Our Gilded Cage

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Since I wrote here last week, our world has changed. France is now in total lockdown, and everyone has become a recluse within their own small enclave. In so doing we stand together, but safely apart. And yet, strangely, I find relief in this. For despite the fact that it is easy to become so overwhelmed that one feels helpless and at a loss, and despite it being harder to be upbeat and positive, we must do so – not just for ourselves but for everyone else too, and in the collective energy of so many doing the same thing, we can remain strong.

I know we are much better off than the vast majority of people, we have plenty of green space in which to lose ourselves, and I guiltily confess that I do enjoy our little oasis. I would willingly share it with anyone, but sadly cannot.

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We have enough land that we can seek isolation in a far corner should anyone need it, little areas where we are able to calm our own thoughts until we face the family with a broad smile on our face. Upbeat and determined. Grateful for what we have.

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So far we have ventured out only once to restock on essential food items, and we’re limiting these trips to just one time per week to try and lessen any risk to anyone. Roddy went and picked up our ‘online shop’ from the supermarket yesterday, the first time we have used the drive-through facility here, and it worked like clockwork – hats off to all the staff at Carrefour, who met him with a cheerful smile. He did not have to leave the car, a two metre distance was kept between all concerned, and they opened the boot (trunk) to put our purchases inside and then he left.

He also visited our local ‘fruit&veg’ shop, mindful of the fact that we should support them and their family. A polite notice at the door requested only two people at a time enter the store, and that customers should wait 2 metres apart. There were no queues, no crowds and everything was calm. But then, this is a small town of some 3,000 people. For me, anyone working in these times, with the public, are the real heroes and heroines, along with the doctors and nurses and anyone who works in medicine of course. But these everyday people, who man the tills, who stock shelves, these people cannot retreat to the safety of their homes; they still come out daily and meet the general public, they keep our lives ticking over for us. Last week, before the lockdown I was chatting to the young girl who works at our local farm store, we know her quite well as we are very regular customers and naturally we are on first name terms. She was scared to keep on working, scared for her parents and her grandparents, worried who might enter the store, she’s probably younger than our eldest daughter, my heart went out to her. To those working in the stores we will be forever grateful.

At home in the village it is eerily quiet. I have left the house just once to venture out with the dogs for a walk. My required piece of paper in my pocket, signed and dated and stating the reason I was out and about. It was surreal, the strangest feeling I have ever known. I cautiously opened the street gates and wondered if this is how a prisoner feels when escaping, I looked left and right, but there was not a soul in sight and then chin held high I determinedly set out, turning left past our neighbour’s house. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, exercise is allowed, but still I felt ill at ease. Slowly, that ill feeling lessened. I called out ‘Bonjour!’ to a neighbour, and a friendly face in a distant garden smiled and waved at me as I got into my stride. I stopped at a good distance from someone who was making a temporary greenhouse for his radishes, and we chatted for a minute about the eerie silence and clean skies. I waved at a farmer, still going about his work high up on his tractor; it was the only mechanical noise I heard throughout my stroll. I listened to the call of the geese in another smallholding at the far end of the village, their cry carrying on the breeze in the otherwise silent landscape. I stopped to try and capture the silence with a hastily snapped photo on my phone, a task far harder than it looks with two Jack Russells pulling at the lead, wanting to get on with the excitement of actually being out for a walk.

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The weather has been incredible, Mother Nature has really helped us when she was most needed, with brilliant rays of warm sunshine enveloping us every day, encouraging us outside. The garden table has become the children’s classroom, freckles have reappeared on wintery pale faces; the children supporting a healthy glow as if they’ve been on holiday rather than studying in a spring garden. Our lunches have become picnics, turning a negative into a positive.

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In our little enclave it’s as if the outside world doesn’t exist. It’s allowed us to escape the news, the tragic happenings, and when we can feel the soil in our hands nature is working its magic, healing as we weed and plant. The children have helped clear the vegetable garden, with the dogs never far from our side, unquestioning why we are all at home, all the time.

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We’ve chatted with our neighbours, exchanging tidbits of news as we sally forthwith with spades and gloves. We’ve been providing them with eggs, leaving them on the wall at a safe distance.

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Pondlife is wakening, as we pass frogs hurl themselves into the water with an almighty leap, an angry splash letting us know we have spoilt their blissful sunbathing on the old stones.

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The Spanish bluebells are unfurling their delicate blue petals; they’re an invasive species, and spread with abandon, but I don’t care; I appreciate their early spring colour cheerfulness and Roddy says they are a good source of nourishment for the early bees.

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Not to be outdone the tulips are adding a flash of intense colour, a joy for jaded souls….

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….and the euphorbia and kerria battle with one another, side by side as to who can put on the best display.

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And as life just gets on with it, we have time on our hands to keep us busy. There is so much work to be done; the garden will not allow us to get bored, instead we will be fit and our land will have the attention it deserves. I can stand and watch the ducks – what’s that saying “Having all your ducks lined up in a row” ? I wonder if that as we have fuel in garage, seeds in the summer house and plenty of rice and beans in the larder that the phrase will still be ringing true in three months time. But for now, no one is tugging at my sleeve, calling impatiently, telling me we are going to be late. We have nowhere to go.

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The only requirement we have to adhere to is to keep contact with our nearest, dearest, and furthest, all via video calls and messages. Each day we have to think of our two eldest daughters not at home with us and then there is other family and friends; some of the latter are very elderly people who are learning fast what a lifeline the internet can provide. Those are the only vital things that must be done in these strangest of days. And if we are busy, then I can only guess that all of you are too, doing exactly the same as we are, doing the best you can and keeping everyone you know and love close to your hearts.

The bees are more plentiful this year than last, hopefully we will have a good crop of cherries in a couple of months. P8260731

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The Spanish Chestnut is uncurling her leaves, the flower buds which will eventually be over six inches growing fast. There is new birth all around breeding hope.

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We live amongst the heirlooms of previous generations; these old stone walls have seen much worse, they’ve survived two World Wars; they are still standing strong and we shall do the same.

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Every day I open the guest house and let the warm air waft inside. As I do this, I have a hope that the world will become a better place when the virus is behind us. I know it will be a long battle, perhaps longer than we all think it will be, but I know we must all stick together. We have to remain positive and help one another. I shall continue to write once a week, sharing stories of daily life as always, of a life in the country in rural France. A life here that although confined, is so much better than it is for so many people. My heart goes out to all of those people worldwide who will be living with this virus in small apartments and housing with no gardens. If I can bring just a moment of happiness and a smile to a sad face, I will have done my bit.

If you have Instagram you can follow along @ourfrenchoasis where I post daily photos and ‘stories’ as well – anything to keep away encroaching dark thoughts.

Stay safe my friends. xx

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27 thoughts on “Our Gilded Cage

  • I am so glad you guys are staying safe. This is so unsettling dealing with this invisible enemy. At least you have decent weather to be outside. We here in the US are doing the same all under house confinement to hopefully not see the totals you guys in the European countries are seeing. I feel so bad for Italy and hope France does not have as many deaths. I have first responders and nurses in our family and we are all on the front lines of this. It is scary and we all need to do what is suggested and try to follow protocols to decrease the ever changing numbers affected. Big hugs.

  • It’s a real disconnect, isn’t it, between the potentially life-threatening dangers of this illness and the return to life that we see in this beautiful spring weather. In my garden the bluebells are duking it out with the borage. The solitary bees are loving it all and I’m seeing honeybees. I had almost given up on them. Like you, about the only motors I hear are those of the farm equipment. It looks and feels so idyllic that it can be hard to remember why it is happening. But I think with this lockdown we will see many fewer cases of the virus. Let’s hope that by summer we can all give a big sigh of relief.

  • Reading this post I started missing the bluebells and Euphorbias in my garden – then I got nearly depressed thinking that now for many, many months, nobody will be buying our house – and we in Switzerland, in rented accommodation, where we are fine but with the nagging feeling about our beautiful stone abode over there….. And yet, and yet – we are in good health, together every day with HH doing home office work, we still can go and do our shopping. We had great weather last week, we phone with family and friends, we have our lunch meals together outside at the large table – we are very fortunate indeed. Your photos look stunning but I also feel that your situation is precarious. No income from rentals, no lessons & tournaments, everybody at home at all times, we really, really hope that you’ll get by.
    SO MUCH has changed in a few days, the world isn’t the same place any longer as it was a week ago. Our UK hols are cancelled, the money for trips, reservations, workshops lost…. we can’t visit our mothers at all, we are not even allowed to send them stuff, flowers, greetings are kept for SEVEN days before being distributed. They are under quarantine – those old people with a full lifetime of sacrifices, work, diligence and love for others….

  • You and Roddy have created a lovely, wonderful haven for your family. Love the photo of the three children having a picnic with the Jack Russells. Your window boxes of tulips look smashing with your shutters and stone. Spring has blessed your gardens with beauty and new life…..as the chickens and geese will attest to. Stay safe and healthy!!

  • Thank you for a beautiful post of interesting thoughts and exquisite photos. It really helped me feel a little better on a day of frightening news and difficult circumstances. Incidentally, could I ask you please to remove my post of March 15, 2020 at 11:24 pm, simply because it was an attempt to email you direct about technical problems and I inadvertently included my address which I’d like you to remove. Many thanks and apologies.

  • I live in northern Indiana in the US, and it is currently snowing. Not enough to fill the roads as they are warm, but the yard and shrubs are covered. I am very much enjoying your spring photos and anticipating the opening of spring bulbs and ephemerals here. We, too, are sheltering in place. Our local schools are closed until May 1, our local businesses are closed for 2-3 weeks where possible. I pray for the safety of all and especially for those who are working tirelessly to sustain us, and a healing of our Earth as we reset our way of life. 🙏

  • What an incredibly beautiful post. I am moved Susan.
    So wonderfully written.
    The love and strength that nature provides us is shared so perfectly by you.
    Thank you.
    Sincerely, thank you.
    I agree with every word and am fortified with every thought.

  • You have often been in our thoughts. . . we so wanted to come this spring. . . so happy to know all is well, if inconvenient. May God give us all grace to continue to walk a path of faith & hope. Thank you for the up-date Susan. Please know our thoughts are w/you & yours, as though you were immediate family. So much to share w/you but saving for another time. Much love. Kisses to your sweet family & nose licks to the pups.

    • It feels like the real ones we all so need at the moment. Susan has invited us to share a place of beauty and peace we all so very much need at the moment . . . looking at all the n readers who have reached for the keyboard and written truly from their hearts . . . be well . . .

  • We are the same way, total change since the first of the week.
    Love looking at your pictures. On thing about living on the village, you do have beauty in the area around you.

  • I truly agree with Georgeanne who says your message is like a virtual hug 👍. We are in our 80’s and categorised as ‘at risk’ so are self-isolating. Unfortunately our British PM has not been strong enough on restrictions and we still have people going about and storming supermarkets. We can only sit tight and hope that all will be well in the end. Our weather is not Springlike yet but we drive to an isolated spot each morning with the dog. My husband is recovering from a hip operation so needs to walk and he can do it by himself there. I stay in the car with the window open but with the heater at my feet. Not environment friendly but the best we can do given our circumstances. No, we are not depressed but trying our best to stay cheerful. So glad to hear from you Susan – you are a ray of sunshine in these bleak days.

  • Thank you for taking us with you around your garden. In our world this morning, there are a couple of inches of snow on the ground. It is soul-renewing to see what is bursting with life in your world.

  • What a lovely post, your pictures are a nice escape from the ravages and fright on the daily news. I think it may be easier on those of us in rural areas, with less people around and more space to breathe. Your part of the world is so beautiful, thank you for sharing.

  • I feel for you with two of your chicks away from the safety of your nest. Your beautiful nest full of love. The hardest thing for me is being across the Atlantic from my girls, my mother (87 and previously made of girders but 87 nonetheless) and no way of seeing them for what I believe will be a very long time. In Massachusetts we are not on a shelter in place order as many states are but the majority are voluntarily doing it and the silence is extraordinary… the birds, the breeze – suddenly they are front and centre. My heart, as you know, remains in France …. never more so than now. Be safe, all of ya’all xx

    • Lovely photos of your house and garden.We’re all in this together and if we follow the rules the impact of the virus can be contained. Two of.my children work in the frontllne services in the UK and I worry about them and all the other frontline staff. I was saddened today to read that hospital staff’s cars have been damaged in the hospital car park there. Who would want to do something like that.?Like you I live deep in the French countryside and am so grateful for that. We’re isolating by gardening in this gorgeous weather. Keeping in touch with friends and family is so important and so easy these days. Hope your girls are ok and it won’t be long before you and all of us are reunited with our loved ones. Stay safe😊

  • Stay safe, keep smiling and sharing your beautiful images with us as we navigate social distancing and surviving our own non-essential services shutdown. 😍Now if I could just find a few rolls of toilet paper! 😉

  • Goodness, I feel badly for those who live without gardening space. There is plenty of space here, and weirdly, I am seeing more people in it than ever before. People come here to avoid parks and other public places.

  • Thank you so much for your post and beautiful pictures. Your grounds & flowers coming up are a promise!! It’s still cold in Ohio (up & down) but some trees are blooming & sun is shining today! We have one in Colorado & one in Spain that we would like to have here but we enjoy the ones we have & appreciate them all. Love the pictures of the stone fences & spring growing along or around them. Thanks again & hugs sent for you and family!

  • Thanks for your post!
    We are also on the same lockdown in Southern California….the virus is a scary thing here….
    Our streets are so much quieter now…its quite pleasant actually. We have to remember that this is a “different kind of war”….there are no bombs, aircraft (quite literally as flights all over have been canceled)…no gunfire etc. We have to respect the need to hold to our own space.
    Here the beaches are now banned, parks are closed and many stores have been closed. It is odd and alarming….but like you, we take respite in our yard and garden.
    Bientot
    Nancy

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