Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Moving on....

Well, life is full of ups and downs, isn't it?
And what matters is how we react to them.

The horse I went to see on Sunday, the horse I was making plans to buy, the horse whose owner hugged me and told me I'd be perfect for him and I could have first refusal...
She sold him to someone else.
Just like that.

Of course I was furious, and upset, to put it mildly, I was devastated. For the afternoon and evening I was, once again, that little pony-mad kid who had been told that she couldn't have her pony. It was a huge disappointment. To be honest, I cried myself to sleep.

This morning I woke and it is June 6th.
Twenty eight years ago today I sat on the floor of a crematorium, unable to stand, and wept through my father's funeral service.
Twenty eight years ago today, as were leaving to follow the hearse I took a phone call from The Ex's sister. My mother in law had just died of breast cancer.
Two years ago today I started on a course of chemotherapy for my own breast cancer.

June 6th is a day that challenges my family.

This morning I sat in bed with a cup of tea and thought back to those other June 6ths.
And then I deleted the messages from the owner of the horse and blocked any future ones she may try to send me. It was evidently not meant to be and that is that. There may be another horse, there may not, What will be will be. All we can do is go with the flow and keep on moving on...

N'est-ce pas?
Here's to being alive xxx


Sunday, 4 June 2017

Neutralising the negative...

The books are disappearing into boxes...

I find it interesting to note the order in which I am addressing the packing this time:

First the bone chine tea set, rarely used, saved for best, in France I will drink my morning tea from one of the cups perhaps with a little home-baked ginger biscuit in the saucer because it is, after all, the little things that make a good life.

Then the two very expensive crystal glasses, bought for me by a friend over forty years ago, to be used during romantic dinners, I have never used them. Is this becoming a metaphor for my life? The little luxuries I never felt good enough to use?

Then the books. Ah, the books. So many books. Many I'd forgotten I'd bought and have not read. When did my life become so busy that I have dozens of unread books? I sorted them into piles, some to donate to the hospital in Oxford, some for a friend to take to her local pub where they will be sold for another good cause... It's hard to part with books, hard but necessary. It's the holding on to old books that I have already read that keeps me from opening new ones, I think. Perhaps. Well, it's a state of mind that I wish to change.

But it is taking me a long time to pack for this move.
And I don;t know if that indicates a reluctance? A fear of the future? A desire to cling to that which is familiar? Nostalgia? Idleness? Perhaps I just have too much time on my hands, Having too much time is another problem for another post. Remind me sometime, please.

Back to the books.
Do I take all of the books on cyber security?
I have spent hundreds of pounds on books, books on programming, reverse engineering, hacking, internet forensics, operating systems internals...
Do I pack them and take them to Brittany? Or do I give them away? Would anyone want them? Do I want them? Do I, more to the point, need them? It was an interesting job, protecting cyber space, stopping spammers and scammers from stealing from people, occasionally reporting the image of a terrified abused child to the IWF, writing complex code to counter the Bad Guys' evil intentions. It was interesting and worthwhile and it almost broke me.

Do I want to hang on to the books?
Do I want to let go?

I am smiling because I imagine them in the dog's crate, behind bars, padlocked, safely out of harm's way. Perhaps I'll do that with all of these books that remind me of the dark side of the Internet. After all, that's what moving forward is all about, neutralising the toxic emotions, disarming that which harmed us, mentally reducing it to an amusing image, and letting it go.

N'est-ce pas?


Saturday, 3 June 2017

On being Stormur...

Do you recall that Icelandic horse that I rode last November?
The one that started something...
How to explain that last sentence?

It was cancer that taught me a lesson I really should have learned eleven years ago when I first went to France but that I obviously did not learn because I came back.

Why did I return and walk willingly, enthusiastically into the Corporate Cage?

Fear, of the future
Forgetfulness, of the past
Failure, to put my own well-being first

Having cancer showed me how far I had drifted from the feisty seven year-old pony-mad tomboy that I once was, and how much of myself I had allowed to be smothered and suffocated by the insane struggle to survive in a society that I neither understand, nor support, nor care to continue to contribute to.

Having cancer stripped me bare of the layers that I had built around myself thinking they would protect me, layers that were as brittle as the thinnest shell and as protective as gossamer.

I went to Iceland to rediscover that feisty little kid, and while I certainly did not return a Viking Warrior, at least I started on the path to becoming one.

For the last few months I have been engaged in negotiations with The Corporation as we seek to find a moderately satisfactory way to end our relationship. This has actually been going on since December 2015 when I realised that It Would Not Do and I resigned, which act stirred up a hornet's nest of trouble and resulted in some serious stuff. I am not permitted, contractually, to discuss that, nor the settlement that may finally be signed this coming week.

Happily it will soon be done and dusted.

When I went to Iceland I rode a horse called Stormur, Icelandic for Storm.
Now, six months later I am learning Icelandic, on the brink of buying an Icelandic horse whose name means Fire, and preparing to go back to Brittany.

Everything happens for a reason
N'est-ce pas?

Friday, 2 June 2017

Letting go...

They cut the grass on the green yesterday, which means that at 08.00 am, as I sit here with the doors wide open to let in the sunlight and the sounds of a blackbird singing, the delicious scent of freshly-mowed grass fills my lungs and my heart.

It is delicious, this summer morning freshness with its promise of a hot day to come.   

And I am, once again, in the process of letting go.
Letting go and packing my possessions for another move.

It's something I am good at, being the child of nomadic parents and the product of seven junior and five senior schools, I live like a camel train, ready to up and leave with each new dawn, although not quite as frequently, but it's that mentality.

Home is where the heart is, or, in my case, the dog and the books and soon, I sincerely hope, the horse, but that is another story to be saved for another day.

And though I sometimes miss the places where I've been, the village green I've walked on thrice daily for almost seven years, the lanes where I've wandered, the untidy flower-filled corners that seem to grow around me wherever I put down my short roots...

And even though it means leaving behind the bush that I have dutifully pruned and tended so that this year it has more blossoms than ever before...

Even so,  nothing lasts forever and life is one long, slow-moving river that runs, eventually, to the sea.

So, this is me today...
Contemplative, a little nostalgic, noting all that I will miss...
And knowing that forwards is really the only way to go.

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.