Monday, 31 May 2010

France - To Market

There is almost nothing I love more than pottering around the French markets early in the morning. Our market ritual starts early to avoid the crowds and heat, and almost always involves a stint at a street side cafe for coffee (or tea in my case) and croissants.

French markets are wonderful, full of life and colour. I managed a market pretty much every morning that we were there. I was even given an extra Birthday treat by my husband who stayed at home with the boys so that my Ma and I could go to Le Bugue market together.

We meandered through the market, chatting to people she knows, trying on armfuls of brightly coloured dresses, drooling over the beautiful quilted bedspreads so common in this region, being offered tastes of cheeses and meats and saucisson and being spoken to in French and English and Dutch, sometimes by the same person.
It was as perfect a morning as I could imagine.

France - Collecting and Shade Seeking

When we first arrived in France the weather was scorching, so a lot of our outside play was done early in the morning or late in the day. When the weather is that hot you try to stay in the shade for the hottest part of the day, unfortunately Fred doesn't tend to stay where you put him so sometimes we had to find shady places
to go where we could still be outside

Like these beautiful, but compact woods just up the lane from Granny's house. See,
I can find a wood anywhere!

 There is of course an ulterior motive for going to the woods, isn't there always!

They are full of the biggest pine cones I have ever seen. I'm sure there are massive pine cones like these all over the place in other parts of the world but in Devon, we only seem to get titchy little things. Unfortunately due to our tight luggage restriction we can't bring them back with us this time, but the boys had a whole week of playing with them, and they may find their way back to Blighty in someone else's luggage at some point.

Even the evenings were sweltering for the first few days we were there. The boys waited until late in the day to go down to pick cherries, and you can see how late it was by their long shadows, but it was still unbelievably hot.

The weather broke in spectacular fashion on the Wednesday and was just pleasantly warm and manageably showery for the rest of the week. The showers suited us very well though as it meant the markets weren't as crowded, and rain doesn't bother us! We're British!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

France - at my Ma's

Well, we are back from France. The week away was fantastic and I have so much to post about, including turning Thirty yesterday, but I will take thing one step at a time.

Firstly, There is the reason we go to France, to the Dordogne region more specifically. And that is to visit my Mum and Step-Dad who live out there. So this post is all about my Ma's place.

Which is a beautiful old farm surrounded by old buildings and gardens that my Mum has designed and planted herself over the last 6 years. Half of the farm house is actually barn and the living space isn't massive so when we stay Jack and Fin sleep in the spare room in the house, while Simon, Fred and I sleep in the Pigeonnier. The Pigeonnier is a converted 'pigeon tower' that my parents let out as holiday accommodation.

Whilst the inside of the house isn't spectacular, the gardens and views are breathtaking, and having been couped up inside over the winter and having no outside space at home, we were all made the most of our beautiful surroundings.

This picture was taken as a a thunder storm rolled in. In about half an hour the sky was filled with forked lightening and during the night the storm passed right over us. The thunder was so loud it made me jump every time!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Borrowing Boys

So, Your own bigger boys are at school, and it's not raining, and there's a perfectly good rope swing down in the woods that isn't getting used on its own, so what to do?

Borrow your home schooling friends boys of course!

Jacob, the eldest, was a little unsure at first but soon got the hang of it. By the time we left he was throwing the rope out and jumping after it. I love watching children when you allow them to set their own boundaries. I really believe that by saying 'not so fast' or 'not too high'  we override their own survival instincts to some extent.

Jacob was cautious at first, then daring by the end, but I neither encouraged nor discouraged what he wanted to do. His own survival instincts told him how far he could push it. These are children who are used to this level of autonomy though. I'm sure if this had been a group of boys who were used to having an adult dictate their safe boundaries at every turn then they wouldn't have been as in tune with their own capabilities.

Harry, at 5, had his safe boundaries all worked out and had a healthy fear of heights. He watched at first, but then curiosity got the better of him and by the end he was asking me to swing him higher than anyone else had ever gone! 

Even little Peter had a go, grinning like a Cheshire cat the whole time!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

W.I.P Wednesday - a dress and a sling

I seem to go in fits and spurts with making things. Until recently all my crafting time was being spent knitting, but about a week or so ago my focus shifted to sewing. I recently received the most amazing package, by post, from a very old friend of my Mums. This wonderful friend is a seamstress on the island of Guernsey, and she packaged up and posted over a large quantity of material she had left over from various jobs.
I can't even begin to describe how exciting unravelling that parcel was. It really is no exaggeration to say it was like all Christmases come at once.

And in amongst the treasure trove of fabrics there was a length of an Anna French fabric called Merry-go-round. I can't say in all honesty that I was blown away by it on first inspection, but looking at it, it did seem perfect for one thing and one thing only.

And so it became this dress. You see? The perfect thing for a fabric called Merry-go-round. This dress was a birthday present for our friends daughter on her fifth birthday (see 'Birthday in the Woods).

Clearly not done with sewing for this week, I then decided at about 9.30 last night (always the wrong time to start a new project) that I really needed to make a sling!

To be fair, the need is real. We leave for France on Saturday to stay with my Mum for a week, and we are flying SO budget that we really can't take the backpack with us as it would count as a separate piece of luggage and cost us more than it's worth to get it there. And if anyone has ever tried to navigate a street market in the Dordogne with a push chair, they will know why that is not an option. We do have a fantastic wrap around carrier but it is slightly stretchy which was brilliant up to about 1, but now just means that the weight of him causes so much bounce it quickly becomes very uncomfortable.
So I decided to make myself a Mei-tai carrier out of yet more of the fab fabric.

I finished it this morning, and both Fred and I are chuffed to bits with it. The fabric is an upholstery sort of weight cotton, and the pattern is roughly the Frankenkozy pattern which I really liked as it uses thicker straps more like a wrap around sling to distribute the weight more evenly.
I think we look rather fetching in our new 'strolling around a French market in the early morning sunshine looking for our new wall clock' sling.

A Casement In Point ( or 'look at my windows')

We have done lots of little and important things to the house since moving in. The fact that we have working electrics and hot running water is testament to our achievements. But the house still looked like a squat!



Yep, still looks like a squat, but it's now a squat with nice new windows that aren't in danger of falling out if someone leans on them or, God forbid, tries to open one!

I have really enjoyed watching people walk by and seeing the expressions on their faces when they notice the windows. I think this big leap forward has given me new enthusiasm, and faith in what this place can and will be.

Next, painting!

Monday, 17 May 2010

A Birthday in the Woods

Our friends little girl Lily was turning 5, and where better to have a 5 year old's faerie party than in the woods. It was, to be fair, a bit on the damp side, so Fin was sent up the trees to help string up the tarpaulin. He got to climb tree's and practice knots so he was pleased.

We also used the chiminea instead of the fire pit which helped in the damp. It also boiled a cauldron of water for tea far faster than on an open fire.

Lily had three of her faerie friends, plus one elf (Jack) to play with, along with a host of smaller ones, and Fin. Although we did spend some time under the tarp, waterproofs and wellies and occasional sunny intervals meant plenty of playing and tree climbing and swinging and fun could still be had. Especially when the boys discovered the steady stream of water coming off the lower end of the tarp!

Lily, shunning the traditional demanding 5year old girl at her own party mould, was the perfect hostess. She excitedly greeted everyone, showed her friends around the woods and spent over an hour sat near the chimenea carefully painting faces.

She woaded Fred up ready for battle!

The face paint is an all natural brand available from Myriad, which is fab, but oil based and slightly trickier to remove than more common children's face paints. I did have them both in the bath that evening and soaped their faces as best as I could without causing them psychological scarring, but jack did still have to go to school on Monday with blue eyebrows!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Good Drying Day

I shall hang clothes pegs from my ears in matching shades,
I shall drape a lemon yellow cotton fitted bed sheet (single size of course) around my shoulders like a toga,
And I shall perform a joyous waltz with my rotary airer,
In celebration of this day, this perfect day.

Oh you sun, you perfect sun. My heart reaches up to you and my trousers rise up to face your warmth.
Oh you breeze, you splendid breeze. You tug gently at my knickers without ever threatening to rip them off and toss them over the garden wall.

I shall wear these tools of my trade, they shall know me by my pegs,
And I shall cackle, and whip my washing machine into a frenzy,
Until it's drive belt whines and it's drum aches.

And at night I shall carry a pile of laundry up to bed with me, and feel it still warm and dancing gently against my arms.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Nettle Soup

I have been experiencing an annoyingly high level of illness over the last few months, culminating in tonsillitis a few weeks ago. I wouldn't mind but I don't have any tonsils!
The tonsillitis needed antibiotics which brought their own little problems, but at least the whole thing cleared up, until yesterday.
I appear to be getting ill again, with the same sore throat as last time, and I'm just not prepared to be ill again so soon so...I went for a walk.

Fred and I walked down the lane and discovered these fine fellows had moved in to one of the fields.

And in amongst then was this beautiful beast who strutted and snorted for us. Fred thought he was fantastic.

We walked down in to the woods and stopped at one of my favourite places. It is a stone bench beside the path where the path meets the banks of the Torridge river. The inscription on the bench reads ' in memory of our mother, Doreen, (1912 - 2006) of Chaplands, Beaford, who loved to picnic here by the river, with love from David, Rob and Chris Curtis and their families.'
I often sit here and look down at the river bank where Doreen brought her three boys to picnic and play in the river, and I wonder what my three boys will remember about me when I'm gone.

The bluebells are out now, and the more open areas of forest floor were covered in them, although my camera is not very good at colour and the pictures I tried to take of them looked like nothing.
I love the bluebells. I love the carpets of purple blue and the brightness of their colour against the vivid green of the new foliage at this time of year. But even more than the bluebells, I love the wild garlic.

The haze of white flowers and the shiney curving leaves cover the sides of the footpath down by the river bank. As you walk through the sweet pungent smell is fantastic, and I'm sure I felt better just because of the smell!

The river is lower now, and looks more inviting for paddling and swimming. All winter it has raged through here, making me nervous of its power and vigilant as we walked along its banks. But now it meanders again, and little beaches and banks of rock have been exposed that look just right for sitting on and wading to.

We walked the long way round as I felt the need to be in the woods for as long as possible.

And at the edge of wood, where the track turns into farm land, we found what we had come out for. A lovely big patch of stinging nettles. We picked what we needed using a washing up glove because I still can't find my gardening gloves post move!

Then headed home up the hill, which felt very steep after several weeks of being ill and carrying a sleeping two year old on my back. I'm sure they get heavier when they fall asleep. We were nearly at the village when we passed this...

Again, my camera not really doing justice to this beautiful wild flower meadow, which was full of yellow and white dandelions and campions and a mass of something rust coloured which I couldn't see from the track. It was the perfect end to a lovely, healing walk.

The nettles were turned into soup, packed with vitamins to hopefully stop my run of illness. This healing meal was aided just a little by the addition of asparagus to start and rhubarb and apple crumble to finish! I love this season!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Election results.

Well, the chaos continues.

I switched on the telly this morning to find that the Liberals had won a surprisingly small number of seats. Checking the results on line I found that despite the fact that the Liberals had something like 49 seats to labours 229, they had 21% of the vote in comparison to Labours 28%.
The Conservatives have got the larger portion of the vote, but not by much. I think they only have about 32%. And no party has a majority so it looks as though the Liberals will be wooed by both leading parties to do a deal, so at least it seems as though the Liberals will be involved in Government one way or another, which I suppose is a victory of sorts.
It just doesn't feel very victorious.

I drove through a very wealthy area of Mid Devon today, and noticed how the posters and placards were all Tory, then heading into another area with fewer gated drives and triple garages I noticed how the placards changed to Liberal, Green, and even a few Labour.
I suppose when your life involves people with similar needs and wants and values, your overall picture is distorted. Basically I forgot about what the Tories mean to those who vote for them.
And I can't help feeling sad and somehow let down by my fellow country men.

I remember watching the celebrations in America when Obama got in. I remember seeing it and really feeling the anticipation and excitement. And I so wanted to feel that here. Last night I could just imagine a Liberal Government being announced, and I could see us going in to Barnstaple, or driving to Exeter, and partying in the streets, because there would have been street party's and celebrations. It would have been joyous.

But it was not to be.....this time.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Polling Day

There is a feeling that I haven't felt before surrounding this General Election. It feels like chaos, like a snow globe being shaken. I feel, well, almost excited.
I may be wrong. It may be that tomorrow morning I will wake up and find that nothing has changed, and the chaos was deceiving, but...
Maybe not.

Weaning in progress

Two days ago, just before bedtime, my littlest boy found his way into the kitchen cupboard. Once there he picked out several of our beautiful bowls from the Boleslawiec Polish Pottery that we had been given as wedding presents, and smashed them on the concrete floor.
It sounds heartless to say, but this was just the push I needed to finally tackle the last remaining feed. So that evening we did everything we usually do, but when it came to feedy time we made some warm 'special juice' in a beaker for him and Jack, and sat and had that with our cuddles instead. 

I was expecting a big fuss, and he did scrabble and fret a little, but he very quickly excepted that it wasn't happening. He had his juice and went to bed as normal. Then last night we did the same, only this time the scrabbling and fretting was greatly reduced.
I'm not naive enough to think that that is it, and I'm sure there will be occasions over the next few weeks when he really struggles, but I'm so relieved that this hasn't been an ordeal for either of us so far.
I really feel that we are weaning together, and have been for the last six months as we slowly reduced the number of feeds we were having.
I have loved feeding Fred, and all of my children , but just as I have had to accept that Fred will be my last child, now I must accept that my personal breastfeeding journey is nearly over. And that's just as it should be.

A Death in the Shrubery

Green, shoots
Ivy, leaves
Love lies bleeding

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Amateur Archeology

When we first moved in the back yard was littered with earth, leaves, bricks, stones and bits of plaster, along with other unidentifiable objects. Most of it was swept up and disposed of, but some of the larger lumps got piled up in a corner. Jack was watering the tree's, which are all in pots, when he discovered a piece of broken pottery in amongst the rubbish.

He got a mixing bowl and filled it with soapy water, then spent oven an hour careful cleaning his 'ancient treasure'. He even changed the water half way through 'just to make sure it's really clean mummy'!
He was so proud of his piece of broken old pottery, and so concerned that someone might try to steal his then 'valuable ancient treasure' that he has hidden it somewhere ' safe and secret'. I did ask where that was but apparently it's in the 'White Knights castle where they keep their wonderful ideas'!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

A Beautiful Belfire

Our friends Jo and Louis were having a Beltaine bonfire and gathering, so the May crowns were made...

Fred's was made last Thursday at Bluebells, but the flowers didn't last. More due to Fred's exuberance than wilting!
We made the rest on the day, although I have had a very bad back so the planned foraging trip for prime crown making materials didn't happen, and we had to content ourselves with ivy from the wall and dandelions from the field when we got there!

Fin and Rio, under Jo's careful instruction, underwent further tests of manhood, involving carrying heavy things and tending the fire.
 Whilst the little boys played they swelled with responsibility and seemed far older than their 11 and 8 years.


The Belfire was jumped for prosperity and fertility, although I was having trouble walking, let alone jumping, so I couldn't participate.


It was a beautiful May evening, a comfortable effortless warming May evening shared with friend we knew and friends we met. A perfect welcome to Summer.