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.
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 in Cantal that 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 we closed up our grandiose Grenoble apartment and 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.
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.
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.
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