Always Look on the Bright Side

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Sometimes I feel a little like this old shutter, a little worn around the edges, but I’m still hanging in there, strong and determined. Do you ever get days and weeks when you feel as if you are being pulled in every direction?

There is not enough time, I don’t have enough hands and I am not super human, I simply can’t do it all. The children are on their spring holidays, of course I want to give them lots of attention, they want to go places and there are places they have to go. My garden is behind, the vegetable garden is still in the stages of being revamped, nothing has been planted for this year yet and the clock is ticking, constantly reminding me that by mid April I always have tender young shoots appearing, the first signs of life from the potager. But not this year. I have piles of paperwork sitting at my desk and when the morning sun shines through the kitchen window it is a double edged sword. On the one hand it is beautiful on the other it shows every speck of dust and reminds me that I also have to do some housework. The emails are amassing in my inbox awaiting an answer, I am sorry to those of you I have not replied to yet, and then there is always a voice calling me, “are you ready, we’re going to be late.”

These past two weeks I have covered all four departments of our region in France. Actually technically this is no longer true. France is divided into 13 regions. Each region contains a number of different departments, of which there are a total of 96 as the photo below shows, with a further 5 overseas departments.

Departments-of-France-Map

However to make things a little more complicated there used to be 22 regions, but in 2014, the French parliament passed a law reducing the number of metropolitan regions from 22 to 13 with effect from 1 January 2016, in an effort to make the public sector better suited to the modern economy; more responsive and less wasteful. In simple terms we live in the department of Charente Maritime which used to be in the region of Poitou Charentes which was made up of four departments, Charente, Charente Maritime, Deux Sèvres and Vienne. However this region has now become much larger, we have merged with the Limousin and the Acquitaine to become the Nouvelle Acquitaine. But if you speak to anyone they still talk about Poitou Charentes, although administratively the change is in effect it will be a long time before the locals make the change.

Pre-2016-Regions-of-France-Map

Regions-of-France-Map

However, I diversified, going back to my travels, I have been in Deux Sèvres, Charente, Vienne and of course home in Charente Maritime in the past fourteen days. Each department is different and every time I want to stop and take photos but there is always a deadline and no time to dawdle. On one occasion I promised myself I would leave half an hour early so I could take some time to explore the stunning city of Thouars in Deux Sèvres, a city that has evidence of human habitation 5,000 years ago and which has historical records going back to the seventh century. But I am not the only one to hustle out the door, there are small people too and although we left on time, we were certainly not early.

I have longingly driven past chateaux in the distance, a glimpse of a turret is all I have seen. Driving eastwards into Charente the generally flat countryside of Charente Maritime has given way to large rolling hills and tiny villages perched at precarious angles on steep inclines. Near the city of Angoulême we found ourselves in the most beautiful countryside, we marvelled at every turn, the sun was shining,  it was a lovely day, we would stop on the way home. I could already picture a blogpost forming in my mind, the photos would be fantastic, it was a feast for the eyes for anyone who loves old stone and ancient buildings. Alas, when we left late in the afternoon, the skies had turned dark and heavy, the rain was falling and the temperature had dropped dramatically. I had spent the past couple of hours shaking with cold, unprepared for the change in the weather and without suitable clothing. We didn’t stop, we turned the heating on in the car, we promised we would return and next time we would take photos, but this time we stayed in the warmth and headed for home!

So nothing seems to go as planned. The French elections have me feeling decidedly ill at ease, I am more than a little concerned. When it all gets too much I take a walk, at home for once, Jack and I headed out together, mother and son, the girls have been the ones who have grabbed most of my attention these holidays and I knew Jack needed some one on one time, that’s the thing, not only do I have to find the time, I also need to give each one of our five children the individual attention they deserve. In brilliant sun we headed off together, we ended up going far further than we intended and we talked for hours, we discussed politics, uppermost in our minds at the moment. At times we stopped and appreciated the simple beauty around us.

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Jack was happy for me to take photos, he too could see the uncomplicated and undemanding pleasure to be found in a stunning view, a painted door or shutter,

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spring flowers or an old stone wall.

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We talked about this scary world we live in, the terrorism and hatred. At 15 he’s a young adult, we talked openly and truthfully but at the same time of course I want to protect him, I want to assure him everything will be ok, his whole life is ahead of him. There is plenty of good in the world too, we changed topics to something more cheerful and the smiles returned to our faces. We are surrounded by history and buildings that have stood for centuries.

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This church was built with bare hands in the 1200’s

P6080517and so was the ancient market hall. Recently it has been completely renovated, using reclaimed materials but still preserving the original timbers wherever possible.

P6080509Some things are propped up, barely held together but they remain upright. I said to Jack, “there is always good in everything, you just have to find it, no matter what I am forever  positive.”

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Even the weather is highly unpredictable at the moment. April is proving just how fickle she can be this week. One minute we had tourists lining the beaches, ice cream stalls doing a roaring trade and pavement cafés packed with diners and the next we were bundled up in thick coats once more, scuttling quickly inside and bemoaning the return of winter. We lit the fire for the first time this month in the evening, by 5pm on Tuesday the temperature had dropped to 7C! But the cold front had a little good news, we had rain. We need rain, the water table is way below the average for the time of year, the farmers are worried.  We had an afternoon of gentle drizzle, perfect for the land, heavy rains tend to run off, but a steady light rain soaks into the earth, just what was needed, the roses against our house bowed their heads with the weight of the water.

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Late yesterday evening, the skies turned an inky black, I was out with the dogs, I had grabbed half an hour after dinner and taken my camera with me, once again shutters and doors grabbed my attention.

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I had been away most of the day once more and in case you are wondering why, we have very sporty children who are competing further and further afield and of course we encourage them, we give them every opportunity we can, who wouldn’t? But it means sacrifices, everything becomes a juggling act, I have to do my own work after dark once everyone else is in bed. Completely alone with my thoughts for the first time in over two weeks. I feared I would get soaked but the rain never came, as is often the way here the clouds built in the north and headed east, leaving us dry and untouched.

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The Light was incredible and I could still feel the sun on my back.

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However, the rain may have been welcome but talking this morning to a friend who lives half an hour inland from us, they had a frost last night, most unwelcome, she had a fair amount of damage to tender vegetables and spring flowers. I thought about this, everything happens for a reason, we didn’t get a frost here, but even so, if my potager was all planted out and ready perhaps it would have been knocked severely backwards with this unforeseen cold snap, maybe I am lucky after all that things held me up and it is behind this year. This villager has planted a few things, he will no doubt be extremely grateful that his water butts, are slowly being filled, a simple method of irrigation.

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I shall plant this weekend, but for now, I am looking on the bright side.

124 thoughts on “Always Look on the Bright Side

  • A clever way of looking at a serious subject and I love how you take the time to talk to each of your children, special one on one time with your son is so important but also so lacking in many children’s lives today. Putting our children first is what we do as parents, and you are doing an admirable job.

    • I think it is very important to spend individual time with the children, but with five of them it takes a lot of time but I love it, every second is a special moment with them and I love watching them grow and I love their inquiring minds. I would never begrudge a single second with them. xx

  • I can sense your lack of time, the pressure you are under and how difficult it all must be, it just a little plea, which seems rather selfish, but please don’t quit the blog, you would leave too many of us feeling at a loss without our weekly dose of Our French Oasis!

    • Don’t worry Bev, I have absolutely no intention of quitting the blog, I have to admit I enjoy it far too much, I love the interaction with so many different people around the world, all who have become online friends. Thanks for your concern, but please there is no cause for it! xx

      • I only just saw your reply but I am certainly happy to know we will still get our regular dose of French life from you! As an aside, we are visiting France in September, we have friends in Brittany and usually spend a few days there and a few in Paris. How long is the drive from Brittany down to the Charente ?

        • No need to worry at all Bev! With regards to your French visit, it really depends which part of Brittany you are staying in, north or south, if you tell me where you will be and I will give you some rough idea of times. We are in Charente Maritime as opposed to Charente which is the department next to us, inland to the east. However it is a lovely drive down the west coast of France and might be worth doing over a couple of days, not because of the distance, it is not far, but because there are some beautiful places to stop on the way! Xx

      • Our friends have a house at Pontivy which is in the centre of Brittany. It’s an ideal base for exploring north, south, east and west!

        • I looked at Pontivy on the map, it is indeed an ideal base, you should have so much fun. The direct route from there down to La Rochelle is only about 3.5 hours. But it would certainly be worth stopping in Nantes and then taking in some of the coastline of the Vendee which is lovely. Once you get to the Charente Maritime you will certainly want to spend a day on the Ile de Ré, La Rochelle for another day and then there is just so much to see! Let me know if I can help further. Xx

      • Thanks so much, I’m glad it’s not far but I rather think with all the places to visit it might be best to make it next year when we could skip Paris altogether, we’ve done Paris for five years in a row now, and head straight to Pontivy and then spend the second week exploring southwards. Lots to think about and I’ll let you know, thanks so much, can’t wait to be in France again!

  • It is a scary time. In my village and those around it, the unemployment rate hovers near 20%. That can’t continue and especially as expats, we can’t do much about it. Like you, I enjoy the beauty of the countryside and encourage the kids to believe that you can always find a way forward. So far they always have. May that continue.

    • I agree completely, we have to encourage them just like this, they are growing up in a very tough world, but it’s the only one they know. Unemployment is high here too but drops considerably in the summer months as we are close to the coast and once the tourist season kicks in and everywhere reopens there are a lot more jobs available. I wish we could do more, but as expats we can’t even vote, let alone have a say in things. xx

  • I totally agree with all Bev says, please don’t quit. I can’t even. Whom to imagine how much time there’s posts take and the fact that you bother to reply to us all and talk like a friend, and all for free. It makes you special and you are very very much appreciated, as a reward please know you enrich so many of our lives with your stories. Xoxo

    • Thank you so much Shari, as I said to Bev, I have no intention of quitting, I enjoy this far too much and I consider all of you online friends. I am truly touched that the blog is so appreciated, I never quite realised, I don’t think, how much people actually gain so much pleasure from reading it. Have a wonderful end to the week xx

  • This post felt like a nice time-out. The old time-to do conundrum is also my bugbear. It makes me miserable until I can’t stand myself anymore, take a step back and get some perspective. Unfortunately the cycle repeats far too often. I like your level-headed and honest approach to the balancing act!

    • I think as parents, we are always under pressure to do so much, but I have always tried to be supremely positive at all times. When I feel I can’t do any more, I grab half an hour and head out for a walk, I find there is something incredibly soothing in just appreciating what is around us and then it makes me so incredibly grateful for what we have and I know I wouldn’t want to change a thing! xx

  • Bon jour Susan. You are being far too hard on yourself. I think as women we feel we need to do everything. It is simply a bi-product of having children and wanting/needing to keep them safe and enable them to grow into responsible adults. You are doing a terrific job by the sound of it. No worries on the blog….. Mine lags and goes forward in fits and starts. We get preoccupied with documenting and writing in this fast digital world. For me, sometimes, it is just as important to live life.

    • I know what you mean Lisa, there are so many demands on our time, and yes we do feel the need to be superwomen, perhaps it is in our DNA! But most of all I think it is simply because we want the very best for our children. Are you back in Italy now? you know I am totally in love with your house! xx

        • I couldn’t agree more, having spoken about this with a lot of French friends back when it came into effect the feeling was that everyone would continue to talk in terms of the old and existing regions, for us the Poitou Charentes remains just that!

      • This is inconsequential if you look to the future – when someone asks our great grandchildren where they are from, the answers could possibly include; Poitou-Charentes, Nouvelle Aquitaine, France, Europe, perhaps Russia or China, Earth, Mars, Venus, Titan, Europa, Keppler-186f or the 7-planet Trappist system. Some rudimentary obstacle of transportation remains to be overcome, but no doubt someone will discover worm-hole technology before tea-time tomorrow and we’ll be off to the races.

  • As parents I think we always feel the need to do it all, as everyone always says it is the hardest job in the world and we do it for free. You’re doing a great job, lucky you to have kids good enough to compete at a high level, what sport do they do that takes them so far away? Mine are either cricket mad or horse mad, both take up all our free time!

    • I was always horse mad growing up and looking back now I realise my mother gave up all of her free time for me, I was always off at horse shows or events here, there and everywhere! Our girls are tennis mad and doing very well, competing at a national level for the first time and so it takes up a vast amount of time with practice and tournaments, but of course, I encourage it, who wouldn’t! Roddy was cricket mad, they don’t play it here otherwise I am sure he would be taking Jack to every match and getting him involved! Enjoy it, can’t think of a better way to spend a summer watching cricket and riding, well perhaps with the odd tennis match thrown in too!! xxx

    • Ha ha, I am always upbeat, just run slightly ragged this holidays and I also think that just occasionally it is good to admit that we are human, life is not one giant big bunch of roses, it’s as tough for me as it is for everyone else! But slow down, no, it’s just not me, in fact I am running out the door now!!! I hope I make it into my dotage and when I do perhaps then I will look back and laugh at all the things I crammed into a day!!! Thanks for the concern, xxx

    • Thanks so much Kim, I could say the same about you! It think it’s a girl thing!! I also have “we are super girls” set as my ringtone, every time my phone goes it reminds me to keep going!!! xx

  • Life is complicated and hectic these days and it more important than ever to ‘eat that elephant, one bite at a time” to cope through it. The converse side is the beauty you managed to recognize and then graciously shared. Here’s hoping your schedule eases, no frosts are in the future to stifle the garden and the moments to sit back and relish all the beauty around you, are frequent and sustained. ❤︎

    • Thanks so much Monika, I think living with such history all around us is a great reminder of how things evolve, how things keep on going through thick and thin. I always take great pleasure in walking around and just looking, when one has a camera around one’s neck we seem to see so much more, notice so many more tiny little things. I’m not complaining because I still have the time to stand and stare and to appreciate. xx

  • Please, take some time to attend to yourself and family…we will wait – anxiously yes, but as long as we know you’ll be back with your beautiful blog, your wonderful photos, your heartfelt stories and messages, we will wait…..

    • Thanks so much, but don’t worry, I won’t keep you waiting, because you have all become online friends around the world, very comment is like listening to and then replying to someone I know, having a wonderful chat, you are all so encouraging and I am so grateful for that. Have a wonderful end to the week xx

  • I have to say, been there and done that. It seems as if you will never get through it, but you will! Don’t worry, everyone only remembers all the wonderful family times. France has been in our news a lot lately. Most of us over here are not that happy with things either. The whole world seems to be out of kilter. PS I did not even attempt to blog until the kids were gone. You are doing much better than me.

    • I love every second of it, don’t worry, I just wish I could magically create more time! Or perhaps a helicopter would be a good idea to get from A to B in a quarter the amount of time! The world does seem to be out of kilter, it’s as if one follows the other and there is no stopping it. If only people could see what harm we are doing, it is so so sad. I am lucky the children are so supportive of the blog! But then the blog is partly about them and life with them, it wouldn’t be the same without them! Bitterly cold here suddenly, have you had the same cold weather with you, I always think we get your weather a few days later!! xx

      • I always thought some kind of camper would be good, so I could cook dinner while I waited for the kids to finish their activities. It has been hot here for awhile. It dipped down to the 70’s, but will be nearly 90 later this week.

        • Wouldn’t that be a great idea, multi tasking at it’s best. The problem I find is the actual getting places that takes so much time, but then I also tell myself that that is when we get to sit in the car and chatter, special one on one time, so it is good, there is a positive in every single situation! You are much warmer than we are, it is meant to get up to the 70’s with us this weekend, it has been down in the low 60’s and much lower at night! Have a lovely weekend, I plan to do plenty of gardening!! xx

  • There are a couple paragraphs I thought you might interesting on the division/boundaries within France.

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  • It always surprises me how much alike all women are. The multi tasking, the need to take care of little people, big people and furry four footed creatures. The drive to accomplish it all as best as we can. Most of us would not have it any other way. You Susan take the time to smell the roses of life and share it all with us. For that we thank you….

    Ali XXx

    • Thanks so much Ali, I actually, as you know, love enjoying all the simple things, these to me are the great pleasures of life, perhaps because I have travelled so much I am happy to sit still and just love everything around me close at hand or perhaps it is a sign of getting older, I think I’ll assume the former!!! As you know I adore looking after little people, even if some of them are now actually bigger than me, it’s just a great part of life!! Big hugs xxx

  • I told you already in my former comments….you are a strong and wonderful mum, wife, housewife, friend ……though
    I just confirm the same weather situation here in Southern Spain…from 23 to 13 C from sun to storm and rain….like life
    isn’t it? I’m also in a doubting situation currently and try to see not only the bad things in our world and you make it
    so well to encourage your children in that way. LoL

    • And you are so so sweet to say so, thank you! What a state the world is in, it is a worry but I try to be positive at all times. The weather is so cold here at the moment, apparently there was even a frost on the coast last night, a friend I just saw said it was -1C with him this morning and his car was covered in ice and he lives within five minutes of the sea! I am not sure how we escaped it in our tiny little village, but we did. Bizarre weather, as you say, rather like the world, it is all over the place. Today was 13C also, but the wind, oh the wind was so cold!! Time for a glass of red wine and some big smiles and happy thoughts I think! Enjoy your evening xx

    • It is and if only those strolls and talks could put the world to rights, wouldn’t that just be so easy. But all we can do is, as I said, be positive and look on the bright side. xxx

  • You just gave yourself the answer I had in mind – the frost has done much damage everywhere. I have decided long ago that it wasn’t worth my time and effort to do the ‘potager’ as when finally I had the rich pickings all my products were available fresh and not too dear on the market….. Of course we’re only a couple and have no children, although I seem forever having visitors, invitees, etc. But as I love a ‘kitchen challenge’ and appreciate cooking ‘selon les saisons et promotions’, AND I no longer have to pay somebody to water my garden when I am away (which made for very espensive cherry toms…. etc)….. so it’s more an intellectual & commercial decision than one of the heart.
    I do envy you a bit for your outing with your son. Had my ‘child’ over for just a few days in March – he lives in the Swiss mountains, very very far from us…. but I seem sadly never have had those one-to-one discussions with him, it’s more ‘He says it as he sees it’ and I don’t even dare voicing my concerns too much. Whatsapp seems to work better than skype…. but it’s not very satisfying for me. On the other hand, he’s doing just fine, everybody adores him, he is happy and I am truly thankful for the wonderful human being he’s become over the long years.
    I’m sighing right now…. must do something or else I’m becoming depressed over my mullings – and that’s not ‘me’ 🙂
    Lovely photos, as always – and another nod to you – I have – after having taken about 3 trillion photos of the Paris landmarks (ET ND SC etc), I now only take many shots of doors, balconies, wallws, lowers & trees, broken shutters, rusting stuff, or dandy seatings in front of boulangeries and cafés…. and always of the inner lives of the places I visits, including every opportunity of back alleys, hidden courts, nature which I admire but cannot have due to my allergies – and I still take photos of the clouds travelling across the sky…. Life is good!

    • I was just talking to Gigi’s coach, he lives on the coast, within five minutes of the sea and he had -1C last night and frost all over his car. How we escaped that in our tiny village I have no idea, we must just be sheltered. Utterly crazy weather, today was 13 to 14C but the wind was so cold. Once again we have lit the fire tonight, and with a glass of ‘good’ red wine, note the good, we are smiling and talking of cheerful things. Being positive, I always think any conversation is good, maybe with your son you can’t be totally open and debate freely but you talk, that’s what counts, be grateful for that, I so often read of families who don’t. Being depressed is not for the likes of you or me, we just get on with it and keep smiling because we know how lucky we are. And I did get your email and I am going to reply!!! xxx

      • I only see now that my fingers were crossed AGAIN and not in a good way – look at all the typos finding their way onto the web – ‘what must ppl think’ LOL….
        On a more serious note; with the visitors we had (coming from very much overheated appartments in Switzerland) we have the heating on since Easter MOnday and haven’t stopped it except one day for a few hours. We are huddled in shawls and jumpers and the winds have been atrocious. I even had to water the plants outside as well as in my veranda with the hose, the soil was breaking open with the drought of more than a month! But also, even two days ago, I was able to dry all my washing outside, thanks to the wind it dried in no time 🙂 NOW it is raining, not much but so helpful for the nature. And aren’t we lucky that we can just switch a button and the warmth is delivered into our stone house? Yeah, it’s all about perspectives, isn’t it!!!

        • It is all about perspectives, whenever I feel the least bit down, or if the children do, I tell myself or them to just take a look around us, we are so very lucky, we have absolutely no right to complain at all. We have heat and light and power just for starters. Anyway, yes I have been watering the tubs on the terrace all month, too crazy, it is warmer here than with you, we have only had to light the fire for three evenings and no need for heating thank goodness. But the laundry is flapping constantly on the line, it’s a daily job with a full household, but that’s another thing we take for granted, a machine to wash it all in, imagine going back really not so very long to when it all had to be washed by hand, a family of 7, I can’t even begin to imagine. Our summer kitchen used to be the laundry here so I am told, it had the well for water and the fire for heating the water. Today is beautiful the winds have gone completely, the sun is warm and the air has lost that easterly chill, lunch outside methinks! xxx

  • That’s what I love about your blog Susan, it’s about an ordinary family with an ordinary Mum trying to do the best she can and in the event, becoming extraordinary!! I don’t think I ever had your energy, but the principles were the same – give our children the best childhood possible, teach them good values and love them. Even now that they are grown, my days still seem busy, but I sometimes lack the motivation to get going as I have more time. We are always hard on ourselves I think, always expecting to do more and better – and I still haven’t learnt not to think that way!! But when I think back to my parents’ childhoods and what little they had, and how great they turned out, I realise that our children had such a rich and full childhood by comparison, I should not be concerned. It’s the loving and cherishing that underpins each generation and with that behind them, they find their own ways, whatever their experiences. I think you should have a ‘me day’, just one day where you do nothing for anyone else, just relax, either on your own, or with Roddy, and either ask the children to cook for you or go out for a meal. Complete chillout. Might be hard, but not impossible really, is it? And no room for guilt either!! Enjoy whatever you do, knowing that you’re doing it right! x

    • Thanks so much Marian, I do so agree with you, nothing can replace a loving caring family with that they can do anything because they feel secure. I laughed at the idea of a me day, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself!! We are lucky that the eldest two are now old enough to babysit so we have built in ones at home, it does make going out so much easier! I think we always want to do more, because we always want to do the very best we can, it’s normal, but it does make for a hectic life!! It is meant to warm up here tomorrow thank goodness, this was quite a cold snap! Xx

  • Dear Susan, you so beautifully echo what we have all felt/are feeling/will feel!
    And are quite an inspiration for us to know that we are not alone when life’s challenges becomes a bit overwhelming.
    You are being(firstly) a wonderful mom and wife(!) and (secondly) achieving so very much!
    Speaking from the troisieme age-er set,you find yourself looking back and feeling quite happy(even proud) that you nurtured a loving,beautiful family,and also accomplished goals that you had hoped to.
    I am sure that you have heard this many times(in the way we did,too) but it really IS true;life speeds by so very fast!
    You are making the most of it in the way I like to hope that we did,too.
    You are awesome,dear lady!
    Love and blessings to you all XO

    • Thanks so much Natalia, it is lovely to know that so many other mothers also feel a little overwhelmed at times, we just don’t have enough hands and there aren’t enough hours in the day! Of course I want to do everything I can for the children because I want their lives to be the best they possibly can be. How wonderful that you can look back and feel proud, that must be the most fantastic feeling and I am sure one very well deserved. Life indeed does speed past at an alarming rate, we have to make the most of every moment and also the most of every moment when the children are at home before they fly the nest. So whilst it may be super busy, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Hope you have a lovely end to the week xxx

  • You know what, I loved this post, your life always seems so charmed and perfect and this just showed us that it is, but that you are also normal like the rest of us, we all juggle balls and we all do the best we can, bravo to you, I am a huge fan x

    • Thanks Suzanna, I know I am very lucky, it is a wonderful lifestyle we have here but there are also all the daily routines and errands and work, much the same wherever one lives in the world, these all still have to be carried out and just sometimes we don’t have enough hours in the day! I think so many of us juggle balls constantly, doing the very best we can! Hope you have a wonderful end to the week xx

  • Although I’d love to read all the other comments, I too, even with no children at home anymore, am harried for time. A volunteer job at church that’s gotten completely out of my comfort zone, trying to get started on starting a small (very) business selling cards with my photos on them and perhaps calendars (researching now and trying to organize photos), taking care of a house, yard…well, you know that I understand, even though I’m in a different season of life. It’s still a busy and sometimes frustrating season when I’d love to be “retired” and doing whatever I pleased.

    Yet I am, overall, a positive and optimistic person, even though sometimes I just need to ignore everything that needs to be done and take a walk or go to bed early…or have some dark chocolate. As the song says, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.” I certainly hope so. It’s rainy and chilly here, too.

    (((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((Susan)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

    BTW, not sure I ever answered your question about how long I’ll be in France. A bit over two weeks and in just over a month from now.

    janet

    • But I think if we had nothing to do except exactly as we pleased that perhaps those very things that we long to be doing might just become a little boring, because they would become commonplace everyday jobs! You sound as busy as I am, but isn’t this what keeps us young and happy and full of energy, that’s what I tell myself! Don’t worry it’s really chilly here too, only an afternoon of rain but a huge drop in temperature, the wind is so cold. Apparently this coldsnap will come to an end tomorrow, fingers crossed!!

  • Life resembles the tides: there are bound to be ebbs and flows, days of unexpected joy when one cannot put a foot wrong and others which are best ‘cancelled’ and quickly over. Periods when one’s eyes have to take in the proverbial 360 degrees can weary . . . The French elections are not just important for France or Europe but worldwide. We worry even here in the Antipodes . . . and thank you for all the maps: ending with a smile I now know where all my friends, blog- and other live – yours has grown too large methinks!

    • Methinks our region has got too big too, it is huge!! The French elections do indeed have huge world importance, but I try not to get into politics here, however the results, I truly believe, will determine not just the future of France but the future of the entire European Union. I am trying not to worry too much because as foreigners we cannot do anything about it, I will panic if I need to once we know the results! Life does indeed resemble the tides, what a beautiful way of thinking of it; as you know the sea is one of my favourite places to be! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Phew! I felt busy just reading your blog today!!
    I really enjoyed the pics and love the colours. Do keep up writing, I really love my cup of tea with a good read 🙂
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    Really enjoyed your explanation of the regions in France. We get visitors from all over France and it just helps to place them all a little more with increased understanding. Keep up your good work. Love it!

    • Hi Sue, I love looking at maps, I find it so much better when I can actually picture where someone is from, really the French system is no different to the US system in that you have counties within States and we have departments within regions. I have absolutely no intention of stopping, I love interacting with everyone and really enjoy sharing our life here too much! Have a great weekend xx

  • Just had another stroll through your photos – I can fully and totally appreciate what makes your blog so incredibly attractive to so many people. And I love you for the fact that although you’re an utterly positive and -always-look-at-the-bright-side- person you don’t conceal your worries about the many things we are all very concerned about. Talking (or not) about politics – you should hear Hero Husband and this woman talk about UK politics, about F politics, about CH politics (not to forget the USA & the other dear continents, we have friends and ppl all over to worry about)….. And about the frustration that we have no rights whatsoever to utter our opinions as we are not French, English…. And even if – for the moment – the worst has been avoided, we aren’t ‘sortis de l’auberge’ yet, in no way! Aaaah, let’s talk about something else. And dearest Susan, you DO NOT HAVE TO REPLY to every comment, you have a life to live and yes, your replying to every one is another fact to just simply love you!!!! 🙂

    • I try really hard not to talk about politics because everyone has a right to their own opinion and I always avoid controversy, I am the one who walks away from an argument, I hate them and I always look for a peaceful option for everything. But I am none the less more than just a little worried, the results will determine the future of the entire European Union for sure and as a foreigner living here it does concern me hugely. But as you say, we can do absolutely nothing and so until May 7th we just have to wait and see what happens and remain positive, drink red wine, eat outdoors and keep smiling, what else is there to do! xxx

  • These are lovely pictures, very atmospheric. It’s so important to instil tolerance and patience into our young charges so it’s fantastic that you are discussing how you feel with your son. These are the conversations that will remain with him always

    • One of the things I love most about my relationship with all of our children is that we talk openly all the time. I have always encouraged the children to talk about absolutely anything with me and they do and vice versa. Our supper table is always one of deep conversation, debate, trivial comments, laughter, the one thing is isn’t is dull or quiet, ever!!! xx

  • I am surprised you find the time to blog. I love your posts and look forward to them but remember the children will soon be gone, spend more time with them and we can all manage with a shorter, less frequent blog posting.
    I have taken a bit of a break with way less frequent posts to concentrate on my health. Life is too short. We need to think of ourselves more.

    • Nadia, you are too kind, I know they grow up so so fast and then I will miss them terribly, but they are a part of the blog too, I try to squeeze it all in! We always need to think of ourselves more but it rarely happens! Hope all is well with you, you have me a little concerned. xxx

  • Hi Susan, just wanted to say how much we all love and appreciate every one of your blog posts! The time and effort that you put into them is enormous, but so many people love them! It’s obvious that spring (always one of the busy times of the year) is being a little harsh on you, but I’m sure that everything will work out well—it always seems to. Your children will appreciate everything you do for them, and understand, I’m sure, how much you sacrifice to be there for them! If you were my mother I’m sure I would love to the ends of the earth! Have a great day and weekend, Josie xxxxxxxxxxx

    • Thanks so much Josie, your words are truly appreciated so much. Spring is always enormously busy, the garden needs constant attention, we want to be outside enjoying the weather, it’s a time when everything seems to happen all at once! The problem is I want to be so organised so that we can actually sit back a little and enjoy the summer! Once again thank you so so much, your kinds words mean the world to me. xxx

  • I always am enchanted by your beautiful photos of where you live, it’s a dream for me as I know I will never visit France, but still I love to drool over your photos.

    • Thanks so much Peggy, I am so happy that you love the photos, I always think that armchair travel is great fun, you get to explore so many places without any of the expense or hassle! Enjoy it! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • I detect a note of concern in your writing and also perhaps a little worry, it’s good, you are totally human like the rest of us! Love your photos as always and keep smiling, we all love you! 😀😀

    • Thanks Erin, there is a slight note of concern over the elections for sure, but as foreigners we can do nothing because we cannot vote, so I am remaining completely positive. Your concern is much appreciated, but don’t worry and yes I am just the same as everyone else! Have a great weekend xx

  • PAPERWORK will ALWAYS be there so will the LAUNDRY………GO OUT and WALK AFTER DINNER, SNAP PHOTOS TALK with THE CHILDREN.Those times might end before you want them TOO!!!!!!XX

    • I agree with you, but sadly bills do have to be paid and work does have to be done!! However, housework can certainly wait, someone sent me an email about this post and they said that “tidy houses are vastly overrated” I can tell you that lifted my spirits immensely! I prefer to have a happy home than an immaculate one!!! Besides I far prefer to be outside or messing about with the children than dusting and vacuuming!!! Hope you have a truly lovely weekend and that all is well, and also any news on your trip? Xxx

  • My wife says she understands your feelings only too well, Susan. When we had kids running around every weekend life was full too. I’m not sure sympathy is the right word to use in this context, but you have our utmost support. Chin up and it will always ‘come out in the wash’, as my mum used to say.

    Loved the photos as always. You really seem to be getting to grips with that new lens!

    • Thanks Phil, please say a big thank you to your wife, it is certainly very busy with lots of children running around but I wouldn’t have it any other way, in truth I love being run off my feet, I am obviously a glutton for punishment, it is the elections that have me most concerned. The camera is fantastic, I am loving every second of it, but I still have to learn so much more, there are so many settings that I have yet to use!! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • Dear Susan, thank-you for your blog and super photos as always. I thought it was a lovely comment you made about us all being online friends – that is a great feeling. I often think of you when I am taking a little quiet time just walking around the garden in the evening – usually with a glass of wine in hand!! There is a French expression that I love referring to the daily routine, ‘le train-train’ that makes me chuckle every time I think of it. Hope you have a lovely long week-end. xx

    • Hi Petrina, I think we are all online friends, from around the world, all connected by a love of French things or a love of a simple relatively stress free lifestyle. I love taking a walk around the garden in the evening, with a glass of wine as you say, just looking at what has flowered, sprouted, emerged during the day! I have never heard the expression ‘le train-train, but it is brilliant, I shall certainly remember that one thank you! Orange weather alert here today, really windy and grey and lots of heavy downpours, but we need the rain and for once it’s rather fun to be shut up indoors, maybe I shall even get the housework done!! Enjoy your Sunday xx

  • It’s an ongoing competition between the ‘shoulds’, ‘wants’, and ‘needs’. I don’t think any of us ever really feel like we do it right.
    You said one thing that jumped out at me as a quiet piece of gentle wisdom. “There is plenty of good in the world too, …. we are surrounded by history and buildings that have stood for centuries”.
    In the times of chaos and uncertainty and just being overwhelmed by everyday life, it’s nice to remember that most of the things we worry about today won’t matter at all in 5 years from now.

    • The things we worry about today probably won’t even worry us in a few weeks time! I always think we have to look at the big picture and that’s what I remind myself constantly. But also when I walk, which I love to do, looking at buildings, I mean really stopping to look at them, is very grounding and very reassuring, to think that they were built by hand, no machines back then, the time it must have taken and dedication not to mention hard work, and they are still standing nearly a thousand years later! That’s when one realises that a little dust or a laundry basket full of washing is of no consequence whatsoever!! Hope you are having a lovely Sunday, our sun has gone on holiday for the day, it is windy and pelting with rain, but we need it and so maybe, just maybe, the housework will get done today!!! Xx

        • It rained here much of the day, I actually did a major spring clean and it feels so good, the house is immaculate! it won’t last long but for one evening it’s fabulous!!! Also did some baking and made a huge batch of scones, sometimes rainy days are good! Hope your day is going well too. Xx

          • Doing just that on, a cup of green tea and a scone on a wet and chilly May Day! Hopefully we’ll both get a bit more sunshine this week on either side of the pond! Xx

  • This post made me admire you even more, Ms. Susan. I’ve always wondered how you do it all. I only have two daughters, a 7-year old and a year & 5 months toddler. But after a full day at the office, im often drained I can hardly do housework. I always tell myself housework can wait, but kids won’t be forever kids. I’d rather spend all my free time with them. I am having long weekend at the moment, Friday and Monday being a holiday. I also want to say thank you for all the wonderful and photos of my dream country, France. Who knows, I might get there someday. It’s free to dream after all 🙂 I always look forward to your posts. I may seldom comment but I always read them. I love how you treat your readers as online friend and also taking time to reply to them. It must have taken so much from your precious time. Regards from your no. 1 fan from the Far East.

    • Thanks so so much Jenneth, I always tell myself housework can wait too, you are so right, our kids won’t be kids forever. For me those wonderful toddler days are already a distant memory, our youngest is now 10. And I loved the baby stages and the toddler ones, so my advice is enjoy every second, the children certainly will appreciate your company and they won’t care whether the laundry is put away or whether the cushions are plumped, in fact they won’t even notice! We have a holiday tomorrow so looking forward to one last day with everyone before school starts again on Tuesday, I do love having them home all day long. Enjoy your long weekend, you live in a truly beautiful part of the world. Have lots of fun with your daughters xxx

  • What a lovely post, Susan. Honesty personified, but then I don’t think anyone would have expected anything less from you. I can’t think of any other blogger I know who is as forthright as you.

    • Thanks so much Simon, as you probably have gathered by now, I just write about things as I see them, daily life, here in France with the family! I’m just flattered that so many people find it interesting! Enjoy your long weekend. Our weather was stunning yesterday, in the 20’s and lots of sun, today we have typically British holiday weather, wet and windy!!! Xxx

  • Sometimes it feels like treading water and your head keeps ducking under. So glad you are finding a few moments for yourself to walk and take pictures, and, of course, we benefit from the pictures too. Thanks for sharing the beauty, the joy, and the worries.
    And thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

  • Just back from Auvergne (and it is still spoken and though of as Auvergne just like you are still Poitou Charentes even though we are supposedly now conjoined with my present home region of Rhône-Alpes and unimaginatively named Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes). Catching up including emailing you but of course I must stop and remark how much I enjoyed your post and that I do hope you practiced your departmental numbers when on the road …. my husband is catching me up and knows about 80% by heart now so I am turning my head to learning the prefectures, old regions and new regions that they sit in. Some might say I have too little to do!!!

    • At least we got a whole new name, not that anyone ever uses it, just on MeteoFrance!! We are all slowly learning the departmental numbers, but we have a long way to go. Gigi went to Paris just before Easter with her coach and he was teaching her the whole way there, she is now better than me aged 10, I’m ashamed to say!! I think I have a way to go before I start on prefectures!! I am just going to plead blissful ignorance! xx

      • It’s a sincerely sad occupation for a middle aged woman and even the French think I’m bonkers. Last night we had supper with a delightful couple in their 70s he an astrophysicist colleague of hubby and she an artist along with a friend of theirs, an aged bag-lady masquerading as an astronomer from Paris. They were a mixture of bemused and amused at my skill in knowing the numbers, their heads and their regions better than they did. I’m certain they all shook their heads in wonder at just how eccentric Brits are after we left … 😉

        • Sounds like a fun dinner, an astrophysicist, an artist and a would be astronomer! But continuing with our British obsession with facts and the numbers, the amusing thing is G’s coach is 31 and yet he knew all the numbers, or if not all, very nearly all of them! I think we need to be a little eccentric to live here anyway!!!

          • 31 – Haute Garonne (Toulouse, formerly Midi-Pyrénées now super region Occinanie) …. it’s an affliction I tell you!!!

          • As I am sitting here doing the exceedingly tedious job of paying bills, when this comment popped up on the screen it was a very welcome diversion! I rather like our new name Nouvelle Aquitaine, at least it has the word new in it!!!But our region is now so huge! I did impress the children in the car yesterday though, when a very slow annoying camper van held us up and they asked where it was from, number 14, Calvados I replied promptly and smugly! Luck was on my side, it was one I knew! I have a few that are firmly in my mind, 17 of course, 16, 34, 83 to name but a few odd ones!!!

          • Add 15 for Cantal where I usually live and 38 for Isère where I live at the moment. Our new region name is unimaginative and entirely un evocative … and I am certain poor Auvergne now being married to Rhône-Alpes which has nothing in common with it except mountains and which was far far bigger is plotting independence!!

          • And Lyon has some of the best food in France according to the French so I suppose I shouldn’t moan too much!!

          • Talking of which have to collect children from school, it being a Wednesday and prepare lunch – at least that means the end of paperwork, phew! xx

  • Thanks, as always, for including us on your walks and journeys of mind. Also, I’m sure the region change was not embraced by most! How interesting. Thanks for the maps.
    Happy planting- in your own time 🙂

  • I copied the maps you so generously posted – because I have a huge muddle in my head about all of this! Luckily my dept hasn’t changed, it was already one of the largest I believe AND I can say that we live on Ile de France…. Thank you so much for having done this great work for us!
    When guessing cars by their dept numbers – try to avoid the 75…. that’s the ville de Paris 🙂 In your own interest – as a matter of fact I shall send you, to your private mail address, a little ‘laugh’ from the 1st of May march in Paris – you’ll love it…..
    It’s like in NOVEMBER now, after the weeks and weeks and weeks of dry wonderful weather. The heating is on since Easwter Monday and I’m decked out like an innuit! I have all excuses not to continue the washing of windows (I have hundreds of tiny 20/20cm ‘in-between-wars’ glass panels; it drives me crazy every time and I need to stand forever on a high ladder which isn’t easy when everything wants to move back-and-forward…. But it HAS to be done and I can’t wait much longer. Two rooms are done, the worst is the living/dining room with its 104 squares. And that’s not counting the 3 doors with another number of squares. Oh, aren’t we complaining on a very high level, Susie?! 🙂

    • The fascination of department numbers, I love it! I find it such fun to look around here and we can guess who are tourists and who are not before we even look at the number plates! It has been chilly here, but we have not had to put the heating on since the end of March, just lit the fire three times, that’s all. Today was 20C and lovely, getting nice again thank goodness. Tiny window panes, gosh they take so much cleaning, I did all of our windows in April, the salt air around here really does make a mess! and yes, aren’t we lucky, that we have nothing more serious to complain about, or at least not in public! Time for some sleep xxx

  • A thoughtful post. I can understand why France is your chosen homeland and can relate to your thoughts on so many levels. Fingers crossed that common sense (that appears to be getting less common by the year) prevails in the French elections. Amicalement, Elizabeth

    • Hi Elizabeth, fingers crossed indeed, I am trying not to think about it today, it is really worrying for our future here as foreigners, but I am being positive and focusing on other things! Hope you are having a lovely Sunday xx

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