Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I've been looking through the photos I took last month and tying myself in knots trying to write about what we did and how we felt and how we got on with our first few weeks in France. But the crux of it is that the first couple of weeks here were hard. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - we weren't in London, there was limitless wine and cheese and we were beautifully looked after by Nye's parents but I was lonely and worried and completely fucking useless.

The girls are I were here and Nye was still in London and we missed him more than we ever imagined we would. W&P started school and I was worried about everything I could possibly worry about – would they be lonely, would they be scared, would they be bullied, would I ever figure out what to do with the forms that needed to be filled in so that they could have lunch? (Spoiler; it's been nine weeks and I'm still not entirely clear on the procedure. There this Brown Envelope with White Forms and Yellow Tickets, and the Brown Envelope is Very Important and the Yellow Tickets are crucial and whether or not your child can have lunch on a Wednesday changes every week depending on what combination of public holidays France is confusing me with today and whether or not your child can have lunch at all depends on filling in and returning the form correctly and where one gets the tickets and what one does with the tickets has never been entirely clear but it has been clear that it's all Very Important and that if you don't hand the envelope back in time with the correct tickets you get a cross note from the Mairie and the post box beside the Mairie's door is NOT the Marie's letterbox, it's the post box and if you put the envelope in there when the Mairie is closed you will have to get your mother in law to ask her friend the post mistress to come and open the letterbox with her key before the postman collects the mail and takes your Very Important Brown Envelope to Montpelier and MON DIEU. A lot of my anxiety about giving up our jobs and our home and moving to France has been focused on the Brown Envelope. I have cried about that envelope more than once . . . I hate that envelope.)*

There was a lot of treading water whilst we waited for things to settle. A lot of chasing frogs for the girls and getting drunk alone while watching Nashville for me; which actually is not a bad life at all. (A note on getting drunk alone; apparently it's frowned upon but I found it deeply satisfactory. I've always experienced hangovers to be 74% shame and regret, which are entirely eliminated if your internet connection is too slow to support netflix and twitter at the same time and reduced to a manageable 28% if you have access to social media, 12% if your account is private.)

I flew back to London to photograph a wedding near the beginning of the month. Three weeks is how long you get to live in France before your life is rear-ended bles grèves (strikes, but it sounds more charming and less infuriating if you say it in French). The day before I was due to leave I got a very cheerful text message from the airline to tell me that my flight wouldn't actually be going, 'sorry for any inconvenience, if you would like a refund HAHAHAHA'. Fun times. I made it though and going to a wedding – being so close to retiring from it for good - was new and different. People asked it it changed our minds about quitting which it didn't, then people asked it it was terrible, which it wasn't. It was more akin to those early days when we first started, when it seemed like a fun day's work with free food, interesting people and impressive venues that a pleb like me would never otherwise have access to, but not something I'd want to do too much of. Which is kind of ideal, because we have four more and then we are ex-wedding photographers.

We still don't know what we're going to do next. That epiphany has been slow in coming. For now I'm trying to accept the painful lesson that the universe seems to be forcing on me that it's okay not to have a plan (or Slow Down, Chill the Fuck Out and Smell the Jasmine.) There has been a lot of recuperating to be done. When I arrived Nye's mum was wiped out with a Thing; a nameless sweaty, achy, exhausted, tearful virus that had been kicking her ass for 6 weeks. Of course I got it too, and got it and got it and got it. There has been a lot of sleeping and resting and not even giving a crap that I couldn't do more, which is not a state I'm used to. Normally when I get a flu sort of thing I am PISSED OFF that I am unable to be and do, but this time... no. Sleeping, napping, resting was occasionally interrupted with absolute fear that I was never going to get better, but then I would fall asleep again. I don't know if I've ever written here about that time when I was 14 and I got a virus and I didn't really get better for about seven years. That was rough. Anyway, I'm pretty much better now. I can tell partly because I don't feel like I was kicked by a horse and partly because I'm getting bored with not Doing. Boredom is a good sign. I haven't been doing a lot of Doing because I've been doing a lot of Working, but I'm thinking about Doing, which is an improvement. Comprendre?

After the wedding Nye and I drove (he drove, I provided moral support and inadequate navigation) back to France together, leaving our house and our neighbourhood behind and rejoicing about both. Boarding the ferry on Dover felt like a pivotal moment in our lives together, if a little confusing, seeing as how I'd already moved to France four weeks earlier. But it was better this time; there was Nye, there was sea, there was finality, there was no Ryanair. We drove and drove through France and round in circles a bit and worryingly far into Paris ('Should we be able to see the Eiffel Tower? Aren't we supposed to be 100 miles west right now?') and finally, a day later, up the hill to The Last House. Which, as an aside, is number 271 on a street which has 5 houses. The next door neighbours are 168. The numbers were decided based on how many feet from the start of the road the house was situated, allowing for extra houses to be built over the years without the horror of having to number them 2b, 3b etcAs with so much of French life, I can't decide if this is ridiculous or genius.

Since Nye got here (or since Mummy went to fetch Daddy, as we sold my leaving to our already insecure children) life has been altogether better. There was still a good spell of viral ineptitude, existential confusion and yelling at each other over how to parent our children (accommodating someone else's opinions after three weeks of making all of the decisions is absolute riot, highly recommended.) but there was more planting and cooking and playing and walking and marveling at how bloody lucky we are. Life has been good. 

I have so many pictures to share with you guys but I remain confused about the difference between instagram and here. The main differences seem to be that it's a pain in the arse to post the stuff I take with a real camera on instagram (I'm taking stuff with a real camera again!) and that when I post stuff here I'm never sure if anyone has actually seen or liked it. I would appreciate if blogger introduced an instagram-style heart button. And maybe a functional mobile commenting system. Just an idea.

*Never was so much parenthetical material written about an envelope. I'm giving myself an imaginary fist bump right now.

* Picture featuring me (me! in a picture! That almost never happens) and ma terrible roots by Nye's mum.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


Espresso, by Christopher Reid.

Little cup of melancholy,
inch-deep well of the blackest
concentrate of brown,
it comes to your table without ceremony
and stands there shuddering
back to an inner repose.
Pinch it: it's still hot.
Soon, its mantle of bubbles
clears, but the eye –
all pupil, lustreless –
remains inscrutable.
Rightly so. This is your daily
communion with nothingness,
the nothingness within things.
Not to be sipped, it's a slug,
a jolt: one mouthful, then gone,
of comforting tarry harshness.
Which you carry now as a pledge
at the tongue's dead centre,
and the palate's, blessed
by both the swallowed moment
and its ghost, its stain.
 From Christoper Reid's Nonsense (Faber, £12.99 Guardian bookshop)