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Smile, boys, that’s the style

What is it that elevates a place from somewhere you lay your weary bones and nourish yourself to being allowed to be  home?  I have yet to work out the why and the what and, in truth, though it is a notion that captivates me, I probably never will find a finite answer. For four years until this September, my home was a village in the North West of le Cantal.  This was hugely significant for me since, for reasons honestly too dull to share, I had moved house eleven times in the previous fifteen years. Suffice to ingest that only one of these moves was by choice.  2016 saw me seldom in this really real home as I was allowed by the Government of the mighty United States of America to reside in  Massachusetts with my two-brained husband and, believe me, I mean truly believe me, I was and remain grateful.   This year we spent the first half in Grenoble together languishing in a vast apartment complete with corinthian columns courtesy of the institute for whom he was doing a tranche of work.  DSCF0375

During all this time, I stoically avoided the entirely socially graceless elephant in the room.  This elephant was the  elephant of good sense which clumsily, due to it’s enormous size and laudibly serious regard for it’s purpose, reminded me constantly that I needed to give up the place I clung to as home with it’s lino floors and terrible light-fittings BUT beautiful high ceilings, exquisite front door, lovely park and outlook beyond and the, to me, deliciously enchanting sound of tiny children taking their first steps on the long road of compulsary education in the classrooms and playground below – the house, you see was built in the 1870s as the village school and still functions on the lower floor as the école maternelle (nursery school).  Eventually I crumpled and admitted defeat just before my husband flitted back to his day job in Cambridge MA and said in a Winnie the Pooh’s stoic friend Piglet-like decidedly small voice ‘we need to let go of the flat and I will stay on in Grenoble’.  And thus and instantly it was decided.  I moved into the flat in which I now live in the heart of ‘The Capital of the Alps’ …. of that more soon, which I did promise you two months ago – I honestly do keep my promises though deadlines can be a fluid concept chez moi.

So you see, the thing is this, as modest as my original French place was, it was home – the flat and the local people  wrapped themselves round me like a gentle hug, let me be the odd English bird even though most of them had no real idea nor particularly care where England even is and never demurred nor murmured to my knowledge behind my back (humour me here, if you will) and to move from it was very very very hard.  It left me feeling deeply sad and it is only now that I feel the bleak and hollow-making mist lifting and life beckoning it’s enticing finger again.  The day we left, our friend Mathilde, the village pâtissière, she of the most swoon worthy madeleines ever to grace le goûter and whom we thought two years ago we were going to lose to cancer, tried every way she could to persuade us that we really CAN stay, that we will find our home in the commune.  It broke my heart. Because we can’t.  For now we can’t.  It is a foolish notion and doesn’t make economic sense and even a half-baked mind like mine, occasionally has to bow to the elephant that trumpets good sense.

The men who moved us were truly, beautifully,  wonderful.  They had moved all our things to Grenoble and then back again (my present home is rented furnished) and made raucous jokes at my expense about women not being able to make up their minds and men being forced to lock step even though they have logic on their side – politically entirely beyond the pail of correctness and exactly and precisely what I needed that rather wan day.  They appeared, outrageously early on parade, that moving morning and it was frankly fortunate that I was not still languishing sanguine in bed and drinking in one last moment of that room that had been my chamber and my comfort when my husband was far away, my delight when I could steer him upstairs when he crossed the Atlantic for a stolen moment or two with me and the sniggering snorting first thing in the morning snuggling place when a daughter stayed with me for a while.  They were tasked with taking our things to Marcolès where eventually, when we have finished the house, they will be unpacked.  Their good humour took me through the day, their understanding that moving is not always easy however much you might love the place you are going, a lesson to all.  We rather felt we had got to know them over the course of the three moves they executed for us. The household name honestly eponymous international firm who originally moved me from England to France should take note.  The attitude, the efficiency, the spirit of understanding that they showed (and that included a young lad of less than 16 years old) should certainly shame the British firm who ended up paying me quite a lot of compensation for losing precious things and duping me with a shared lorry that was supposed to be a single dedicated van for my things. The fact that the pantechnicon that arrived precisely at the time we had told them not to on account of the school managed to decapitate multiple branches on the avenue of plain trees that lined the drive and that the oafish driver came from the school of shout loudly aand slowly and then more loudly and more slowly to make yourself understood to Johnny Foreigner did not attract compensation but it took me months to recover from what felt like a particularly brutal form of removals abuse. You can read the name and address of the French firm on the pictures of their lorry and I would not hesitate to recommend them – they work France-wide and internationally.  We are not done with our moves, we will use them again.

Marcolès was eerily foggy when we arrived and the lady opposite, widowed last Christmas spend a happy 40 minutes watching them unload my life gleefully nothing the see-through boxes full of soft furnishings and the lovely Georgian table named ‘Gerry’s Aunt’ for it’s provenience, my sleigh bed and the washing machine which is not white but black and consequently befuddled her, before the bone-intrusive damp cold got too much for her and she hastened into her parlour from whence she twitched her lace curtains for a further many several minutes.  She was convinced they could not, should not, would not get their lorry between the hairdresser and the post office … looking at the picture, it is unsurprising but they managed it by the skin of the skinniest of teeth and when the postman arrived to empty the letter box, he too entered into the spirit of the occasion leaving his van running and hooting humerous insults at the men from the next department over.  Not many move into our village, too many are moving out – it was a day for celebration and I know I am fortunate.

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Now all my life lies in boxes on the ground floor.  It is time for me to take up the story which I dropped when I moved to the US last year and I will now promise you a Marcolès Monday every week for the next several to bring you up to speed with the work that we have done in the last two years and particularly the work we did in the 6 months that my husband was living on the same continent as me for once, earlier this year.  We have much still to do and we have now put the house in semi-mothballs …. I will go once every couple of months and carry on, but on a dust and air budget progress is very slow.  But the real thing is that we are doing it – no ritzy contractors, no contractors at all just sweat, occasional blood and epic tears.  One day they will be tears of joy when we finally manage to say ‘our work here is done’ … that will be a day for champagne and dancing.  And I, the optimist, look forward to it.

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And there you have it. The why I have been a little absent. My heart felt the leaden wieght of sorrow because my safe-place, my home, my warm hug, my protective cloak, call it what you will has gone.  But the future is ahead – it always is, we have no choice in that and it is for me to take up the drum and beat out the rhythm of life again, live it to the full appreciating all that I have and not (as I caution others but on this occasion have fallen foul of myself) getting stuck in the pesky rear view mirror.  The mantra I brought my children up with is planted to seed and bloom in my own heart once more … everything changes, nothing stays the same.

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PS:  The title comes from World War One Marching song ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ written  the brothers George and Felix Powell. If you have a mind you might read about the ultimately tragic story of the song here.  Whilst I would in no way compare my recent mood to the ill-fated Felix, the melancholy of his story somehow seemed to fit the mood of this piece.

Your bonus:  ‘Oh What A Lovely War!’ which never ceases to remind me that I have absolutely no right to any blues whatsoever:

Pack up your troubles
in your old kit bag
and smile, smile, smile
while you’ve a lucifer
to light your fag
smile, boys, that’s the style

What’s the use of worrying
it never was worthwhile
so, pack up your troubles
in your old kit bag
and smile, smile, smile

Pack up Your Troubles

Felix Powell

218 Comments Post a comment
  1. Funnily enough, I was humming to myself the “Pack up your troubles” song this morning. It’s not one you hear often – and certainly not one that normally crosses my mind. It clearly shows that I was meant to read your blog today!
    You have certainly done some moving around in the last few years. It must have been a wrench to leave Champs,so I hope that your forever home will enable you to put down roots. I look forward to the Marcolès Mondays. It’s not a part of the Cantal that I know and I am dying to find out more about it.
    I hate moving and get very attached to places. As you know, I lived in Pangbourne for a while and loved it there. I was very sad to leave, but had to for career reasons. We’ve been in our current home for 20 years – and it really is a home, shabby and inconvenient in some senses as it is. I can’t imagine leaving, although I suppose one day we will have to. I put that thought out of my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 1, 2017
    • I lived in Pangbourne for the first 18 years of my life and still thought of it as home until my parents moved when I was 41! I really hope the wandering will stop soon … and I wish you many more years before any moving from your lovely home. Mine will come to pass … I just have to focus on the here and now and appreciate what I have and soon enough the future will be the present. I’m good at the theory 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      December 2, 2017
      • The future becomes the present before we are ready for it sometimes. However, I am sure that when it does come you’ll embrace it in your wonderfully philosophical way. In the meantime, focusing on what you have now isn’t a bad way to go.

        Liked by 2 people

        December 2, 2017
      • Such wise words! By the way – I should have said in my other comment – Figeac would be such an ideal place for us to meet up …

        Like

        December 4, 2017
      • Yes, it’s just about halfway between here and Marcolès. I shall look forward to that. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
      • And when the house is finally finished, we hope that you might progress a little further and come and visit – I would love to introduce you to our village historian … I think you would get on famously and he would delight in your knowledge of the South West of France 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
      • That would be lovely. I’m sure your Marcolès posts will whet my appetite even further to see that part of Cantal.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
      • You know me …. I love every nook and cranny of Cantal. Ironically Marcolès is not actually in my favourite area but the village itself is an absolute gem. I prefer the more dramatic areas but that is probably because it suits my melodramatic nature!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
      • I also like the dramatic areas of Cantal, but I have seen photos of Marcolès and the surrounding area and it looks lovely. So that’s something to look forward to.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
      • P.S. looking at the map, it occurs to me that Marcolės is about 50 minutes from Figeac and we are about 50 minutes from Figeac in the SW direction. It would be wonderful to meet up there if you have any time. This is long overdue and I am longing to compare Pangbourne notes since we discovered our mutual connection to the area. I will keep fingers crossed that we can achieve this before too long.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 2, 2017
      • The thing I was obviously not clear about in this piece it’s that I am still living day-to-day in Grenoble since Marcolès is very far from finished. I go there every 5-6 weeks to carry on with the things I can do but it isn’t habitable enough for me to live there. It will be …. I will keep you in touch with upcoming visits. I would so love to meet you. I think I have your email address so why don’t I pop you a note privately?

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        December 4, 2017
      • No, it’s my reply that wasn’t clear. I had understood that you are in Marcolès only infrequently but I hope we might get together on one of your visits (although the weather militates against that for the moment). Yes, do send me an email.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
      • I will! And I entirely agree … we need to stay tucked in at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
    • @ nessafrance: Your sentence:
      The future becomes the present before we are ready for it sometimes
      Struck me deeply, it’s also the story of my life in so many ways – so I’ve decided to take the future in my hands so that whe it beomes ‘present’, I shall be ready…. (maybe!) – Merci

      Liked by 2 people

      December 3, 2017
      • I am the world’s worst procrastinator, Kiki, so the future is always coming upon me before I’ve prepared for it! Good luck with your own efforts to take the future in your hands.

        Liked by 2 people

        December 4, 2017
  2. Well. What can I say? This brings a little tear, home being very close to this heart and knowing what it is to tear one’s roots up from a place that has become home. I am certain that your future home will earn its place in your heart, that this happiness on the horizon will be yours, and that meanwhile you will make your way as the wandering spirit you are with the Bean and Two Brains to keep you steady. Onwards and upwards, courage et bon vent! xx

    Liked by 2 people

    December 1, 2017
    • Thank you Mel …. I think the trick is (and I forgot for a while) to appreciate the here and now, not look back except but rather to take the good feelings and memories forwards and to delight in the adventure of the future rather than worrying about what it will bring of worse still trying to influence it.

      Liked by 1 person

      December 2, 2017
  3. Pack up your troubles… mmm – always brings a tear to my eye that one – not sure about the smile!
    I can’t imagine packing up my bags so many times although I very much admire you for being able to and I can understand why leaving those might columns was really hard! I’m glad the fog is lifting and I’m sure 2018 will bring lots of sunshine and smiles… It’s bound to if you think it will! Big hug for the road… xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    December 2, 2017
    • I have SO much to look forward to. There was a lot of emotion involved in the moving but I can look back on so many places and be grateful that I was allowed to live in them for a while and meantime I have new adventures to grasp as we all do. Writing this piece dislodged the melancholy that had been dogging me and I promise I am much more fettle to grasp the 2018 nettle than I was before. My Brilliance Within is itching to take centre stage xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      December 4, 2017
      • I’m so pleased – I can feel the shine from here! I can’t wait to see the Brilliance Within come out! I’m looking for the rainbows in the meantime… xx

        Liked by 1 person

        December 4, 2017
  4. Hey Osyth, where are you now ? Grenoble or Marcolès ? … Because in the beginning you say “I moved into the flat in which I now live in the heart of ‘The Capital of the Alps’ …

    But then I read what followed and from what I understand they moved you back to Marcolès Cantal (where you had been for 4 years, before moving to Grenoble for 6 months earlier this year) (?)

    Anyway I am sure you’ll find a place you can call home – I know you have found a great moving company so you can use them until then !!

    Have a nice Sunday !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 3, 2017
    • Ah! I have confused you …. Marcolès is our Maison Secondaire and we are in the process of renovating it. It is now weather proof so we were able to move all the things that had lived with me at our house in the north of the Cantal into it. I was sad to leave that flat because it had been my roots for quite a long time. But I live from day to day in o ur rented apartment in Grenoble. I will be here until Spring and then there will be another move but I can’t talk about it at until it is finalized. I have moved a lot so it is not surprising that you found it hard to follow what I am doing. I will be writing posts about the renovation of Marcolès in the coming weeks and also about my place in Grenoble (which is a flat in an Hôtel Particulier) and the town and its surrounds. France has so much to write about!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 4, 2017
  5. We moved quite often, as well, because of my husband’s job. Our daughter would just make new friends at school when we would up-root her. The year before she reached high school she threatened to put herself up for adoption if we ever moved again, so we didn’t (until she was out of school)! It’s never easy, but I always found myself thinking “this is the best place yet.” I hope you’ll love your new home, it’s very picturesque—so smile, smile, smile!

    Liked by 2 people

    December 4, 2017
    • Haha! Teens are so dramatic (and generally mean every word) …. mine is a complicated story (aren’t they all) and not yet done in terms of moving. Mostly I am extremely positive as a spirit but this time it was hard. The place in Marcolès is not where I live – we bought it as a Maison Secondaire and are doing it up slowly … whilst I can stay in it for a few days at a time it is definitely not habitable for the long-term yet. So I live in my lovely rental apartment in Grenoble and I promise I’m making the best of it now that I have gotten the words onto the page which for whatever reason was needed. This piece was really a tiny catharsis. Positive spirits have resumed!!

      Like

      December 4, 2017
  6. What a beautiful, idyllic place to live. I am in awe. As for moving and settling in. It can be a painful process. We moved a lot as well due to my husband’s job and the last one was the most dramatic for me. I don’t like the city or the people and just had a hard time adjusting. That’s one of the reasons I started the Meetup group, I wanted to meet other women close to my own age, hoped I would become friends with my new surroundings. Now, five years later, I have made friends and I like the house. Home is where the heart is, and that’s behind closed doors. 🙂 As for the state or the city we live in, no, we will never be good friends, but we get along.

    Have fun renovating. Make this place your own. Go crazy, let your imagination run wild. Enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 4, 2017
    • What a lovely, empathetic comment. I particularly love the remark *home is where the heart is and that is behind closed doors* …. The flat I live in day to day in Grenoble (6 hours east of the place we are renovating) lends itself well to being a hermit so no complaints and I am also fortunate that the people in the city are generally very pleasant. The renovation has a way to go … we are 3 years into the project now and it WILL be fabulous. It is an Historic Monument (a very tiny one) so we have to treat it with care and understanding … this is a good thing because I tend to be quite the bison, barging through at full tilt and this way I have had time to reflect on ideas and hopefully not make (too many) expensive mistakes. The full story of one’s life unfolds whether one likes each chapter or not and in the end I am a huge believer in not allowing regret to creep in. Therefore, I have put my last four years into a nice place in my heart and am now moving forward and trying to appreciate what I have (whilst not getting too unsettled by what I know will be a major and not final move next year) … one just gets a little weary of adventure! Thank you again for that lovely comment and I wish you much warmth and love behind your own closed doors!

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      December 5, 2017
  7. Oh Fi – I’ve been waiting for this, and I missed it. I’m so sorry you have been feeling so displaced. All the while visiting and saying such nice things while feeling so sad and lost. I have so many more questions than answers. Hubby calls me “nebby” lol but I truly just long to really know people. Deep down to their soul. I long to connect at a meaningful level. I wonder why you’ve had to move. I wonder why you’re living so far from your hubs. Your life seems so glamorous and adventuresome and yet there is more to it that I long to know. But that is not always for me to know and that is ok. I do know you are a very special soul with a heart as big as they come and I have grown to care about you. I see many have. I read a number of such amazing notes from your friends here. ( searching maybe for more answers 😉) and finding so much love and admiration and kinship along the way. Enjoy being with your daughter. Or maybe that already happened as I am late catching this. I moved 6 times as a child before leaving home and thought that was a lot. It was hard. So I understand a bit. But it also made me who I am and I imagine the same for you. I imagine you make friends into family wherever you go spreading your goodness and kindness and love. Wishing you peace dear Fi. Wishing you joy and love and kindness of strangers. Wishing you friendship and goodness and cherished Moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 5, 2017
    • Jodi, dear Jodi – you have me in tears. Joy to know you, touched that you care. I find it very hard to write about myself but I will. I have a final hurdle to climb early next year which will lead to an announcement that I am busting to make but can’t publicly til its truly done. But I have your email address, I think (or pop it here and I will write …. after my daughter returns to England on Sunday as this week is full of the magic of having one of my babies with me for a while) and I am very happy to let you know privately and to give you a quick précis of the whys of this curious life of mine. Really very happy to. I would like that. Take good care, Jodi – yours is a rare and beautiful spirit x

      Liked by 1 person

      December 6, 2017
  8. I try to remind myself that ‘change is growth’ – often easier said…

    Change is exciting and exhausting and scary – but without change we just stay – and I don’t think you are the staying type.

    I am moving cautiously through a big change myself right now so I truly understand.

    Wishing you well from far

    Suz

    Liked by 1 person

    December 9, 2017
    • What a lovely and empathetic message, Suz – thank you so much. I am not a standing still type, for sure – you have read me well. In turn I want to wish you well in whatever transition is occurring in your life. Please feel free to reach out any time. I am so much better than I was and getting stronger and more reminded of my good fortune every day. I never ever say anything I don’t mean so if you need an ear, a shoulder or a just batso woman to remind you that you are sane, then I’m here. In turn I wish you well across the ocean 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

      December 9, 2017
  9. Everything changes – nothing stays the same. A timely read for me, as I pack up our home of the past 14 years and prepare for the next one. It promises to be a massive disruption, but … seems that’s all part of the game. Thanks for this. Amazing photos!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 13, 2017
    • Janet I feel what you are going through. It is never easy saying goodbye to the place that has held us warm for a length of time. I wish you the smoothest of transitions and the most magical of adventures as you discover your new nest. Go gently, my friend – my warmest thoughts to you.

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      December 13, 2017
  10. Sorry about my lateness Osyth.
    In all of your posts there has always been a word or a sentence or a feeling I’m drawn to and then promptly grasp a hold of as if my life depended on it. My curious mind wants to know what the feeling is behind the word or words (my exact words also) used by the speaker or ‘the writer’.
    Three words caught my attention. They are “A Safe Place.” My understanding of a safe place has changed as I grow chronologically 😊 in age. Today my safe feelings would come from a sense of ‘being welcomed’ and followed by ‘belonging’. Two treasured feeliings usually ignited by a community. The structure of the dwelling plays a small role, but an important role in my comfort. Too much space to roam takes away the ‘warmth’, the ‘comfort’ I want to experience when I open the front door to my home.
    For me the ultimate trick is, once found, keeping it! I haven’t learned how to ‘STAY PUT’!!! Although, my feelings of appreciation and enjoyment have grown once I do stumble across ‘my safe place’, hopefully down a short road this time.
    P.S… Love the photos. Especially the Bean shot. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 13, 2017
    • I know you understand. Look at the title of your blog. It says it all. I am fine now. I wasn’t but now I am again. Smile smile smile and eventually it is real again 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      December 13, 2017

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