Poignant Times: Notre Voisins. Our Neighbours

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These are the flowers that our lovely neighbours bought for us because we had invited them to a soiree last night. As I sit here this evening I still have a slight hangover after much hilarity was had. But more than anything I feel a sense of poignancy.

I have written often about our neighbours, mainly Mark and Nadia and their friends and ours, Michelle and Martigne, how they have helped us so much in our time here. We have been truly blessed.

Last week we were approached by them regarding the option of buying the barn and the land behind it separately from the house. We fully understand why: they are concerned re who buys our house, and whether they will allow Mark to park outside the barn, as we do, or will put a fence up, or quite simply not be part of the community as RD and I have been.

Our attitude has always been that we are blessed to live in France and as such should do our best to get on with our French neighbours. When in France do as the French do.

Last night we invited them all to a soiree, only this time we also invited Lucie and Manu our other set of neighbours. They have always been friendly but reserved (or is that us that have been reserved? As the good old British tend to be at times!) We had a fab night and our lovely neighbours told us how they would be so upset to see us leave. in fact they do not want us to leave, they want us to stay. They told us how they were so happy in how we had fitted in with the community and they are now so worried about who will live here next.

I cried, they cried, I have tears in my eyes now. What a fabulous thing for people to say to you, to feel about you, and I know that RD also feels very sad.

The Barn sale probably won’t come off, but that doesn’t matter we still had the opportunity to spend time with these people who have become our friends. So much so we are having an end of summer BBQ at the end of August.

I think it is fair to say that both RD and I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility. RD said today how our decisions make such an impact on others, like ripples in a pond.

I have just written in my journal..

‘A lot of change, a lot of things to consider, a lot of people’s lives will be affected when we move. I just didn’t realise how much. ‘

Rosie

Wiglet, letting Marc know she loves him

Remembering To Enjoy The Here and Now

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Morning sunshine 2020

So on the back of the last post from what will be a series of posts reflecting on what we have learned from the past, here is the first post from the series about the Here and Now.

I am so aware of the fact that this may well be our last summer here (I never assume a definite I am not doing the driving ) but I know it’s pretty likely. We have taken the weather for granted over the years, the sunny mornings and the fabulous views, and have often sat inside drinking our tea; but today the morning is beautiful and we are sitting on our terrace, drinking our tea, and treasuring this moment.

It’s so easy when we make plans for the future to jump headfirst into them and forget about where you are, and enjoying the moment. I know it is something I do, and by writing a series of blogs about enjoying what we have here, and all the poignancy that entails now we know we will be saying goodbye, I hope will keep me grounded.

Enjoy your day. It’s all you have.

Rosie.

July 2020 Pays de Loire

What Have We Learned: You can only ever make decisions based on the Here and Now .

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Larchamp 2013

Seven years ago I took this photograph of the pretty sundial we used as a table at a beautiful gite we were vacating in. I still love this picture today, one of tranquillity and stillness.

At the time I took it I was just about to move from an incredibly stressful job to what I didn’t know at the time would be the job from hell. I didn’t realise just how stressed I actually was at that time, so when I then became ill with stress the following year, to us the obvious place to live in France was the region where this picture had been taken. We made our decisions based on how we felt at that time.

Now, after living in this place for five years the people who ran the gite have moved back to England, in fact many people who we have met along the way have moved back to England.

Over the years we have come to realise that is part of an adventure like this: change, not for ‘change sake’, but because we evolve, and part of evolving means that we move forward to pastures new. At the time we make our decisions they are the right ones at that moment in time, based on how we feel at that moment in time. Just as we did after our fabulous holidays in this region.

When RD and I moved here we were both burnt out, literally. My brain had been addled dealing with high levels of human emotion every day. I needed peace, I needed to step out, I needed tranquility and this place offered us all that; and it healed me. But moving on I am better, despite only realising and accepting recently that I will never go back to the person I once was; and as I write that I wonder why I thought I would, because you can never go back, you can only ever go forward.

So now we are healed we have also learned that we are not ready to retire, and we are not ready to slow down quite this much. Going back to work, and interacting with some of the fabulous people I have met has also shown me that. RD has realised that he misses the interaction with other colleagues, he misses working as part of a team. We miss nightlife, and having the opportunity to interact fully in our community.

Language is a barrier, never believe that it isn’t. Language dictates, to a certain degree, the people who you have to interact with, as opposed to those you want to. I cannot emphasise enough the huge impact not knowing a language will have when you undertake an adventure like this. There is an upside also though: you can (I won’t say will because some never try) learn the fabulous art of improvisation, and the other fabulous art of mime! And the best people we have met during this time have been French people.

So seven years ago, when the picture in this post was taken I was a very different person (not least that I can speak a little French now). I was fighting against my feelings of fear and entrapment. Going on this journey has stopped all of that, I have learned who I was, and who I am, and I know there is a ‘who I am going to be’ somewhere in the future.

More to come.

Rosie

My home in the evening sun

Just Chilling

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It’s been a busy few weeks. New propositions have been raised regarding our barn and the terrain behind it, meaning we might be in a position to move sooner than we thought. Watch this space, life will show us the way.

The thing that has been the most exhausting has been the mental acrobatics required when considering a move to another country: the logistics so to speak. This time we want to ensure that we use the lessons we have learned to make the best decisions we can.

But for now, after early apero’s with our neighbours we are going to chill before a busy week. In twenty-five degrees plus, my sun-bed is calling me for a snooze.

I am sorry I have been away so long, my brain had to recoup, on to our new adventure.

Rosie

286. Cognitive dissonance

286. Cognitive dissonance

286. Cognitive dissonance
— Read on thebiscuitfactoryonline.com/2020/07/03/286-cognitive-dissonance/

So I have tried to stay out of the Covid-19 hysteria, but for me this blog pretty much sums it up.

Triggers and Positives.

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It’s been a difficult few weeks, mainly because I was triggered after returning to work, and I didn’t even realise I now have things that will trigger me.

This is my first job since I was ill six years ago. I was told then by my counsellor that I am what is known as a ‘doer’. It means I will always get things done, and do them well. The downside of that is that I will often be asked to do things because I can be relied upon, over and over again, piling the pressure on. This time I was told that I was being given a job because I was good at something that others struggle with, it was meant to be seen as a compliment, but I saw it as flannel. I am too old for that. But the most frightening thing was that my brain went into high alert, silently screaming ‘Oh no! It’s happening again, I cannot do this any more!’ It literally went into flight mode and I had no control over it. That is a frightening place to be.

Within a week I was in a depression, I could feel myself falling and I couldn’t stop. RD was so afraid because by the SaturdaymI had stopped answering my texts and communicating other than with my work face on.

But then work sent a co-worker to assist me and she was a breath of fresh air. She listened, that simple, she listened; and she made me laugh. In fact I started to see that the women who came to assist me in that second week were all brilliant in their own way. But more than anything they were kind, so kind.

So rather than dwell on negatives I will focus on the positives from this difficult time. I have changed their names in anagram form as much as possible here goes…

To Tan, who brought me new socks to wear because I had sent all my socks home, on the hope that the normal ferries would be working. I had to go home on Boaty McBoatface again, at 5am in the morning, so they were a Godsend. Also a big thanks for your support and making me laugh.

To Elvis, she will know who she is. Her ways brought me back, gave me something to smile about. What you saw was what you got, straight talking, but kind. Supportive in every way. She finished my last week off by buying fresh Jersey Royal potatoes and bringing them to me to bring home to RD. Then she came to see me with a freshly baked lemon drizzle cake that she made at midnight the night before, for RD. It’s the best lemon drizzle cake I have ever eaten.

Then there is Rhoma, who brought me two books, and we set up a chick lit book club. A lovely lady, who helped me understand it wasn’t me.

There is the lovely member of staff, who when I got upset cried with me, and hugged me. That small thing meant so much.

It all made me realise that I work with a wonderful group of people, who don’t have the recognition they deserve.

I am home now, sitting in my garden, treasuring this view. This will be our last summer here. The house is going on the market next week. Busy times.

Rosie

It’s flown by

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I go back to work tomorrow. I will probably be away from home again for three weeks. But I am enjoying my job, not just the money it brings, but the freedom, and also that it gives me back a sense of identity.

For the first two weeks the temperatures were over thirty degrees here. So we jinxed it: we put the pool up, and five days later it started to rain and has rained pretty much every day here since! Not just rained, but poured. Our ground is saturated ai think if we got the lawn mower out it would sink!

But on one of the hot, sun dodging, days RD and I were sitting in the garden chatting and I could see him just smiling at me. When I asked him why he said it had been a long while since he had seen me so animated about something. I realised he was right. I have missed working, I have missed interacting with other people, I have missed having responsibility. Since starting my job I have deliberately tried to stay out of any politics, and the beauty of this jib is that I have responsibility only for myself to do a good job, and nobody else. I like that.

What all this made me realise was just how much I enjoy working, I enjoy meeting people, and I don’t want to go back to not having that. Ireland will also offer me more work opportunities, (again it can’t offer me any less than here) and I can continue in my current role if I want to. Those are decisions to be made at a later date.

But it also made me think about just how much RD misses that. He doesn’t miss working for most of the people here, but he does miss camaraderie and ‘the crack.’ As winter draws in and I am not here it will miss that more, although he puts on a brave face and insists he won’t.

I have always said I will be honest and now is the time to say that although we all think we want out of the ‘rat race’ do we? Or do we want to dip a toe in every now and then?

We have achieved a lot, sorted out furniture in many rooms, ready for sale, and I have finally sorted right through our filing and admin. Didn’t quite achieve getting all of the ironing done though.

I have enjoyed by five weeks at home, but now I am getting bored with what we have here and I am ready to go back. I will miss my RD and my puppies and kittens, that is the hardest thing. But once I am there I will crack on.

I am back on Boaty McBoatface tomorrow, hopefully I won’t have to climb down the ladder!

Rosie

Making Our Minds Up … no barriers have been set

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We have had many discussions about the next move.

When I first came home I said to RD how we live in this house rent free. We have stuck to our learnings about not getting any debt for windows, or cesspits, or anything that we don’t have the money to pay for. There have been times on this adventure that we have thought ‘Thank God we didn’t get any debt!’

There were times we were tempted. The French Government has a scheme for new windows and doors where you can obtain loans at a very low interest rate. But they are still loans, and they still tie you and trap you and stop you having options for the future. We stuck to our guns and so we live in this house, that is fully paid for, rent free.

But the housing market across the world has been affected by the pandemic and the valuations came in at less than we hoped. We wouldn’t lose any of our initial outlay, but we would not recoup what we have paid for water, and a new roof, new doors, new gates, and a soon to be new barn roof.

But we also know that we live in the Parc Normandie, and have rolling hills in front of us and countryside surrounding us. We also live on a dead end road, no through traffic just quiet, with neighbours near enough to support us, but far enough to have our space. We know what this house offers so it will work out, the things we have money cannot buy, and they cannot be added.

But we were pragmatic and thought well if we moved to Ireland we would have to rent and pay out money we don’t pay out now. I now have a job, let’s just enjoy France for a year and see where life takes us. We have a lot to do before it goes up for sale next month.

However there is another way to look at it. There is no work here for RD, and there will be some work in Ireland, mainly based on the fact that he speaks the language. Let’s put it this way: There won’t be any less! If RD earns the money that the rent would cost then we won’t be any worse off than we are now. Mmmmmmm a dilemma.

So we have decided to put the house up for sale, let life show us the way, and when it does we will make the decision on when to move.

We’re not stressed. We know that what will be will be.

Rosie

Learning from an Adventure: Making our Minds Up

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Sunset over our garden, setting on our adventure in France

I have been meaning to write some blogs for all of last week. It is likely that I will be going back to work soon and I want a series that will post if the internet is not available to me. But life took over (as it always does). But here goes……

As I said in my previous post Recouping….and making plans we are still decided to leave France. Change, especially a change so great is still not easy, despite having the courage to do it once before. But one of the main things we have learned from this adventure is that ‘life does show you the way.’

Lao Tzu | Water reflection quotes, Lao tzu quotes, Water quotes

Since living here I/we have read the Tao, and now understand some of the anomaly of life. This adventure has given us the space and the necessity to look at life in a different way, which enabled us to understand the teachings of the Tao in that life is like water: You cannot hold on to it and control it no matter how much you think you can. But if you go with the flow of what life shows you then you can become strong, then you can achieve anything, providing it is what you need, not what you think you need.

So with that in mind we were talking about moving to Ireland. The UK is not for us, with it’s politics, anger and lack of equality. It’s funny how now I can feel that underlying greed in some places I go. So it’s not an option. As we talked I asked RD if he really wanted to give up this house, our views and the tranquility it provided. If he really wanted to leave France. The little demon of doubt kicked in and he said he didn’t know. It showed me that for me the way was now clear, but for RD that fear of change was still there.

The next day I sat us in the morning sunshine with a cup of tea and two pads and pens. On each pad I had made two columns which I had headed ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’.

Now I know that hate is a strong word to use, but that is how I feel about some of this adventure now, not so much the actual thing itself, but impact from the actual thing; and I knew that RD felt the same. So I asked him to write, without thinking, what immediately came into his head for each column and I would do the same, and we would then compare the columns. I also knew that it would help to clear the mind, from writing my journal all these years I know that writing it down takes doubts voice, the little chatty one in your brain, away.

The objective was to then compare what we had written to enable us to see if we were on the same page, and to also enable us to compare what we did and didn’t want to take forward in our new life.

We both wrote that we ‘hate’ the bureaucracy, that we both hate the fact that we cannot simply speak the language (trust me I have tried but it drives you nuts sometimes). Interestingly (or not) we both put the ex-pats in this area as top of the list. We both put that we disliked the intensely hot weather, which has got hotter in the five years since we lived here due to global warming. We added the banks, and the corruption that goes hand in hand with them, that everything just shuts down, nothing stays open into the evening, or Sundays, or bank holidays.

We fell in love with France for the tranquility and laid back way of life. We still love that, but only in small doses, not for all of our life.

So I suppose you could say that we have learned a lot about what we actually want from life from doing this adventure!

Moving on to the ‘Love’ list without a doubt we both love the view.

The view of the rolling hills of the valley. It’s what we see every day from our window

We also love the weather. weirdly enough, when it is not too hot. We love the definition of the seasons, and of course we love our wonderful French friends and neighbours.

We love the peace and tranquility. But we have learned as our life has carved out it’s way for us that for us that is not enough.

We want to be able to work, preferably in the same country and coming home each night! We want to be able to walk into a shop and just talk to someone, or pick up the phone and resolve a problem. If you saw the mountain of paperwork I am about to work through over the next two days you would understand.

It was an eye-opening exercise, especially for RD, as he could then clearly see what he did and did not want from the future. In fact he listened to my list and started to say ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ All the time adding some of what I had written to his list.

But most of all it enabled us to see that all of the important things to us from the ‘Love’ list are available to us in Ireland: as are most of the things on the hate list overcome if we move to Ireland. Views, tranquility, peace, easy going people, being able to speak the language, not having to deal with ex-pats. It wouldn’t get too hot in the summer either (although an ex-pat who has never been to Ireland did tell me how it rains ALL the time! Who am I ,whose father was Irish and has visited many times, to argue?!)

Yes some things will be more expensive, but where there is good there is always bad, as the Tao says: There has to be.

RD’s column, and mine can be seen in their entirety below. You never know it may help some people clear their minds. Trust me it works.

Rosie’s List
RD’s list

So last week we had three estate agents come round to value the house. More of that and our decision making in the next post…….

Rosie

Early sunrise from my terrace. A new beginning.

What Have We Learned? Reflecting.

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Nearly five years ago I started this blog. We had lived in France for just three months. I was full of enthusiasm about taking a chance, in fact I started this blog to encourage others. And although I am now going to put things into place to leave France, I still feel that life is an adventure; and for me, or should I say us, staying still and doing the same ‘ol, same ‘ol is not the way forward.

I have often written about my Tree of Tao the huge old fir tree in our garden that has always relaxed and inspired me as it gently swayed in the wind. Recently as we sat under it I found myself looking up through her majestic branches as they went with the flow of the breeze, and felt a little poignancy that we will be leaving this place.

As we tend to do we got chatting about changing direction, and I asked RD if he had ever regretted the move. His resounding answer was no, as was mine; and we both said the same: ‘Because we have learned so much.’

If someone had told my five years ago that it didn’t matter if your roof had blown off, because at some point you would be able to fix it, that you just had to trust that what you needed would come your way at the right time, I would have laughed at them, or thought them mad. We would have got into debt and got the roof fixed. But during our time here we have read and embraced many philosophies of the Tao Te Ching, and not having debt is one of them.

We did not get into debt, we lived with a leaking roof for over three years, and we are still alive, and it got fixed.

In the same vein when our well ran dry two years after arriving we lived without water for eleven days, and again for four days in the winter until we were able to have mains water connected to our house. Yet here we are, still alive, with memories of showering each other with a watering can (not easy when your husband is over six feet and you have to stand on a ladder!) and laughing as we did it. As a result of all of this we don’t waste water, and we don’t fear things going wrong, it doesn’t kill you, but it does make you stronger.

We say to each now, there is no point in stressing over it, what will be will be.

As we sat under that old tree, talking about all the things we have learnt, lessons we can take with us, we laughed about all the things that had happened, because we are stronger because of them. We realised that we are more patient than we ever were before, we don’t have to have everything now, and often say to ourselves ‘Do I really need that?’

The answer is invariably ‘No’.

But more than anything RD and I have learned that we are not ‘doing the driving.’ And we have learned acceptance, even though we often have to remind ourselves of that.

We know that ultimately what is meant to happen will happen and there is no point fighting it. In fact our ‘Faith’ often brings tears to our eyes, because we know that is the biggest gift that has been given to us, and I don’t mean any religion, just ‘faith.’

We have learned that where there is good there is bad, and where there is bad there is good. That life is a balance, you cannot have one without the other. I do believe that attitude of mind can bring you good or bad depending on your mindset.

We have each other, we have lived in this fabulous place, we have seen hares and deer and breath-taking sunrises and awe inspiring sunsets. But to have that we have also had a hurricane, and a tornado, and freezing nights.

We have struggled with money and work, and people, but we have always had each other, and we know that is a gift.

We have had the gift of love from our animals, we were given Wiglet, but we lost our lovely Tillybet. We looked after Sophie the feral cat, and the joy of seeing her change was balanced by the tears when she died. We had twenty years with our green eyed cat Molly, balanced by the heartache when she left us at the beginning of the year. Understanding that balance has helped us so many times. We know we cannot have it all.

During our time here as well as the ‘Tao’, we have read The Alchemist’, and we are still reading the fabulous Mark Nepo (The Book of Awakenings.) It never ceases to amaze us when we open that book at a difficult time that the passage we come to read gives us the answer to our problem.

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For me, my most recent learning has been to ‘let go’. Or I thought it was until I realised that I had let go once before, when we sold our beautiful house in the UK and look at what it gave me. This time it was a reminder, let go and you know good things will come.

Rosie

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