Up until now, since I’ve been in the land of Croissants and Fromage, I’ve had the thought more and more often that I have slowly become decidedly “thick” as we say in sunny SA and that perhaps I had lost the ability to actually learn anything new. The “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” was beginning to be an ever growing concern, not that I’m particularly old…
My brain was beginning to feel at one with our cottage having been reduced to a pile of rubble inside and showing signs of chaos and with old wiring exposed and rusty pipes laid bare. NOT a comfortable feeling. Living out of a suitcase and in “limbo” without access to pastels, coloured pencils, art paper and an easel, without my card making stuff, papercrafts, stamping therapy and gardening books and, I feel ashamed to admit, without 24/7 access to the Net, I feel a bit at a loss…BUT what made the crumbling synapses even more apparent was that NONE of the French language seemed to be going in and penetrating long enough to take root and produce some semblance of a coherent sentence.
It’s a bit like dawn really; the growth of light is infinitesimal, not really noticeable until suddenly you’re conscious that you can actually “see” your surroundings. Known only to my self-conscious, I guess bits and pieces were vaguely getting through to my brain…and then we moved here to Normandy and Samuel entered our lives. Dear patient Samuel who speaks to us like he speaks to his two year old daughter, and for that, I am eternally grateful. The problem is, when you understand what he’s said (and he looks just as surprised as we are) then he feels more confident and babbles on at a rate of knots until he notices the distinct blank, slightly glazed look on our faces and, after realizing that speaking louder doesn’t help, he resorts to drawing pictures – at least that’s a universal language for all of us. I sit over a cup of coffee and listen to Samuel discuss the ins and outs of the broken tractor and what’s needed to fix it, he talks of dry-walling, cement, bathroom fittings and floor tiles needed for the cottage and the Dear One nods and understands and I am amazed at how far he’s come when he insisted he would never get to learn enough.
Between Samuel and a Fluenz French Language Course, it’s all gradually beginning to make sense, a few things click together and you have the “aaah” moment. At least now we can recognize and understand every tenth word instead of every 100th. But we have a looooong way to go. It’s funny, it’s frustrating, it’s irritating it’s depressing and it’s invigorating. The French people of Normandy will do anything to help you and they laugh at their attempts at English as much as they smile at your attempt at French but they will always try to encourage you to carry on – from the Lady in the Pharmacy, to the Vet, to the Courier guy or Postman..and that in itself spurs you on even more.
Things are slowly settling in here in Normandy. It’s been quite a mission and a bit unsettling – weird how we moved to France, to Brittany in the beginning of Winter (November) and then also moved to Normandy at the end of November a year later. Trying to get organized at this time of year isn’t easy, it’s rainy and muddy and if you’re feeling homesick like me, then it can add to feeling worse. After much paperwork, a bit of a scare with Duty to pay (which never materialized thank goodness) our container arrived from Cape Town in a flurry of light snow which melted to rain before it hit the grass. Clapping ensued when Yolanda the Yamaha motorbike rolled proudly onto French soil and the moving van left after being winched out of the mud by the tractor, then they all crowded into the Farmhouse for coffee and biscuits. But Winter has a charm of its own, the birds still sing REALLY loudly, the mist hangs over the trees like cobwebs making it all very “fairytale like” and the grass is a brilliant emerald green. When the sun shines, it’s really is beautiful – a sharp contrast with bright blue sky. We’re really near the coast (about 12 km away) so the weather is a lot milder than other parts of Normandy and it very rarely gets freezing cold. The daffodils have poked their leaves out of the ground and their little flower buds are tucked inside. The snowdrops are in full flower at the edge of the Chateau Forest and Samuel says that in the Spring, the forest floor is covered in bright bluebells – we took a walk there yesterday and they are all about 3 centimeters out of the ground…impossible to find a path through them – they’re EVERYWHERE…so I guess the flowers are telling us that Spring isn’t far away which is wonderful. At night we see eyes glinting in the torch light and deer and foxes are out and about but as yet we haven’t seen a wild boar, although we’ve seen signs of them.
Ted had his operation…he is now the proud owner of a scar and stitches about 10 centimeters long. From day 2 when the anesthetic and tranquilizers had worn off, he refused to walk with a plaster on his back. His back’s always been so sensitive anyway and then to have something stuck on it was just the absolute pitts! I came home to the farmhouse one afternoon to find he had rubbed it up and down on the underside of a chair and got half of it off. The French vet would be so disgusted but there was nothing for it but to take the rest of it off. He cried as we had to rip it off in one swift movement and then he attacked the plaster with vicious vigor. But the cut is healing well and looks good and he’s a lot happier. Seems it was just a large cyst, not cancerous – so all is well…such a kind vet too, she was SO worried about me being SO worried.
The Calvados is finally all in barrels where it will sit for the next three years, maturing in oak into a golden apple brandy. The Dear One measures it’s content regularly and notes it all down – it’s peaceful in the cellars, cool, ancient and filled with unknown history and silent echoes of the past.
I’m going to be trying my hand at stone cladding soon..will let you know how it goes, should be an interesting exercise – especially that it involves an angle grinder…and you know me, I’m SO not- accident prone! Ha! For today, I’m off to get the paint off a door with a heat gun and scraper – the sun is shining, the sky is a clear blue and I can hear the Spring bulbs growing in tune to the forest chorus.
Take care of you, you’re in my thoughts