Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And breathe

French Village Diaries Paris mourning
The flags of our commune bound in mourning

I know I have been a quiet blogger these last few weeks and I’m sorry. The events in Paris came at the end of a challenging week for me and the grey skies and damp days of last week didn’t do much to lift my mood, despite my own troubles having been firmly put into perspective. I don’t want to dwell on the attacks but one of the things I found most difficult was answering Ed’s questions. He is a sensible 15 year old, into music, conscientious (to a point) at school and thoroughly enjoying the increased freedom and time to hang out with his mates that being at lycée has given him, but he has a sensitive side too and is a worrier. When he asked me to explain how some people can go out and shoot random fellow human beings who were just going about their normal daily lives, I struggled to answer him. As a parent it is my job to answer his questions, to help him to understand the world he is living in and to make him feel safe and loved, but how could I give an answer when there seems to be no logical answer. The French President, François Hollande’s answer was to declare that France is at war with terrorism. The fact that my family are now living in a country that is ‘at war’ horrifies me. The President didn’t wait long to back up his words with direct action on ISIS strongholds in Syria, a country that is virtually crippled already and one whose citizens are fleeing in their thousands with many facing a retched winter with little or no food, shelter or clothing in a makeshift camp in Calais, France. This just proves to me that it is a mad and sad world we are living in and I wish I had the answer to make it a better one.

My initial reaction has been to retreat into the warm and fluffy world of books, to immerse myself in the lives of others, some who were real and recounting tales of travel, others who were fictional, but no less real in my head. I’m back now and thought I would share just a few of the personal challenges I have faced in the last few weeks, in no particular order, that I can look back and laugh at now. I also have lots of reviews to share with you in the coming days, including some festive themed books and Christmas gift ideas.

Being on the local council means attending meetings, but a two and half hour political meeting in French that lasted way past my bedtime was quite a challenge. It started with all 150 local councillors united in a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives, but quickly became a heated political debate that I did my best to keep up with. I certainly slept well that night, but the following day felt rather like my brain had been run over with a steamroller. Sleep is a good healer, but when you have nocturnal visitors whose banging and crashing keep you awake half the night, the following day can be a struggle. Francine la fouine (a stone martin) left her recognisable droppings outside our dining room window before scaling the house wall and trying to break into the loft. I could hear the terracotta roof tiles being moved about and much I hate to think of a single, pregnant mother with nowhere to nest over winter, I would rather she didn’t set up home in our loft. Our builder has since been and straightened all the tiles she spent half the night trying to dislodge and it’s all gone quiet, so fingers crossed she has found more suitable accommodation.

French Village Diaries Orange France Internet Telephone
The nice man from Orange
Living in a rural village and often being home alone there are few things more precious than my links to the outside world, so having had a flat battery in the car one week, followed by no internet and a dodgy phone line the following week, I wasn’t a happy bunny. I can now add using a car battery charger to my list of useful life skills and thanks to the lovely man from Orange (who made me smile by turning up wearing orange) we now have a brand new phone line coming into the house and the internet is back, yippee! Some people moan about customer service in France, but Orange were superb. They called me back when they said they would, they arrived to fix the problem when they said they would and everyone I spoke to was friendly and polite.

Tomorrow my American friends and family will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. I’m thankful for the happy life I have in this small French village and the friends we have made here. I wish all those celebrating a Happy Thanksgiving xx