Tuesday, 23 August 2016


We're in a race now to move into the house by the end of October. A date that is realistic (at the moment) but does require working at least six days a week (extra days off allowed to welcome visitors). The plan is to have one floor habitable (a bedroom/ living area and a bathroom) which will be sealed off from the rest of the house to stop dust from entering. We'll be back to cooking on the camping stove in an outdoor kitchen but that will be a small step back for a massive one forward. Florent and I spend an unhealthy amount of time talking about things like where best to put a socket and what light switches we should have. Definitely the least inspiring part of this project especially as it turns out light switches are almost invariably ugly. I'm sure somewhere there are beautiful ones but not those in our price range or those that conform to norms we need to respect to we don't risk short circuting the house or something.

And the most exciting development... We have a courtyard behind the house which I have great visions for but is, unfortunately, for the moment storing debris, building materials.. So for the moment we have found a garden to use at the other end of the village. It's a long thin strip behind a house which is for sale which means we have no idea how long it will be before it's not ours anymore... It's an exchange whereby we have a garden rent free and we also maintain it so that prospective buyers aren't overwhelmed by a jungle behind the house. In my deludedly optimistic budgetting I factored in growing our own vegetables so now I really have to. I'm determined not to be put off that it is almost the end of August all ready and will hold a vision of feeding my children freshly pulled carrots to spur me on. The fact that the house may be sold at any moment will be a lesson in not getting too attached and trying to cultivate a garden that consists soley of veg that has a three month growing cycle (about the same time it may take to complete the sale/purchase of the house). A challenge awaits. The first thing will be to make a sand pit to keep the girls entertained long enough for me to actually plant something. After three years of doggedly trying to include children in all our gardening in hope of fostering a deep connection with the earth and instead fostering a sense of deep frustration in me as another plant is uprooted, I'm promoting a deep connection to sand instead. At least we might get some vegetables.

As well as gardening to be doing we've created a variation of trying to catch fish in the river and now instead build pens from the stones which the fish swim freely into, and then out of once again. This is much more fun and despite Little I using them as her personal paddling pools, provoking fits of rage from Little L, it's a staple daily activity. We've diversified a bit too and have introduced ; oragami boats (planes, frogs and failed attempts at dinosaurs), painting and colouring pebbles and creating minature land art on the beach and letting Little I climb the river bank which allows me about one page of my book before I have to retrieve her. I'm celebrating my resourcefulness, however boring it may be for anyone else to read!

We've taken more walks and discovered more trees and bushes to add to our Wild Food Map (lots of figs, bramble patches and sloes) and hunted out hidden beaches on the river bank for our next picnic. Most of all we're loving the absence of a restrictive routine, of course it's there in the daily work at the house but mostly for the girls and I, we feel very free. Just as summers for little ones are meant to be perhaps.

All the above mixed in with days of chipping plaster and vacuuming immense amounts of dust...


Saturday, 13 August 2016


About ten days ago we moved into a flat in the same village as our house. A bittersweet goodbye to our woodland camp as we moved into a little one room flat, spanking clean and chandeliers in the entrance hall! No more night time forays to the compost toilet or perfectly clear morning light streaming through the trees but welcome to a comfortable bed and a life that is certainly a lot easier for us both despite being a little less adventurous. In fact, it's become terrifyingly domestic... Having a kitchen has inspired us to bake cakes and pies (in the trusty Trangia pan which is apparently less 'trusty' when it's used for pie baking... ) and jam nectarines (I still can't quite believe there is glut enough of nectarines that they can be jammed...). There's been a revolution in the kitchen and pesto pasta is finally off the menu.

Otherwise life continues as usual: Dust, puzzle-like building conundrums, rambling with the girls and discovering beautiful little corners of French countryside.

We've also welcomed visitors from Normandy and much missed Bristol. Seeing people we know and love has been amazing and we have only wished that we could really host people rather than show them around a house hazy with dust hoping they might think of something positive to say so we don't all feel too awkward... I think that welcoming people to your new home is one way of making yourself feel like it is your home. Having a fire by the lake with friends and an evening swim with the little ones erased a little piece of my homesickness and replaced it with a new memory of woodsmoke and stories (thank you friends!).

This is the time of year to see shooting stars. Yesterday evening we left the village, passing by the annual Lotto taking place under the covered market. Tables were arranged in lines with people diligently marking their cards and smoking cigarettes. Along the line of tables at the front sat the caller and invigilators (or men of general importance perhaps)... soixante et un, the whir and rattle of the machine, trente-trois and again the whir and rattle, dix-sept... We walked on past the open door of the Luthier (an instrument maker and repairer), tuning a piano baring its strings and hammers, his front door was open to the warm evening air letting the notes of the piano drift across the road. We climbed a hill that looks over the village and sat back to watch the last of the days light die over the silhouette of the mountains. As we lay down to spy out flashes of shooting stars the enormity of the sky loomed over head, almost crushing in its vastness. Perhaps the night sky is one of the reminders of what is universal to our human experience; our reflections on our insignificance and glimpses at infinity which are both terrifying and wonderful. Little L was not concerned with my moment of fear in front of the universe and became extactically happy, squealing in delight at her first time star gazing. "It's a rabbit with four eyes" she cried as she excitedly mapped out new constellations. Some shooting stars later and we made our way back and both girls fell asleep on our backs. We arrived into the village centre and the interminable Lotto was continuing under the haze of cigarette smoke: Treize, whir and rattle, cinquante-six, whir and rattle, soixante et onze...

The House

There is even less of the house since I last wrote. More holes in more floors and ceilings, less plaster on the walls and just as much dust as ever. Now we're living in the village Florent and I can share the work out more evenly which is a relief to me and probably the children too. They are, no doubt, also fed up with trying to catch those bloody elusive fish. My first day was spent stripping wall paper. It was great, like a sort of liberation. Florent's was a trip to Lidl with the children and a flat tyre on the way back. His day was not so great. We've discovered walls made out of terracotta tiles which we will recycle as flooring for the ground floor. Some other partition walls have also (helpfully) been constructed out of floorboards and so, again, can be reused. We also finally got news of our planning permission application and it was mostly positive and so we can carry on with out any worries.