Your Thoughts and a Lot on My Mind

P6780335La Rentrée defines the beginning of September in France. After the frivolities of summer everything gets that little bit more serious once more – and it’s not just for school children that the routine begins again. Almost everyone is back from holiday, it’s a new season and for some a new beginning; offices which have been closed for the entire month of August are suddenly buzzing with life again. The coastal roads which were jam-packed a week ago are miraculously smooth flowing once more. In many restaurants the clientele subtly changes, with flirtatious summer clothing swapped for more serious attire, and tourists replaced by the lunchtime business crowd. No one talks about going back to work, or back to school, or back to a normal routine after the holidays, they simply talk of la rentrée. 

The heady carefree days of summer seem so long ago already.

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It all came around so quickly and our four youngest children are back at school and for the first time ever they are all in the same school; in two different sections, but the same school. Gigi has been bombarded with questions from the teachers; “I taught your sister, and then your brother and then another sister, and now I have you; are there any more to follow?”

Primary school is a thing of the past for our household; gone are the days when one teacher covered every subject, and this is the first time in sixteen years of our children’s education that we have not had at least one in elementary school. It’s quite a landmark for us!

And talking of our children, I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped Izzi with her ‘Playground Project’ for one of her University assignments. It won several awards. You all contributed to a little part of her portfolio that has helped enormously with her CV and jump-started her whole transformation from full-time student to responsible working adult. She has landed her dream design job in London; we are so proud of her and so happy for her – thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on playground markings.

So now we have only four in full time education. It takes some adjustment to cope with the change from having had a house overflowing with kids to the pin-drop silence there is now – as if by magic they’re gone, and it’s so quiet and still. I suppose I could be happy that the house remains tidy for several hours a day, but I’m not, for I’m one of those mothers who hate it when the children go back to school; plainly and simply, I miss them.  Even the weather seems rather despondent at the thought, and heavy brooding skies have dominated the days this week.

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The roads are once again busy with buses ferrying children to and fro in the mornings and evenings. We don’t have the defining yellow bus so famous in the USA, here the regular bus service is hired for schools as well, and the symbol in our area for our transport system is well known in the Charente Maritime, it’s the seagulls, Les Mouettes.

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Of course, whilst everyone gets back to poring over their studies, the kitchen table becomes once again a place for homework. Text books are appearing each evening, all of which have to be covered with plastic by the students for protection. Millie is the expert in this family and they all look to her to do their’s for them!

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All of this sudden studious activity has set me thinking, and I’ve looked at their handwriting, which is something that is taken very seriously here. We’ve had children in elementary education in three different continents and never have I known anywhere quite so earnest about this subject. They are taught cursive from a very young age and they write beautifully. Take a look at Gigi’s poetry book from when she was 9. I swear her writing is so much nicer than mine (in fact yes, I’m really envious); I wish I could write like that, mine seems almost babyish by comparison.

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We were taught to write at school of course, but it was in big rounded letters, and always upright – any form of slant was frowned upon. However, my parents both have beautiful forward sloping writing, both a very similar style. This prompted me to look back even further. I have a letter from my great grandmother, written to my grandfather in 1924. Her script is far more in the style of my parents’ writing.

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Going back even further I have a note written by a great-great-great-grandparent in a dated envelope from 1830. Again the style is sloping but slightly more formal than a century later.

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Naturally everything back then was written with a ink, and until two years ago a fountain-pen was still compulsory for our children at school here; but it seems even this rule has now ceased, which to my mind means the end of another era in handwriting.

So whilst we can certainly date a letter by the style of the writing and there is much written about handwriting defining one’s character, I wonder if we can detect which country it is from? I’m sure I could spot French handwriting almost anywhere, but then perhaps I am wrong –  maybe there are many other countries with a similar, beautifully artistic style. Whatever it is, I really want to know your thoughts on handwriting –  how your write, and in what style, wherever and whoever you are.

Once the books have been removed during the day my kitchen table is currently covered with apples. We found a couple of unloved fruit trees, alone in a hedgerow beside a deserted field on one of our bike rides. This is not the orchard of last year but somewhere even more remote. We know the trees are totally unloved and unattended because of the sheer number of rotting windfalls and the knee high grass and weeds that surrounds them; in addition they have not been pruned for years and their branches droop to the ground with the weight of all the fruit.  Being kind people we relieved the tree of some of the weight, quite liberally, too, I may add! There are three varieties of apples; two are for eating and one is definitely a cooker. But combined they make the best apple purée, another staple for the freezer for the coming months.

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The children are eating them two at a time. They are crunchy and crisp, with that wonderful fresh new season taste and of course, I’ve made apple-pies!

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And I am also still picking tomatoes on a daily basis and harvesting carrots non stop, not to mention the figs and the grapes!

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Despite all this activity, I am struggling to keep my thoughts in one place this week because of Hurricane Irma, which is weighing very heavily on my mind. We used to live in the Caribbean in Anguilla a long time ago; the island appears to have been completely flattened overnight, no one knows the true extent of the damage yet as communications are down. We visited St Martin at least once a week also, and we still have a great many friends on both islands and also in Barbuda. Worse still (could it get worse, I ask myself?), poor old Florida waits open-eyed for the final track to become definitive, and I’ve been chatting with dear friends there as preparations are well under way to cope with the oncoming monster.

Natural disasters that we can do nothing about. When we lived in Anguilla we went through Hurricane Georges in September 1998, a category 4 which passed directly overhead, at the time Izzi was a toddler. I know what it’s like; we evacuated our house, as it was a rented home with a less than sturdy roof, and after boarding it up we went to stay with other close friends who also had a daughter of the same age. They had a house with a concrete roof and we would be much safer. After the storm moved on we had no power for weeks and the damage was immense. Irma is even bigger, and even more deadly. My thoughts are with everyone, not only those who have already suffered but also those in its path, and I also feel for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. To all of you, hugs, love and best wishes – you are constantly in our prayers.

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110 thoughts on “Your Thoughts and a Lot on My Mind

  • I used to hate Mondays when everyone went back to school and work. Now I’m an empty nester and would really like some grandbabies around. Yes, these hurricanes are awful. We are still cleaning up from Harvey, which was a rain event for us because it was stuck between two fronts. It looks like Irma is a wind event ripping everything in its path. Tons of supplies are coming to us and maybe we’ll be able to shift some to Irma victims.

    • I am sure you will get your Grandbabies! Harvey looked so awful, we watched the news in horror and now another one which is wreaking absolute havoc. I think we should be so grateful to all the help everywhere receives and the people who help too. Hopefully this will be the end of it for 2017. xx

    • I had to look up Royal Palms, I see they are in the West End, I don’t think they were even built when we were there! But that is the area where our friends house was and where we took refuge with them during the hurricane. I hate to see it destroyed too, it is so so tragic for everyone, I am just praying until we hear some news. xx

  • Terrifying images on the BBC news this morning. As for handwriting I’m with you on this one. I too was taught joined up and round, and leaning backwards was a total no no.

    • I know, we have been seeing images on and off, just awful. Oh yes I remember slanting backwards was really really frowned upon and one got marked down or had to completely redo anything that had a single letter facing to the left! xx

  • Like you we continue to keep everyone affected by the hurricane season in our thoughts and prayers. I must say I absolutely loved the handwritten notes. So exquisitely beautiful! Izzi’s project was such a clever idea and I figured she’d do well. Please convey my congrats at all her awards. ❤︎

    • I will certainly pass on your congrats to Izzi, thanks so much because I know you contributed a lot. I love beautiful handwriting, I dearly wish mine was so much nicer and I am always telling the children how lovely their writing is and how lucky they are that French schools has insisted they write nicely! But it seems it only is the case in the elementary school, once they progress to the older years, it is the same as everywhere else, no one gets marked down for bad handwriting, I can vouch for this, our son’s is far from perfect!! xx

      • In this day and age of electronic devices, beautiful handwriting all too often gets short shrift. Glad the schools there insist on it. Enjoy those fresh carrots-they are my favorite when they’re freshly pulled.

      • I am glad the schools insist on it too, although it is only in elementary school, they don’t seem to mind in middle and high school too much, I can vouch for this because our son’s writing is far from perfect! But at least they are taught the basics at a young age and I just hope it continues. I read in the previous comment from Lidy at French Garden House that they have now stopped teaching cursive altogether in the US. I find that such a shame and I truly cannot see why, if you have any idea do let me know? Freshly pulled carrots are utterly delicious. We tend to eat them raw with every meal rather than cooking them, which would seem almost a crime, they are just so sweet! xx

      • Boys generally have less than perfect handwriting, but with practice and desire, it can improve. Sadly it’s true, too many schools no longer tech cursive in the US. Don’t ask me why, it makes no sense to me. You can’t be age 6 forever, though some people seems to think so, especially the current president. 😇

      • Yes you are right there, although Roddy has beautiful handwriting! Ha ha, love your comment! Ours started to learn cursive at age 6 here and used a fountain pen too! I think next time I write a letter I am going to work on making sure it is as beautifully written as possible, perhaps I am not too old to improve my writing as well! I know this is going to be a great topic of conversation around the supper table this evening; how important is the art of handwriting. I should have thought of it before and I could have posted the results!! xx

    • I really hope not, surely we all still have to write, although I know that spelling is becoming a thing of the past with auto correct being blamed as one of the main reasons, people know longer need to know how to spell I have been told on countless occasions which I think is sad too. xx

  • Grew up using the Palmer (slant) method. My grandchildren can’t read it – they only print. Sad to see the art of handwriting disappearing.

    • I had not realised the slanted method had a name, thank you, I have learnt something new today. I think it is sad if children don’t learn cursive, plus it is so slow having to write in print all the time. But then, perhaps the keyboard will take over altogether, let’s hope not. xx

  • Such beautiful handwriting, how lucky you are to have those old family letters. I have a postcard I bought in Paris years ago, it’s about 100 years old & the writing is just beautiful. I like to think it’s a love letter, so I have it framed, but don’t dare ask my French friends to translate it, just in case it’s not, I would be so disappointed!
    Many congratulation to Izzi, to have her dream job, & live in London also, what an exciting time ahead for her. I lived in London many years ago & it’s still very dear to my heart, wishing her happiness in her new life. xxx

    • Hi Janet, the post card sounds fascinating, I would love to see it, if you do decide you feel daring do email me a copy and I will translate it, you never know! I also lived in London and loved it, they were very special days and I am now so looking forward to being able to go and visit her on a regular basis, I will get to enjoy London all over again. xx

      • Oh, lucky you being able to visit London again, I haven’t been in ages, but I was so happy there, such fond memories.
        As to the postcard, when I find it I will certainly take you up on your offer! I’m still living in chaos after building work in my bedroom, which started mid January, & still rumbles on. First a decorator just didn’t turn up when he was supposed to, & never heard from him again. New decorator is very busy, but hope to start mid September. In the meantime, everything from bedroom is in living room, along with new, & still boxed, dining table & chairs. I can’t find anything!
        Forgot to say, the first photo on your blog is stunning, with the house & is it Bentley? Such beautiful light. xxx

      • I was in London with Roddy and the children about three years ago, the first time for ages and it brought back so many memories and we all loved it. Cannot wait to go now and visit Izzi, another stage of parenthood and I am so looking forward to it. Please do find the postcard when you have a moment and good luck with all the decorating! In the first photo it is Evie, there is always one of them photobombing all the pictures I take!! The light does tend to be lovely at this time of year, although we have not had nearly as much sun as usual, September has not got off to a good start at all! xx

  • I was taught joined up and round too and never backwards. I never minded the kids going back to school because I loved them coming home and telling me about their day… but I love it when my grandson goes home because he is such a handful at 3 and I am 30 years older! This is the first year we are not going to Florida late September….we used to hope most years that the storms had passed by the time we came out there but on occasion they hadn’t and we could not go out due to the overhead powerlines. Well done to your eldest daughter. I would be very interested to have a look at the maths book next year when I am over.

    • So so true Denise, we have just sat and had lovely long chats, in the car and continued here around the kitchen table, all the chit chat about the day, new friends and what they did. Hetty and G had their big outing for the day today, a day when the kids all get to know one another and build friendships, a day at the beach, kayaking, paddle boarding and various beach activities. It is such a great idea. Jack and Millie have their day tomorrow. Remind me about the maths book next year, you can have a look through all the different level of maths books of all four of them! xx

  • You have captured perfectly the mood of La Rentree……yes it effects everyone including animals, plants, the lot. Once we adjust then we can enjoy what as you say is another beginning. Loved the photographs – thank you Janet xxx

      • It’s been a good and busy summer. I have had to deal with my late Aunt’s estate, but am now free to move forward unencumbered. I was in Wales recently – a wonderful visit. and am off to the Isle of Wight on the 18th to be with artist friends….and then I can begin to plan visits to France…:) thinking of you today with the family at home and all the lovely autumn bounty from the garden. Janet xx

      • So sorry about your Aunt. Have fun on the Island, my childhood home. Let me know when you start to plan your visits to France and hopefully we can meet. We had a lovely weekend, and a long cycle yesterday with all the children, just as weekends should be. xx

  • About writing. I was taught from a penmanship book somewhere in the first through fourth grades. I think I was halfway successful but since that time my writing could be the horrible “before” example for a course in penmanship. Even I can’t read it sometimes. Does it reflect what is going on in my mind? It is a mix of writing and printing with no particular pattern to it. If children don’t learn penmanship how are they going to sign their names to things? This is one skill I would hate to see go away.

  • Yes,it’s quite terrifying what is happening weather-wise around the world. I do wonder tho’ if we are not the architects of our own disasters with what we are doing to this planet? Certainly their is a link between warming seas and the appearance of hurricanes.
    On the handwriting, we had handwriting lessons for the first two years of primary school (UK). We learned a style called Marion Richardson – all very upright and proper, definitely not slanting one way or t’other and all loops and curlicues banished. It was a very round and open style which over the decades has now liberated itself and wiggles, waggles and flourishes all over the page.

    • I am quite sure we have a great deal to do with what is going on, but are we only just realising this too late I wonder? I love your description of our handwriting, mine goes all over the page too, it’s neither neat nor perfect and I always feel is rather babyish compared to my parents beautifully slanted writing and my children’s perfectly formed french writing! I looked up Marion Richardson, fascinating. It says that her style was still taught in schools until the mid 1980’s so I am fairly sure that this was the style I was taught for cursive in the 70’s, I just never knew it had a name. I have learnt plenty today already, thank you so much. xx

  • Lots to respond to: First – Go, Izzi! So happy she found her dream job and happy to have provided some info for her project. My daughter majored in design, so I know the amount of research involved in projects.

    Second – I can almost always identify someone from the UK by their handwriting. My mother was a Brit, born early in the last century, and so I saw not only her handwriting but that of aunts, uncles, cousins and a myriad of others. While my writing was influenced by that to some degree since I spent most of my early childhood in the UK, I actually learned cursive using the Palmer method. My children (in their 30s) envy my handwriting, but I often revert to the print method rather than cursive when jotting notes down. I will say that in the US, I wonder if my grandchildren will even be taught cursive.They seem to be going away from that as folks do most things on laptops or tablets. Scary thought. Love the variations of your family’s writing–esp the one from 1830s. So beautiful. And I love fountain pens.

    Finally, that bi-atchee Irma is living up to the “I” hurricanes legacy. Isobel, Irene — all awful storms. Even in the mid-atlantic where Ilve, they caused devastation as they came up the coast/land. One of my son’s had his home here destroyed during Irene by falling trees–a neighbor’s trees, I might add), so we know what it is like to go through a prolonged recovery (took 8 months to get his house rebuilt here where there were plenty of supplies; can’t imagine the length of recovery for those poor islands where everything must be shipped in). Some folks we know lost their homes due to Harvey, and now I, too, worry about Florida friends and colleagues in our Florida offices. Just hard to see so many people with their lives turned upside down. So I am with you on thoughts being scattered these days. As if the idiot in the WH was enough to worry about!

    May your La Rentree (missing accent, sorry) be peaceful and without too much havoc.

    • Thanks so much Mary, Izzi is so so happy, I can hear it radiating off her in every phone call and I cannot wait to now go and visit her in London next month. Yes a vast amount of work involved, but she was always passionate about it and I guess that really shone through. I love old English handwriting, it always seems so romantic to me and I too love writing with a fountain pen. Funnily enough so does Millie, who at 17, still prefers to write with one at school! These hurricanes are awful, they all are, they are terrifying and they affect so many. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that Irma doesn’t cause too much devastation in Florida and that Jose behind her doesn’t do the same. xx

  • We used to live in Florida and would dread this time of year. Our insurance was so high as a result and was one of the reasons we left. We too are very worried for our friends and cannot wait for this hurricane season to be over.

    • Hi Shari, there is nothing nice about hurricane season, we used to worry as June came around each year and then sigh a huge sigh of relief as we waved goodbye to another hurricane season. My prayers are for everyone. xx

  • Here the tourists just keep coming. In September it’s usually empty nesters. Natural calamities have been on my mind a lot. This years weather all over the world does seem to prove that climate change is a fact. It’s always amazing to me to watch how resilient we humans are. We pick ourselves up and start over again as best as we can. We live in an earthquake zone…..another calamity waiting to happen.

    As for handwriting….mine is a complete muddle. I start out lovely and clear, letters formed perfectly. My mind starts racing ahead, my fingers rushing to keep up and then…..a muddle…that no one can read…..sigh.

    Congratulations to Izzi, now at the beginning of a new adventure.

    Ali xxx

    • There are tourists around here too Ali, but just nowhere near the numbers we had in July and August, this is a tremendously popular destination for Parisians and French families and they tend to come during the school holidays. This time of year is perfect, still warm, the beaches are lovely and the restaurants are all still open but there is a sense of calm after all the hype! We are resilient aren’t we, we just cope, let’s hope that everyone in the path of Irma can cope. My writing can be almost illegible if I am in a hurry or really excited about something, it seems my hand cannot get the words down fast enough. Izzi is so so happy, can’t wait to go and visit her in London now. xx

  • How exciting for your Izzi! I am sure you all miss her. And yes, we are all praying and donating money for the sweet people of Texas. And now praying that the next one will somehow turn around and disappear before hitting Florida.

    Here in the U.S., they’ve actually stopped teaching cursive, if you can believe it! I fear beautiful handwriting is a thing of the past. Happy first week back to school, Susan. It takes getting used to, doesn’t it? But soon you’ll find your rhythm again. And I’m picturing all of you drinking tea and eating apple galette in the kitchen while the kids talk about their school day!

    • Fabulous for Izzi, can’t wait to go and visit her now and revive my love of London. I cannot believe they have stopped teaching cursive in the US, that is so so sad, why? what is the logic behind that? Apple galette it was this evening when the children came home from school, the perfect afternoon goûter, a little bit of healthy and a little bit sweet, and nicely filling. xxx

  • Congratulations to Izzi on her job and Gigi on her handwriting. We learned cursive writing in grade school, but for some reason, when I went to Europe in the mid-seventies, I started printing (and eating with a knife my right hand and fork in my left) and never looked back. I sign checks and things that need signatures in cursive but print for all else. So I send hand-printed cards and letters, not hand-written. 🙂 In the US, it seems there’s a movement to get rid of cursive and who knows if children now even write at all. It’s all devices. I’d add a plea for sending periodic cards and letters, no matter how you write. It means so much to people!

    Praying for those already pulverized by Harvey in Huston and along the coast as well as those hit and about to be hit by Irma. It’s been a difficult month from a weather standpoint.

    janet

    • Why did you start printing when you came to Europe, it wasn’t even a European thing in the 70’s surely? That is when I learnt to write in cursive at school during the 70’s. And the knife and fork, I am intrigued? This is how we always use them, but maybe that’s a European thing too and I have never noticed it done differently, I am, as I said, intrigued!! I have heard in the two previous comments that cursive has stopped being taught in the US, what a very great shame, I totally agree with you, there is nothing like a handwritten note or card and I still insist the children write theirs after receiving gifts rather than resorting to a quick email or worst still, a text! Like you, praying for all those with these hurricanes. xx

      • Not sure why I started printing at that particular time, but the eating with both hands is not an American thing. We usually cut with knife and fork, then put down the knife, switch the fork to the preferred hand, and continue eating. 🙂 I’ve done it the European way so long it feels natural to me.

  • Like you, I felt somewhat bereft when my children returned to school after the summer vacation. Then I went back to teaching and it’s wonderful to go back to school myself! We just began this week and I enjoy the interactions with the students and my colleagues.
    Handwriting seems to be a lost art. So many students come into grade 8 and cannot even read cursive writing, never mind write it. And their printing is atrocious. I can identify French writing – it’s very precise and lovely.
    So many tragic situations in the world just now. Flooding in Asia, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and we in the west are dealing with wildfires that are consuming thousands of hectares of trees and scorching the land. Our sun today is very obscured by smoke and the light is a burnt orange.
    So we must all do what we can to help others and focus on the positive in life. Thank you for your lovely post. The apples are wonderful and remind me that I need to deal with some of ours, too. I’ve canned applesauce, but want to make some pastry.

    • Incredible and also very very sad that a grade 8 would not be able to read some cursive writing let alone write it. It really does seem it is becoming a dying art and it is fascinating to hear everybody’s opinions on this, it seems we all love good handwriting. I shall continue to encourage our children to write well and Izzi, having also had three years of French education during her middle school years, also has beautiful French handwriting, something she has treasured and never forgotten. So many tragic events indeed, it is easy to get weighed down by them all, I was planning a much longer, slightly different post, but decided to change things a little as it didn’t seem quite right. But I do agree, we have to remain positive because as a general rule that is what us humans do so terribly well. We must look on the bright side and be grateful for all of the good things. Do make some pastry and some apple tart, we just had a slice each for afternoon goûter, delicious!!! xx

  • So many things to think about in this post. The end to elementary school is a huge landmark, but you will certainly find things to occupy your time. I remember how I sobbed when the second of my two left for college, but I grew accustomed over time.

    Regarding cursive–it is disappearing here in the US, and I feel so strongly about it that I wrote a blog post on the subject: https://hashtagretired.com/2017/06/12/in-defense-of-letters-in-cursive/ Years ago, a French exchange student told me how important it is to have a distinctive signature. “It is yours alone!” she said. Fight to keep cursive always!

    We, too, have many friends in St. Martin, as well as family and friends in Texas and Florida. My heart is just breaking for St. Martin as we wait for word on the safety of our chers amis.

    On a cheerier note, the apples look wonderful!

    • I shall go over to your blogpost and have a good read this evening Angela, thank you, I find it quite a fascinating subject and am so sad to hear that teaching cursive is being dropped altogether in the US, I cannot comprehend why. I hope some people from other countries will join in and let me know what is happening in their parts of the world. Thank goodness handwriting is still taught here in elementary school. We have heard from some friends in St Martin and just been sent some new photos, there is aa 20′ storm surge in Marigot, and many people still have not given word that they are ok, it is all very distressing. We have not heard from anyone in Anguilla. But like you, we will be cheerful, I am going to take the dogs and the children, those that want to come, for a walk! xx

  • The weather in the Caribbean is truly frightening, Susan. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what a 20 foot storm surge would do to our beach here. I suspect all of our shingle would go to Holland and we’d be in a tent somewhere on the way to Ashford. I’d probably go on there anyway and stay with mum, who is still hanging on in her little cottage. I cannot even begin to imagine what it will take to rebuild those islands, nor how long. Life will be a misery for many people for many months I would imagine. Simply catastrophic, and Florida is still to come and the poor Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos will get hammered in the meantime. I hope the UK comes good with its promise of aid for Anguilla. I once went past there a long time ago on a sailboat delivery and remember a bar on the beach with music, in the main anchorage. I hope it survived. I got very sunburnt during a ‘siesta’. That’s my story, anyway.

    Lovely photos as always, and many congratulations to Izzi – how nice to hear a happy employment story; so many of my friends’ children are out of work or getting by as baristas, or waiters/waitresses. How the migration to University has changed over the years. I remember at school only the very brightest would go to University. The dumb ones went and worked…… as whatever they could. I was one of them, alas. 🙂 Mrs C says hello as always – she missed the kids too when they went back. I won’t tell you what I thought. It was very quiet though.

    • Oh I so agree with you on everything Phil, we’ve just watched the BBC news and the footage is horrific, my heart goes out to all those islanders, you’re right it is going to take months to rebuild and with the tourist season looming and so many livelihoods depending on holidaymakers at this time of year it is truly catastrophic in more ways than one. Let’s just hope that the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos don’t get hit so badly, although I fail to see how that is going to happen. All we can do is pray. xx

  • Fascinating and bought provoking as always Susan. I too have always loved French handwriting linking it to their spoken language, they both strike me as so romantic. It’s not a good year for natural disasters. News reports show horror stories from the islands.

  • So much food for thoughts…. I’m with you on those horrendous ‘backlashes’ of our dear nature’s misstreatment over the many years! I have already written privately to some ppl in the greater area, resp friends who used to live about that area. We also had friends in Florida and are quite glad that they have passed on…. how sad is that to state! I sometimes can hardly breathe so heavy is my heart – and I’m thousands of miles and several countries/continents away. Yes, we do what is possible, pray for all those poor souls and their pets and homes too.
    Handwriting: That’s a great theme for me. I seem to have quite a series of my own scrawling, but depending on the deed on hand my handwriting is changing – always too large and always my paper/cards/message holder is too small, I then start writing around the address, or the border of the card, or add little pieces of paper to the card – it’s very ‘creative writing’ and very lisible. HH has a ‘pig’s claw’ writing, if it went with the impression he gives, he should have a medical doctor’s degree, at least. After knowing him for half a lifetime and having ‘quand-même’ received the occasional note, I still struggle to decipher his writing (being left-handed and highly dyslexic doesn’t help) – but hey, HE can read it and he’s very good at explaining 🙂
    I do admire very much lovely handwritings and I’m totally in love with a friend in Devon who writes with a proper fountain pen and in nearly kaligraphic fashion. In Switzerland I have one friend who also writes, in a childlike fashion, with round bows, and starts with one postcard, adds another or a writing paper, cuts out a ‘bonmot’ on something, adds a bookmark from a museum, etc….. how wonderful and rare. Another friend in CA sends me her handmade and hand-printed quote-cards, precious! We had an elderly friend, now in heaven, who was a typographer, his Christmas cards will have a place of honour forever…. I DO love writing by hand and I send out at least one or two missives per mail. I’m probably the only person in France sending actual mail…. The lady at the post office here asked me for many months if REALLY I wanted dozens of stamps for Europe and the USA…. You know, we could just sell you pre-stamped envelopes! (I now order my stamps stash online!!)
    It’s true, your daughter Gigi has an exceptionally beautiful writing – brava!!! And I’m SO glad that Izzi had such a succes with her project work. What a great start in a professional life. And yep: CURSIVE FOREVER…. Yessssss.
    Blessings, K

    • All we an do is pray for our friends and if there is any way we can help afterwards we will of course. Truly hideous, just seen the news and the latest video footage from the islands, it is catastrophic, have been chatting to friends online in Florida all day and likewise Roddy has been talking to friends in St Martin who thanks to mobile phones still have communications. Just awful. You have reminded me, why oh why do all doctors seem to write in a manner that is completely illegible, I have yet to meet one who has handwriting that I can read! There is nothing like a handwritten card, I still make the children write theirs whenever they receive a gift, I tell them an email or even worse, a text, simply will not do! Cursive indeed forever, although my writing is not always completely legible either!!! xxx

  • A beautiful handwirttten note is something to treasure for ever, an email is forgotten in a day as it moves down the screen and is overtaken!

  • Hurricane Irma is unthinkable unless you are unfortunate enough to be in her greedy path. I was on the phone to a friend in Florida last night. I couldn’t quite grasp the stoic calm they showed. My thoughts, my meager thoughts are with all of them. Handwriting here is a thing of beauty and I am convinced that like you I could recognise a French hand anywhere. Like Architects (British … I don’t know about anywhere else) … they have wonderful writing – very arty but structured. It certainly used to be taught as part of an Architecture degree. My own writing is described by most as looking lovely but being entirely unreadable. I think the French have it wholly right. No arguments. Xx

    • Totally horrendous, we have been chatting to friends in FL all day, everyone is calm and prepared and more than a little worried. Roddy has been chatting to friends in St Martin, thanks to mobile communications, the island has been virtually destroyed. I had no idea handwriting was taught to architects, fascinating. Perhaps they should teach it to doctors also, I have yet to meet one who had legible handwriting!! I adore French writing and am so so glad that all of our children have been taught it. Even Izzi, having spent three years in French school quite a few years ago has retained her beautiful French writing, I am more than a little envious of all of them, mine is just plain boring!! xx

  • That’s so cool you still have written correspondence from your relatives! Paper is so fragile and quickly thrown away– I don’t think any notes like yours exist older than my grandparents in my family.

    • My grandparents seemed to keep everything, it is still all carefully put away in old leather briefcases. Once I start going through them I tend to get carried away and before I know it the hours have passed and I have completely lost track of time for I am so absorbed. Treasure the things from your grandparents for in another century they will be truly valued by so many xx

  • My daughter and grandchildren are in Miami, I just got off the phone with her. They are all boarded up and prepared for whatever Irma throws at them. Now all we can do is pray and wait. Your support across the big turbulent pond is so appreciated.

  • I love to see beautiful handwriting. Mine seems to have deteriorated as I’ve gotten older and now my eyesight is a problem, it’s even worse. You should just see my shopping list. 😯 I have a friend who took calligraphy lessons. So lovely to behold. Congratulations to Izzy, on landing her dream job. How exciting for her. Here in Florida, we await Irma with some apprehension. Which path will she choose? After the weekend, we will know.

    • Well I am sure you can understand your shopping list!! Mine is ok if I have time but if I am in a hurry it is almost illegible!! I bought a calligraphy pen once in the hopes that I could master the art of beautiful handwriting, but I never succeeded! Watching the news closely this evening, I will pray for you all, I don’t know what else there is to say except stay safe. xxx

  • I hope your friends in Barbuda got out in time. The news moments ago said it is 95 percent inhabitable. So far, more after effects are expected, along with fallout from Storm Jose.

    I have a post in partial draft in my blog queue on handwriting — the history (in brief!), its importance in memory and bemoaning the lack of teaching cursive these days. It started when I found things written by my parents and grandparents and how important those things are to me, how an email letter — as lovely as the content may be — will not survive over the centuries, like the letters of great people of the past. I love hearing your thoughts on this. I’m glad they still teach cursive in the school your kids attend.

    My writing? I’d say it is pretty and artistic and totally based on my mood. Sometimes slanty, sometimes straight up and down and rounded, sometimes very precise, sometimes backwards. (Yes, I sometimes journal in mirror writing). I’m a leftie, maybe that’s it!

    • Lefties often have completely different writing which is totally understandable, I had a best friend at school who was a leftie and she was always getting in trouble for her writing, the teachers just would not accept that it was different or harder for her, an attitude that is unheard of nowadays. I look forward to your post on the history of handwriting, it is a subject I truly hadn’t given much thought to, but now I am finding it quite fascinating and I find myself asking more and more questions. It is so sad that cursive is no longer even being taught in some countries. xx

  • Susan,

    I wanted to tell you that one of the teachers at my school is marrying a girl from the Charente Maritime region. She is here now and they were to be married at courthouse just after Labor Day but due to Hurricane Irma they have had to postpone their marriage until the storm passes. We live on the west coast of Florida below Tampa and like everyone else in the state we are waiting to see what direction Irma decides to go. The couple will have a wedding celebration in France at her home this summer. When I learned his fiance was from France I told him about reading your blog. I was surprised to find she is from your area. He shared the information about your blog with her and maybe she can read it when she gets homesick. We too are praying for everyone in the islands, the Florida Keys (our favorite vacation spot) and all of Florida as well as the rest of the east coast. I love reading your blog and the look at France it gives!

    Sue Davies
    Bradenton, Fl.

    • How wonderful that she is from the Charente Maritime, it’s a small world, do you know which town or area she is from here? I hope their wedding is absolutely lovely despite the enforced delay. We love the Keys, we are watching the news constantly and watching for track updates, just praying for the islands now and then for Florida. Stay safe and our thoughts are wth you all. xx

  • Such a sweet post. I’m like you, I would get somewhat down whenever school started for the year, it was too quiet and I missed my 4 children! My sister has a home on Anguilla and was not there for the storm. No one has been able to get through to the east side of the island to give her an idea of damage…so sad, but we’re glad she was home in the states. Our hearts go out to all in Irma’s path…

    • Hi Theresa, So I am not the only one who hates it when they go back to school! The news from the islands is awful, I cannot believe the footage we saw on the news this evening. At least your sister was not there and I hope her home is ok. All we can do now is pray for everyone and those in Florida too. xx

    • I shall go and have a look in the morning Anne, thank you for the link, it’s quite late here now and I need some beauty sleep!! It is so sad that the written letter and card is so quickly being replaced by emails and texts, I am guilty as the next person, but I do at least try and teach the children that they must write thank you letters. xx

  • Love your posts. I have family in south Florida and am truly worry about them. Our daughter spent her honeymoon on Anguilla and is also worried about that beautiful island. So very sad!

    • So very sad indeed, Anguilla is such a beautiful island, we have so many wonderful memories from our time there. All we can do now is pray for everyone affected and for everyone still in its path. xxx

  • So much to say in response to your post but all have been said very well by my fellow readers (fans!!) of your wonderful blog. Can’t tell you how much excitement I feel when I see that there is a new post.
    On the handwriting issue, I never knew that France focused on handwriting even today. How marvelous for your kids and you and Roddy. As others have noted, here in the US, our young adult kids cannot read cursive, much less write it. Absolutely ridiculous. I so love handwriting that I am looking forward to a class later this month in a new form of calligraphy. I want to be able to write like your great-great-great grandmother! Those letters that you shared are wonderful! What treasures!!
    Big congratulations to Izzi!! So excited for her to have found a great job! Wonderful accomplishment! I absolutely love visiting my young adult children in their new cities and having them be my favorite tour guides for their cities. Our youngest is living in Boston and our next visit she is taking us to a tasting event where cheese and honey are matched. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
    Finally, I love that you miss the kids now that they are back at school. What a lovely and loving family you have. So blessed (me, too!)
    Anne xo

    • Thanks so much Anne, I am amazed that cursive has stopped being taught in the US, so so sad. I am happy that our children have learnt it here and long may they continue to write in cursive, it is beautiful and a gift. I admire you for taking a writing class, I actually think it would be most incredibly rewarding, I would love to write beautifully. I cannot wait to go and visit Izzi in London now, on a regular basis, a new phase of parenthood, and one I am so looking forward to. Hope you have a most wonderful weekend xx

  • First, congratulations to Izzi. Sorry I wasn’t able to climb over the metal fence and get inside a closed-up school yard to help her, but how wonderful that she won an award for her project!
    Your ancestor’s letter from 1830 has incredibly beautiful cursive writing! I wonder if the goal of French cursive instruction is to have perfectly upright letters, rather than left-slanting? I’ve seen left-handed people, who had the Palmer method forced on them, trying to write with right-slanting letters, and it’s the most awkward thing! But basically, cursive (connected writing) is so much easier and faster to do, I can’t imagine why it is no longer taught in the US. My grandchildren print everything, even their names.
    A wonderful post today, Susan! Keeping strong thoughts for my friends in Florida………..Judy

    • I remember a friend at school who was left handed and she was permanently given a very hard time and told off if a single letter dared to slope left. It is so sad that cursive has stopped being taught in the States. Like you we are praying for friends and everyone in Florida. Just awful xxx

  • In the US they don’t teach cursive anymore. I feel this is a shame. I grew up with cursive and for some reason I ended up holding my pencil and pen differently, using my middle finger to hold the pen, rather than just thumb and pointer finger. My writing changes from time to time, sometimes a backward slant, sometimes straight up. Your daughter’s writing is beautiful My mom and Grandmother wrote fancy like the samples you show. It amazes me these people could write without miss-doing some word and having to scratch it out…no ink blotches, no goofs.

    Congratulations to your oldest. How wonderful she got the job she desired.

    I am sending prayers to those in the midst of weather disasters all over the world. Nepal, Bangladesh and India have been left with horrible floods. In the West/NW of the US many, many fires are raging. Montana has lost over 1 million acres to fires. May it all be averted and extinguished quickly.

    • It is such a shame that it is no longer taught in the USA, I had no idea. I love how they wrote a century ago and before that, I would love to be able to say I could write so well and I am so envious of all of our children’s handwriting, it is a gift they have been given at school here for sure. The world weather is terrifying at the moment, prayers for absolutely everyone. xx

  • Oh Susan – I am so pleased that the French have their priorities right and still place emphasis on having a decent handwriting, all ‘keyboarding’ aside! I cannot imagine any person not being able to have a personalized hand in cursive writing – way back [well, not such a way!!!] it denoted being intelligent and educated . . . I still love getting letters and cards properly handwritten from all my friends . . . have myself written upright all my life ! Was supposedly meaningful in denoting character traits? Gigi’s was actually very ‘grownup’ for her age!! Beautiful!! Methinks you all will have a wonderful year of work and togetherness! The hurricane: is it a horrible message to ‘you-know-who’ and the rest of what the world should be doing in a huge amount of hurry . . . . . not that some people are able to read writing cursive or keyboarded . . .

    • Ha ha, I love your sense of humour, not way back at all, just a little while ago!!! Yes handwriting was of huge importance when I was at school and an exam in any subject would be marked down if the writing was poor, even if the answer was correct, lets say to a History or Geography question, if the writing and presentation was of a very poor standard marks would be deducted. It always seemed to unfair, but they did have a point I guess. The news of the hurricane this evening, and now Jose behind and also the earth quake and everything else is just horrific, what else can we do but pray for everyone. xx

  • About handwriting – My father came to the USA from the Netherlands at age 14 All his life he had exquisitely beautiful handwriting – especially for a man.
    Here, cursive is no longer being taught. That’s sad.
    Having lived many years in the state of Florida, I know the pressure and tension of hurricane season. I still have many friends there, and family.

    • I have come to realise how beautiful handwriting can be and how important it is, so sad that cursive is no longer taught in the USA. We have been talking all day to fiends in the islands and Florida, our prayers are with them all, it is truly hideous. Xx

    • What a great shame Catherine, when we let France for a while we were lucky, everyone embraced Izzi’s gorgeous handwriting and she kept it and was so proud of it. Now the others all write beautifully too, except perhaps our son!!! I have to admit I am more than a little envious of their beautiful handwriting. Xx

  • Oh Susan, Hurricane Season is so utterly sad. I can’t even imagine the sadness and pain that this area of the world is going through. Mother Nature can be so utterly Magnificent and so utterly Destructive. My heartfelt blessings go out to everyone involved.
    On a brighter note Congrats to Izzi. Her final project looked lovely and she was so appreciative. What a VERY SPECIAL young lady she is. London…How absolutely Wonderful. Susan, you must be so proud!
    I miss handwriting of years gone by. How special are your “vintage” family ones? Lovely! I am so happy you have them. I have one written from my Mom to my Dad from 1944 when he was in the Army. Her handwriting was beautiful!
    Again, Thank You for a thoughtful post. Prayers to All of those victims affected and the wonderful volunteers! ❤️

    • The pictures emerging on social media and the news are truly horrific, you are right, Mother Nature can be so so cruel. So proud of Izzi indeed and now cannot wait to go and visit her, a new phase of parenthood and one I am very much looking forward to, I worked in London before I was married and I cannot wait to spend some time there again. Treasure those letters! Have a wonderful weekend and we shall all just pray for everyone in Irma’s path and now Jose’s too. Xx

  • Wow, so much in your post speaks to me today. Cursive taught in the States is becoming obsolete, which is a shame. My kids went to private school so they learned cursive writing. I am trying to learn calligraphy because I love beautiful writing and am amazed at the lettering skills from older generations much like the photograph you shared. I only have one child still being educated. She is in 2nd year of college so we are empty nesters with one grandchild so I understand what it is like to have a quiet house without all the kids there. I miss it too but am enjoying this season of life. My younger son is getting married in Napa Valley on the 18th. We live in Mississippi, USA so we are not in harms way from Irma but my son will be going to Miami one night and on to Antiqua for honeymoon so our thoughts and prayers are for those affected in the Caribbean from Irma and for those in Florida preparing for Irma this weekend. Blessings to you and your family.

    • How wonderful that you are learning calligraphy, I bought a special pen once with the idea I would teach myself, but I never found the time, perhaps it is something I should do again, I am certainly going to work on my handwriting a little, it is such a beautiful gift to be able to write well. I am sure you are enjoying this new phase of life just as I am going to so enjoy going to London to visit our eldest daughter now she is working there, yet another phase of parenthood, each one has its own special moments. Our prayers are with everyone affected by Irma. I hope your son’s wedding is a huge, wondrous day. Xx

  • Oh, you’ve touched a nerve with me. In my son’s 3rd grade, the class learned how to write only their names in cursive. Nothing else. When I asked, I was told cursive was not required in the new “common core” rules, children would only type from now on, they didn’t need it, and there was no time during the day to teach it. Now my 17 yr. old son can’t read my handwriting. I come from a time when your signature was a form of identification and seeing printed words on documents looks simple and childish to me.
    The hurricanes are quite frightening lately. I once took a weather class at our local community college taught by Bill Evans (the meteorologist from ABC News) and it was fascinating! We live in Connecticut, and the storms that affect us usually don’t last very long because the seafloor is bedrock. They are in and out quickly but their strength is magnified because of the rock. In the south the seafloor is sand, so the storms move more slowly and churn. As for evacuations – the plan for New York City is a vertical evacuation. Mr. Evans said the city will bus people out of the low lying areas and into the stairwells of skyscrapers which should be able to withstand the wind. He also said the person who makes the decision to evacuate NYC will have to have some big “cojones” to make THAT call when the storm is still hundreds of miles away.

    • That is so so sad Carrie, you are not the first person to say that their children cannot read cursive writing and that alone is incredibly sad, how will they ever read anything from the past that is handwritten. I truly cannot understand that cursive has stopped being taught in the USA, I am wondering if it is still taught in the UK, I shall make some enquiries. The weather class must have been completely fascinating, like the things that cause these mammoth storms and how they gain strength. I was watching on the news this evening the lines of traffic as the mass evacuation of Florida continues. I just pray for everyone. So so awful xx

  • Ah handwriting. A bugbear of mine. When my youngest stepson (now 23) was in primary school and having some difficulties with co ordination, the headteacher told us that it wouldn’t matter, that he was moving into a world where handwriting would not be necessary!! And this from a head teacher! I was appalled. Yes, technology has taken over our children’s lives somewhat, but whoever thinks that handwriting is a thing of the past is beyond ignorant. Do they really want our future citizens to go forward illiterate? For that is what they will be if they can’t write, spell, or form coherent sentences. By all means embrace technology, but not to the exclusion of previous ways. My grandchildren have just started school and they are taught in a cursive style which I am very pleased about. That was how I was taught, although my writing varies! My grandmother was taught copperplate and showed me a little how to do it. It was beautiful, but time consuming, so I guess not suitable for fitting into a much broader curriculum. My daughter (now 37) was taught italics by her teacher, which was disastrous and she has very untidy writing now. My son (now 39) was taught, in the same school, but earlier, the Marion Richards way, which was very round and upright and his writing is neat and clear. It’s such a shame that our children and grandchildren’s future literacy is at the mercy of the whims of state and a small group of ill-advised people.
    I can empathise with your empty nest beginnings Susan. It is hard when our children fly a little further from the nest, but for you, with a large family, it is particularly difficult. However, there is no going back, so the only way is to devise a new daily routine for yourself: I don’t know your children’s school hours, but maybe you now have a longer stretch before they all come home together? Time to get all the necessary tasks out of the way and to plan for their homecoming. A family snack time before homework? To chat about your days? Time too perhaps for you to do one new thing for yourself (as if you have time!!) – a chance for you to grow something ready for when they really fly far. Hard as it is, the first phase of our job is done once our children are through education and into the workplace. Tick! Then the next phase begins – embracing new people into the family as they settle with partners and then ultimately the babies arrive!! You will therefore find that this phase is actually very short, a time for you and Roddy to spend more time together on your own – and then the busy time begins again!! You’ve given your children the most wonderful upbringing, they will remember it always and my guess is they will always gravitate back to you. Keep those arms and doors open and see what happens!!
    The hurricanes are just too awful. We don’t know anyone affected but our hearts go out to those who have lost everything or lost loved ones. They are in our thoughts and prayers.
    PS. sorry for such a long post.

    • I so agree with you about handwriting Marian, I was amazed to hear that in the USA they have stopped teaching cursive altogether, I am not sure if it is throughout the Country or in some States but it is so sad and I am glad they are still teaching it in the UK. I think handwriting is so important and spelling too, which is another thing that seems to have been dropped everywhere, the keyboard and autocorrect seem to be taking over. We have quite a way to go before the empty nest syndrome, Gigi still has another seven years of school, Hetty six years and so on. However, with Izzi now so settled in London I am really looking forward to being able to go over and spend a few days with her on a regular basis, a whole new phase of parenting and one that I know will be so much fun. Awful news about the hurricane, we have so many friends in St Martin who have lost so much, even concrete hurricane proof modern houses suffered enormously and the looting has been horrendous. Thank goodness it has now gone right down to a category 1 and Jose was not the problem everyone feared straight afterwards. xx

  • I am a new reader – I love your blog and peeking into your life in France. Your daughter’s handwriting is beautiful – is that their regular paper they use in school? I can’t decide if I miss the days of our kitchen table being cover in school book and projects.

    • Welcome Lisa, so happy you found the blog and great to have you following along and thank you for taking the time to comment, always appreciated! yes, the square paper like that is very common in French schools, especially in the elementary schools. I know just what you mean about the books all over the table, it has a somewhat comforting feel, but it is rather nice when the table is clutter free also!! xx

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