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.
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.
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.
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,
spring flowers or an old stone wall.
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.
This church was built with bare hands in the 1200’s
and so was the ancient market hall. Recently it has been completely renovated, using reclaimed materials but still preserving the original timbers wherever possible.
Some 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.”
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.
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.
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.
The Light was incredible and I could still feel the sun on my back.
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.
I shall plant this weekend, but for now, I am looking on the bright side.