I'm writing this to the sound of thunder crashes, in the dark of the attic. The gods of the sky groaning and rumbling, threatening downpours. Little I is next to me, asleep on the mattress, tiny beads of sweat on her nose. It's been almost two months since I last wrote and summer is passing by so fast.

Midsummer's day finished with a terrific storm, sending a river down our road and the children insane with glee and without inhibition. We went to the van with a plan to drive and watch the storm but instead played jazz loudly with the girls dancing off adrenaline from the crashes of thunder. I had imagined a midsummer meal with candles, an evening walk and wild flower wreath weaving but this turned out to be much better.

Then the girls and I returned to the UK for a couple of weeks. The girls met their newest cousin for the first time and were reunited with Little M, their long time cousin and fellow ragamuffin: Lots of joy and cuddles and some arguments and tears.
The weather was beautiful, we tripped to London and the girls had the time of their lives riding the red buses and discovering play parks of anyone's dreams and meeting with friends. We spent a very nostalgic day in Bristol,  more time with dear friends, paddled in Exmoor rivers, indulged in charity shops, ate fish and chips and pies (though not enough) and finally returned to France full to the brim with time spent with family and friends and completely exhausted! I swore never to travel alone with the girls again after Little I's wild behaviour in the airport had me very nearly in tears and apologising to nearly anyone in a uniform. She's certainly has proven her disregard for border controls.

Back home we have tended the garden, hosted visiting friends, continued with the building and enjoyed the simple day to day joys of summer here. On our walks Little I continues to hunt snails and often has a couple clutched in her grubby hands. If she sleeps on the way home from a trip up onto the hills or to the garden they creep out and trace their silver trails across her clothes and hands. Later, we negotiate and she reluctantly returns them to the wild.


This summer has also brought more questions from Little L than ever before. Not so long ago we came across an injured stag beatle. It's entire body had somehow been hollowed out leaving just it's head and front legs and one hind leg. It was struggling on it's back, miraculously still alive and desperately fighting to right itself and somehow continue to live. Little I was intrigued but too young to notice anything amiss. Little L was wide eyed and whispering 'what's wrong?'

We come across the end of life often. A body of a swallow chick, fallen from it's nest, a moth lying in a pathway, beating out it's last wing beats of it's short life or a squirrel, casualty of the cars on the road.
I have an urge to protect the girls from every sadness or tragedy however large or small but I also know that to hide them from this would be a disservice to them. The end of life is part of our life and the end of life gives life and makes space for more life. We challenge ourselves to be honest and enable them to see the wonder of life and death and be in awe of life because of death. It's been humbling to see how Little L seems to understand this.

And there is also the very beginning of life. Today we met a neighbour's tiny, day old kittens ; slowly scrambling over one another, nudging in to their mother, pushing their faces into her chest and searching for her milk. Then in the garden a newly fledged bird, still unable to fly, hopping under the bushes and fixing it's gaze upon the three of us with a perfectly round eye.

PS. Just to provide some balance, for each time we marvel at the wonders of life there are many daily frustrations! Their ongoing habits of deliberatly wearing shoes on the wrong feet (creating all manner of painful rubs and sores) or the elaborate negotiations around brushing teeth in their daily quest to make bedtime that little bit later are some current challenges... Highs and lows and all that.


So, we have the courtyard ! An outdoor space which we have eaten nearly every meal in since it has been finished. It is also already a sea of dens, soft toys, colouring pencils, story books, 'treasures' from every walk we take (mostly sticks and stones and one badger skull...) and sometimes there's space for Florent and I to enjoy a drink together in amongst it all. The BBQ isn't finished and there's a small about of pointing yet to complete but they are mere details.
Over the last few days Florent, along with generous help from a friend, has been removing a window and creating the space for the doors which will lead from the courtyard into the kitchen/ living area. Then we'll do some roofing and then back to the kitchen. This is not the right way to do things... Generally starting at the top of a building and then working down makes most sense but for various reasons this is how we are doing it. Every time the plans change we resign ourselves to another month or so using our trusty camping stove but these are small sacrifices and we remember often that we are indeed very lucky to have a roof over our heads at all and a leak now and then just adds character....



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