OF THE TIME!!

Once my Blood Sugar monitor arrived it all suddenly became quite serious – my initial results were very high – way into the pre-diabetes range which meant that although it started out as a light hearted month long restraining from sugar it now seems like more of a long- term thing.

Reassuringly, after a few days I noticed the readings coming down – and soon they settled into mostly the normal range with the occasional higher reading in the morning – which I have since learnt is referred to as the Dawn Phenomenon the strange occurrence where even though you go to bed with a low reading and don’t eat during the night – your body still continues to make blood glucose and in turn insulin and if your body is funny (like mine) it doesn’t know what to do with it so it raises the blood sugar level.

There have been so many benefits to giving up sugar – it has quite simply been life changing and I am so happy about it!!

Firstly, I am so reassured to know that I can get my readings into a normal range – this means I am less scared of catching Covid-19. The issue with Covid-19 and high blood glucose is that if I were to have un-stable high blood pressure, and then caught Covid-19 which raises it even further then the result could be catastrophic – that’s not a risk I am willing to take when there is something I can do about it.

Secondly, and possibly the most life-changing aspect is no more headaches!! I have gone from having daily headaches – every single day of my life I would have a fuzzy head – which on at least 2 days a week would be a full-blown thumping head that would make me feel sick, light sensitive, and very, very tired – ALL GONE!!!! I have had 3 headaches to date since stopping eating sugar! One (already mentioned) on the 2nd day as the sugar left my body. One on a day when I ate too many carbs the day before. One on a day when I had a bit of a cold threatening to take hold. But all of these have been much less severe!! I am so happy.

I also have much less fuzzy head, much more clarity……

the line from Fergie’s song Big Girls Don’t Cry

keeps going round my head

“Clarity…..peace…….serenity”

It’s amazing!! I feel lighter – like a huge weight is lifted from my shoulders. My brain feels sharper! I feel happier!

My weight has changed – I’ve been struggling so much with my weight since peri-menopause and have been in full menopause for 7 years now – and despite my best efforts I struggle to lose even a tiny bit of weight and if I did lose it – any “misdemeanour” would result in putting twice as much back on. I’ve lost 5 kilos so far and have been eating really well. Not starving myself at all. But eating different things. Obviously, all added sugar is out – that was the whole point of Sugar Free February – but also, I have cut back on carbs significantly. Not to the extremes of a keto diet (I’ve been there, done that and it’s brutal) but really focusing on keeping my carb intake to no more than 35% of my daily diet and a maximum of 125gms of carbs a day. It’s been hard as I have needed to track the carbs on an app (I use Cronometer) which is time consuming and a bit tedious – but it won’t be forever, just until I find the magic number that keeps my blood glucose stable, my weight going in the right direction, but also a sustainable diet that I can enjoy and stick to.

There is no way I can follow a diet of lettuce leaves – this girl likes her food!! In fact, I like all aspects of food – shopping for it, preparing it, and cooking it. Cooking is one of my biggest and most enjoyable past times – I show love towards people by cooking for them – and I simply cannot imagine eating the same old boring stuff every day. So, this is a major consideration to take into account.

Because my weight has gone down my BMI has dropped too – and I’m now in a much heathier range. Still overweight but closer to normal than I was. For the record I don’t much like the terminology used for BMI but it is what it is – and it’s as good a tool as any to measure if my body size is going up or down. My concern was that with a BMI of over 28 I was at increased risk of Covid-19 but now it is lower and that is quite reassuring.

The nicest thing about the weight loss is that it is fat in the right places that is going. Martin rolled over the other morning for a cuddle and said “it’s feels nice – it’s less of a splodge” I know most women would punch him for that – but that’s Martin!! My body fat percentage has also dropped – it’s still quite high but at least it is moving in the right direction.

Talking of Martin – he’s happy – he’s still getting cake – although I keep threatening to cut the supply if he won’t cut back on how many peanuts he is eating!!

He’s working so hard on the house that there is no way I could deny him his cake – I fear he would mutiny if I did, down tools and go on strike!

So, I’ve been using my Kenwood Mixer to knock up some recipes that I have found on the Internet.

One of my Knit and Knatter ladies is on a Keto diet so I thought it would be nice to make some keto cakes to take round for that so that she could have something. But unfortunately, the combination of coconut flour and artificial sweetener is not to everyone’s taste so it seemed a pointless task.

But using the principles of Keto – I have tweaked a few recipes and come up with a few sweet treats that Martin really likes, and I can still eat in small quantities so we can enjoy an afternoon tea together – sometimes in the form of a picnic on one of our Sunday afternoon drives to one of the stunningly beautiful surrounding areas we are blessed with around here.

So, we are having our cake and eating it – so to speak. And very glad that we are able to do this. It’s about balance, I guess. Some people will see a 5kg weight loss in six weeks as not very much – but for me it’s about all aspects – a healthy diet, varied food, making sure that I get ALL the nutrients that I need it, and keeping my sweet toothed husband happy (so he keeps on working).

I’ve heard a lot said about Meghan and Harry in the last few days – some of which is along the lines of she wanted her cake and to eat it too – that she should have known what she was marrying in to, that she couldn’t expect her life to be normal etc.

I’ve watched the trolls out in force on the social media, the comments on news reports, people’s posts on Facebook and once again I am shocked by the hostility that people can feel towards someone they have never met, do not know apart from what the (racist) UK Tabloids allow them to see.

Being in France and not having “normal” TV just yet (we only have Netflix and the Internet) I have not yet seen the full interview – but I have seen online the short clips from it – the salient points – and I honestly think I’m watching a different interview to that of some of the people who hate her so much.

I see a couple who are clearly in love, and in support of each other. I see two people who are guarded about what they say, knowing how damaging it could be – but equally wanting to speak their truth.

I’m a blogger – I know how sometimes people don’t really understand why I would want my “dirty laundry” aired in public – and I know WHY I feel compelled to share aspects of my life that maybe some would consider too private. I can’t pretend to know why Harry and Meghan did the interview, but I would hazard a guess that it was for similar reasons to me.

I do it because I have a story to tell, a voice that needs to be heard, and in a world where people don’t always take the time to find out why we are who we are, why we behave the way we do, I would prefer that my story is told by me, myself and I – and no-one else.

I think Harry and Meghan did try to speak their truth quietly and privately – but when their cries for help were not heard, with the UK Gutter Press and public turned against them – they probably felt they had no other options.

We all have our story to be heard, we all have our challenges that we need people to understand.

Yes, the Queen is a remarkable woman who has devoted her life for nearly 70 years to the United Kingdom and 15 of the Commonwealth realms. But that doesn’t mean that every unfortunate woman (or man) who marries into the Royal Family will find it easy to fit in. It’s not as if they (the Royal Family – the House of Windsor – The Firm – The Institution – call it what you may) make it easy is it? Diana was never accepted, Camilla was initially outright rejected, Fergie wasn’t liked.

Meghan pointed out that palace employees will lie to cover up things to protect some members of the Royal Family – but failed to protect her.

I’ve seen it written that Meghan is out to destroy the Royal Family with her lies! Not so, you only have to look at Prince Philips’ track record (he pursued the Queen when he was 18 and she was 13 – in today’s standards that would make national news as grooming). He doesn’t need Meghan to run him down – there are a multitude of his misdemeanours over the years on the Internet including terrible misogyny and racism.

It seems like people will see the side of the story that they want to see. Based on their own feelings about the person, also how they are influenced by other people in their life, by the newspapers they read, the news channel they watch. Those who don’t like Meghan will probably never see it from her point of view even if it is blindingly obvious to someone else.

All I know is, Harry lost his mother at 12 years old. In a “normal” family there is no way on earth that a 12-year-old child would be made to walk behind his mother’s coffin with the lights of the cameras from the worldwide press flashing all around him, with more people that he had ever seen in his entire life watching from the side-lines, and knowing that the world watch watching through their TV screens.

Harry has seen reports about his mother suffering bulimia through her unhappiness with her life in the Royal Family

Harry has read reports that his “ginger hair” is an indicator that Charles is not his father – and then we wonder why he would be unhappy with an issue being made about his baby’s skin colour? Meghan is an American woman. In American it is a huge issue to discuss the race of a child – culturally that alone explains why she would be so offended. And please, anyone who might suggest that if she comes to live in the UK she must adopt those ways – that in itself is racism….can you not see that? Failure to accept a person’s cultural background is racism. A person moving to another country must accept that things might be different but that doesn’t happen overnight and things that are an inherent part of their make-up don’t just dissipate on the plane over. We know that from moving to France. We will always be British. We were raised British. We accept the cultural differences in France but sometimes those differences bewilder us. We understand that because we have lived in another country. People who never live in another country to that in which they are born really should not pretend to try to understand how it is for someone who is trying to do just that – let alone do it in the most famous of Royal Families.

Sadly, Archie and the new baby girl will be able to access and read FOREVER all the horrible things that have been written about them and their parents before they were EVEN BORN

And maybe even worse – the people writing these awful comments about Meghan – don’t they realise that Meghan won’t read this – but their own families will. So, if they have a family member who ever felt suicidal that person will know just who they cannot go to for support!!!

So, back to Harry. A family that inflicts that on a child can’t have their “cake and eat it” – you can’t have it both ways. If you cause that level of distress to a child then how can you expect them to not have mental health issues further down the line???? And it is shocking that Meghan was not given access to appropriate Mental Health support. Suicidal thoughts need professional intervention, not a little chat with your new brother and sister-in-law who clearly have got a better grasp on the stiff upper lip that is required for their life – lucky them!!!

Maybe this is the Royal Family’s karma?

Maybe this scandal will be the force for change that is needed?

Maybe finally the Royal Family will realise that without resorting back to incest (yes as recently as up until the first World War they were all marrying their cousins) the only way for them to procreate will be to welcome new partners with open arms – no matter what their skin colour, their nationality and to help and support them in understanding the role they must play

I have to say, I quite agree with Hilary Mantel who likened the royal family to pandas

“expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment”

“But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at” he wrote later in 2013. “Some people find them endearing, some pity them for their precarious situation, everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage”.

Harry has found his escape. He would have gone quietly I am sure, if he had been allowed to by the British Press. In the absence of any human decency from the press he done the only thing he could do.

He stuck up for himself, and his wife – who he clearly loves – against bullies.

I admire him. I would want my husband to do the same. Who wouldn’t?

November the 28th

November the 28th

“November the 28th…..November the 28th” – that’s what little 3-year-old me used to charge around chanting whenever anyone asked me when my birthday was.

We ran a Bed and Breakfast (Chambre D’Hote to our French friends) – well, actually my mum helped my nan to run hers after her and my dad split up and my grandad had died. So, there was lots of guests asking little me that question. It’s one of my favourite childhood memories – growing up being reminded of how cute I was chanting those words, and also “pretend talking” into the old, black telephone hand set – not properly able to speak but making all the right noises.

I used to gabble away quite happily to myself

I’ve touched on the fact before that we have a bit of a disjointed family – over the years there were some feuds which resulted in my mum and my uncle not speaking to each other for a long time. But back in August 2019 I got in touch with him (thanks to good old Facebook) – and we kept in contact since then. One of the first things he said to me that as he approached 70, realising the clock is ticking away, he regretted the missed years with me and Steve (my brother) and he hoped that we might meet up on a happier note. And, of course he said he remembered me running around Nan’s bungalow on the eve of my birthday singing November the 28th and thought it was really cute.

We clicked straight away, and had some lovely messages between each other for a few months, and then out of blue – on my birthday – November the 28th – Uncle Peter phoned me up as a surprise! It made my day – it was so lovely to speak to the Uncle that I had not seen since my late teens – and barely knew. After that first phone call we kept in touch regularly – he loved reading this blog, and of course because he had been a house builder through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, he was always so interested in how the house building was coming on. And always very helpful and supportive.

One evening I was chatting away to him saying we had no idea how we were going to get the plaster board up on the high ceiling, and said that we had been told there was a tool you could get to help hold it up, but we had no idea what it was called, what it looked like, and didn’t have enough French to work it out. We were chatting away and suddenly he said he had searched for the tool, told me what it was in English (Plasterboard Fixers) and in French (Fixateurs de Plaques de Plater) and then I was able to find it on Amazon France.

He just knew the answers to all those little niggly questions. Time after time I would say we were worried about how long everything was taking – and he only ever said positive, supportive things – like how hard Martin is working, and how good it all looks – he loved getting photos from me about the various stages.

For a few months we were having a couple of phone calls a month, with messages in between, and we were hoping to get over to the UK in June 2020 and finally meet up with him.

But in Feb Uncle Peter went down with a nasty illness which lingered for some time, and meant that he wasn’t as able to have the long phone calls quite so often. He used to tease me that I talked so much that even just listening to me exhausted him. We went to once a month phone calls which I really looked forward to and enjoyed so much. He was so easy to talk to, always really positive and encouraging.

Of course, by now we were all going through the pandemic and travel plans became doubtful, and very sadly we missed the window of opportunity to return to the UK to visit. We used to talk about how lovely it would be when we could finally meet up, and we could see each other again, and meet his wife Linda, and his three children – my cousins – 2 of which I have never met, and the other one, not since she was a little girl.

I wrote in a previous blog about his incredible generosity in sending us out the fabulous taps, which are going to take pride of place when we finally have our kitchen in place.

I am so glad and grateful to have those taps now.

Uncle Peter was ill in March but didn’t say anything – I had a hunch something was wrong so phoned and Linda said he was in hospital. I sent him a card and a little bar of chocolate and you honestly would have thought I had sent him the Crown Jewels – he was so pleased. Another time I came across a typed transcription of a letter that my Great Grandma (his nan) had written so I sent it to him and it made him so happy. It was so lovely doing little things like that for him – he was really a lovely, lovely uncle.

We both felt sad that Martin and I were unable to make it back to his 70th birthday party in August – but accepted that the Covid-19 situation made travel too risky and hoped and believed that we would get more chances later on.

November the 28th came around again – and Uncle Peter had sent me a humorous card, which when I opened it up – out popped three packets of seeds – 2 poppies and 1 sunflowers – with a note saying we hope you might have space for a small Dorset garden. What a lovely idea!

He sent me a message on the morning of my birthday

I used to say to him that he was my favourite Uncle – to which he would laugh and say “I’m your only Uncle” – but I did actually have Uncles on my Dad’s side. To be honest though – if I’d had a million Uncles, he would still be my favourite – we just clicked!

Then on the evening of my birthday we spoke on the phone – we had a lovely chat and I told him all about my crazy lockdown birthday – and we had a laugh and a joke.

Mid December I had few messages but he had gone very quiet, which I noticed – but knowing that everyone was really feeling low about Christmas in lockdown – we were feeling that ourselves – so I was not overly concerned.

On Christmas Day morning – we took the dogs out early and as we walked past the church, I felt compelled to go in and light a candle.

When we checked the time of this photo we realised that my visit to the church was the same time that he was dying

At the time I was not sure why. Then further on during the walk, I said to Martin “I’m worried about Uncle Peter – I think he is ill and maybe not saying anything as he never wants to worry people”. Martin asked if I was going to phone him, but I said – not phone as it’s Christmas Day and I don’t know what plans they have – but I will send a message later on.

Which I did – that evening I sent a simple Christmas message and within seconds the phone went – I answered Happy Christmas thinking it would be him phoning rather than messaging (he was not a big fan of messages) but it was Linda – with the devastating news that Uncle Peter had died that morning!

The lovely Uncle that I had become so fond of, now I will never get to meet up with him again. All I could say was that I am so, so, sorry for all of them, and sad for me, and then sat stunned.

The last month has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster – I had to tell my mum that her brother had died, and my brother, that his uncle had died – neither of them had been in contact with him at all – so there were all the emotions that go along with that. But there have been so many positives too – getting in contact with my cousins – family that I never had in my life up until now. Me and mum have finally come to realise (I think her – certainly me) that life is too short and unpredictable to keep having falling outs between each other. I feel closer to her and my brother Steve as a result of this and that can only be a good thing.

This is the 6th death I have experienced since the start of the first lockdown. One friend’s daughter’s child (born at 24 weeks – did not survive), a friend’s partner to suicide, my Uncle George (my dad’s sister’s husband), my dad’s 92-year-old friend, my cousin in Wales, and now my Uncle. 6 funerals under the most bizarre circumstances – all causing way more suffering that necessary, and all in some way indirectly caused by COVID-19 – but only one of them had actually had COVID-19.

When will this pandemic end? I can’t help feeling angry at people who are being selfish – as surely, if people had done what was necessary at the beginning back in March 2020 then it would all be over by now? Yet all we see is people having what appear to be unnecessary trips. I suppose the trouble is, everyone thinks that their reasons for travel are important and valid. All I know is this – Martin and I made lots of sacrifices last year and it has resulted in me losing the opportunity to see my Uncle who I now will never be able to see, but also I haven’t seen my son since December 2019, or my daughter since March 2020, my mum since July 2019….the list goes on. We made those sacrifices whilst others didn’t (and still are not) and it is hard sometimes to not feel that we wish we had been a bit more self-centred.

I’m so grateful that I have some wonderful friends here in France. Usually, I reach out and lean on people when I need a bit of help, but when I am really, really upset I withdraw and go into my own little bubble and avoid people. My two lovely knit and knatter friends noticed that I was struggling and have been wonderful – it is hard to reach out to people when you are usually the one who tries to help others when they are feeling down.  But they saw through the excuses and persevered and have helped me spring back.

It was my Uncle’s funeral on 20th January, and obviously I could not travel back to the UK for it. So, me and Martin followed the Order of Service as best as we could to the timings, we thought that they would be. We read the bible readings, listened to the 3 wonderful pieces of music, including one I had never heard before “Home Thoughts from Abroad” by Clifford T Ward – which I now love and will always now associate with Uncle Peter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9G0ENZJLI8

We also read out loud the poems and his eulogy. As always, when “at” a funeral you reflect on your own mortality and think about what your own life means and how you would like to be remembered. I know from what I remember as a child growing up, from what my mum has told me, and what Uncle Peter has told me himself – he was not an angel by any stretch of the imagination, he lived life to the full, he made and lost his fortune on more than one occasion, and he could be very stubborn – but deep down he had a very sensitive side – and I have seen that side of him over the 17 months he had been back in my life.

Uncle Peter made his fortune and lost it on more than one occasion. He liked fast cars, fast boats, and married 6 times. All expensive habits!!!

His death will leave a huge hole in my heart, although he was actually too young to have been a dad to me – he was a bit like a father figure, older brother, and good friend all rolled in to one. He gave out sound and sensible advice, in a no-nonsense manner. He said what he meant, and he meant what he said.

The day after he died, I chose a crystal to work with him as part of my morning Reiki practice. I was drawn to a piece of Leopard Jasper – perhaps in part because he was a Leo star sign – but also as it is a good stone for connection with animal totems. So, I attuned the Leopard Jasper to connect with Uncle Peter. So now, each morning I have a little chat with him – and ask him for advice on how to get this dammed house finished!! I think it’s working as Martin seems to making good progress. And I think our “requests” to Uncle Peter – or prayers if you like, have been answered as when our lovely Dutch friends Jan and Frieda realised how overwhelmed we have been feeling about getting started on the plaster boarding up high on the sloping ceiling they offered to help – and we are both absolutely thrilled (and very grateful) that last weekend Jan helped Martin to get the plasterboard up using some borrowed scaffolding (from a friend of Jans’s) and a really, useful machine that lifts the plasterboard up and holds it in place whilst it is screwed in place – a much, more technical version of what Uncle Peter had helped us to discover previously!!

Thank goodness for great friends

And looking back I can see that it was nearly a year ago that we had that conversation with him – so a whole year we have been worried about how on earth we would get up so high – of course we have had other stuff to worry about and to get done first – the various lockdowns, curfews etc. have dictated the order in which we got stuff down in a manner that we could not possibly have anticipated back then. But we’ve got there – and I know he would have been the first to have congratulated us on that.

The crystals over my heart chakra are increasing in number – rose quartz for my inner child work, the chakra necklace for connection with my mum, the tiger eye for work I do with my daughter, and now the leopard jasper for connection with my uncle. That’s a lot of work each day!!!

I really do believe that the Reiki helps me at so many levels. My mum sent me a little chakra necklace on my birthday and I began to use it on my heart chakra each day to connect with her and ask for healing in our relationship – and sure enough we began to re-build those bridges, and even more so since Uncle Peter has died.

My mum never fails to amaze me – she can be the sweetest person in the universe at times. One evening I was chatting to her on the phone and she said “I’ve just done a bank transfer to Sian for her new flat gift and noticed you have 2 bank accounts – which one do you use?” She is all innocent and I just start explaining how one is for “this” and one is for “that”. We carry on talking and I’m saying that we are planning to get some bits for our kitchen soon and then a few minutes later she says “oh, I’ve just popped a bit of money in your account – buy a few bits for your kitchen from me”. At this stage of the game – with us pretty much running out of budget for all but the most essential of items – this honestly meant so much!! I’m such a soppy old thing I know – but to have a few cupboards that are from my mum in our brand-new kitchen will mean so much to me – they will be called mum’s cupboards. I also want to use some of that money to buy the sink – as, with Peter having given us the taps I feel in some way that they will be reunited with her funding the sink to go with it. When I told her that she was delighted and said “yes it will be a Nunn sink as your grandad was a plumber”. So that all seems really appropriate and a lovely way to bring them into our lives together. There was 7 years between them so it is no wonder that they clashed growing up – but they did love each other at one time, and despite their differences I think it is right that they end up together in our house.

Seeing this photo drives home the age gap. Not so long after this time mum was a young woman with an annoying little brother when she started dating my dad.

Their situation reminds me of the song “Shame” by Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams – especially the first two lines

Shame

Robbie WilliamsGary Barlow

Well, there’s three versions of this story mine and yours
And then the truth
Now we can put it down to circumstance, our childhood, then our youth
Out of some sentimental gain I wanted you to feel my pain,
But it came back return to sender
I read your mind and tried to call,
My tears could fill the Albert Hall,
Is this the sound of sweet surrender?

What a shame we never listened
I told you through the television
And all that went away was the price we paid
People spend a lifetime this way
Oh what a shame.

So, I got busy throwing everybody underneath the bus, oh
And with your poster 30 foot high at the back of Toys-R-Us
I wrote a letter in my mind,
But the words were so unkind,
About a man I can’t remember
I don’t recall the reasons why,
I must have meant them…

The final poem that was read at Uncle Peter’s funeral was

“He is Gone” by David Harkins

You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

I really like the message that this poem sends – that we all leave a legacy, a world that is different even in small ways for our having been in it (it’s up to us whether that difference is a positive or negative one) and that we all have a choice as to whether we focus on the past or live in the present.

And as Uncle Peter would say “Just keep on keeping on – even if it’s hard”

Are times like these the new normal?

Are times like these the new normal?

Another long gap between entries. It’s because for weeks I had the musings of a blog entry buzzing around in my head – but it was all rather negative – so I was trying to wait for some great news to write about – but came to the realisation that as far as the Covid-19 pandemic is concerned that might be some time yet.

It’s surreal – we get up every morning – it all seems normal. We look up at the sky – that all seems normal – and very beautiful blue skies and lovely sunny weather it is too. But just when you start to act like normal you get caught in that thought process – actually nothing is normal at all.

Just what is normal about not having the liberty to plan a trip to the UK to visit your family? We are in the 21st Century – we have the modes of transport to allow us to cross continents – for goodness sake some of us can even cross interplanetary boundaries with spaceships. But all because of a virus we cannot now simply book a channel tunnel crossing or hop on a plane and go and see the ones we love the most.

To be fair, we actually could go the UK if we wanted to right now – there is no requirement to quarantine at the moment, and there is also no lock down. But, our only practical means of getting there is to take the dogs and go in the motor-home. Only one person out of our entire family has the space to accommodate us on their driveway – so we would need to book campsites and the ones that we would normally use have bizarrely closed for the entire season – and the ones that are open are either chock-a-block full – or have a “no visiting” policy.

Camping in the Forest sites closed
We simply cannot understand why these sites are closed….there are no toilets or showers in some of them so no cleaning. The jobsworth mentality of some businesses astounds me at times. Meanwhile here in France our friends are up at 0500 to keep their campsite ticking over so we have it here for our tourism in the future. 

Normally we would find campsites close by to where people live and they would visit us at the campsite or we would hop on a bus or train with the dogs and go and visit them. For those of you who live in France you may not fully appreciate the lack of space in the UK – so for context – it is actually quite rare for someone to have space to park an 8-metre motor-home – and some roads you cannot even get down in a large vehicle.

Then there is the issue of meeting up with our family members who have been self-isolating and, in some cases, shielding for months on end. It’s no longer practical to arrange for large family gatherings where groups from different households will all come together under one roof.

So, our trip needs to be sufficiently long enough to enable us to meet up with everyone we want to see separately. And that’s no mean feat to plan. We are hoping that we might get our window of opportunity after the UK summer holidays – but being realistic we are acutely aware that at any time a lock-down or requirement to quarantine could be imposed which would scupper that. We also have the long awaited, much excitement provoking, installation of our heating system to work around.

I’ve dragged my office admin and teaching skills out of the compartment in which they have been long buried – and am putting them to good use – creating spreadsheets with people’s Post Codes and researching the closest campsites and pubs with motor home stopover facilities -and then, are these dog friendly?, do they sell food? and if so – do they do veggie options? etc.  I’ve got a notebook dedicated to it too, and have been setting family members homework to check out the quality of the beer at the suggested stopover points.

Note book
Here we go again!! We already started plans for June which were scuppered – now we are planning again – knowing that anything can change at any moment. But we will not give up trying!!

We’ve become acutely aware of the longevity of time since we last saw some of the people. Martin’s mum has never been out here to visit, and it’s now 17 months since we visited the UK so the same since we saw her. 12 months since I have seen my mum, and the same since we saw Martin’s son’s and grandson.

And in thinking about that cold, stark fact – that is when it hits me and makes me think – this is just not normal. Yes, I know people emigrate to Australia and never see their family again – or maybe just once every five or ten years. And that is the choice they made when they made that move.

But we made a choice to move one measly little country away – over a 25-mile expanse of water. But it might as well have been to Australia now that Flybe went bust and the Southampton to Bergerac flight route has been lost, and all this Covid-19 shit fest!

My mum mentioned the other day the stuff that I left behind in her cupboards – and she said to me – “how come there is a bag of your toiletries and make up here”? And I remembered – that’s the bag that I left behind so if I needed to pop back for a quick visit for any reason (her illness, a problem with the kids – etc.) they I could do so, quickly, cheaply and simply – with just hand baggage – and use those toiletries. It’s remembering that which reminds me that this scenario will not be possible now – the days of spontaneous, impromptu flying visits are gone.

Then I think – well, hopefully this is just for now – surely it will all get better in time? But that is very uncertain too.

I secretly hope that one day soon we will look back on 2020 and say

“wow!! That was some shit – thank goodness it is all over”.

But I fear it might be more like

“2020 – that was the year all this shit started”

and that our lives will still be similar to how they are now. Maybe even more restricted.

We are facing the prospect of having to wear masks all the time outdoors. Parts of France are already having to do this – the number of places is increasing daily. Hopefully here in rural SW France it won’t be necessary – with all this space – but with the tourist season well under way, if I am to be realistic, I need to accept that the day we are told it’s our turn will come at some point.

Masks outside
Will our village be next? We are surrounded by green dots. 

I’m still not sure what scares me more – seeing “gendarmes” at our Saturday markets or the prospect of being blind as my mask steams up my sunglasses as I walk along (I can’t be without sunglasses as I am hypersensitive to sunlight)

Gendarmes at the market
Yes I know I’m a big baby – but I still really can’t get used to seeing armed police in such normal settings as a small village Saturday vegetable market. But they are very friendly!! 

But the reason that humans have survived so far on this planet is our ability to cope with change and to evolve. Our ability to change to suit our environment and to make the best of whatever challenges we are facing will help to carry us through this dilemma – and the next…and the next.

Back in January we had a clear plan as to what order we were going to complete the house in. It’s such a long time ago and that plan has changed so much – I cannot even remember what order we were going to do it in. But that doesn’t matter – because when you are faced with a lock down preventing you getting supplies for one element – you simply focus on what you can get – and continue with that to the best of your ability. Flexibility is key to survival in these circumstances.

List of jobs to be done
Shopping for building materials in France is a challenge to say the least. The shop we get our doors from is an hour and a half each way – and the stuff is never all in stock. 3 trips so far!!! 

One thing we have been quite keen to do with our house build is to source our materials from France where possible, or at least from Europe. We found out the hard (and expensive) way of what might happen if we had stuff from over that 25 mile stretch of water back last year when we had a mad panic to get the TEK panels shipped over before Brexit in case we were clobbered with import duties. Initially we thought we were buying a European product but when a factory closed down the panels were sent from Europe to the UK – then cut there – and then shipped back. Not quite what we had in mind when we set out a vision of a low carbon footprint!!

We also believe firmly in supporting the economy in which we live as that is where our future will be. It makes sense to us to buy as local as possible – from as small scale and personal as shopping for vegetables in our own village – right up to big purchases such as tiles, wood, and such like.

Market shopping
When you can get beautiful veg like this on your doorstep why would you drive nearly an hour to go to a big supermarket? And the eggs are local laid from a lovely lady who rescues hens. 

So, for us – it was never a quick fix of pop back to the UK with a van and pick up a load of cheap paint and maybe a B&Q kitchen – and our search for products which are local where possible, European where not, and represent good value, and staying power – has cost us a lot of time. We are indeed slower than the average house builders that’s for sure.

Our tiles are a perfect example of this. For months and months, we were fixated on Travertine tiles – a lot of the Travertine sold in France comes from Italy and if not there, then Turkey – that was OK as still European. So, we went round loads of suppliers – but for some reason we just were not convinced. We had the occasional glance at ceramic tiles in shops – but I could never decide on whether to go for grey tones – or beige tones. We wanted to do the entire ground floor as one entity so the colour scheme would need to be suitable to blend with living space, bathroom and bedroom. And I couldn’t get my head around needing to go for greyish tones in the bedroom area.

Then we discovered the colour “griege” – as you might expect it is the perfect blend of grey and beige!! The moment I spotted the tiles (that are now in place on our floor) in the shop (that I had been to many times before and somehow missed) I fell in love!! I could instantly see them in our house!! Months and months of time spent in pondering loads of different options with Travertine – to decide in 30 seconds that ceramic tiles were the way to go after all.

Tile order
Every corner of our house has a pile like this

Unfortunately, as is nearly always the way in France – the tiles needed to be ordered in – and although the guy in the shop said 2 weeks – it was in actual fact nearly 2 months before they finally came in. They are Italian – and the Italian’s are even slower at delivering than the French it seems (if that is indeed possible).

I know that two years ago I would have been furious if I had ordered 2.5€K worth of tiles and been told I would have to wait for 2 months to get them. But, such have we already adapted to our new normal in France we accepted the delay with a shrug, and a laugh – it’s just the way it is. “C’est la vie”.

Tiling
We have a long way to go before they are finished but we love them and the wait was worth it

Life in France – and Covid-19 – have taught us the art of patience like nothing else ever before. And flexibility, with a large helping of resilience too!

And we keep focusing on what we have done – rather than what we haven’t. For instance we now have hot water in our bedroom – only a temporary sink which was bought from a Facebook forum – but it will do for now and when we have finished our “proper bathrooms” we will install it in the Garden House which will in time become a little eco-studio to let out on AirBnB and HomeAway and also my Treatment Room.

Hot water in our bedroom
I actually really like this “petite” wash stand – but it’s the wrong colour for both of our bathrooms. 

Another thing that has really helped us both is our Yoga practice and also Reiki. During the lock down period I completed my Reiki Masters Teacher Training and became a Reiki Master – and Martin was my first Reiki Level One student. So now we both have that tool in our boxes to help guide our lives. It really does help us to focus on the here and now, to be in the present moment, and to live our lives kindly and compassionately.

Mandala Beads
Just like my own Reiki Master gave me a Mandala Bead String when I done my Reiki Level One – I got Martin to make his own one which will help him learn the chakras and Reiki precepts. 

So yes, we will have to wait until the time is right (and safe) to return to the UK to visit our family (and collect the items in storage at various family members houses), and in the meantime we just need to adapt to that and embrace the positives about that situation. And of course, we will look forward to getting our treasured possessions – like our wedding present cut glass wine glasses – and I’m sure my mum will be glad to get her cupboard space back.

We are blessed to live in such a time that technology allows us to see each other face to face in the present moment – stuff like Skype and Facebook messenger allow us to celebrate birthdays, have family get-togethers, and even go on “virtual mum and daughter shopping trips “ as I found out the other day.

My daughter Sian is about to embark on an UNPAID NHS placement for 30 weeks (yes, she is a bloody hero – it’s quite one thing to be paid to work in the institution that us Brits hail as our national treasure – but as the poor student nurses have found out – that institution doesn’t quite reciprocate that care to the very people who make it. I’ve had my day of working “with” the NHS – not “for” it thank goodness and have seen first-hand how broken it is becoming) – and she needed to get some new clothes to fit better into their dress code. So off she went to the shops – and she sent me a message on the way back to say she had been very successful, bought loads of things and would I like a video call when she got home so she could show me everything. Yes of course!! I would love that – that’s the next best thing to actually going out shopping with her – and I do so miss the times we would go off to Bournemouth for a girly weekend – for a theatre show, a waffle and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and then endless traipsing around the shops. She said she was stopping off for a coffee on the way back so would call me when home.

So, she video called me and gave me a lovely fashion parade – modelling all the things she had bought – asking my opinion and advice – what would be the best one for her first day, was the white one a bit too much – should she take it back – all the things that a mum and daughter would do on a shopping trip. And of course – me being a mum wanted to treat her to something – so I asked what each item had cost, and made a note of what I thought was her favourite item – and thanks to our brilliant technology – at the same time as chatting away to her I was able to do a quick bank transfer for the cost of the gorgeous Burgundy Blazer and added a couple of quid for her coffee too!! Just like a mum slipping a few notes in her daughter’s pocket when they are out.

Burgundy Blazer
I can’t wait to see her in the Burgundy Blazer

Simple things like that help me to feel that I can still be a “proper mum” to my baby girl (who ain’t a baby no more) in these crazy times.

Healthy cakesMy weekly Skype calls with both kids together are often the highlight of my week – sometimes Sian is busy getting ready for work (she’s a carer so works a lot at weekends – and night’s too) so she will stay on for half hour or so, and then Ryan will stay on chatting for a while afterwards – and we talk about all sorts of things – last week he was giving me some healthy eating tips on how to get more protein in (always difficult for vegetarians and my solution is often to put a pecan nut on top of a cake ha ha) and teaching me a few Japanese words. His trip to Japan probably won’t happen next year now – but instead of moaning about it he is simply saying “well another year will mean I am even better at speaking Japanese”.

I know all (well most if not all) mums are immensely proud of their kids – but I really do burst with pride over both of mine – they are intelligent, caring, polite, and both very resilient. Oh, and clever – both of them – very clever!!

And let’s not forget the dad’s too – I know that Martin misses his boys enormously – and he will probably kill me for saying so – but the only time I have seen tears in his eyes over the past few months was when we realised we were on the one year anniversary point since we both saw them. He’s extremely relieved that they have both remained in work throughout the pandemic and like me, enjoys the video calls to keep in touch. And finding little things that represent a connection when we unpack boxes are enough to bring a smile to his face after the tears].

Tour de France mug
Ironically the day that I found this in a box Adam was also using his one in the UK. It’s now Martin’s favourite mug and in constant use when it’s not being washed up. Simple things really help to keep the connections going. 

So, is this the “new normal?” – does our future now involve keeping family relationships together with modern technology, learning the art of patience to a far greater extent, and acceptance that the universe not only doesn’t revolve around us it is also changing very dramatically and very quickly?

The hardest thing I find to accept is that our plans for the purpose of this house have been put under threat.

Initially we intended to throw everything we had into this building project to create a home that was big enough for us two to live all the time, that for all four of our children would be a holiday home, a safe haven, a place to come to relax, and (hopefully) distant into the future, when we are no longer – a place that they would inherit together that would be a part shared holiday home for them all. A place that over the next 1, 2 or even 3 decades they would have come to enjoy and visit often – a second home to them. We thought that Brexit might shake that plan up a little but over time that would settle down, but now Covid-19 seems to be the biggest threat to that. But there is really little point in worrying about that – as all we can do is life in the present moment and see it for what it is today.

Is this the new normal? I hope not, but if it is – we will all adapt to it – and the most important thing is that we will survive and thrive.

In the words of the Foo Fighter’s excellent (but not well known) track “Normal” (B side of Times Like These).

Normal – Foo Fighters

But I won’t give up when I want it enough
No I won’t give up
Anything, anyway, anyone, anyday
Cause I figured it out
Here and the now takes me day by day

Will you come out tonight
Will you back down, will you put up a fight
Turn me around and make everything right
Make me normal from now on

 

I love the A side of that track too – but even more so I love the Pandemic version which was released by a multi-star cast in April for the BBC Radio 1 Stay Home Live Lounge. It’s worth a watch – even if just to see Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighter’s drummer) playing a Lava Lamp!!

list of people in the Times like these video

 

Pandemic Version of Times like These

 

Don’t Stand so Close to Me

Feature photo

Don’t stand so close to me

It’s been over a month since my last blog entry.

Certain things happened straight after that last post was published and it’s taken me this long to get my head around it all, to feel in the right sort of place to write a blog.

Things that have happened that meant I was not at all happy with writing a “Polyanna style” #myperfectlifeinFrance account of our amazing and exciting time in France, and equally things were so raw for the people concerned that it felt insensitive to be writing about them at that time. So, rather than write an entry that glossed over the real issues I chose to wait a while.

Firstly, our Dutch friends daughter was pregnant with twins, due to give birth in July. We know her daughter – a lovely, bright, cheerful young woman with a happy, sunny disposition. She was very excited to be pregnant. All seemed well with the pregnancy so we were amazed when our friend contacted me to say that her daughter had gone in to labour early – at 24 weeks and despite the medical team’s best efforts they had not been able to prevent one of the babies being born. Her tiny little son was born weighing just 800 grams. The other baby (a girl) was still inside her for a few days and then 4 days later she was also born weighing a little less. All this was happening in The Netherlands, in the middle of the Covid-19 lock down with no way of our friend’s even being able to go to their daughter. Such horrible difficult times for them – and it has really brought home the grim reality of what a truly awful thing this lock down is.

Sadly, the little boy didn’t survive and lived only one week. But he must have been one heck of a fighter to have hung on that long – such a tiny baby, he had operations on his tiny body for not just one, but two collapsed lungs. His sister is now just over a month old and, although it is very up and down for her – she is still fighting her fight.

In ordinary times this would have been a traumatic enough time for any family to have dealt with – but the added impact of the lock down has been phenomenal. It’s not my story to tell, but all I will say is that it is humbling to see the strength of our dear friends in how they have handled this – they have shown such strength of character – and looking at the bigger picture they resisted the urge to make a snap decision to go to Holland and risk the tiny babies catching something they caught along the way. It’s times like this when you really do see first hand how bloody awful these times are when something extra-ordinary happens. And of course, everyone seems to want to add their own pearls of wisdom to the situation, just adding to the mixed emotions our friends were already feeling. It’s such a shame that people cannot consider that, until you have walked a day in someone else’s shoes you cannot possibly know what challenges they face.

Also, we very sadly lost a member of the British expat community here in our village to suicide. He was a troubled character, and had suffered from mental health difficulties for most of his adult life – and it seems that the lock down was the last straw for him. His way of letting off steam was to go for hard and fast bike rides – which with the French lock down rules were forbidden. At least that’s what he thought – only after his death did, we find out that he could have got a doctor to grant him permission on mental health grounds – but hindsight is no good once someone has taken their life. The day he killed himself a fine came through the post – his partner had been fined for going out without her paperwork – the ironic thing was that she was on her way to get forms so she could do the paperwork – so a fine of 135€ was another contributory factor. Imagine, an already limited income, little money to spare, no printer at home – you go out to get a free copy of the form from the Town Hall, and Hey Presto! The Gendarmes arrive and slap a 135€ fine on top of your already bleak situation.

It hit us all hard, his death. Martin and I were not close friends with either him, or the partner he has left behind. We saw them sometimes in the village and chatted, but never really socialised outside of that. But the tiny little English population of around 30 people in Villefranche-du-Perigord and the immediate surrounding area is so small that it can’t help but have an impact. It’s a stark reminder that we are all vulnerable to the overwhelming feelings of isolation. It’s lovely to have French neighbours and have a brief chat – but talking about anything deep and meaningful? That’s not so easy.

First, I felt angry at him – then I felt angry at the system – then at all of us who could have done more to help!! But then I realised, there is no point in being angry – it won’t bring him back.

His funeral was one of the most surreal events I have ever witnessed. There were 7 of us there. We had to be 1 metre apart at all times, were not allowed to go to the front to read our poems, testimonials etc. We had to stand in our places and read/speak from there. We were allowed to go up one at a time to address the coffin but not to touch it.

Curved crem screen
I stood watching the (rather contemporary) curved sliding door encompass his coffin feeling very disconnected to the whole thing.

To hear his partner, standing alone with no-one able to comfort her, read her testimony to the man she had shared her life with for 30 odd years was something that I honestly hope I never have to experience again in my entire life. It feels as if we have stepped back in time – or forward – to an Orwellian science fiction horror story!

Funeral flowers

 

 

We all did what we could for both him, and his partner, a few of us made funeral flowers from wild flowers,

 

 

 

 

 

and nice little touches

Teeny scythe brooch

(like the teeny scythe brooches as a nod to his strange wish to have death at his own funeral) but as with any bereavement these gestures are never enough to take away the pain, and with this being such a complex situation – so many unusual factors – death by suicide, death in a “strange” country, and then the lock down on top of it all – what a crazy situation it was. People’s lives changed forever and none of it made any easier by the Covid-19 situation.

I honestly wonder what the long term impact of these life events will be – will people need specialist counselling in the future to unpick all the craziness of losing a baby or a life partner in the midst of Covid-19 – and have our Governments even started to consider where all the resources will come from if this will be the case? It’s hard to really believe that locking us all up under house arrest for over 2 months and allowing businesses to crumble, relationships to suffer, and all the other horrible, horrible things that are happening to occur– is the right thing.

Yet, I have to say honestly – if I had been given the choice on whether to stay at home and avoid the virus, rather than being told to, I probably still would have done so – so fearful have I been of catching it. But choice is the key word here!! Like Big Brother on Channel 4 was just a big social experiment it feels as if one day we will look back and refer to Covid-19 as the point in time where everything in society changed.

Here in France our lock down has been lifted a bit – we are allowed to go out without paperwork for up to 100 km (and this looks to be relaxed further soon). Our restaurants are now allowed to re-open from today. We were given the opportunity to test run the new social distancing measures at our friend’s restaurant on Saturday night when we went out to get Fish and Chips to mark the 5 year anniversary of my dear step-dad’s death. He had it well under control – all the tables at least 1 metre apart, masks to be worn as we went in and out or moved around, food and drinks served to the edge of our table for us to move in to place to avoid him moving around us.

fish and chips
Fish and Chips was Alan’s favourite meal. A rare treat for him which he really, really enjoyed when he did get to eat it. We also seem to find little ways to honour our lost loved ones – often involving food. 

I’ve been going out a bit more but, I still get freaked out when people get too close to me. We are so lucky that the group of friends who we socialised with via Skype “Happy Hour”  during lock down are all really good at respecting the social distancing rules and since we have been allowed to meet up together we have turned our virtual Happy Hour into real, face to face Happy Hours – taking it in turns to host at our own houses.

Happy Hour
How would we be anything but happy in these beautiful surroundings. This is Jan and Frieda’s back garden! Lovely! 

But, outside that friend group there are people in our wider circle who we know have not been respecting the social distancing rules – and when we see them ignoring the rules, kissing our elderly friend, it’s hard to not recoil in horror – or say something. I suppose the chances are they won’t infect him with Covid-19 – we haven’t got any cases at all in our area – but who on earth would want to be the person who gave that horrible virus to an elderly man – why take the risk? I suppose the thing is, none of us really know how a situation is for another person. On the surface of it someone who is in their 70’s might be wondering why on earth me and Martin are taking it all very seriously – but they don’t know our full medical history. On the other hand, we don’t understand what factors might affect the way they feel about it. Maybe they do not know other ways to convey love and care.

I know that, for me, not hugging our dear friend on his 92nd birthday was a very, very hard thing to do, but sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind. And I believe we have shown more love and care by respecting the rules.

We isolate ourselves

Like Brexit – these times are very divisive. Nowadays we face the dilemma of not “are you a Remainer or a Leaver?” but instead “are you respecting the social distancing rules”?

Respect me…respect my distance

Love me…love my mask

Your 4 metre socially distanced square or mine?

Who knows what the next funky catchphrase will be?

Mask

We were issued with a mask by our ‘Maire’. Out and about in the shops we now find that some shops state “masque obligatoire” so on it goes! I’m not sure that putting a dirty mask that has been lurking around in the plastic bag inside my backpack on is such a good idea. 30 seconds later it’s slipped down my face so my nose is peaking out – so I pull it up – I repeat this load of times – making the whole exercise pointless.

We’ve seen people wearing masks and visors (neither of which are medical grade) and being lured into a false sense of security brushing right up next to people. It’s quite scary that people don’t seem to grasp that the masks will only stop them passing on the virus if they have it (and that is not guaranteed) but it will not stop them getting the virus from someone else who has it. The best preventative action is (in my humble opinion) to wash your hands frequently and keep a safe distance from people.

So, I’ve been singing The Police’s “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” in my head a lot these past few weeks. The song that is rumoured to have been founded in reality – that Sting as a teacher had an illicit affair with a student. I don’t think so – he was a teacher, and he experienced being the subject of many a rampant school girl’s fantasy, and he wanted to write about it.

I’ve been missing being a teacher lately – well to be honest I’ve been missing doing any sort of structured work or education as it has felt as if my life lacks structure – the lock down seems to have sent me a bit crazy.

Pandemic Pressure

And whilst I completely believe that no-one should have felt any pressure to have done anything other than survive during the lock down – in fact I felt myself getting really pissed off on a number of occasions when I’ve heard people big themselves up over how they couldn’t just sit idly by whilst the whole universe felt apart so they done some amazing task for the whole of mankind! But even though I truly believe that people had more than enough on their plate, I did manage to brush up on some skills and have completed a Level Three Diploma in Ayurveda which will really complement all the other strings in my bow. I’ve also made some really good progress with my Reiki Masters Teaching Qualification – I figured that after 3 years of being a Level Three Practitioner it is time for me to start teaching it.

Hazmet massage

And, also as Covid-19 social distancing rules will mean that giving people Indian Head Massage and Holistic Facials will be out of the question for a while (can you imagine having to wear a mask or a visor when having either of those?) I decided that I would get a qualification in Hot Stone Reflexology so I can concentrate on people’s feet for a while instead. All ways that I can adapt my work as a Holistic Therapist to live with Covid-19 but at the same time staying true to myself, respecting my own values and undertaking work that I believe will enhance and complement my work rather than just taking a knee-jerk reaction and becoming something entirely different instead.

I did rather enjoy the lock down period in many ways – not feeling any sense of urgency to get up in the morning and lingering over my daily yoga practice. I’ve even managed to entice Martin into joining me for 30 minutes yoga each morning followed by a daily gratitude exercise. We reflect on things we are grateful for, and many times that has included our wonderful friends, our amazing children, our beautiful surroundings, and the birds and animals we see all the time.

This routine of yoga and gratitude has had an almost tantric feel to it (and no, by that I do not mean that we are spending 7 hours a day practising tantric sex like Sting and Trudie were rumoured to be – again…it’s just a rumour so he says). But our little morning ritual has kept us connected deeply to each other when to be honest at other times it has all felt a little crazy.

Now we can actually go out to the shops to get the building supplies we need we are both loathe to give up that morning ritual – and why should we? It keeps us grounded and connected – and during these days of social distancing, and that tangible lack of human contact, Martin is the only one who “Can Stand so Close to Me” – so I am making the most of that! Yes we have a lot to do, and there is so much work to do on the house that it feels over-whelming at times, but if we ever reach the point that we don’t have time enough to take a few minutes out of each day to focus on ourselves, and to spend time with friends, then there really will be very little point in it at all. As the events of the past month have shown us – life is precious and we do not know what day will be our last – so live it whilst we can.

 

 

 

Holiday

Holiday

After our busy 10 days having the ‘fosse septique’ installed we were delighted that, with a bit of a tweak to our plans, we were able to get work on our underfloor heating system and floor installation moving forward as well.

Our Plan A for the underfloor heating had gone a bit pear shaped when a) the supplier who had our money and our goods was unable to deliver due to the lockdown and b) the person who had originally been going to help us lay the pipework turned out to be somewhat unreliable. This meant that a significant amount of money’s worth of insulation and pipework was sitting somewhere in Bergerac and we were unable to get it and they were unable to deliver it, and even if we did yet it, we were not sure if we would be able to even lay it. The supplier had made a mistake with the first plan, and he refused to re-do the plan without further payment, so we were a bit wary of trying to adapt the plan without a plan so to speak.

We had the idea of asking the man who was booked in to put the ‘chape’ over the top of the pipework if he was able to help us out with laying the insulation and the pipes – and it turned out he could. And even better he was happy to collect the pipework from the supplier in Bergerac!! What a fortuitous stroke of luck! And it really does go to show that it is always worth reaching out and asking for help!

So, a few days later and we had the insulation, the pipe work for the underfloor heating and the concrete floor laid on top – glistening like icing on a cake!! I love watching concrete being laid – it fascinates me, and I wonder if I ever grow up maybe I could get a job like that! Fancy being paid to wiggle a paddle around in a pool of gloopy cement wearing waders!! What a job!

Click here to watch my little video

The floor cannot be walked on for 3 days, so we cannot go into the house – at least not in the traditional manner, but we moved our temporary staircase to outside on the ‘terrasse’ so we can nip up to get anything we have forgotten as long as we don’t let any flies in!! We already spotted one dead in the floor this afternoon!! That’s not as bad as if one of the cats got in – can you imagine seeing a cat struggling to wade through the cement trying to escape! Mind you, when one of the daft buggers done that on our foundations, she didn’t get stuck – she just left some really cute paw prints – which we have enjoyed seeing everyday up until now – we will miss those!

Paw Prints

Resigned to sleeping in the motorhome for at least 4 nights we decided “f*** lockdown” let’s go on holiday!!! So, we hopped into Marsha and let her take us somewhere lovely.

Our holiday location is lovely!! Very picturesque – overlooking a lovely field that reminds us of Wales with it’s stone walls.

We are pitched up on hardstanding, with water and electric hook up. The lady of the house says ordinarily we could use her family bathroom straight through the stable door next to where we are pitched – but sadly it’s out of action due to the lockdown meaning bathroom supplies are not easily available. Never mind – we have everything we need here in our little home on wheels!!

Pitch next to stable door

It’s a shame about the weather as after nearly three weeks of sunshine it’s now turned rainy – but it’s still warm, and in between showers there is a lovely little woodland walk to take the doggos on.

In fact, on one of those walks we spotted a little place called the Garden House where the proprietor does wonderful vegetarian and vegan meals – who would think in rural South West France you could find a lovely vegan salad like this for lunch!! How lovely – we booked a table for two and plan to return most days we are here!

Chickpea pasta salad

I’ve been singing the song “Holiday” by Madonna in my head for the past few days and pondering….I don’t think she was actually writing about a holiday as such. I think the song is a metaphor for a better world for us to live in. Back in the early 1980’s (when this song was released) the world was a very troubled place – we nearly had world war 3 happen due to a fault in the Soviet Union’s ballistic missile early warning system!! Madonna talks about turning the world around, bringing back all those happy days, and also “let love shine, and we will find a way to come together, make things better”.

“Holiday”
If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice

Everybody spread the word
We’re gonna have a celebration
All across the world
In every nation
It’s time for the good times
Forget about the bad times, oh yeah
One day to come together
To release the pressure
We need a holiday

You can turn this world around
And bring back all of those happy days
Put your troubles down
It’s time to celebrate
Let love shine
And we will find
A way to come together
And make things better
We need a holiday

I think it was a call to action! And one that is now so very appropriate once again! If there has ever been a time for all across the world/in every nation to come together it is now! All over the world our leaders are trying to work out what to do next! China and the USA want things back to “normal” (what even is that?) and here in France, Macron is saying that this unthinkable situation has the ability to remake capitalism and that we need to take this opportunity to invent something new because that is all we can do. Meanwhile in the UK, now that Boris has stared death in the face Covid-19 is now suddenly very scary and he is frightened to lift lockdown even though just a few weeks ago he said that it was OK if some old people died whilst gaining herd immunity. Is that the sign of a narcissistic psychopath? Or just a human being?

We found out today that one of the two boulangeries in our village has closed down. The owner cited the reason as it being impossible to be accepted in the village despite being here for 2 years, as she was not originally from here. That’s just such an awful thing – and sadly it’s not the first time we have heard this. It’s certainly not just the English or Dutch “incomers” who have noticed that – we know of French people from other parts of France who have struggled to integrate. And it’s not just this village – the lovely lady who gave us loads of crates from the vineyard where she works in Duravel told her she was moving back to Nantes as she was simply not accepted in Duravel and had been unable to make friends.

Surely, now is the time to “come together” and help to upkeep anyone who is prepared to support our village. All businesses are going to struggle enormously during and after Covid-19 and for some time to come – so we should each be mindful of that. With only one boulangerie in the village now we will not have bread, pastries or cakes on their day off or during their holiday periods. We have always tried to spread our support equally amongst all the shops, bars, cafes and restaurants in the village – appreciating all of them. Naturally it’s been easier to support some more than others, as being vegetarian our choices in some of the food places has been limited and some have been very unyielding in their approach to offering veggie alternatives – but we have done what we can, and spread our money (and love) amongst all of them. We truly hope that we do not see any more closures.

So, back to our little holiday. We love this little spot that we have found! It’s perfect to relax, we are undisturbed by people, close enough to a village to get bread and vital supplies, but far enough away to have a sense of being in the middle of no-where. And of course! We haven’t really gone away!! We have just had a staycation!! We’ve been here all the time – at home! Safe at home!!

Every day I reflect on the many things I am blessed with – and the beautiful surroundings that our stunning house is situated in is always high up on that list. We never intended to build this house for just us, we also had a need to share it – with family and friends, maybe also paying guests too, the odd passing motor homer from one of our many forums, and I really hope it’s not too long before we can welcome people to our little slice of paradise….but meanwhile we feel blessed that we can have our little holiday right here.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it!

 

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it

Day 25 of Covid-19 lockdown, and no end of sight. Yet it all seems strangely surreal. There is no resistance on my part. I am happy to be safe at home, and I do not see it as being locked up at home.

Safe at home

But….we are lucky, and we know it. We have a vast amount of space to call our home so we do not feel the same confinement as perhaps someone living in a small apartment in Toulouse might do.

Life goes on. Yet it is not the same life we had just 25 days ago. Our daily routine has changed. We get up early – knowing that if we fall in to the trap of treating every day as a Bank Holiday we will lose the momentum on life. So, the alarm goes off, and Martin rises and makes me my morning drinks. Coffee to wake me up, and lemon and turmeric water to keep my respiratory system and gut healthy. I am terrified of getting this virus – my immune system is potentially still compromised and I have no way of knowing how much – still too scared to venture over to the Medical Laboratory to get my H.Pylori breath test done. Also, the gastritis can take such a long time to clear up, I have to assume that it is still there. I still have pain in my stomach, and on occasion if stressed or if I have eaten the wrong thing, I get severe pain – so I think it is a fair assumption to make.

Then my daily yoga and Reiki routine starts – with the gift of extra time I know spend about an hour on this each morning. With only myself and Martin for face to face communication I have found that now confronted with myself, I do a lot of soul-searching, and, much like when I went half way around the world as a young woman to “find myself” I am….well, I suppose “re-finding myself”. I’m not afraid to confront myself, but I find myself wondering how that process is for people who are always keeping busy and distracted to avoid dealing with themselves?

For me it’s an interesting occupation. I think a lot these days about my part in the universe, and the things that I personally have done to contribute to the state that the earth is in. Now that we cannot take all those things for granted it is easy to see that we didn’t need to take our huge, gas guzzler pick-up truck to the big shops 25km away once a week. One big shop once a month would have sufficed. We have always used our local shops and really value them…but we could use them more, and the market – the lovely Portuguese lady who served me each week and gave me a ‘petite cours de Francais in our interaction – why didn’t we buy more vegetables from her instead of the meagre few because we had been to Lidl the day before? She is now the only stall holder permitted to trade at our market – now scarily supervised by the ‘gendamerie’.

Saturday market

Then there are the flights for short weekends. I now feel ashamed that since we have lived out here as well as numerous longer trips, I have had two weekend trips by plane – one to Venice, and one to Geneva. It feels very indulgent and extravagant now to have made such a stomping huge carbon footprint for a few days away. And selfish! At the time it didn’t feel selfish – the Geneva trip was to spend precious time with my daughter – and boy do I wish I could spend time with her now – and my son. But now, with all flights grounded, Flybe completely out of business, and the future very uncertain, I think I would honestly be happy if I could have just one visit a year to see all of my family. It’s unthinkable and unbearable to imagine never seeing them again….and if I allow my mind to wander down that path, I start to lose my ability to breath as panic and overwhelm take hold….and so I don’t. I cling to the hope that once this is all over, the world will be a brighter place that enables us to travel oversees – just in a less selfish manner.  But meanwhile, we are all discovering just how many things we can manage to do using social media and technology.

Between Martin and his brother, they have brought his mum into the 21st Century and we enjoyed an hour long What’s App video call with her this week, giving her a virtual tour of the house. She has never been out here, and maybe now never will, but at least she has now seen it.

March was my son’s birthday and we managed a Facebook video birthday party of sorts!! It went a little pear shaped when his surprise Birthday Cake arrived and he inadvertently sent it away, and my mum couldn’t get connected – but we were still able to connect with each other on his special day.

Creams waffle

By the time it was my mum’s birthday in April we had practised often enough for us to have a successful Skype party – of course it is not the same as a real face to face party…but the feeling of warmth was still there.

Hugs are now done from a safe distance – over the Internet – and we are all sending each other virtual hugs, and encouraging memes. I love these…so much so that I accumulate them and save them in a folder so I always have one ready to send back when I get one – or if a friend or family seems in need. So much so that my daughter asked me the other day if I had a stash when within 30 seconds of her expressing an emotion, I had sent her an “appropriate” poster. I have noticed though the grumpy brigade is out in force and I have seen a few people moaning about getting these. Who could hold it against someone for sending them their thoughts in a message? What they might not realise is that the sender might be reaching out to someone as they need a hug (virtual of course). With all this time on our hands are we really so self-centred that we don’t have time to look at a little picture on Facebook?

Socially distanced hug

Even Martin and I are careful with our hugs. We have to be…..he is the one who is going to the shops so when he comes back I am very insistent that he washes his hands carefully to avoid passing anything on to me. Woe betide him if he forgets. And he felt the “wrath of Sharon” the other day when someone (who shall remain nameless) called to collect a borrowed item.

Co-vidiot

We assumed that the said person would realise that in lockdown we needed to keep a safe distance apart, yet the “Co-vidiot” (yes that really is a term now) actually followed Martin into our house even when Martin said “hang on – stay there” and then he actually clapped me on the back…before then attempting to elbow bump me!!

I restrained myself from knocking him straight off the ‘terrasse’ (there is still no balustrade there) and bit my tongue until after he had gone. But then the tears and the fear came. What if…..what if he had it…what if he passed it on….so we both stripped off – clothes into the washing machine, and triple scrubbing of the hands for both of us. And a very polite (much more polite than deserved) text to say that he must respect the social distancing if he should need to return again. It’s at times like this when we realise that we do not all place the same level of seriousness on the situation in hand. And that, in itself is scary.

Every aspect of our life seems dominated by Covid-19. After I do my Yoga and Reiki we have breakfast, then Martin gets stuck into some drilling or something and I do an online exercise class. I am determined to keep my fitness levels up as much as possible, because

a) when I emerge from lockdown I would like a summer ready body and

b) I have read that a high percentage of people who have died from Covid-19 had a high BMI and mine is sneaking in to the danger zone at 28.9 Interestingly, if I was 5 foot 9 inches I would be a healthy BMI so actually I think I should just find ways of getting taller. As Garfield once said “I am not fat, I’m under tall”.

Garfield

In the afternoon I have been trying to do a bit of gardening, which I find very therapeutic, or something useful outdoors – one afternoon I helped Martin move a huge pile of wood – and was glad that I had been doing some weight training beforehand.

And then in the evenings after dinner I have been working on my Ayurveda Diploma. So far, I have submitted three modules for assessment, so am hoping that I will have achieved this qualification before the end of lock down so that I can use it in my Holistic Therapy Practice when I can work again!! It’s fascinating to learn about and as well as using the principles on myself I know I can reach out to other people and help them by using this too.

Then it’s bedtime and my little night-time routine of my Golden Milk to help boost my immunity (Ayurvedic) and essential oils on my feet to help me sleep.

With the lockdown situation our work on the house came to an abrupt halt, which has meant that we both have had to practice the art of patience quite a lot lately. So, as Martin and I are learning that gift I thought I would teach the doggos some patience too – see the video for how good they are.

But saying that, we did have some brilliant progress on our house build this week. After being told that the installation of our ‘fosse septique’ was delayed due to the lockdown, we then had problems with the motorhome water pump, so, fearful that we could end up with no water at all, I wrote an appeal to SPANC (the authority responsible for sanitation). Long story short – they agreed that the work could star,t and start it did – this Monday. So, we are now very, very close to having running water into the house, and an appropriate way of removing the water from the house…and maybe even a flushing toilet – if only Martin can find one!!

Fosse installation 2

Meanwhile – we have our dry toilet, and I never thought I would ever say this but….there is nothing quite like a compost toilet….I might just keep it!! Just for me!!

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it!!

It's Life Jim, but not as we know it

I want to be a tree

tree

I want to be a tree

If only, when writing my last blog entry, I had known what our world was about to experience. Well, perhaps not, as back then I would have only worried and that would have robbed me of my joy for those days.

We are now in the middle (hopefully the middle, hopefully towards the downward part of the curve) of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and are on lock-down in France. Only allowed out with a signed ‘attestation’ (testimonial) stating the reason why we need to go out, and that has to be one of 7 authorised reasons.

Attestation

We are on Day 13 of the lock-down – which currently is expected to last until at least April 15th.

There is now so much time to reflect. Reflect on all sorts of things. For me, it is mostly reflection about what is important in my life, and also musings about how did our planet come to this? There is a surreal, almost Armageddon feel to each day – as if we might possibly be living the final days of our lives, sitting on a ticking time bomb – did we at any time in the last 14 days (the guesstimate incubation period) come into contact with one of those pesky little Corona virus cells. And if so…did it invade our bodies and is currently on its master mission to destroy.

coronavirus

I can very easily take my thoughts on a downward spiral towards catastrophic thinking – so I am doing all that I can to distract my mind from these sorts of thoughts.

I am spending lots of time doing various self-care rituals to look after myself, and my annoyingly compromised immune system. Looking back at that last blog entry where I was talking about taking turmeric and using coconut oil to support my immune system I feel very lucky that, at probably the most likely time I was susceptible to the virus I was already boosting my system for the reason of gut repair, but of course it will now be helping me with this new and imminent danger. Very fortuitous – but I believe everything happens for a reason. That’s Karma.

So, a good part of my mornings is now spent in mindful contemplation – now up on the mezzanine floor in our house – looking out at the most wonderful view of trees. In particular my particularly sentimental oak tree.

reiki spot

I find myself singing the words to Tim Pope’s “I want to be a tree” a lot these days. The words make complete and utter sense in a funny, retrospective way to me.

Looking out my window

What do I see?

A world full of people

All looking at me

Most of them got headache

It’s no place to be

 Few of them are happy

How can’t you see why?

I want to be a tree

I want to be a tree

From the very beginning

Of history

Man’s not seen the wood

For the trees

Now they’re all busy planning

World War Three

We are all invited

So, can’t you see why?

I want to be a tree …….I want to be a tree………….I want to be a tree…..I want to be a tree

It’s an old song, and one that used to make me smile many moons ago back in 1984 – of course it’s quite silly, but when you think about it – also very prophetic. A world full of people all very unhappy. And I truly think (and hope) that during these very difficult days every single person will reflect on what is important to them, and that in the future we can all make changes for a better life, a better planet, and a better universe.

Of course, ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ is also the title of the famous dystopian novel by George Orwell, and it’s very easy to let yourself think that maybe he was right…maybe Great Britain is now ‘Airstrip One’ and ruling the world with the other totalitarian super-states (amongst other popular conspiracy theories).

So, as I sit in my Reiki spot, I spend a lot of time considering the metaphor of a tree, as something that I want to aspire to be like. A tree has lots of branches, some of which look a bit ropy, and a bit dead, and for the good of the tree – those branches really ought to be cut off. I see that as friendships or habits that have done their time and are now acting like poison to the tree – best to simply rid ourselves of those. But of course, some of the branches simply need a bit of attention – some tender loving care, and if that is given, they will quickly come back into full bloom. That’s the friendships or habits that have been a bit neglected – but are well worth nurturing and getting back into our lives. And of course, a tree has strong roots, and stands grounded and strong – it may wave a little when under pressure, but it will regain its composure and be able to stand proud once again.

So, I want to be a tree. At these difficult times I want to be a person who is strong and stable and can reach out to those around me and try to help and support them. I know that in order to do this I need to make sure that I do not keep any dead wood that is weighing me down, sapping my strength. I know that for my own good it is important to nurture the healthy relationships, and to rekindle friendships that simply need a bit of life injected into them. And of course to re-establish habits that have helped me in the past.

Most of all I want to use my branches to spread out as far as I can around me and shelter those who need it.

My Reiki practice is largely centred around this concept at the moment. I am, what I can only describe as levelling up my Reiki energy, so that I can look after myself, and also reach out to those around me and help them as well.

It is being said a lot, and I wholeheartedly agree with this, that a catastrophe brings out either the best or the worst in people. I am lucky and blessed that for the most part, all the people around me are showing that this is bringing out the absolute best in them. And, as is normal for us, even though in normal life situations me and Martin are grumpy towards each other, and have some very loud arguments at the best of times, when life deals us the worst of times we actually come together really well and get closer. We’ve even started doing the odd bit of dancing in the evenings.

Life really is what you make of it. I used to love that song by Talk Talk – “Life’s what you make it” – incidentally another music video directed by Tim Pope in the 80’s. The song’s basic message is to work towards a better future for yourself by not having your mind focused on regrets and the past. Life’s what you make it in the present, after all.

Baby, life’s what you make it
Can’t escape it

Baby, yesterday’s favourite
Don’t you hate it

Baby life’s what you make it
Don’t back date it

Baby, don’t try to shade it

Beauty is naked

Baby, life’s what you make…

The feelings that I have about this situation are sometimes very overwhelming and frightening, and if I allow myself to dwell too long on things that might happen, I feel my chest tighten, my breathing get difficult, and palpitations start – the beginnings of a panic attack. So, I do my best to think about all the good that can come out of this situation. It’s far better to spend our days enjoying what we do have, and can do, than to spend them fearful of what might happen, and what we might lose. I am reminded of the first Reiki precept, which I say each morning

“Let Go of Worry”.

Of course, worry only serves to rob us of our joy, and not only can we not live in the past as it has already gone, neither can we predict the future. So why let worry rob us of the joy that we can feel today. We know that we are very blessed with all that we have here. We have a stunningly, beautiful house – which although is not finished and has no running water, permanent electricity or sanitation (the contractors cancelled the work due to the Government rules about working) – it is water tight and we can use it as a camping style base. It’s quite novel at the moment – we have pretty much everything we need – but it is between three places – the house, the motor home, and the garden house. I seem to clock up miles and miles a day just going between the three places. I’m getting plenty of exercise doing just that and the dogs are enjoying relaxing in the shell of the house – they don’t care that there are no proper walls, curtains or a proper floor.

Relaxed dogs

One of the things we really were reluctant to give up was our daily walks together – in France it is very clear – we must not exercise in pairs – only alone. So, we spent the first 2 days of lock-down cutting through the brambles to make a little woodland walk, so we can at least take the dogs for a walk together.

woodland walk

The dogs love it, and I love it – it really gives me an opportunity to just mooch around looking at the trees, and the sky, and just being still and present,

 

And thinking that I really do Want to be a Tree. So, here is my advice from a tree:-

 

advice-from-a-tree