The Value of Life


Do you ever feel as if you are living life at an alarming pace, but that you are not taking the time to really enjoy it ? The other day I had one of those moments. The children wanted to go blackberry picking, as always I had a million things to do and my instant reply was I hadn’t got the time. But something stopped me in my tracks; “Why not ?” I thought. The school holidays are flying by, and my babies are now teenagers; I have to make the time, because one thing is for sure, time is not going to wait for me. “Let’s go” I said – everything else would simply have to wait.

We grabbed our bikes and a couple of containers and headed out. “Where shall we go?” they called over their shoulders, already way out in front and heading out of the village !

We took a much loved route down old farm tracks, past rows of small privately owned vines, heavily weighed down with great big clusters of ripening grapes.

Every now and then we stopped and we picked blackberries. Eating at least half of what we gathered, our tongues and lips turning purple from the sweet juices.

With everyone busy gathering I wandered down to look at some old apple trees. They have long since been abandoned but for the first years we were here they bore plenty of fruit and we helped ourselves, knowing that the majority was only going to fall and be left rotting on the ground. Last year they had none and I wondered if it was the lack of care and pruning that had finally caught up with them. However, I saw that all is back to normal and as if I needed more proof I picked an apple and rubbed it against my t-shirt until it shone. Walking back towards the children, they were chatting together, picking, eating, being pricked by thorns and scratched by brambles but laughing and loving the simplest of pleasures. Biting into my apple I silently thanked our lifestyle for the sight of  three teenagers aged 13, 14 and 17 all having so much good old fashioned fun, whilst at the same time I savoured the slightly tart, but deliciously crisp apple. Appearance wise it was far from perfect, certainly it would have been a supermarket reject, but who cares what it looks like, the taste was up with the best.

And that was one of those moments when in a flash I thought of all the reasons why we had come to live in France. I realised I hadn’t taken this walk or bike ride for a while and I had missed it. We came here for a slower pace of life and it has been quite the opposite. I have never been busier, combining several small home businesses, fast growing children and their needs, a family, a guest cottage, chickens, ducks, the potagerand a large garden. But it is a great way to be busy; I go to bed exhausted but I wake up full of excitement.

Again this year we are staying at home for our summer holidays. With seven puppies who are now two weeks-old, leaving is out of the question. But as I have said time and time again, this is where everyone comes on vacation, so why would we want to leave ?

I admit a change of scenery is good for the soul, but so is a change of pace and ‘staycations’ do the job just fine here.

Besides who could leave these adorable faces ?

IMG_7433 I truly cannot get enough cuddles, nor enough of that adorable puppy smell. Yes I am smitten, but we all are. Puppy-love is quite overwhelming here at the moment.


So we are here, we are not going away, but that doesn’t mean we cannot explore locally. Yet again this summer we’ve been tourists in our own back-yard so to speak. We’ve hired paddle boards and kayaks on the river twenty minutes away, we’ve had numerous beach afternoons and picnics, and we’ve visited endless brocantes and markets. We’ve taken the time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside. We’ve done everything our guests do and loved it just as much. We’ve walked, sometimes all together and sometimes alone. I’ve stopped and taken photos. But most of all I have refused to be in a hurry. I’ve noticed little things I have missed despite having walked past a hundred times.

A restaurant that I never knew existed….


A  road-name that surely has a hidden reason for being – ‘The Road of Eight Brothers’. Did they all live here?  My guess is they certainly did, but were they much loved or notorious for some ill gotten gains? Either way why was a street named after them? I think I need to go back and ask some locals of this particular village and find some answers.


There is of course never a shortage of houses and architecture to daydream over where we are. Be they grandiose mansions, country houses, town houses or far more humble abodes, even a simple barn, they all get my attention !



I have also come to realise that I definitely have something of a fascination with old doors and gates !



Perhaps it is the promise of what lies beyond that holds the mystery



or maybe it is knowing that once they would have been so terribly important and asking that all important question of Why ? Why have they been left to fall into such disrepair, and why are they no longer in use ?


You see, France is a country that urges one to stop and think. Here there is always a question to be answered for an enquiring mind.

At the end of the day, though, our time here is our choice, it’s a very simple lifestyle perhaps, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.


61 thoughts on “The Value of Life

    1. I imagine the eight brothers is a reference to the famous family ‘Ruellan’ . They had 10 sons 8 of whom were killed in the 1914-1918 war and two of who survived – although one died later as a result of his injuries and the other was paralysed. You could probably find out more on line. Hope this helps. Penny

  1. I love your simplicity…. we too moved from big city to small town….
    I’m happy your stopping to make time with the children….
    it goes by too fast…
    and memories sometimes are all you have of them ….

  2. We live in an area where people flock to for vacation as well and feel the same, why should we leave? We staycation during the spring/summer and travel in the fall/winter. Lovely pictures and wonderful commentary. Thank you for showing your “staycation” spot.

  3. I too have a fascination for doors and gates – as well as the odd mystery. Perhaps your next story could explore those Eight Brothers!

      1. Another tragic story Penny, but these brothers are a slightly happier tale who are a local Port d’Envaux family. G said she saw you cruising along, wind in your hair. Time for dinner ? xxxx

    1. Yes it is and I really love spending time with all of them, we all do have a great time together which I am so grateful for. Teenage years have been a pleasure in this household I am happy to say xx

  4. What a lovely post! I’ve started following Gigi’s tennis career after one of your lasts posts, and I have a feeling that you are going to be busy for quite some time. Her Instagram account is one of my new favorites!

  5. I have a photo-cation with each of your blog entries! Thank you for your beautiful photos and lovely words to accompany. Since I rarely leave Paris when I come to France, I get to see other parts of France just by reading and looking at your blog.

  6. This type of day is the best. we go for walks and pick blackberries where we find them. The term hunter gather comes to mind.
    The puppies are so adorable, I hope you keep one this time.
    As ever….
    Ali xx

  7. I have the SAME FASCINATION as you do with the OLD GATES and DOORS!In fact I carted an old door back from TUSCANY which is NOW our outside TABLE!
    I have done a BLOG POST on TIME TODAY TOO!A little different than yours as I do not have BABIES AT HOME ANYMORE But still the DAYS GO BY SO FAST!
    Nothing cuter than PUPPIES!
    ENJOY THEM……….will YOU keep one or TWO?

    1. We must be in sync! I love tables made from old doors, I have two from an ancient armoire that had seen better days, the doors were however just fine, so they make the table in our summer kitchen / potting shed! xx

  8. We fell in love w/rural France & are replicating it as much as is possible here in central TX. We try to take time to enjoy the “flowers along the way each day”, even if the USA life is normally very hurried. La Bergerie is taking form & encouraging more reflection on living life in the present, in the moment & with the company of family & friends, both old & new. Thank you for these beautiful (if simple) photos of the life we were allowed briefly to share w/you there. Doors & gates are invitations, not yet accepted, but hopeful of what lies beyond—like new friendships in the making. You have chosen well!

  9. Another very thoughtful and well considered reflection from you about what matters in life. This is why I still love reading your blog posts. After all these years and all the usual challenges life throws at us you still hold fast to your values and aims and never lose sight of what it’s all for. I find that inspiring.
    As for your staycations: yes of course you live in a lovely place which is a holiday destination for others but we all know too that sometimes a change is what we need: not least because as a woman, the chores never go away when you are at home. Have you ever thought about a house swop? Because of your extra commitments (gite/animals/garden) you would need to have great confidence in your exchangee but your own blog friends might provide a useful hunting ground (and no, I truly don’t mean me !). I did a couple of swop years ago, one in Amsterdam and one in Aix, and they were both really rewarding and successful on both sides.

    1. I have thought about house swaps, but then I get cold feet! In the meantime though, sometimes yes, one has to slow down and think about what matters in life a little as we all tend to get swept along in this very fast moving system. But a good reflection seems to work and I remind myself what is important and what is not. xx

  10. Yes! I get those feelings all the time! The world is so loud and distracting and I find we are “moving through” the time but not truly experiencing it. The magic is taken from us as adults and it is with children we fond that again.

  11. No truer word spoken – time flies by and before you know it the kids are all grown and you wonder what happened! It’s great to take time out and appreciate the little things we usually overlook on a daily basis. I love playing tourist in our own backyard, so much to discover.
    I love your photos of the old gates! Cannot wait to discover them for ourselves in a couple of weeks when we visit France. Looks like we are staying not far from the village you explored!
    And please, find out about those 8 brothers, I think we all want to know how that street name came about.

  12. Lovely blog Susie. Some of those old buildings and gate look quite familiar. Can’t say that I blame you for having a staycation this summer, you live in a beautiful area and we will never get fed up of visiting. Already looking forward to it.
    Look after yourselves and enjoy xx

  13. I’m a fan of doors and gates, too, Susan. Windows, too. I too feel as if the days are flying by much too quickly, so time to just relax or recreate is so necessary. We had time in Wyoming this year and I leave for France in about 3 weeks. But I also have to get ready for a move next year, so the breaks are vital! We’re doing some bike rides and just walks around our town, too, enjoying things we’ll miss when we leave.

    Enjoy your wonderful staycation and your lovely area!


  14. Doorways, paths, roads, they take us forward into a new place. At least that why I think I am fascinated with them as well. Those puppies are so precious with their tiny paws and little bellies and cute faces. I too take stay cations in a place people come to visit. It’s lovely. It doesn’t mean I never travel, just that I have a stress free vacation once in a while! Enjoy yours!

  15. My youngest has just left home aged 18. If I allow myself to think about it, there is a terrible gnawing pain and grief for my babies even though I am lucky that atm both my daughters live near. I have ironically just read a blog about sadness by Judy Fairbairns. So I hear you and feel joy for you that you dropped everything and enjoyed this precious time.

    1. I truly feel for you, I feel that with two now away, it is not the same. But you are lucky they are close by and I guess it is something we all have to go through. Another learning curve about motherhood, it is not easy xx

  16. …where everyone comes on vacation why should I leave? And much less if we have the privilege to live in such a wonderful place and where all beaches etc.are crowded. My holiday start in Octobre when the weather get cooler
    and people lesser and I’m sure you had the best vacation with your family and the puppies this year

  17. I feel reborn after reading your meditations and scrolling through your photos! I am so glad you had the instinct to say, “Why not?” to a bike ride and some blackberry picking. It’s those small pleasures and quiet moments that make life worth living, I think. And congratulations on the new puppies! xx

  18. It would indeed be a sad existence if amongst the hubris of so-called ‘modern life; we forgot to ‘smell the roses’ . . . and give ourselves the chance to think what our God-given life is all about . . . picking blackberries in warn summer sunshine instead of frowning at an iPad in the dim indoors . . . .why do so many young lean on the second half of the equation . . . ? And . . . .your camera walk looking at gates and doors and locks and . . . wonderful !

  19. Hi Susan; I have now approx 50 blog posts to read…. as I’ve decided that I need to slow down my online-time and look better after myself. This is also the reason I haven’t even read your 2nd & 3rd instalment of your ‘novel’ and maybe other posts.
    I was however a bit worried about your Evie having another set of 7 babies. I thought you wouldn’t ‘impose’ that on her after her first big lot. Anyway, it seems to have gone well for her and you and I do hope you’ll keep one of two of them….. they are such sweeties.
    And to me it’s a miracle, no less, that your teens still happily come on outings with you. You definitely do something right as I only know families where the children most certainly do NOT want to be seen with their parent/s!
    I too am a hoarder of doors, gates, windows, flowery decorations, rust and all…. I also spent an abnormal length of time with YT watching home restorations in England! I deeply admire those enthusiastic renovators, saviours and break out in a sweat when I see how unprepared and over-positive of their outcome they start their renos. I think nearly all of the jobs were on Grade 2 listed buildings…. So, I have also learned to still v. much enjoy those crumbling houses but I don’t have a feeling any longer that it’s up to me to renovate them and save them all…. 🙂 I might even overcome my hoarding instinct to give a new home to every single chair I see on a brocante! All the more as we are not getting any lighter and they (chairs) are not made for well-fed, under-trained 21st century bodies 😉
    Love, love, love your photos and your energy. Am totally jealous of your tomato swamp, I can hardly find any French toms and those I get are very expensive. We had ONE day of holiday in August and went to Monet’s Garden in Giverny. Always a special treat and a joy to behold. I hope you’ll get some time to yourself and Roddy only for a holiday.
    Sending you lots of love, K

    1. As you know we are very much a family unit, the kids and I all love doing things together, in fact they literally jump up and down if I say I will do something with them, guess I am lucky. Last Sunday we all went brocante hunting together, plus our neighbour’s son too, so I had a lot of teenagers surrounding me. Great for carrying things and so much fun! Now the puppies, she had a much easier pregnancy this time and this is definitely the last time, but we said one more time because we so wanted to keep a girl and last time she only had one girl and we had promised that to good friends before they were even conceived! xx

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