Sunday, 28 February 2016

SPRINGTIME PART 1: DECLUTTER

It feels very fitting to declutter in Springtime. Cleansing after the winter. The time of year when we shift from our 'inside' lives to the outdoors and it comes naturally to play more at floating celandine flowers in puddles, stirring them with sticks and filling buckets with mud than anything else.

Since Linny was born I feel as if I've waged a battle against her toys ; the toys other people buy for her, the toys we have bought for her, the toys she has inherited that used to belong to Florent or I, the toys we have found, generously placed on garden walls to give away...

There are a number of reasons for this battle ;

  • I don't think children need a lot of toys. I think having mountains of things can be overwhelming for them and I think too many toys can begin to restrict their imagination.
  • I hate unexpectedly standing on small pieces of plastic.
  • I don't want to spend unneccessary amounts of time picking up toys and tidying them away and/ or telling my daughters to tidy up. (My sisters and I have an irrational adversity to vacuum cleaners which we believe to be born out of our mother's vacuuming ritual where she would give us an alloted amount of time to clear up before she'd come roaring in with the vacuum, it's plastic head ploughing through the litter of shells, my little ponies and plastacine models, sucking up anything small enough. Later we might be allowed to fish through the dirt in the vaccum bag to search out a baby frog Sylvanian but these episodes have marked us all.)
  • Some toys are almost disposable, breaking almost instantly in clumsy hands, a short detour on an almost direct route from factory to landfill. I don't think it is a responsible way to teach my children about material things in our fragile world.
  • Some toys are manufactured in a way that causes misfortune to other children elsewhere in the world ; pollution, parents working in terrible conditions for pitiful wages...

However, despite the above list, I don't want to evangelise. I am certainly not writing from a moral high ground. For the most part I feel I have failed in restricting my children's toys to a minimum. I feel they have far too many things. I have come to realise that people love offering the girls toys as gifts, I love offering the girls gifts and as Linny gets older she loves receiving them and accumulating them. We are very grateful to all those who have bought them gifts and love a lot of what has been offered to them.

As Linny has become older she has become more attached to her things; particularly her collection of dolls, stuffed animals and Ken, the Action Man figure. Ken who she insists showers with me, Ken who I sometimes find myself sleeping with in bed, Ken, who is at this very moment, in her hospital having surgery.

Moving to France has afforded us the opportunity to declutter and purge our things. I initally relished this and started enthusiastically putting unopened bank statements into a box, got rid of about four items of clothes and then slowly ground to a halt. The toys are the next on my list. A small amount of our possessions will go into storage, a very small amount is coming with us (one small suitcase for the girls...) and the rest we are giving away or selling. 

I think Ken will come with us but for the most part we are going to be free of our possessions and Linny and Ira left to create their games with humble sticks and stones and we'll just have to see how this goes. 
  


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

COLD FEET.


It's only with the prospect of leaving looming over me that I have come to realise how rooted I feel here. How the familiarity of where I live is my home. All my life I have sought adventure and now instead of it beckoning and pulling me towards it there is something that yearns for my feet to remain planted on the ground, on the floor of our house and the pavements of the streets I walk every day. My babies were born in the hospital on the hill which I can see from here and their lives lived out here so far and so too my life as a mother. An identity that seems to have consumed me over the past three years.

As is perhaps often the case when we make 'big' decisions in life there is an initial excitment and giddiness at the prospect of what will be new and then start all the mundane considerations which allow time for doubts to creep in. My shyness of this adventure has surprised me.

Moving to France is hardly the most adventurous move we could be making. Renovating a small French village house has been done many, many times before so there is little about our plan to provoke the cold feet I'm dragging along at the moment. This move is relatively safe and not really unknown to us (my partner is French and I have lived in France before) and before having children I envisaged taking them away for months at a time, treking accross exotic mountains or tasting new foods in bustling market places. For the time being I think it's wise that for now we're trying a path well trodden to somewhere closer to home.

The most significant change will, I think, be moving from our urban life in a bustling, exciting and friendly city to a small, rural French village and the life that comes with it. This distinct upheavel to our lifestyle is welcome but not because we are unhappy with the one we have, we just that we want to try something different too. It's what I know I will miss that makes my roots here feel stronger; my friends, my family and the community we are part of. It's as if what I believe to be best for our family is in conflict with what is already pretty good for our family.

We plan to spend the first three to four months living in a tent (or tents) to save on the cost of renting somewhere (not really viable on our super small budget) and to enjoy being as close to our natural surroundings as possible. I'm excited at the prospect of waking to the sound of birdsong or raindrops or wind or to the heat of sunshine through the tent walls. I want the girls to wake and unzip a door and be instantly outside breathing in the fresh air and walking barefoot on grass. I'm looking forward to not having electricity on hand in the evenings; to read books until it goes dark or write with pen and paper. This is some of what is pulling me, most of it is about being more present in our natural environment and further away from the distraction of technology which I often find to be in conflict to what I want my children to experience in their early years.

I'm trying to keep these images in mind during the times when I think I want to stay here and continue my lovely routine of playgroups, parks, museums and everything else here which makes it so great. Sometimes changes feel overwhelming but I believe that I might regret not making them if I let my attachment to my life right here and now dictate the decisions I make.


Friday, 12 February 2016

THE HOUSE IN ALL ITS UNDERSTATED GLORY...











These pictures are of the little terraced house we are buying. As there was no electricity connected when we visited the other photos are of dusty black rooms, the only light from holes in walls or the roof illuminating precarious looking floor boards so I'll leave those ones out...
  We are both very excited about bringing life back here, at once overwhelmed by the challenge and looking forward to the satisfaction of slowly making it a home again.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

WHY 'STORIES AND LENTILS'

  I asked Florent for his advice when devising a title for the blog and asked what words came to his mind when he thought about our imminent move to the Pyrenees. 'Lentils' was one of the first he volunteered. Because we'll be eating a lot of them. In fact we already do. The staple in any economical largely vegetarian diet.

I thought 'stories'. Whatever happens we'll have stories. Stories for us to tell, stories that will make up the patchwork of experiences we will provide for our daughters. They may recount them later in their lives, tales not remembered but part of their imagination, part of the collective family history, everyone's version slightly different.

The more I thought about these two words, 'story' and 'lentil' the more they seemed to fit what we are seeking : A simple, soulful and humble adventure. Those things said, however, I don't doubt that I'll quickly tire of lentils.