Mojo

I am driving back from the airport on a Parisian motorway, the rising sun bouncing off high-rises is blinding me. I feel utterly bewildered, confused and frustrated.

Have you ever known that something was probably a very bad idea, yet been unable to resist it ?

Well, despite the fact that I will be 39 in a month, and should really know better, I have. Well done me.

Luckily, I now have a week off to clear my head, and get back to reality…

Want to feel French and a bit wild ? Listen to this :

M – Le Mojo

Guess who…

… Came for dinner the other night ?

Are you sitting down ?

Ok, no, don’t get that excited, it wasn’t Channing Tatum… Indeed, it was only T. I’ll let you get over the anti-climax for a moment.

But still, can you believe it ? The man who broke my heart and our family in hideous ways, before dumping my son came for dinner … and it was actually ok.

At times, it felt as though the last time we’d had dinner together as a family was the night before, rather than just under two years ago. It felt a bit surreal, a bit sad too, as little details of what was nice about our life together came flooding back.

But overwhelmingly, it was good. The children were happy, I actually felt relaxed, T and I have definitely entered a new phase: We get on well, in spite of everything that has happened.

When after a steep climb, I contemplated the breathtaking view from a local mountain-top last weekend, I felt dizzy with how much it felt like looking down at my proverbial past (well, it may have had something to do with low blood-sugar too).

But anyway, if you’d told me a year ago that I would be inviting T for dinner, and actually mildly enjoying the experience, I would have scoffed. But there it is, as incredible as it may sound, I have mostly forgotten what pain and despair felt like.

I remember how much I hated and feared this man, in much the same way I remember crushing his hand in agony after our daughter was born, swearing that I would never do this again. It feels so distant, so far away, as though all this was lived by a different me…

I haven’t taken leave of my senses though, and for anyone who is wondering, there is no way I could let him back into my life. I have some self-respect.

Right, ready for a little boogie ? This song is totally addictive and has had me shaking it uncontrollably.

The black keys – Lonely boy

Day-off

Yesterday, my son was sick *, which meant I had an unexpected day-off with a moping nine year old, and a very lovely, late Summer sun…

It gave me a chance to clean, wash, tidy, shop and do all the boring stuff I had skipped last weekend, because I was too busy doing scrupulously nothing, except enjoy myself with a dear friend who was over from the UK.

It also gave me a chance to watch a seminar about consciousness – which aptly enough totally blew my mind -, by English psychologist Nicholas Humphrey. It addresses such typical coffee machine-topics of conversations as what is consciousness ? How does our brain make sense of sensations ? How did the sense of spirituality, characteristic of the human species come about as an evolutionary advantage ?… And what d’you mean, all you talk about at coffee breaks is the weather ?

Anyway, here’s the seminar, which is a bit long, so get the Häagen Dazs out of the freezer, make yourself comfortable, and you won’t be disappointed

…If you haven’t got a spare hour, here’s an interview, which only take about 20 minutes but probes around the same questions.

One of the ideas that struck me was how we humans are set apart from other superior vertebrates by our ability to love life, because we give meaning to sensations … To the softness of morning light filtering through foliage, to the melody we make out in the sound of running water, to the smell of warm bread on my way to work …

So come on, I’m dying to know, what delicious sensations have made your day beautiful today ?

* He is right as rain today, in that amazing way children have of springing from the brink of death to rude health, in less time than it takes to warm up some hot chocolate.

To be confirmed

I sit still and listen to the rain fall. I had almost forgotten its sounds: The tap-tapping on skylights, the swoosh of passing cars, and birds’ muted chirping.

After a scorching and full-on visit, it feels as though Summer has suddenly departed – no time for good-byes.

My Summer actually felt both insanely short, and lavishly long, busy and quiet, intense and relaxing, joyful and tinged with melancholy.

I dipped my toes in the Neckar river in Heidelberg with a colleague (and a glass of chilled Condrieu wine, if you please),  in every fountain of Madrid with a dear friend, in the silky waters of the Mediterranean near Montpellier, and in the Orbieu river, near Lagrasse in France, where tiny fish pecked at my legs – a bit like in of those trendy mani-pedi places, only less spooky.

I built elaborate sand-castles, grilled marshmallows – and subsequently found sticky gunk in my daughter’s hair for about three days, made sauce with my very own garden’s tomatoes (yes, huhuhu, how remarkably domestic goddessey of me…), beat my son racing down water slides – he was gutted, I’m just heavier, don’t tell him, and tried to explain the concept of shadows to my daughter.

I also sat in the shade of a very old tree to read the very new book everyone’s talking about on a guy who is meant to be fifty shades of grey (to be honest, so is my old, shapeless, underwear, and no-one raves about it), but hello, all it really was, was a cross between a totally worn Mills and Boon intrigue and a very, very long Cosmo article. I read The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, which was good, although uncovering all sorts of complicated questions about ethics and American history doesn’t make it your average beach-read – and it was quite a shock to my brain after fifty shades of old underwear.

Anyway, most precious of all, this Summer gave me time.

Time away from the frantic, and quite frankly absurd race that is the everyday life of every working single-mother (ok, granted, of every working mother full stop to an extent, but still, trust me, I’ve tried both sides of the coin and know which one I prefer), with the added bonus that I rarely ever get a break from being a mother at all.

This Summer gave me time to do nothing at all, and to do things for myself. It gave me the head-space I needed to truly enjoy my children, to be more than an empty, dark circle-eyed and shouty shell.

Finally, this Summer gave me some pretty serious clues that some pretty seriously good news is in the making: I think that T and the new Ms have become old news. To be confirmed…

Alabama shakes – Hold on

If you’re cool

…And happened to be anywhere near the French Alps this weekend, then you almost certainly were at the Musilac festival in Aix-les bains.

Being a single mum of two, and research project manager is almost certainly not cool by a long shot, but I was there anyway, as a sort of under-cover agent for the un-cool, having the best fun in a long -actually make that very long- time.

Now, for my observations of the cool crowds:

  • If you are cool and French, you wear ironic t-shirts, Lafuma‘s technical gear (a reminder that you are in serious mountain-land), or OxBow.
  • You smoke rather a lot more than you drink.
  • If you are a girl, you wear oversized Jackie O-type sunglasses and long hair tied in an artistically messy bun. Shorts teamed with ankle-high boots or Converse sneakers are popular, and when it gets a bit chilly, you add a delicate, preferably loose and see-through cardigan on top.
  • If you are British, you stagger around with glazed eyes and speak very loudly because you drink a lot more than you smoke. French people study you curiously for a few seconds before choosing to ignore you.

My highlights included:

  • Not having my children for a whole weekend. I love them dearly, but this is so rare, it felt as though I had been starved of freedom for months.
  • The magical setting for the festival: Crystal clear lake, lawns you can sprawl on, sun over the rounded green mounts of Savoie.
  • The friendly, family atmosphere and great organisation. The ear-plugs you get handed as you walk in!
  • Dancing like a complete maniac.
  • Franz Ferdinand, who ignited the crowd, and just took me off the ground. The best act by miles.
  • Lenny Krawitz, who despite getting all jazzy and losing the crowd at times, rocked in a major way. Here’s a snippet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEkWj6DKEfs
  • Sorry about the crappy sound (and I did not film this), but can you hear that big bass-line? Now imagine it travelling through you from the ground up… Ooh yeah. What’s this guy’s story, though? He does seem to have issues with American women…
  • Discovering great new bands, including Olivier Depardon, Fanfarlo, Trombone Shorty, or Metronomy
  • Having a melted raclette and Savoie ham sandwich at half past midnight – totally does it for the munchies.

Lowlights:

  • Ben Howard being de-programmed from the festival. I had bought my ticket almost on his name alone, and nearly cried.
  • Orelsan who comes across as a cynical, faintly sexist, faintly stupid young rapper. Actually, writing this sentence made me wonder whether it was just one long pleonasm, or whether I had officially become old and reactionary.
  •  Getting my i-phone wet, and not being able to open the darn thing to let it dry.
  • Needing to wee just before Franz Ferdinand’s set, and missing almost half of it.
  • The large proportion of French people who don’t seem to dance very much. Maybe they’re just too cool to dance?

Anyway, today, I woke up at midday and had a breakfast of cold churros and squashed left-overs crisps. Now, if that isn’t rock’n roll, I don’t know what is.