Demain

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Winter sun by Lady E

My daughter’s hand is pulling inside mine as we walk briskly in the cold still air. We reach the top of the path and stop, puffing out little bits of cloud. I tell my daughter she should quit smoking, she rolls her eyes and with the patience of a seven year old humouring her predictable, dodgy-humoured, possibly dim-witted mother, replies that she can’t because she doesn’t smoke. Before us the valley spreads out, blanketed in a mist of pollution that the pale sun hasn’t managed to lift.

A new year has come.

And a whole year has somehow elapsed since my urge to write was last bad enough that I did. Since, so much has happened in the world that the changes in my life feel microscopic.

My son is now 13, taller than me (which is not exactly an achievement), and methodically conforming to every cliché about teenage, with the result that I often feel like throwing him in the large, green, recycling bin. Yet I somehow trust that he will not do anything truly stupid or dangerous, and at times get rewarded with a glimpse of the broad-shouldered, thoughtful and clever man he will become.

My daughter is growing too, my heart clenches to see her begin to struggle with the complicated politics of primary school girlfriendship, and lifts to see the never-ending stream of crafty creations she leaves lying about in an artistic trail of mess around the house.

The changes in me are more subtle: I probably have more grey hair, miles on the bike, experience in academic international relations, and compassion. I still work and shout at my kids far too much. I am still single, alternately grateful for the lack of additional complication in my life and dying for a pair of arms to disappear into.

Outside the realm of our family, the past year seems to have been marked by a growing sense of fear and the temptation of nations to close in on themselves. In contrast, I have become more involved in some of the million initiatives we hardly ever hear about, by people who believe in togetherness, in giving their time and energy for others, in welcoming refugees, choosing environmentally and socially responsible banks, retailers, life-styles without waiting for everyone else to do so.

It all started a few years ago, when I crowd-funded a French documentary project called Demain (which means tomorrow).

The film came out in December 2015, has been screened in 27 countries and is a real antidote to today’s sense of doom and gloom. It is now available on DVD with English subtitles. Watch it, it may change your life… and ther’s a special prize if you can spot my photo at the end of the credits: I haven’t managed yet in the midst of the 10,000 other people who funded the film.

Anyway, it’s been a long-time since I heard from any of you and would love to know: How have you been? How did you react to events in 2016? What are your big or little ways of making the world a better place?

In the meantime, I wish you an amazing day, an amazing year 2017.

Coldplay – Amazing Day

Running

It is 11:00, I am late for my next meeting. I  run out of the building, and smile a distracted hello at a colleague from IT. I curse myself for forgetting to pack an afternoon snack for my daughter, and to talk about season greetings cards for our partner universities. Again.

I turn out onto the street: The morning fog has lifted, leaving behind sleek dark pavements shining in the curiously warm sunlight. I hear a tram, birds, the ridiculous whirr of a moped. The air smells musty, with a hint of diesel fumes, and warm bread. I stop in my tracks and smile.

However tough the last few months have been, little moments of grace have been reminding me that life is beautiful:

  • I spent a week in the UK scoffing biscuits visiting dear friends, which was wet but great.UK visit

 

  • The day after the Paris attacks last month, Mr Xmas and I hiked high above the valley, to catch our breaths, feel the sun, and anchor ouselves in the quiet mass of the mountains.

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  • I completed a course in mindfulness, which is a kind of meditation.

It made me laugh at times, and I still do wonder if what I’m doing is meditation or just sitting-on-my-bed-very-still-focusing-on-my-breathing, but somehow, I find it helpful.Meditation

Other than that, work is erm, interesting… I spend virtually my entire time trying to stabilise my team, with four new staff and a steady stream of crap coming our way. Yeah.

This means that 6 months into the job, I still know very little about international relations. My own management sometimes takes an issue with this on the grounds that I am the head of International Relations,  not Make It Up As You Go Along. I can see where they’re coming from, but hey, I’m doing what I can.

When I get home to a tired pre-teen who refuses to come down for dinner because: “I don’t want to see you”, and his tired six year old sister who refuses to eat the soup I’ve made because: “it’s disgusting”, I often get the urge to find a very large bin to throw them both into get the distinct feeling that I am failing as a mother too.

This has taken its toll, and I often feel bone-tired.

Thankfully, Mr Xmas is true to his word and picks my daughter up two nights a week, my mum came to the rescue last week, I have stopped taking my computer home, and somehow, I am still (mostly) standing.

I am also thankful that chronic overload keeps my mind from dwelling on the fact that I am single and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future I don’t live in Syria, Irak, Sudan, or Afghanistan.

My oldest brat son keeps listening to this strangely addictive song.

The FatRat – Monody (feat. Laura Behm)

On Friday

  • My country held a fitting hommage to the victims of the Paris attacks two weeks ago.
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France Nov 27. 2015

  • It was my birthday.
  • I had dinner with my delightful (almost) teenage son.Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 12.55.01
  • It snowed hard on the mountains.

Sorry about being so flaky in my blogging over the last couple of months, thank you for the lovely emails asking if I was ok. Life has been busy, complex, filled with horror and hope… Well, it’s been life, really.

More to come, but in the meantime, I dedicate this post to all the people who tirelessly spread compassion… and to COP 21. May it succeed in bringing enough of us together.

Adele – Hello

The princess who fell off her bike

fashion statement… And badly sprained her ankle.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, stop sniggering, it could happen to anyone.

So erm, moving on: Last week, in a daring streak of supermarket psychology brilliance, I worked out that my three latest exes T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing me from the shackles of single-motherhood-singledom to become universally worshipped fatherly figures. Except that becoming universally-worshipped fatherly figures turned out to be too hard, so off they went…

Fine.

Well, not fine, really, but whatever.

Well perhaps not whatever either, because, as fellow blogger That Precarious Gait accurately pointed out, what was my role in all this?

She’s right, what was I doing?

Name: Lady E

Occupation: Lapsed scientist, lapsed science communication specialist, accidentally turned international relation-ist.

Looks: Short, slight, dark-ish. Currently looking dangerously attractive in a one-legged, strap-on-cast fashion.

Likes: Summer, sitting on a beach, messing son’s hair, mum’s lasagna, having friends around, gardening, cream tea, scribbling dodgy sketches.

Dislikes: Bad weather, supermarket baguettes, coffee, mushrooms, people who decide not to vaccinate their children because, you know, it’s not naaatural.

What made her attractive: Contagious smile, awesome chocolate mousse, kind, stable.

What makes her unattractive: Well, I could go on and on with a list of flaws I see in myself, including being late, moody pre-period, insecure, short-fused and shouty when I’m tired, but don’t know what did it for my exes. None of them had anything to say about me. All they could articulate was about family life being too much.

Baggage: Anxious parents, anxious streak. Childhood-rooted fear of abandonment, compounded by experience in a few significant romantic relationships. Wobbly self-esteem.

Said baggage would explain why I unconsciously tend to doubt my ability to attract anyone permanently, and thus favour men who display rapid signs of commitment (by the way, that’s another spot-on hint from That Precarious Gait). So, that’s the ones who are totally smitten, rapidly want to settle down and have a family. They all give me a sense of security I fail to give myself.

Voilà.

So theoretically, all I have to do is find enough security in myself to counter the inevitable uncertainties of relationships, especially the new-ish ones. Piece of cake, right? While some people love the unknown and accompanying butterflies, I just get scared senseless. And it feels like each repetition of the whole abandonment trauma has heightened the fear.

Ow, great then, sounds like I might have to stay single for the next 60 years or so…

Because whilst I am a wiz in the garden, no amount of mulching and composting seems to have had much effect on the self-reassurance / security I have been trying to grow for a few years…

So if you happen to have any green-fingered tips on how to grow your sense of security, and manage your fear of abandonment in relationships, I’d love to hear them!

Right. This song’s had me dancing uncontrollably (yes, on one leg) lately. Oooh yeah ! 🙂

Sugar how you get so fly?

Sugar how you get so fly?

Robin Schulz – Sugar

Love it or leave it

The last threads of daylight hang suspended above the mountains, birds have gone to sleep, leaving the muted hum of city life take over.

I too have been quiet lately… Muted, but not gone. Sometimes going under in the storm of Mr Xmas’s depression, but soon bobbing back up and carrying on with a steady stroke.

After years of practice, I am a master of resilience. I can juggle a demanding new job, tax returns, play dates, and still think up ways to cheer up a miserable Mr Xmas. But there are also the times when I feel worn out, and so lonely I could cry…

Bless his heart, Mr Xmas is trying, and I am touched by his efforts be there for me and to help. He truly loves me.

But most of the time, he just isn’t really there, lost in the private hell that has become his mind.

He is so far from my reach, I feel so helpless, so unable to help.

Or to answer any the nagging questions: Will he get back to being the Mr Xmas I loved? When, for crying out loud? And anyway, how often will these depressive episodes happen? Is this the life that I want?

Asaf Avidan (who happens to be a hugely talented, generous and good-looking -if slightly tormented, fellow)- Love it or leave

Lanzarote

Before I found out I was going to become a pauper last Autumn, Mr Xmas and I had booked a week off in Lanzarote over the New Year.

So after spending a really noisy, hectic, lovely week in Paris with my family for Christmas, I headed for a really quiet (read child-free) week with Mr Xmas in Lanzarote. Lanzarote is a smallish Spanish island off the coast of Southern Morocco, on the same latitude as Florida : It is renowned for its year-round mild climate and freakish volcanic landscapes.

We did a lot of hiking.

Hiking

Classy picnics.

Picnic

High-brow entertainment.

Uno

The only downside being that our studio flat was right next to the hotel’s bar, where staff rehearsed an Abba musical every. Single. Night around the time we cooked dinner.

Abba

Because we’re French, we picked the starter of our New Year’s Eve dinner off the rocks on a beach…

Winkles

Winkles

And speaking of New Year’s Eve, it was probably one of the simplest, yet best in my life.

New year

In a word, I spent a blissful week away from all the pain of the past and uncertainties of the present.

And have since come back with a bump to Winter and errr… Is it just life? My workload is through the roof as I’m on the final stretch of my current job, there have been interviews for new jobs, broken cars, grumpy children, grumpy and sick children, cutting down on all expenses. Yet, none of it has been as bad it it could have been, because you know what ? I am not alone.

Mr Xmas is here. In fact, Mr Xmas has all but moved in with us, and much to my surprise, it feels ok.

Well, better than ok: I actually look forward to seeing him every night, to burying my nose in his smell and debriefing the day.

That is not to say that there aren’t still moments when I doubt, freak-out and question everything (hey, it wouldn’t be me otherwise), but they are getting fewer and further between.

Something odd, tranquil and powerful is seeping through the cracks of my tired heart.

Grand corps malade – 15h du matin

This song is light and silly, a reminder that Spring is around the corner. Makes me smile at the rain and fog.

… I’ll leave you with a few real pics of our holiday

Geometry by Lady E

Geometry by Lady E

The winkles' beach !

The winkles’ beach !

Timanfaya national park

Timanfaya natural park

Volcano top

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Atlantic

Atlantic

Cartooning for peace

Cartoon by Plantu

Cartoon by Plantu

As my country reels in the aftermath of two terrorist attacks, mainly directed against a satirical magazine famous for its irreverencious cartoons, I sit in the quiet, cooling house, unable to sleep.

For the last 8 years, NGO Cartooning For Peace, set-up by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and French cartoonist Plantu has been working tirelessly against intolerance. You can support them here.