Month: October 2015

With his tail tucked down

So we’re getting on the train at St Astier, ready to cross France for 8 hours to visit with an old family friend, and there’s some kind of problem on board with one of the other passengers. A young man, perhaps 25, dressed in black hoodie jacket, loose black pants, with a big, scruffy black suitcase. He’s white-skinned, sunken eyes, sweating slightly. He reminds me of a nervous dog, who got that way by being beaten. The conductor is standing in front of him, arms folded, legs wide apart, telling him he needs a ticket to travel, and where is it? A younger conductor is standing further along, in exactly the same pose, blocking the exit down the carriage. There’s only the door to get off, and the tight corridor surrounding us. Other passengers are looking over and away, then over again. Son ‘15’ and I are each lugging big suitcases, a small backpack, a bag of food, and my handbag, plus a 5 litre bottle of water. We are now in the middle of …

5 things we miss, and 5 things we’ve learnt to love and appreciate

Tonight is the Last One of Everything. Our last fire. The last dinner. Our last evening of badminton. Tomorrow we pack up all the furniture, empty the fridge, drain all the pipes of water (so that they don’t freeze and crack during Winter), cover the mattresses in plastic, and go stay with the neighbours up the road for a night (very kindly taking in the 2 cold Aussies, and asking us genuine questions like ‘Are kangaroos everywhere? Do they attack you?’) I feel melancholy. I know I’ll never have this time again. Not with ‘15’. Because soon he’ll be 16, then 18, then 20, and [hopefully] travelling the world by himself, or with mates and a girlfriend [I’m not assuming heterosexuality there, by the way; I’ve been referencing ‘boyfriends and/or girlfriends’ since he was about 9, and he finally sat me down firmly and told me he was definitely not gay, which I was very disappointed about- no marching proudly in the Mardi Gras with my child sigh]. ANYWAY, back to feeling sad by the …

“France is a desperate party girl.”

I thought that yesterday, as we drove home from the local village with fresh bread. Autumn is really here: all the trees are red, gold, yellow, throwing their leaves onto the road in front of us. France has become a fraught, older ‘woman of the world’, throwing one last drunken ‘soirée’ before the lonely slam of Winter. She’s piling on her jewels, strings of rubies and gold chains, wrapping round and round her big bosom, as she leans forward into our space, spilling cheap champagne, desperate for us not to leave yet. She’s talking too loudly, her perfume’s too strong. She’s painted her toenails Tangerine, clinging to the last cotton dress of summer, her last green lace petticoat. She’s straining to throw bright sunsets, ignoring the bite of chill in the air, laughing hard at our more introspective moods, which lower on us as the darkness comes sooner. France has a population of 60 million, and her visitors number 76 million a year. She’s busy, receiving them all, mostly from June-September 30. And now her …

I seem to have packed my routines as well

Ah yes, the freedom of Travel with a capital T: being ready for anything, meeting anyone, changing plans in an instant. No work commitments, no diary appointments, no regular routines getting in the way of spontaneous adventure… When we first arrived in the Barn, I was finishing a 2-month ‘cleanse’ of no sugar, almost no wheat, minimal carbs, and various herb concoctions before and after eating (on the advice of both a doctor and naturopath, trying to deal with a water-borne parasite I’d picked up somewhere- Hello Blasto 😦 ). Within a week I was having fresh bread spread with unsalted butter and homemade jam for breakfast, or croissants and pain au chocolat; incredibly rich and varied omelets for lunch followed by more cheese and bread; chicken or fish with garlic potatoes for dinner, finished with more cheese of course. The other day I even drank a glass of champagne in the afternoon, which honestly for me is the equivalent of Keith Richards going on a three-week bender. So we can say I’m letting loose …

Périgueux- home to perhaps the dodgiest Airbnb listing you’ve ever seen

Glorious day last week, with blue skies to rival Australia’s. Time to visit the mediaeval town of Périguèux, 40 minutes drive away, including its cathedral, built in the 6th, 12th, and 16th century: Time to be enchanted by the surrounding laneways, leading to the marketplace where son ‘15’ ate “…The best ribs of my whole life, even better than Dad’s, I’m sorry to say…” (no pics allowed, but let me assure you, there was Grease Chin, sticky fingers, and complete carnivorous delight): Time to take my favourite picture of the trip so far: Time to marvel at the unwelcome front doors they make round here: A chance to picture Juliet, calling down to her love: And then, walking along the river, we saw this- The Place You Don’t Want To Stay: We were flabbergasted. ‘15’ kept giggling, and imagining having parties inside, and getting everyone to run from one side to the other to rock it [Oh the way teenagers’ minds work huh?!]. Let’s look at it one more time shall we? Imagine turning up …

5Rhythms in 5 layers, and scarf. Plus gumboots.

I just had a dance, and I feel so good. 30 minutes moving to a playlist I made back in Australia, pumping through my headphones, while around me the French countryside wakes up slowly. Those of you who know me in person know I love to dance; disco and funk tracks always get me going, and I still love going to music festivals to jump up and down at the front near the front to my favourite band… But the private practice that keeps calling me, following me, leading me, is the 5Rhythms HERE. It’s a moving meditation, a spiritual practice, a stress release, an exploration of the wisdom and challenges held in the body, heart and mind… It’s hard to put into words exactly! But those are my words for it today. Some people find peace in church. Others at the shopping mall, in the surf, during a meditation circle, listening to music, or making/enjoying art. Perhaps just with a good bottle of wine. All of them are valid of course, just not for …

Like bunting, her voice strings itself through the house

‘À table mes enfants, à table!’ We can hear her no matter where we are. Squat legs running down a wide hallway, heading for the third room on the right. The walls and ceilings reach as high as the sky; grown ups are as tall as giants. The woman’s voice calls us all, and squat legs are running in from the garden too. It’s hot out there, and the sunlight almost blinding; I prefer the cooler, quieter places inside. I’m eager to grab my reward though, chattering with the other small ones who also want what’s being offered. I wash my hands, clumsily rolling short fingers over each other, dropping the soap, and splashing cold water. The green drying cloth is rough on my soft skin, but I’m nearly ready! Four of us to a table, with tiny matching coloured plastic chairs. At lunchtime my legs will get sticky and hot on the seat, but it’s still early, so I know I can wriggle and kick. The talking and excitement reaches its peak, and of …

Our last swallow has flown South for summer

We arrived 2 weeks ago in the Dordogne (rural France at its best), down by train from Paris through late summer fields and villages. Old stone walls glowed gold at sunset. The air was warm, thick and welcoming, like a fresh baked cinnamon bun straight out of the oven. The ‘Barn’ has stood for more than 300 years, and been in the family since 1981, thanks to the pioneering and determined spirit of Aunt ‘M’ (she of the infamous parking fine in previous post HERE). The solid stone building was full of energy and chatter: twin girls here with their Dad, an Uncle from England, cousins, partners, ‘M’ the matriarch, a visiting octogenarian, old friends and locals alike popping in. Badminton games and barbeques. Loads of washing taken in and out, beds made up, beds stripped down. Wine bottles brought home, and emptied with loud laughter. Old stoneware bowls filled with baked potatoes, garlic, cheese and cream, matching the smoked salmon and rosemary baked chicken. Various neighbours invited for afternoon snacks, as we piled chips, …

Travelling with a teenager to Paris: Completely reassess your food budget

Oh Paris, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Son ‘15’ is a hoovering food machine at the best of times; set him loose in Paris, and watch him ramp up his gourmet habit. Before I committed to this 2-month trip overseas, I drafted a budget. I did some Internet research, talked to a few fellow travellers, and guesstimated how much I’d need to survive for 8 weeks in Europe (while not paying for much accommodation, thanks to my extended family). I panicked a bit over the numbers I admit, then woke up at 2am one restless morning and thought “F**k it, if I don’t go now, when will I? And more importantly, when else will ‘15’ want to actually come with me? It’s now or never, before he’s 16 and in love, or 17 and rebelling, or 18 and doing Europe by himself anyway!” So Hello two return tickets half cash half credit, and a firm but fair travel budget in place in my mind. Hello to sensible talks with ‘15’ …

My middle name is Lucky, and here’s why

“Flash fiction” short story from France: My 76 year-old Aunt ‘M’ and I took her little Golf car into nearby Riberac yesterday. We were going to send postcards back to Australia, wander the shops, and of course, find Wi-Fi to check emails. Where should we park? We drove around the ancient town, narrow lanes not designed for motor vehicles, and got caught in a one-way system round a free carpark; finally, we settled on a spot in the shade, neatly lined up with all the Peugeots and Renaults. We had 1.5 hours ‘Gratuite’ or free, according to the sign; perfect. Imagine how pissed off I was when I came back 1.45 hours later to find a big fat ticket under the windscreen wiper! I couldn’t believe it. I stood there next to the car, frowning and sighing. An old man walking past noticed me, so I went over and stumbled (in French) “What is this and why?”, waving the ticket at him, knowing that the French all love a good complaint about fines and rules. …