Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A different path...

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've often found his words inspirational and, at times, I've followed his advice. Smart man, Emerson, as was his fellow Transcendentalist, Thoreau, to whom I was introduced almost twenty years ago by the most mixed-up, maniacal, mad man I've ever encountered; an American, one of the guys with whom I worked in a remote, separated-by-time-zones, US-team, kind of way, so I never came face to face with him, which is probably a blessing really.

I digress...  

Different directions, new paths, making tracks...
That's the theme round here.

I am preparing to go back to Brittany and this time, unlike the last occasion when I moved across Oxfordshire to this current rented house and decided it was A Good Idea to work until 6:30 pm the day before and to start packing at 2 am on the morning of the move, this time I am going to be organised and efficient and save myself from the almost-breaking-down that happened then.

So, there have been quite a few trips to Streatley to deliver books to my friend who, having read the ones that interest her, takes them to her local pub to be sold in aid of the Air Ambulance.

I've culled at least a hundred so far, many of them cookbooks, and am now viewing the shelves in the bedroom with a growing sense of alarm because, goodness, how did I manage to acquire quite so many new books in the last seven years?

Yes, reading a hundred last year may have contributed to the hoard. 

And then there are the clothes...
You know how it is, the several different sets of clothes:
1. Worn regularly, a small subset
2. Several sizes too small but won't throw them out in case I lose weight
3. Sentimental items, silly to keep the top I wore when I was pregnant twenty-five years ago that's decorated with a picture of a baby and the legend 'Under Construction', my first ski suit, etc
4. Expensive, smart items I'll never wear in the Breton countryside but should I ever become a famous author and be invited to go on a book tour, well, I'll be sorted
This is the result of having been born at a time when Britain was still recovering from rationing and my parents were poor as church mice.

Waste not, want not...  

And the food cupboard in which I appear to have been stockpiling tins in readiness for a coming apocalypse. That's genetic with me, my father was a Safety Adviser and always ready for any eventuality, my mother was a Yorkshire woman and never trusted life down south, my grandparents lived through two world wars and I still have the tin of hot dogs that I bought in preparation for the New Millennium Meltdown.

I am, and always will be, one of those people who cannot stop buying dried pasta and bread flour when three snowflakes fall on my house, or bottles of water and tins of beans when I read another ridiculous Tweet from Trump and picture him with his fat little fingers on America's nuclear arsenal.

I am lucky to have the conservatory/sunroom in which to start piling the boxes.
And yes, those large boxes under cover outside do contain my new bed (first new one in thirty years), and garden furniture and deckchairs and new pictures, statues of dragons, throws and rugs, because I have no idea how long I will last and I fully intend to make each and every day fun and to be comfy and happy back in my French home.

It will be all new to me.
Not the house, of course, that's been mine for nine years, and not the friends and neighbours because ditto, but the moving back alone and the new occupation as a freelancer and the new attitude...

And there's the rub

The new attitude.

You see, I've done it before, this walking away from the stresses and strains of the corporate cage. I did it in 2006 and it didn't last long.  I came back, voluntarily, happily, enthusiastically, and walked right back into the Rat Race Rat Trap.

And it almost killed me.

And even now, after a year of sick leave, I am still finding it really difficult to extricate myself from the world of IT and cyber security and bits and bytes and malware and evil people.
And this recent business with the ransomware hasn't helped.

And even now, two years after my cancer diagnosis, I am still finding it hard to stop stressing and worrying even though I'm well aware of the harm that's doing to me.
And negotiating a settlement from my employers isn't helping.

So, yes I will take a new path, and yes I will make new tracks, and yes, it will be a different direction, but if I am not capable of changing  myself, well then I'll find that wherever I go and whatever I do, I'll just end up back where I started.

Stressed and sick.

And that will not do at all.
N'est-ce pas?

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Among the flowers...

But first, someone who I follow on Twitter tweeted a picture of  a posy of flowers that it is customary for the people of Ireland to leave on their doorsteps on April 30th to protect the household from harm. I'm not sure why May Day is any more dangerous than other days but I like traditions and so began to observe this one myself.  

I know, I'm late to the party.
Been a lot going on round here...
Studying to teach, learning new languages, brushing up on my French, beginning the process of defeathering this nest in preparation for another flight to France.

And then there are The Ragazzi, the pets, the swimming, the painting, the life that seems to become stressful at times no matter what steps I take to try to avoid it.
You know how it is guys.

And in between I've been doing a lot of walking.

It's been a nice spring so far.
Plenty of sunny days and not too cold, not too hot, I do like moderation in my weather.

The apple trees on the edge of the green have blossomed.
Honestly, if I could bottle the scent of apple blossom I'd fill a whole room with it and keep it forever.
It is so beautiful.

Recently I took the dog for an early morning walk.
We were alone on the green no-one else in sight, so I spent a happy thirty minutes flitting from flower to flower, smelling the perfume, admiring the blossoms, enjoying the moment.

Carpe diem.
Eventually the other dog walkers appeared on the green and it became busy and I felt I had to stop playing with the petals and inhaling the scents and wandering aimlessly among the apple trees.

Of course I could have ignored them, carried on in my own little world.
I quite like retreating to my little world, do it often now that my time is my own and I am not an office lab rat anymore. But someone shouted out to me, "You'll not be here to pick apples this year then?" and that kind of broke the spell.

It's true, of course, when the apples ripen and the walnuts fall I will be somewhere else. And that's a little sad but, "When one door closes, another opens..." and I do not plan to spend too much time looking back when there is so much to look forward to.

And as lots of people have informed me that they're coming to visit me in Brittany I daresay someone will bring me an apple, if I ask nicely.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Joyeux premier mai

It is May Day, and while The Ragazza makes merry in Oxford, where she has been celebrating since dawn, I am drawn to previous years and especially my first premier mai in Brittany.

I'd been looking forward to it since, let me think, 1995, the year I embarked on my degree studies with the Open University and the first French module, Cadences, which was educational, lots of fun and which introduced me to the French festivities.

On May Day in France it is customary for the local school children to come to your door selling bunches of lily-of-the-valley because in addition to this being La Fête du Travail (Labour Day), it is also La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day).

The flowers were brought to Europe from Japan in the Middle Ages and the Celts consider them to be tokens of good luck. On  May 1st, 1561, Charles IX of France was presented with a bunch and thus began the French tradition of giving lily-of-the-valley as good luck charms.

The shops sell the flowers now, but in past times people would venture into the fields to collect them to sell to make a little money, on May Day they did not have to pay sales tax on the earnings . Le ramassage du muguet, 1964

So, armed with your lily-of-the-valley, preferably bought from the school kids rather than the supermarkets, you venture forth to find your friends, give them hugs and the customary cheek kisses, and a sprig of flower, for good luck.  

I'd hoped to be back in Brittany for le premier mai  so that I could take part in the festivities. I should have lily-of-the-valley flowering in my garden ready to give to friends because the ones I buy at the door fill vases and jam jars on every windowsill, tant pis they'll have to wait a while longer. I daresay they'll benefit from another year of being left to grow.

Since in the 'language of flowers' lily-of-the-valley signals a return to happiness, I wish you all a joyeux premier mai and much happiness for the coming summer months.