I've just got back to France from 6 weeks in the UK, London mainly. When I was here on my own over Christmas (the first time I have spent a whole month here on my own - and I loved it), I took a long hard look at my life and tried to work out why I was still not on top of the world. I have spent the last 3 years figuring out who I am, what I want and how to get that. But still something was missing. And at Christmas this year I figured out what it was. Although I love this place with my whole heart, it is my home and has been for many lifetimes and will be for many more to come, and it is the place I find I can truly be myself and live at my own pace, it's just a little too quiet to be here all the time.
So I made a decision. I wanted to spend more time in the UK. I've never lived here because I don't like the UK, it's never been that, it's just that this place is my spiritual home. And I realised that I can carry that with me, wherever I am, whatever I am doing. So I don't need to be here all the time to get the benefits of it. And actually I love the UK, I love the energy of London - the fact that if you stay still for long enough the whole world will pass you by. That the larder / store cupboard is the Sainsbury's / Waitrose down the road and you pick up what you want for dinner by getting off the bus one stop earlier. That you can text a friend at 5 o'clock and be sitting sipping martinis enjoying Happy Hour in the Barbican by 6.
So come February this year off I trotted to London. With no real plan, just to hang out and see what happened. And boy did lots happen. I met new people, I made new friends. I did some work, I gave a talk or two, I sat on an amazing panel of amazing women talking about founding business, I got a couple more gigs for May and I got contacted by a colleague from many moons ago who wants me to help her company. TBH it couldn't have gone much better.
But, 5 weeks in I got homesick and I was more than pleased to return back to the mountain last Saturday. Since then I have been pottering around, hanging out, going for walks with the dogs, spending time with my wife, showing the place to a beautiful new friend, touching the land, re-connecting with my world. Its been lovely.
And on Thursday evening our neighbour Sylvain came round for a beer. Sylvain lives at the corner of our little group of houses, in his family home. Its a bit of a mess, he's a bit of a mess, but he has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met. He knows people by feeling them. Literally touching them, feeling their energy and removing their pains. And the pain in the world hurts him. So he drinks to cope. There are times you can reach him and times you can't. And he loves language and he loves word games.
He came round to ask Emma to cut his dog's hair. His dog is called Whisky and he is the dog that everyone that visits Fosse falls in love with and wants to take home. Whisky is like the village dog. He spends his day going round the village visiting everyone. All the humans and all the dogs. He gets his posse together - Trio and Ellios from Upper Fosse and they all come and knock at our door for our dogs to come out to play. Which they do.
Whisky is the one of the sons of Sylvain's old dog, Coquiette. She was knocked over by a hit and run in Fosse a couple of years ago, after which the village got speed bumps. Anyway, one of the families that had taken a puppy of hers gave him back to Sylvain because they didn't want him to be on his own and since then Whisky has become sort of the village dog, loved by all - our cheery mascot.
So Sylvain arranged with Emma to come and cut Whisky's hair on Saturday morning and he would cook us lunch. And he was going to invite a couple of other people - his daughter and a tree surgeon from Fenouillet.
So come 1100 this morning Emma trotted off next door with her clippers and scissors to cut Whisky's hair. I went to Caudies to pick up a few bits, and we met back here at 1230 to go next door for lunch. The rain, that had been raining steadily since 4pm yesterday, had stopped so when we got to Sylvain's the sun was out and everyone was sitting outside. So we made ourselves at home. We had a drink of wine and awaited the feast.
Now Sylvain doesn't have much. He lives hand to mouth. But he had got up at 0430 this morning to make some puff pastry - FROM SCRATCH - to create a leek tart for starters. And I don't think I've tasted anything like it. It was perfection - melt in the mouth pastry with sharp and sweet leek filling. Mouth-wateringly wonderful. We ripped a lettuce apart to have some salad with a bit of vinaigrette, and made light work of the starter.
Then Sylvain brought out the main course. Roti of pork, with a light cheese, bacon and lardon sauce, with roasted potatoes. Lip smackingly delicious. Then we had some conversation - I asked Sylvain about his chickens and we shared some jokes - I told him why Frenchman only ate one egg for breakfast and he told me about the man in the restaurant who, when offered tongue for lunch refused it on the basis of not eating anything that came from an animal's mouth, and instead asked for an egg.
Finally Sylvain brought out dessert - his famous normandy apple pie. I don't think I even have the words to describe this. Suffice to say of any apple pie I have eaten, and I have eaten a lot of apple pie in my time, this was the best. It was so good that 4 other people from the village turned up to share it.
Then coffee and home. And now I'm writing this. In rapture. I couldn't have asked for a better welcome home, back into the folds of my french family. People round here aren't rich. They don't have a constant supply of new clothes. They don't pop to the shops on a daily basis to stock up. They don't care about status or job position or where you come from or what colour you are (although they did all chuckle at my white English pallor). But they get up early to cook you puff pastry. They welcome you with a smile and patience while you try to make sense of their language. They make you feel special with a lovingly prepared slice of pork and a glass of rose wine served in a Jungle Book glass.
And that's why we will survive this hatred, this division, the war that's coming. Because at a basic level, we humans love and care for each other. Because when we have nothing we are still able to give and receive generosity. And if we can remember that, we will be fine.