Posts Tagged ‘ france ’

Teenager alert! (and he’s only 10)

Things my 10 year old son claims he no longer likes that he used to:

*Night-time cuddles and stories – “yeah mum, like I want you in my face before I go to sleep – not.”

*Super Furry Animals, Radiohead, Wedding Present, Smiths, any of the many bands with guitars I indoctrinated him into liking as a child – “they’re, like, so old fashioned. Haven’t you even heard of Bruno Mars? Or Chase & Status? God, you’re so ancient.”

*One or two of his childhood friends – “mum, they’re so immature. And they don’t even know it.”

*His dad – “I sometimes think you just haven’t taken to me.”

*His brother – “Sometimes I wish you hadn’t been born, you’re THAT annoying.”

*Me – “Did they have exams when you were younger to get into university or were you just allowed in even if you weren’t clever, like you?”

*Having his picture taken – “If you take one more picture of me without asking my permission first I’m going to sue you.”

Things I love about my 10 year old:

*The way he insists on wearing aftershave (Lynx Africa)

*The amazing cuddles he gives me – they may be loads less frequent but when they come they are so worth it.

*The way he flicks his head to get his new fringe out of his eyes

*How he loves horror stories, even though they frighten him

*The brilliant way he amuses his brother with silly impressions and crazy voices to cheer him up if he’s sad or hurt.

*His lovely caring nature; he may try to act tough but he gives it away every time

He no longer allows me to take his photo, unless it is for a very special reason, like he’s engaged in an unusual activity like flying down a zipwire. Instead, to feed my desire to capture his lovely face as often as possible, I have to devise cunning and sly tricks.

Due to computer problems I can’t seem to upload an image to the blog today, but suffice to say they are of a “blurry/arty” nature – where he has moved suddenly on realising his picture is being taken. Several of them were taken inside the Pompidou Centre in Paris during a trip yesterday. We took part in an art project, called Inside Out. The artist, called JR, has set up a giant photobooth in the centre and each person enters the booth, sits still and an image is taken. During the process a bindi mark is placed on every person’s forehead. The resulting images are printed out onto giant sheets of paper – mine is nearly as big as me – which are ejected from a huge slot high up at the top of the giant photobooth, from where they flutter to the ground, to excited squeals from the people waiting below. It is great fun and you can see the results at http://www.insideoutproject.net/pompidou

Behind the fun lies the incredibly powerful idea that everyone is beautiful and unique. As someone who constantly struggles with self image, it was interesting to note my own reaction. While everyone else in my family ooed and aahed over their posters and laid them out on the floor to take in all their glory, I couldn’t wait to roll mine up and hide it away. Participants are urged to put their poster faces up in their own community – while I can think of a million places I’d want to display the giant faces of my sons and husband, I can’t imagine being comfortable placing my own giant face anywhere other than in the back garden. Funny how a bit of fun art can make you stop and think and analyse your own vision of yourself, isn’t it? I’ve certainly embraced one of the stated aims of the project – “to discover, reveal and share your untold story…”

You don’t have to visit France to join in – visit http://www.insideoutproject.net to find out how to submit your own portrait and receive a poster back in return.

Next to the giant photobooth were traditional, smaller versions, which produced 7x5inch prints. Felix had to kneel up to get to the right eye level for his pic – and while he was doing so I snapped a couple of candid pix. He will hate that I photographed him without him knowing it, so am I morally right to do so? It’s a tough one – I know I’d hate it.

As my son enters into the twilight world of teenage insecurity, I’m sure he, like me, doesn’t see and appreciate his own beauty, and that’s probably why he constantly asks me to erase the pictures I’ve taken of him. I won’t though – I want him to know that he is beautiful and amazing, if only he’d open his eyes to it. A lesson there for me too I think.

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Crisis? What Crisis?

I’m 43 years old. Blimey.When did that happen? In my head I’m still just a flibberty-gibbet, a teen angel, a babe in arms. But I’m not; I’m 43. Bloody hell. When I got caught smoking at school, aged 15, I had to take a letter home to my parents. I recall being terrified about my parents’ reaction, and dreaded the sound of them coming up the stairs on their return home from work to confront me – yet also recall, really vividly, that in the midst of my telling off all I was thinking was how OLD they looked, with their disappointed faces and angry folded arms. And how superior I was, with my youth and brilliance.

They would have been at least five years younger than I am now, so God knows how my kids see me when I’m laying down the law. Youngest inexplicably thinks I’m 29. He has no idea about age; he thinks his granny (70) is 43.

So, like it or not, I’m officially middle aged. The least I can do to mark such a momentous event is to take up hang-gliding, take a lover, or take a dive into insanity. I have no desire to do any of these.

I’m writing this in a French forest, at a picnic table outside our holiday home in a Yelloh! village an hour and a half’s train ride from Paris, in the complete darkness, drunk on wine and contentment, while my beautiful family sleeps and snores feet away. The thrum of busy insect life is occasionally punctuated by a scurrying beast or the incredibly loud thwack of acorn against roof. It is amazing here; a place of complete and utter tranquility. I am at peace.

It was not always thus. Three years ago, approaching my 40th birthday, I did go a tad insane. For people who have read my blog for a while, or who know me, this was proper off the rails – for a couple of weeks I was barely able to get the kids to school of a morning, let alone be much good for owt. (By the way, I’m not from Yorkshire, but it does seem to be my default setting when merry to get all “owt” and “twas” and “twat”.)

But – and it took a while admittedly, and needed the support of my ace family  – I got through it. I still have my moments of stress and anxiety, but mostly I am totally sane. (Hahaha-hahaha-hahaha *runs like loon around holiday park dressed in nothing but a figleaf and elf ears*)

The last three months have tested my sanity to the max. I have taken on a trying new role (part time, they said – part time, my arse) combined with looking after the kids, house and family stuff, and trying to drum up a bit of business of the PR variety. If I was going to lose it, I probably would have by now. Admittedly, I’ve come close once or twice. Only two weeks ago I was so caught up with juggling work demands, childcare, general household responsibility and a million other things that, in the midst of rowing with my 10 year old, I drove off after filling up with petrol at my local petrol station without paying. Thankfully a nice policeman and the garage manager trusted in my innate honesty and recognised my misdemeanour for the absolute mindblock that it was, and let me off.

Other than that blot, I have generally remained calm and collected in the face of considerable pressure. Now, finally, three years on, I feel a corner has been turned, a hurdle cleared, a lesson learned. It seems I can cope after all; I am not destined for the loony bin just yet.

I can, it seems, do a job that I am falling in love with, despite its excessive demands on my time and brain power, while also caring for and spending quality time with my kids and family. Friendships have definitely suffered along the way, but I’m desperately planning to make amends on that score over the next few months. Generally, though, I feel I have survived a tough few months and things can now only get better.

So, now what? What have you got planned now, middle age?

As increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances face up to illness and disability, to loss and pain, it’s obvious that becoming middle aged brings increasing vulnerability to the rigours of being a mere mortal. I used to feel I was immune, infallible, that somehow I was one of the chosen ones who would not succumb to such boring rituals as getting ill or bereavement. I don’t feel like that any more. It’s a shame, losing that carefree notion of a carefree life, but there it is.

Middle aged suggests midway. If that’s true, that means I will pop off this mortal coil at about 86. Now, that actually sounds like a fair deal, speaking from my 43 year old berth. I’m pretty damn sure that when I’m 85 it will be a less attractive proposition. However, I also know too many people who have breathed their last long before getting close to middle age. It is something to celebrate you know, getting this far intact!

Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips had it about right when he sang “Do you realise everyone you know, one day, will die…” I mean, it’s hardly a revelation is it, yet we all block it out, and avoid thinking about it – but we are all DOOMED.

Time really does go fast; and it is hard to make the good times last. All we can do is appreciate every drop of goodness, every day of happiness. We can watch the sun set every night, until the day we die, but only if we also remember that the sun going down is just an illusion, caused by the Earth spinning round.

My family is still sleeping. The forest is still alive with rustling and creaking and scuttling. I feel like I am the only person awake in the whole of France. A candle burns fiercely beside me, my glass of wine stays resolutely filled up, as if by some magic hand (mine, if truth be told) and the air is still. The stars are shining bright in an arc over my head. It’s a beautiful evening, still warm enough for me to be sat here on the laptop outdoors at the midnight hour. I could be in paradise. I’m not, it’s only France, but I’ve got everything I need right here, within feet of me. But most of all, right now, today, I may be middle aged but I’ve also got peace of mind and a happy heart. Who could wish for more?

 

 

Here Comes The Summer (Or Was That It?)

Sunflower in a field, Dienne, near Poitiers, France

So, that was summer then. Farewell, dear thing. You were rubbish. Again.

We went to France for our hols this year, visiting the Loire and Brittany. The weather was a mixed bag – some cloud, some rain, some perfect blue skies, but mostly the temperatures were on the right side of 70 and it was dry, which is all I need for a great camping holiday.

We returned last Sunday, pulling in to Portsmouth quay to lashing rain, misty grey dampness and news bulletins awash with flood warnings. The sun has since deigned to poke its way through the clouds occasionally to give a last blast of heat, but otherwise it’s been overcast and a bit chilly.

Fortunately, I’ve been stuck indoors for the best part of the last two days, working my way through mountains of washing while also transferring the contents of my kitchen out of storage boxes and into freshly fitted new cupboards.

Today I finally felt I’d earned a break, so took the kids bowling before beginning the long trawl through the too many photographs I had taken on our gallic sojourn.

I had briefly fallen out of love with photography as a pastime earlier this year, but really enjoyed snapping away during this holiday. I still find the task of sitting at a computer and post-processing them all a really boring chore. As a result I have limited my “photoshopping” to some amateurish fiddling about with a few sliders to increase or decrease the contrast, colours and brightness, plus a bit of cropping.

That said, a few of the pictures I took this trip are, I think, in their current unadulterated form, among the best I’ve ever taken. They are mostly of my beautiful boys but also of some of the places we came across, including “the most visited tourist attraction in France outside Paris”. But more of these another time.

In the first batch I went through today I stumbled across a set of sunflower pictures.

They were taken in Dienne, a small village 20km south of Poitiers, on a gloriously sunny morning. The temperatures here regularly hit the high 80s, and sunflower fields abound.

In this particular field, most of the flowers were already beginning to wilt and drop their pretty yellow heads. But from the roadside it was easy to see that one or two of the flowers were at their most majestic. I climbed across a ditch, camera in hand, to get up close to this particular specimen.

I love the way its head is straight and proud. One could almost believe it knew it was king of the hill, top of the heap. A bee buzzed in to join me in my admiration.

I’ve reproduced two of the images here, but also had a play around with those sliders in Photoshop to produce a couple of alternative super-saturated images, which appeal to the pop-art fan in me.

I hope they serve as a reminder that summer was here, if only briefly – and, fingers crossed, it might yet make a comeback before August is over and done with.