Several unrelated comments from around the globe have got me thinking recently about idyllic lifestyles. It has set me thinking that what is one person’s idyll is most likely not another’s. How does one clarify ‘idyllic’? Can life be idyllic in the cold and rain, or does there have to be sunshine? Or perhaps everything needs to be calm and perfectly peaceful to be idyllic?
If calmness and sunshine are prime ingredients for perfection then my life is far from perfect! My ‘zone’ consists of a lot of noise, a tangle of children, dogs, chickens and two cats, and an endless stream of kids and teenagers coming and going. There’s work to consider, then there are the deadlines, school-runs, home-work, tennis lessons and tournaments, the latter involving plenty of practice on far-flung courts; I love the noise and the energy of my world, and someone once said children keep you young; I think they were right, they certainly keep me on my toes! But then, each and every one of you out there has the same complexity in your lives, too.
To me, my life is idyllic, but this state of contentment begs another question; can it be bought? Does one need bucket-loads of cash to be happy? Does contentment involve endless holidays to far-flung places or a cupboard of expensive trinkets and toys? Is a new i-Phone a guarantee of peace in this increasingly materialistic world? I think not, I think ‘idyllic’ is more a state of mind, at least it is for me.
Everything in my idyll looks amazing at the moment, come rain or shine. Rain just heightens the colours and the sun brings out the bright green of spring’s delicate new growth.
Storks are nesting everywhere we look and cows are happy to be out grazing once more.
Trees nod slowly in white and pink, burdened by their annual crop of blossom.
I can’t tell you the number of times this month Gigi has told me how she loves spring, and I hesitate to tell you the number of times I reply with “April showers bring May flowers.”
Between the sunshine, of course, it’s still an odd month; one day the skies are the bluest of blues and we are eating outside, and the next it’s bucketing with rain and we have lit the fire, again!
France is often thought of as a place where the pace of life is a little slower, especially in the country. At the risk of repeating myself, we linger over lunch and dinner, and we spend plenty of time preparing our food and enjoying all that life has to offer. And on our forays to town, I am also a great fan of the café culture. I love nothing more than to sit with friends or family, preferably outside, and watch the world go by with a coffee. It’s a time to chat, to take time to enjoy our surroundings, and to simply be an onlooker as life’s daily routines unfold around us. Izzi and I did just that on Friday, enjoying the spring sunshine in Rochefort. The town was certainly looking its very best, and the Place Colbert was particularly beautiful; every path and the two restaurants at either side of the square were lined with purple tulips and beautifully tended spring plantings.
But there are times, even in France, when there simply is no time to sit and linger over a cup of coffee; no matter how much we want to, no matter how much we want to slow down, life doesn’t always work like that, and even in rural Charente Maritime life can sometimes be fast-paced. This is especially true when we go back to the trials and tribulations of the tennis world! When there’s a tribe of children involved and those children happen to be on tennis teams and playing in tournaments then life can race past like a floodwater under the bridge of daily life.
Yesterday started bright and early; the house was up with the lark at dawn and whilst more sane humans were still sleeping or eating breakfast, Gigi and I were on the road as the sun rose, zooming over the long bridge to the Île d’Oléron for an early morning tennis lesson.
There was no long leisurely Saturday lunch afterwards either; a quick sandwich grabbed on the run and then back in the car once again with Millie for a team match against Saintes. The host city is utterly charming but it was still a long afternoon, however Millie won, making it all worthwhile, and like any parent in the same situation I quickly forgot that I had stood for four hours in the cold!
This morning, there was no Sunday lie-in either, as we had to leave the house at 8am for another tournament in another location; oh, and how I would have loved to have grabbed a Starbucks on the way! In fact, I’d like to have done that both this morning and yesterday. If I close my eyes I can just imagine standing court-side, sipping the smooth foam of a cappuccino. The club-house was open and to be honest I was offered a coffee, but it was a tiny little espresso, a thimbleful of rocket-fuel that was strong enough to propel me through the morning and probably the entire afternoon as well, but it didn’t do the job in another regard – it wasn’t a large tactile mug that I could have cradled in my hands to ward off the early chill in the air.
But there’s an upside to the epic tennis journeys; because whilst it is indeed often a manic rush on the outward journey, there is nearly always time to dawdle a little on the way home; to stop and take photos, and sometimes we’ll take a left-hand turn instead of the usual right and see where we end up, what new lanes we can find. The routes we travel are nearly always picturesque; there is no pounding down a motorway or a 6-lane highway. Instead our roads are a maze of gently criss-crossing tarmac, cutting a way through villages and farmland and an ever-changing landscape that has the power to metamorphose into something totally different depending on the time of day and the time of year. The time spent looking out from behind the wheel of my car is like watching a nature film, permanently playing in a flickering series of screenshots, filled with colour and shadow; at times the view is gentle and satisfyingly predictable, and at others it is quite astoundingly panoramic and vividly soulful.
So to go back to my previous thoughts, I think my life is utterly idyllic; it may not be conventional, but I get to enjoy everything French and for the most part I get to enjoy life at a pace that allows one to enjoy it; to be truthful there is nothing I would change.
Well, perhaps there’s one tiny thing; I have to admit that I do miss Starbucks! I’m not a fan of take-aways, we have never used them and our children have never been to McDonalds, for example. Fast-food is simply not a part of our lives and never has been, and although I feel quite happy about that I do guiltily admit that I miss that quick cup of relatively decent coffee. It was just too easy to stop at the drive-thru and pick up a gentle cappuccino; so perfectly fast and so convenient. It’s a terrible admission, but better you know the truth!
So I wonder, is there one thing you miss if you have left your home country? Or one thing you think you would miss if you did? Of course we all miss our family and friends, sometimes quite desperately, but I’m just talking about the small things that really are quite inconsequential but that we miss all the same! What’s the one thing you really need to create your perfect idyll ?