Reflections

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As we come to the end of eight weeks of confinement, tomorrow we shall walk just a little more freely, perhaps. Although if that is a good thing or a bad thing only time will tell. It will be strange, as the first week took some adaptation. The new classroom was our kitchen table and we couldn’t just nip out to the shops and buy an ingredient we had forgotten. Making daily bread became a ritual and flour became scarce. Our grocery shopping became a once-a-week online event which we collect at a ‘drive’ through. It was – and still is – a very hit and miss affair; we never know quite what we will get and what will be unavailable. But what perhaps frustrated us a little to start with has quickly become the new normal. It’s amazing how quickly one adapts.

It’s a tricky balancing act for any government. The economy must be considered, the health of the nation too. Now if everyone were to stick to the guidelines and still maintain social distancing, then perhaps a second wave could be avoided. But will they? Human nature dictates that once the reins of freedom are within sight then people will grasp them with open arms. We as a family won’t be going anywhere or changing anything much. Perhaps a bicycle ride altogether will be fun,  and a drive in the car will seem a luxury!

I fully plan to head out tomorrow just for half an hour (even though the forecast is for rain all day) as I want to go and take photographs of a village or two other than our own. I just want to travel more than a kilometre on foot and snap away! Simple pleasures, I know, but that’s what I shall be doing. Otherwise not a lot will be different here; we will be playing it very cautiously and being extremely sensible.

I remember the first walk I took outside our gates after week two of confinement. It seemed as if we were sneaking around, daring to poke our noses out into the big wide world. Now it’s slightly different and easier as we fill in our online form and take our walk more confidently; but still no more than a kilometre from the house and for no more than one hour. We respect the rules but we aren’t scared of them any longer.

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Our little village has rallied together. There are a family who set out in their van each evening, dressed for laughs, playing the French song “ Un Metre de Toi”  (One Metre from You) by Les Enfoirés, extremely loudly. It is a parody of an original song, “A Coté de Toi”  (Beside You). We happened to be out walking the other night as they approached a row of houses in the village where several children live. The kids were literally screaming behind their gates with excitement. The van stopped, the two adults got out and danced, and the kids yelled even louder. The highlight of their day is obviously when the ‘clown’ van passes. I love it, and applaud them for doing this at the same time each day, around 8pm, the music rings out around the whole village. The song is firmly imprinted on my brain. Listening to the words brings tears to my eyes.

The village has also distributed fabric, washable, masks to every household. These have been made by local volunteers. It’s an initiative that is going on in many regions throughout France, and we’ve also received official masks from the Department.

We’ve had celebrations, and we’ve had dramas. One morning we came downstairs to find Bentley was unable to walk or move his back legs. We feared the worst in an elderly dog, a stroke perhaps. But a Skype call with a vet in the Channel Islands, who was not at the time in lockdown, helped us. It appeared he had just tweaked something in his back, perhaps jumping off a sofa; a day of rest later and he was as right as rain. We’ve also lost all four ducks as you know. We’ve also removed stitches from Pixel, the puppy, who had been castrated ten days before the lockdown commenced.

And we’ve celebrated Jack’s 18th birthday with a surprise Zoom party with his friends. It’s certainly a birthday he will never forget and he said it was perhaps even more special because everything took so much planning and organising, so much harder than in normal times. Roddy’s sister started a Sunday night Zoom quiz with the extended family, bringing together people that haven’t connected with each other for quite a long time; it’s become a regular event, with teams from the UK, Channel Islands, Scotland, South Africa and France of course. Thank goodness for the internet and thank goodness for Zoom and all the other media apps that have come to mean so much for so many.

This week I’ve been in a very reflective mood.

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Roddy and I bought our first property in France together back in 2005 in Provence. We moved here to this rambling old farmhouse in need of a great deal of TLC in the summer of 2014. In February 2015 I started this blog, and perhaps there should have been a five-year anniversary, but with so much talk of a world pandemic looming I think the occasion got forgotten. Who can remember back to this post? The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The girls look so young!

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Time passes so quickly, life has been all about the adventure of restoring this old lady, and her cottage, and the gardens.

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It’s been about family, watching our children grow and tackle the demands of learning a new language, about settling into a new culture and moving through the school system, from primary school into middle school, Lycée and university.

There have been excitements and disappointments. Unforgettable experiences and endless surprises. Our vision when we bought this house was to open our guest cottage and welcome visitors. We wanted people to enjoy strolling around the garden, watching the chickens, helping themselves to vegetables and cooking the freshest of eggs for breakfast. We wanted to share a glass of wine and a meal under the stars or around our cosy kitchen fire. We wanted this to be a place where memories were made, a place for family and friends, new and old.

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It’s been about building our business and our lifestyle brand and its been about all of you. I am so grateful to all of the people who have made our life here. All of you have followed this journey and it’s been quite a ride.  You’ve been the ones to make it possible for us. We’ve met some of you in person and what a pleasure that’s been; you’ve become lifelong friends, and others have become virtual friends that I chat to regularly.

img_6696You have all made us so happy, and happiness is perhaps one of life’s greatest gifts. Looking back through the posts over the years and reading the comments, I’ve realised what a great big family we’ve become. Reading so much of what I wrote over the past five years and scrolling through the photos has taken me back, it’s reminded me of little things I had forgotten, moments in time that have been a part of our story. Every single image tells a tale, a moment in time that we wanted to share.

 

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Life has been challenging and I think perhaps now more than ever it will continue to be so, but what we have is so special, I am so grateful to you all. You’ve contributed to our lives here in more ways than you will ever know. A very very great big heartfelt thank you, stay safe and lots of love. xx

23 thoughts on “Reflections

    • A lovely post, and I’m grateful that I was able to visit, and sit in that beautiful garden, under the spreading tree… wonderful memories! What great hosts you are. My thoughts about Lockdown are similar to yours – I’ve got into a routine, and it will seem strange when we move to the next level. I’ll take it as it comes. We’ve done well in NZ – I just hope that people don’t go crazy when things ease! Best wishes to you all. x

  • Beautifully written and thank you for sharing your wonderful property. My husband and I were due to travel to France in mid June for another holiday and had hoped to investigate the property market. However these plans are now off limits. So it’s great to share in bits of a life in France.

  • We are grateful to you for sharing your incredible life thru all the seasons, construction, gardening, etc. At this particular time it’s so wonderful to look at your spectacular garden and house, and know that there is an outside waiting. (I live in a high rise along Lake Michigan in Chicago.)

  • Yes, while we cautiously phone-celebrated Mothers’ Day in Switzerland and a large part of Europe, you in France don’t yet – and today especially I’ve exchanged many, many greetings, photos, wishes with mums, friends, family, children and mentioned more than once that when we lived in France, we had three Mothering Sundays, the first one with our UK friends, than the ‘official’ one on the 2nd Sunday of May to be followed by the French one end of May…. We also often speak of you and your dreams, shattered ones and – who knows – new ones. One thing is clear: People like you will get out of the drama this period of time is dictating. You are positive, good-of-heart-and-mind friends, you look forward into each new day, you ‘manage’ and change where you can change things, you don’t give up, you have quite astonishing stamina, you are a very, very strong ‘unit’ and your main problem for now is that you’ll need to hold on and get through that period of ‘drought’, moneywise and lacking possibilities to get what you need to have.
    You are a truly wonderful and admirable family. We are eternally thankful to have met you as well as your incredible children (HAPPY BIRTHDAY dear Jack!!! 18 already….). We hope to return to you one day, although nobody knows when that will be the case. We can’t even return to France and our beautiful house is probably sinking into a deep slumber. Could at least organise gardeners to cut the knee high lawn next week.
    We love you very much. Don’t give up – stay strong and safe. This world needs more humans like you. Kisses and cuddles to Bentley, Evie and Pixel…..

  • Happy Mother’s Day from Northern California! Congratulations on the fifth anniversary of your delightful blog! I know that we all greatly appreciate your insights, your great photos, and your sharing of the wonderful life you have in southwestern France. Here’s hoping that we have the best results from the loosening of the restrictions as they occur. I look forward to seeing my family and friends in person, to taking my favorite classes at the gym, and to my husband being able to play tennis again.

  • Congratulations on the anniversary of your blog. I hope you know how much pleasure it brings! Our family practices the distancing although many here in Georgia do not. A renewed pleasure in being home, with flowers blooming, birds singing, the forgotten book reread. Stay strong, we will all get through these times.

  • Happy anniversary, Susan! I know how much you’ll relish the additional freedoms because I know how much my s-i-l is going to enjoy hers. 🙂 It’s been much more difficult for you than for us. We managed to get our move in and although we’re wearing masks when we shop and mostly staying home, we’ve been able to walk or bike or drive without papers or special permissions. Restrictions here eased a bit this week and will ease more next week, but I think we’ll be keeping our lifestyle pretty much the same for now. The situation has, as always seems to happen, brought out the good and creative in many people and the worst in others. I try to focus on the good while the news likes to focus on the bad. But back to your blog. I’ve greatly enjoyed coming here regularly. You’ve all done a marvelous job of creating a home not just for yourselves but for so many in the blogosphere. Thanks for that and may you be blessed with many more years of joy and health.

    janet

  • What a lovely post!! Congrats on your blog anniversary. What joy you bring to everyone by sharing your home, your garden, and your wonderful family. Thank you!

  • Your spirit, your courage moves me always, but especially in this dire world emergency no one could have imagined, not in our wildest/worst dreams. Love following your footsteps, not only in the village, but into the past. Your adorable daughters’ Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is irresistible! I realize, our world has become a Mad Tea Party, and our motto – “A la prochaine fois!” — …until the next time. You strengthen and delight us – please always know that. Carolyn of Lawrenceville on this Mother’s Day without Daughters

  • I’m so glad to read your post–and I have mentioned your cottage to a number of people. I hope to be contacting you myself at some point about staying in your gite and exploring the Charente Maritime. I’m glad your’e well and weathering this well. You look lovely in the picture.

  • FIVE YEARS, it is not possible. I have followed you from almost the beginning. I was terrified to finally leave my first comment. Thank you for the kindness shown to B and myself over the years. We have all aged a bit just like Bentley, and a little bit stiff, but we shall carry on.

    We will return when the time is right. I want to troll through your small brocante and choose something in person, have a lesson in photography from Roddy. Fall in love with your children all over again…Jack can not possibly be eighteen, no not possible. Happy Birthday Jack.

    Susan, you and your family are part of our France history. Thank you….
    Ali. Xxx

  • Hello from Malaysia. Thank you for sharing your beautifully written post and experience.
    This reminded me of my mother who stranded in a city with her children. She must be felt the same coz she likes nature very much. In the city, however, she won’t be seeing trees, plants, and flowers as much as she wants. Hoped this pandemic will go away anytime soon and we will have our own freedom.

    Wishing you a belated Mother’s Day, too.

  • Happy Mother’s Day from Boulder, Colorado. So glad Bentley has rebounded. Your photography is outstanding. I mentally went on a walk with you and am refreshed by your work.

  • Congratulations on Five Years blogging successfully.
    Yesterday was Mother’s Day in US and quite different from usual years. My son lives six hours away and I missed him terribly. But state by state, we are opening up stores, salons, & restaurants; I am worried that most people will rush out to shop and eat without regard to safety.

    I did not realize that you had to file a form to leave your property in France. I live on a golf course & it has been open the entire shutdown with limitations of one person per cart. I can take a walk or ride my bike whenever I want, which has been truly a life saver. A ride in the car for us has been a real treat, we bring our own tea & coffee and do not stop anywhere, also good for our sanity.

    Let’s pray all are safe with this reopening which is vitally needed for people’s bank accounts and well being.

  • the peace of our soul is the most important and generous gift we can develop by ourself. It makes us strong and resillient for all what might come. Stay safe, healthy and happy

  • What a breath of fresh air this post has brought to me today. Here in the tropics of Far North Queensland, Australia on our acre bush block, we have been fortunate to socially distance ourselves on the property, surrounded by wildlife and nature.
    Zoom has been a God send to us all, myself professionally now forced to work from home and for family and friends to retain and maintain relationships from far a field.
    This too shall pass.
    Suzana

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