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)

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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

Interlude

Corbières

This week I have been blessed with forgetting.

Not my usual where-on-Earth-have-I-left-my-phone (oh, and the charger, and the canteen bill?), but the rare gift of has-there-really-ever-been-another-day-than-today oblivion.

In fact, get that: I managed to entirely forget the past year…

And nope, it did not involve half a gallon of rum and passing out with cocktail olives up my nose.

Which is impressive, because even by my standards, the last twelve months have been pretty hairy.

Say, if I were to produce a dodgy Xmas present calendar with pictures illustrating each month, there could be: Mr Nice and I crying over our separation and the death of my children’s pet Guinea pig (August 2014), Mr Nice changing his locks and turning into Mr Big Bastard From Hell (September 2014), me frowning over a job application (anytime beween July 2014 and February 2015), meetings at the bank attempting to fit a size 12 budget into a future size 6 income (November 2014), piles of unfinished work and a ticking clock (finishing my old job, Jan-Feb 2015), an idiot’s guide to international relations (starting new job just as Mr Xmas plunges into depression, March), a bottle of Sauternes and foie gras (to celebrate my promotion, April), an idiots’ guide to surviving hierarchy overload, stress at work and single parenthood (May to July), a blown gasket for Mr Xmas (June).

Although I have to admit that I wouldn’t know a gasket -let alone a blown gasket- from a garden gnome.

Anyway, this week, no shade of work, blown gaskets or big bastards. Nope.

Toulouse 1I righted the world’s wrong with friends near Toulouse, until far too late in the night to cope with energetic offspring in the morning.

Watched my son’s delighted fishing despite his refusal to touch anything on the hook (bait or fish).

Watched my daughter go down the water slide all by herself for the first time.

Chuch bell CorbièresListened to the church bell ring out the slowing down hours, in a quaint village of the ruggedly beautiful Corbières.

Cooked with only a microwave for three days (a challenge)

Counted the number of mosquito bites behind my right knee (8, a record)

Listened to my children fight over three hours of jammed traffic and torrential downpour between Narbonne and Montpellier. Fantasised about heavy-duty parcel tape, gags, and James Bondey-type cars where you press a button and a sound/bullet-proof glass partition buzzes up between the front and back seats.

Saw a lot of relatives and was stunned by how much their children have grown. A mystery of the universe (apart from the disappearance of anti-matter): How do I keep forgetting that other people’s children grow up too?

GuardiansWatched Camarguese cowboys near Montpellier herd bulls through the streets at high speed (and yeah, I didn’t fancy getting too much closer as I took this shot). It’s a local festive tradition. So is drinking neat Pastis.

So there. It has been a busy, and lovely week to round off my Summer break. Tonight, I will be driving North one last time, and going back to work tomorrow. I haven’t started loading the car and think I may varnish my nails. Anyone mentionned denial?

Madilyn Bailey – Radioactive

A nice cover, which keeps playing on the radio this Summer, and my children like to sing along to when they’re not fighting.

Not sick of holiday snaps?

Corbières IMG_1780 Corbières

Temperature

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It’s 8.15 am and the temperature in my office is already 32 degrees C.

I don’t know what that would be in Farenheits, but let’s say it could be classed as reasonably pleasant if you were to sit on a beach, with light wind and ice-cream coktails as company, yet reasonably unpleasant first thing in the morning in your airless office.

I am childless, and most of my friends have wisely deserted the heat-struck city.

So I spend my days stewing in the office for ridiculously long hours, and my evenings watering my dessicated garden, picking raspberries and blackberries, which I then turn into jam – wearing nothing but my underwear – because it’s just soooo hot. Not me, the temperature.

I have become a woman of simple needs: A meeting in an air-conditioned room is a treat practically on a par with eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Diving into the local outdoor pool at lunchtime is the highlight of my day.

Meanwhile, it has been a year since things brutally went haywire with Mr Nice, who has turned into such a  world-class jerk  since, that I remain incredulous about spending 2.5 years of my life with such a moron.

It has also been a month since Mr Xmas dropped me like a hot potato, and he recently seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth himself.

And you know what? I cannot be bothered to truly give a hoot about it.

I do really hope he keeps his promise to water my garden next week. Other than that, whatever.

Maître Gims – Est-ce que tu m’aimes ?

Another Summer chart-topper in France. Get your sparkly hot pants out!

Criss-cross

IMG_1595_2 I sit on a train, slicing deep into  the Provence countryside. Orchards, cypress hedges and lavender fields, still in the brutal Summer heat.

Another intense week at work is over, and I am heading South to see my children for the weekend, feeling numb.

Over the last few weeks, work has been manic, and Mr Xmas and I have been criss-crossing the no-man’s land between being exes and being friends.

At first, he came around occasionally to look after the children (as he had said he would). We exchanged minimal parcels of information, minutely wrapped in defiance and fear.

As the days wore on, Mr Xmas kept helping with a few practical things, and things somewhat relaxed into a neutral stance. I even asked Mr Xmas for hugs, which he oblingingly provided after a couple of gruelling days.

Finally, last weekend, I dropped my children off at their holiday destination, before coming back home to work, effectively removing any practical excuses to see each other.

This is when Mr Xmas offered to pick me up from the station… And so we have seen each other a couple of times, chatted about work, the children, the heatwave, carefully skirting around the elephantine mass of bruised feelings and broken hopes in the room.

From the outside, it could almost look like we’re back to our years of easy, open friendship. From the inside, something is missing…

The train has stopped, and Montpellier greets me with its powerful smell of sea breeze, oleander, and heated sewers. At the end of the road, my children, their joy, and the certainty that life is beautiful.

To my son, who loves this song.

Youssoupha ft. Madame Monsieur – Smile

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.