It's just been a little over a year since we packed up our home in Bristol and set off with a temperemental van toward the south of France. It feels like a good moment to look back over the past twelve months and catch our breaths.

There has been the discovery of places so beautiful that they seem to reach out and share their peace with me. There have been moments of true loneliness. There have been times when I have been wide eyed in awe at Florent's unfaltering rhythm as he builds a house around us. There have been times when mothering the girls without a break has made me feel broken. There have been times when I have thanked the universe for the good things in my life as I watch my girls play, crouching down to entice a ladybird onto outstretched fingers or wading into rivers to float leaves downstream.

Last summer was a overheated introduction to the village, the paperwork and perfectly slow yet unrelenting time with the girls. No internet. It was a summer of sticky skin and reading any books I could get my hands on. It was endless days by the river trying to keep cool as Florent began the mamouth task of renovating this ancient home. It was meeting new people and seeking out friendship.

In Autumn we moved in to the house. It as such a celebration to finally be living in the home we are creating. It was also a new reality of living in a single room of 10m2, flushing a toilet with a bucket of water and trying to eek out corners and space for the girls to play and the beginning of an endless battle with clutter. But we felt so proud.

Winter was the draping of woolen blankets over doorways and the spreading of them across the floor, preservation of the precious heat. Endless craft with the girls : Painting, drawing, creating and cooking, cup of tea brewing and layers of clothes for short walks. Tears as the cold pinched through children's gloves.

Wished for and waited for, Spring brought the garden, sowing and planting. Afternoons on the hill topped with a chapel and watched over by the Virgin Mary statue. The scent of violets and endless cowslips, the first butterflies and one devestating last frost.

And so it's summer once again. Sticky skin, again. Afternoons inside. Late lakeside evenings perfumed by woodsmoke and musky woodland. The girls strip off at every opportunity. I force on hats but never really win. Little L has dainty freckles and Little I turns caramel.

Our time in Bristol seems so long ago and yet we are still finding our feet here. I still miss my friends and family and my old home but it feels like there's been another shift toward some anchorage here too. Some deepening of new friendships, some meetings of minds and exciting plans. Little I calls me 'Maman' and Little L speaks perfect 'franglais' and asks for roquefort with expert french 'r's.


When, earlier this month, Little I turned two, we took off to a little cabin in the mountains of Ariege. Parking the van when the track became impassable, we walked the last two kilometres in the fog and coming dark. Florent had a raging headache and walked on ahead and I walked at child pace with the girls, trying to be enthusiastic whilst calling after Florent through gritted teeth. Sometimes we hate each other and this was one of those times. Florent hated me for not expecting that a cabin for only 10€ a night would have a hitch such as this and I hated Florent for not finding the beauty in a muddy track whilst carrying a tonne of tinned food, my watercolours and Little I's birthday present of books. It was the recipe for a weekend of resentment and not really the marking of the two joyful years Little I has shared with us all.

As it turned out, we arrived and it was beautiful. Wood, buddhist prayer flags, candles and enough cushions for send the girls into a frenzy of nest buiding and baby bird impersonations.

The next morning the mist had cleared and we awoke to an incredible view over the mountains. We attempted a walk, got stuck in a bog and decided to return to the cabin, found the path we should have followed all along and spent the afternoon painting and trying to coax the girls outside, away from the supersized birds nest.



The next day we travelled back, winding our way through some mountain villages and over some passes before following the valleys home. We descended from Port de Lers, a mountain pass of just over 1500 metres, pulling twice into a layby to let some cyclists past (!?!), the girls were asleep, the mountainside became covered in woodland and waterfalls roared down towards us and then under the road. I felt a feeling close to freedom and Florent and I didn't hate each other anymore and it all seemed right.



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