I have a confession to make... I never get plastered, hammered, pissed, drunk as a skunk, trashed, smashed, or 'rond comme une queue de pelle'.
It's in part cultural, probably. In France people drink as much as in other countries, even more than some, but they do so by drinking often, a little : generally a glass of wine with their meal, sometimes an 'apéro' before the meal.
Also I hate being sick, nearly to the point of phobia. So I've always steered clear of heavy drinking. I suffered from migraines from the age of 13, no way will I suffer the same symptoms from my own doings.
I don't like either the idea of loosing control and putting myself or someone else in danger.
So I drink, a bit. I can get slightly merry but no more and I like it like this. The only thing is, I think, it can appear a bit judgemental not to join in with the drinking when at a party. As a matter of fact DH and I have felt in the past that we were not invited to events where everybody on our Facebook newsfeed seemed to be going, because, as mild drinkers, we are not seen as party material...
It's strange, isn't it, how an apparently small difference can make you feel that you don't really 'fit in'. Even on the Monday school run, I can't join in stories of drunken evenings and Sunday morning hangover, nore do I dare to say 'I wouldn't know, I never get drunk.'
So there, I say it to you, readers, I never get drunk!!
Last month we were attending a wedding in France, one of DH's cousins.
The groom came in first, his mother holding his arm. Then the bride and her father. DH pointed out to me that the groom was crying and I nearly cried too!
The couple talked about their wish to have a family and the priest centered his address around children too, while our two youngest ran up and down the side of the church!
And it felt so poignant to consider this young couple, happy and insouciant. Friends and family surrounded them, some only too aware that the words 'for better or worse' are not just words but the reality of life.
It's really when we start a family that we loose the last remnants of insouciance from our childhood, isn't it?
I thought that I would quite like to attend a Saying Goodbye service...
DH and I are both catholic. We used to attend mass in our own village but now we have to go to a bigger church, some ten miles away.
We'd stopped going for a while, after we lost our second son, René.I found i t too hard to stand with people who did not know anything about our boys.I wrote here about how I kept faith in grief. It's always been important for me. It was a special time, for me and my boys, the time spent in church, but how could I be in communion with people who did not know about the most important part of me?!
I found a long time ago that grief came with many ghosts, haunting ideas...
All the boys I have carried died.
But then I had a healthy little boy.
They both were born in October. It would be forever the month when they died.
I got pregnant without having planned to and my third little girl was born in October, a beautiful month!
I am the mother of a little boy and nobody knows about it in the whole village. For everyone who sees me I'm not a mother.
I lost another little boy and a whole community knew I had more children than the eye could meet. A whole community was grieving with me and hugging me (almost literally!).
I never held Jean.
I held his brother and it was like holding Jean too.
I will never stand again in a church, thinking about my babies and knowing that everyone around me knew about them.
Istood in Chichester cathedral and thought about my babies, and everyone knew I had lost, everyone knew about them when I rang the bell twice.
So, for me, the Saying Goodbye service might have been about driving another ghost away.
And I hope it helped my daughters, especially DD2. She was only two and a half when her second brother died and it was more difficult for her than for her big sister, I think, because she couldn't talk about it (she wasn't talking much yet).
During the service at Chichester she kept telling me, at the beginning, that it was too sad and that she wanted to go home. But after she'd lit a candle for her brothers she was happy again :)
My parents had met Anne and her husband on the ferry between France and the UK, I think. They had started a conversation and eventually exchanged their details and invitations to visit.
That's how I came to first meet Anne, whose name I shared. I can't remember what pushed me to accompany my parents on this trip and stay with perfect strangers...
The house had the romantic name of Abbey cottage so maybe I fancied myself as a French Jane Austen's character, travelling abroad with elderly relatives (my parents will kill me for saying that!)!
The house was lovely, cosy, perfect. I found there a haven of peace I had not known I needed, and a very dear friend. Anne and I quickly formed a strong connection and we wrote to each other regularly after that first visit.
When DH and I moved to England we visited Anne and her husband while we were in between lodgings, leaving a B & B to move into our rented house. The contrast was quite stark, from a warm country cottage to our empty (our belongings were stored somewhere), cold and - we discovered a bit later - flea ridden house!
After we lost our first little boy we went to Anne's again, a peaceful week that we spent reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, resting. It's so, so exhausting to be sad and grieving.
Anne had lost a child too, although later in his life. That became another link between us.
I'm so glad that Anne got to know my oldest daughter.
Anne sadly left us when I was expecting DD2. She had chronic arthritis as well as heart and circulatory problems, which didn't prevent her from smoking her cigarettes! She did it with ineffable grace, as she did everything.
She embodied a certain class of old England - English lavender, grammar school and Agatha Christie! But she was also resolutely modern, open minded and tolerant.
I've always known her with poor health, getting easily tired, doing everything slowly. She would spend nearly the whole day getting a meal ready for us, to share in the evening. She was an excellent cook and loved cooking. Her Sunday roast stays, in my eyes, unequalled.
She was soft spoken, full of mirth and humour, and extremely gentle.
We named DD1 after her, M. Anne...
This picture is not a very good one of her but it's unfortunately the only one I have, it was taken at our wedding. It's my picture for this week's theme at the Gallery : Inspirational women.
When meeting a Twitter friend for the first time last week end, she exclaimed "I knew you were French, but I didn't think you were SO French!" :)
And yes, I guess I must seem very French to British people. Yet... I don't feel that French when we go back to France...
There are so many things that I love here, objects, places, customes, ideas, that are woven into the British culture and spirit, and seem utterly alien to French people. At least French people living in France, but they're strangely familiar for me.
Take hot drinks... You go anywhere in the UK and you will be offered a cup of tea, won't you? Which suits me just fine because I'm actually very much a tea person. And even if you choose coffee it will probably be an instant one. Go anywhere in France and you will be offered 'Un p'tit cafe?' and it will be from an electric 'cafetiere', the kind with a jug of coffee resting on a warm plate, always ready for a top up.
Even my language is not that French, I often insert English words in what I say. Just because you can't translate a language word for word and that, sometimes, the English language is just more appropriate to what I want to say. Or, other times, I say everything in French but the litteral translation of what I would say in English, and it's just not something a French person would normally say. And if I do that in France, it makes me feel very foreign indeed, maybe even more so that I ever feel in England...
And of course there are my children... Born in the UK, speaking more English than French, because from the moment they go out of the house they know that their environment is English-speaking. Officially they're French, officially...
When DD1 was around 3, we were in France during the Summer and went into a Bakery shop. We said to her : " Do you want a croissant, a pain au chocolat, a pain au raisin ?"
To which she replied "I want a Chelsea Bun!"
On the other hand wen my two older girls were little people often asked me if their clothes were French, they thought they looked French (it's true that clothes are ver so slightly different!). But they actually just wore British clothes. Was it their features then? Did they look French? Maybe...
I love old cars. They had so much more charm and personality than modern cars, in my opinion.
Anyway, I saw this one only this morning, on the car park of our doctors' surgery. Lots of cars kept by collectors are polished to an inch of their lives, reupholstered, they've had all the mechanic equivalent of botox (although with more success of looking like their younger, former selves!).
But this one just looked her age. The bodywork sported a rather dull, dark grey paint. There were signs of rust. The whole image and feeling was of shabbiness but not the chic kind !
But for all that this old lady looked delightfully charming. I could just imagine her owner just as old, having bought the car in their youth and thereafter grown old together.
How many objects in our lives, these days, have the resilience, or opportunity, to grow old and imperfect?!