things you don't know about holidaying in France that will make you happy

France is just as you expect it to be, the clichés do not disappoint.

I had waited so long for a holiday in the south of France that I would have felt robbed without the fields of sunflowers, the grapevines, pretty shuttered houses, tree-lined roads, rustic farmhouses, good bread, cheese and red wine. It was exactly like that, exactement, and heaven knows that made me one happy lady.

But it was the things we didn't know about France that made our trip so really brilliant, the things that nobody told us, the things that people had said would be perhaps a 'challenge'.

The unexpected laid-backness of the place being top of the list, it's just so amazingly chilled out in France, it really is. The uptight, rigid culture of corporate homogenisation and extreme busyness that is so abundant here hasn't taken hold over there and it's rather refreshing to walk into a supermarket where people don't wear uniforms, where the fruit is all bashed and bruised and real looking, where every petrol station looks different and the shops are shut on a Sunday...and a Wednesday...and for two hours at lunch time on all other days.

People walk to the boulangerie to get their bread in the morning and stop for a chat along the way, stop for a chat in the shop, stop for a chat with the postman. There's no hurrying, no rush and the streets are wonderfully devoid of the unrelenting march of a branded coffee cup.

It was lovely to slip off the uptight english overcoat for a short while and relax, once the initial panic of forgetting your schoolgirl french and not being able to buy food on a Sunday has gone, you can't help yourself. The French countryside is a dream, there is literally no traffic anywhere, we would go on short day trips expecting UK-type car chaos and not see one person. We were continually wondering where everyone was and constantly delighting at the lack of vehicles and abundance of parking spaces.

And to top it off we found it friendly, we had been told not to expect smiles and civility but the peoples were wrong about this too! Betsy helped, being so freaking cute, especially once we taught her to say 'bonjour' - that was it, local hearts melting all over the south of France, big smiles and hearty slaps on the back everywhere.

So get thee to France, it's brill* and have yourselves a very bonne journée!

*except for the flipping eurotunnel which had an 'incident' on the day we were travelling home which left us stranded at the terminal for over eight hours....yep.



It's such a wonderful time of year isn't it?

England does good summer with her blue, blue skies and her most green and pleasant land. I am loving midsummer even more than usual because this year we have a working garden, by that I mean we have a patio whereas last year we had a giant gravel pit!

The joy of having a patio is never to be underrated, never.

We are a contented bunch here at bloom. Our days are spent gardening, reading, walking, goofing about and being annoyingly happy. These are wonderful days and I'm loving them to the max, just relaxing and being in the moment with my wonderful girl who is currently sitting beside me watching Old Jack's Boat and sucking her toes!

She is now old enough to potter in and out the back door to the garden and up and down the most treacherous stairs you've ever seen to her heart's content. She loves being outside. If you don't get the hint quickly, her standing in front of the door saying 'outside' repeatedly, she brings you her shoes and then your shoes and then daddy's shoes, anything to get you to open the damn doors.

I am cultivating my own brand of hodge-podge gardening style in which I buy pretty plants, dig them in and hope for the best. Most stuff does okay you know, gardening snobbery is revealed to be all a sham, designed to keep the florally nervous in the gloom of a flowerless summer.

There have been a number of high profile failures including a rather expensive purple hydrangea that I planted in, stood back to admire when Betsy came hurtling out of nowhere and landed on her bum, plop, right in the middle of it. The poor thing is still out there, the hydrangea not Betsy, squished and sad looking, there seems to be little hope for it but I'm hanging in there for a potential grand, purple return next year.

Serenity rules, summer is for lazing about and we are off to the south of France this weekend for even more of the stuff. Really looking forward to our holiday, planning on doing lots of nothing with a bit of sightseeing in between.

I'm officially a gardener now though, it's just started raining and I'm actually pleased because I think the plants need it! Hope the garden doesn't miss me too much.


how we spend our days...

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

And this picture sums up the Annie Dillard quote to perfection. It might not look like much but this is a perfect snapshot of my life right now. This is how I spend my days.

This day was warm and sunny, not late-summer-hot but fresh and breezy early-summer-warm. I was walking down a busy road, forest on one side, posh boarding school grounds on the other. It was noisy with cars and birds competing and the odd thumping bass through an open car window. It smelled gorgeous; hot tarmac, exhaust fumes and great waves of sweet, fragrant azalea which filled the air with a honeysuckle-like scent. I was warm and happy with my girls, Elizabeth was warm and happy with her spotty sun hat on and holding the ever-present Bruno. Tilly was hot and happy, her black fur being ill-suited for sunny days but she never cares because as long as she's ahead of us and in the lead she is happy.

This is how I spend my life and I love it. I confess that I love it especially when it's warm, walking in the sunshine is one of life's best and greatest pleasures, but I walk every day regardless of the weather and it's satisfying to be a dog-walker because you get to see so much, so very much. The seasons are alive with change, with smells, with beauty and summer is here and she is bursting out of everywhere with aplomb and fury.

Today smelt of sweet, freshly-cut grass and the air was full of the sound of distant mowers.

Lawn mower is one of Betsy's new words. Along with helicopter, bit longer and noisy.

The blackberry bushes were heavy and pretty with their delicate, white flowers, bringing to mind our magical blackberry day out last year, collecting big, fat berries in a dog-poo bag and not caring because it was so worth it for the taste of the sweet, juicy berries, the look on Betsy's face as she ate them and the joy of blackberry crumble with custard later that evening.

I passed a beautiful, shocking pink and very wild rose that took my breath away. Again. Last year I was so enamoured of this rose that I snipped off some cuttings and have been growing them in pots in the garden with dubious success, mine don't look anything like the ones I saw today.

It's also giant daisy time. Every year I go mad for these massive, gorgeous giants. Every year I take a ton of photos and they all pretty much look the same, I must stop now, I have done daisy-gazing to death. I'm not sure if I can though, they are the most photogenic flowers ever.

This is a somewhat rambling and self-indulgent post. I make no apologies, I'm in love with life and it's when you have something magical like life to record that you realise having a blog is a grand thing. In time I shall look back and wonder where these days went and how they flew but for now I'm going to sit back with a cup of tea, enjoy them and be glad I've written the magic down to save for a rainy day.


a great, full life

We are lucky folk. We have so much to be grateful for, it is indeed true that we have great, full lives. So great and so full that we have barely a moment to sit back, relax and feel that soft, gentle purr of good fortune.

And yet full of what? We have more leisure time now than ever, certainly much more than most of the people around when W.H. Davies wrote his famous poem, Leisure. People in his day were busy earning a living, scrapping around to find enough food, enough warmth, enough safety, just enough anything. They were people who were really full of care, the kind of care we will never have to know in our wonderful world of 24-hour-everything-on-a-plate-ness.

Nowadays our lives are full of a different busy. A new layer has been added to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the whole world is now busy on the internet. Soz Mr Davies, there's def no time for standing and staring now, I've got a date with Netflix tonight.

And so it seems to be a paradox that a hundred years worth of huge leaps and bounds in discoveries, massive social, technological and economical developments plus a million time-saving devices later, we humans still have no time to stand and stare. Humanity just doesn't want to do it. We haven't got the time!

I'm often a bit spaced out and starey so I can appreciate the poem, it strikes a chord. But I'm a mum and we are a time-poor bunch of people. Truth! I didn't believe it BC, pictured myself propped up in front of Jeremy Kyle every morning with a packet of fig rolls and Marie Claire, Betsy happily playing by my feet sort of fending for herself. My dreams were shattered when I realised that a small person requires constant, I mean constant, ain't got no time to go for a wee, supervision and those small moments of time that we all have in a day when we can stop and breathe a bit; waiting for the bus, sitting in traffic, queuing in Greggs, seem to have become much fewer in direct proportion to how much more I have to be grateful for. Yet another paradox.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I wish I had more time to stand and really consider how brilliant this life is. Do you? Maybe we should all just switch off WiFi sets and go out and do something less boring instead.


a poem for our daughters

I've been wanting to share this poem with you for ages but I couldn't find the source.

I hunted high and low to try and find the elusive e.h but had no luck and then yesterday I miraculously came across her place and now I'm so happy to share Erin's beautiful words which should be dedicated to all our daughters and so it is.

Erin Hanson I salute you fine lady.

:: source ::


I wasn't kidding when I said it was shit

See what I mean?

The absolute crappiest bit of crafting I ever did see and all my own work. Brilliant isn't it?