Claire King

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Posts Tagged ‘France’

Ring Out the Old.

Posted on: December 30th, 2015 by Claire - 46 Comments

For me 2015 started with the itch of change: certain elements coming together at a certain time that made the status quo begin to seem unstable. It can be easy to brush this kind of itch off, I know, and get on with life as usual. But if you listen to it, if you try and understand what it’s telling you, if you face the fear and the risk that it implies, eventually you will reach a tipping point where change is inevitable.

Without going into the detail of what is behind all of this, suffice to say we reached that tipping point in the early summer. This was encouraging, because if you can seriously consider leaving a life in the south of France when the weather is perfect, the sky is blue and the first ripe delicious tomatoes are on the table, then you know your decision is made.

And so we started taking steps. One after another, at first slowly but taking us further and further from safety. From this life that to many people seems idyllic. From this house that has been home for 14 years, longer than any house I’ve ever lived in. The house our daughters were born to and grew up in. The mountain at our feet. The kitchen table a storybook we wrote.

Feeling full of energy

The house is up for sale now. We’re leaving. It’s scary and exciting and happy and sad. The last days of 2015 mark not only a year coming to an end but a chapter closing.

The Last Times have already started: Seeing people for the last time that we will likely never see again. The last time at a favourite place. The last time we will cook a certain meal, or walk a certain path. Some are clear cut, with tears and goodbyes. Others are vague, we know it may be the last time and we sense it all a little more keenly, just in case it is.

As we unpick this life we have inhabited, a light is cast upon it. A reflection of how we have lived. What we want to keep and what we don’t, what we want to guard as precious and what we want to change.

Some of this is physical – in preparing for the move we are having to be selective about what we take with us. It’s expensive to move – they charge you by the cubic metre – and we have accumulated, shamefully, so many things, so much stuff. We have an enormous cellar and we filled it over more than a decade with books we had no shelves for, building materials we had bought too much of, baby clothes I couldn’t bear to part with, clothes that used to fit me and never will again, scuba equipment from a life before children, VHS cassettes and LPs from the 80’s. The clear-out has started. We are now forced to discard, recycle and donate. It’s difficult but the release feels good.

Some of what we don’t want to keep is not physical. We don’t want to accumulate things anymore. My husband and I didn’t exchange Christmas gifts this year. Likewise, much of what we do want to hold on to is a way of life – the family values we have created together, the time we have made for ourselves.

Perhaps this time of introspection and reflection is why I’m feeling hesitant about social media at the moment. There’s a lot of noise out there. Some days a lot of anger. Others a lot of spite. Sometimes just noise for noise’s sake. And so many people trying to give the public impression that everything is perfect for them. It often feels to me like the extremes of emotions are posted online but that the reality of life rarely shows through. Rather than take a break from it all, I’m trying to filter out the noise now, down to the genuine exchanges, to the authentic, to what social media can be at its best.

Meanwhile I’m drafting out my third novel, a book which which reaches into the dark places inside myself where I keep the questions that I have never found answers to. I’m excited about this book, it’s going to be a cracker, but I’m also intrigued by the way it has decided to be written just at the time when I am turning a new page .

Finally, I’m ending this year in anguish. How can I not be preoccupied by the people flooded from their homes (and why this has happened), by the people who have fled for their lives and have no homes (and why we are not helping them more), by the disenfranchised and the poor and – on the other end of the spectrum – the self-serving powerful who do not use their status and their wealth for good, but to further bolster their own positions? Instead of just being a spectator, what can I do about all this?

I’m looking forward now. 2016 is ripe with promise.

Work-wise I will continue to split my time between writing and what I refer to as my day job, but after 14 years working for myself, in 2016 I am tying myself to a company which is determined to make real and sustainable change for the better. Maybe together we can make a real difference. Maybe – I hope – I can use my powers for good.

If everything goes well with our move we will be in a new home in the UK before winter is out. My daughters will be starting new schools (in English not French – they can’t wait!). We will reconnect with old friends and make new ones. My second novel will be out in the summer, which is a nerve wracking thing in itself. 2016 is already being fêted as an amazing year for fiction. Will my book find its place in amongst all those great contemporaries, or will it drown in the flood? Not much to do but wait and see.

And so to ring out the old and ring in the new* we’ve decided to reinvent our New Year’s Eve. We’re not going to stay up until twelve, filling the hours until the clock ticks over. It doesn’t work for us, I’m not sure it ever has. It puts too much emphasis on that moment at midnight as though it’s that which changes everything (even though in the UK there’s still an hour to go before the kisses and the fizz). We will say goodbye to this year, and this chapter of our lives, in our own way, in our own time, the four of us together, and then we will climb into our safe, warm beds and be glad of them.

And when we wake up in 2016, everything will change.

—-

* Tennyson of course:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

 

Drawing Breath

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Claire - 8 Comments

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

I am learning to swim.

I did learn to swim as a child, and somehow I competed in swimming as part of Modern Pentathlon at university. But in fact I was rubbish at swimming and only managed to be on the team because I was pretty good at all the other stuff and managed to pull up my average that way, floundering my way to completion in the swim and hoping no one remembered that bit. It turned out I had never learned to swim really, despite having my badges from 10m (purple)…

10m

…to 1500m (teal), I had only learned to get from one side of the pool to the other without drowning. 1500mBadge

Time moves on twenty years. Children have been born. Years have been spent teaching THEM to swim (bear with the story, the punchline is great). And now they can swim unaided and our nearby town has a summer pool (outdoor) where twice a week there is a swimming club, and adults can go and be taught to swim better. And I am doing that.

It’s good to learn a new thing. The learning process itself affects your brain. Remembering how little you know, accepting to be ignorant, trying to be better. And so every Monday and Thursday I get in the pool with lean, fit, twenty-somethings and strive to do a little better than last time. To be stronger. To be suppler. To be more co-ordinated. But the thing I am having to relearn most of all is how to breathe.

When to breathe.

What part of my body to breathe with.

And the teacher tells me ‘Souffle!‘ when she wants me to breathe out.

And the teacher tells me ‘Inspire!‘ when she wants me to breathe in.

When she wants me to breathe in, to gasp for air, she tells me, ‘Inspire!

No one has ever had to tell me how to breathe in French before (even when I was in labour all they cared about was the souffle).

And so perhaps that is why I never realised that in French, the verb to inspire is the same as the verb to breathe.

And inspiration is the same as taking a breath.*

—————————————————————————-

*From wikipédia:

Le terme inspiration a principalement deux significations.

 

Unplugged

Posted on: July 5th, 2015 by Claire - No Comments

We plug things in to give them energy:

Our phones, our computers, the TV, tablets, games consoles…but most of us have noticed that being ‘plugged in’ ourselves actually saps our energy.

There are lots of positives to the way we communicate these days. I love hearing what my friends are up to on Facebook and I love chatting about writing on twitter. I like that you can send and receive messages instantaneously and for free, it’s practical. But somehow these things can come to seem like an obligation, as though we have to be permanently plugged in so we can respond instantly, or within a couple of hours. And an obligation like that can be a burden, draining your energy.

So, since the kids school broke up early for summer because of the heatwave, I decided to give us all just a few days breather. We got in the car and drove north for about three hours, where we set up camp  alongside the Hérault river in the Causses & Cévennes national park, somewhere none of us had ever been.

Cauldera

Cirque de Navacelles – Cauldera formed by a river

Pic Saint Loup

Pic Saint Loup

All gadgetry was banned (although I admit we adults did take our phones and use the cameras, we did switch off from social media). We took water pistols, notebooks, swimming costumes, colouring books and a guitar and bought some postcards to write. We also borrowed a donkey for a while.

Child leading donkey

Child playing guitar

We played Story Cubes a lot at mealtimes. If you’ve not heard of these I do recommend them, they are just little boxes of dice with pictures on, so when you throw them you have a ready made story prompt. We all loved them and it got quite competitive to see who could tell the most engaging story.

Of course we all read too, although I had taken along an optimistic stack of books – two novels and a short story collection – but in the end I only read a few chapters because of all the conversation we found ourselves having.

We could only be away for three days (which wasn’t nearly enough time to enjoy the region properly, two weeks would have been nice) as Mr King had to go off to work and we have our gîtes to look after now the school holidays have started here, so it’s not as if it was some kind of gadgetry cold turkey, but it was lovely. We all enjoyed it and no one missed the electronic games or the social media that we sometimes reach for automatically in our spare minutes.

Man colouring in

Mr King is doing “Man Colouring”

I would love to say that when we got back the kids have turned completely feral and that Minecraft and DVDs have been forgotten, but of course they haven’t. But unplugging ourselves briefly has replenished our energy and set the tone for the two months of summer holidays that lie ahead. I recommend it.

—–

Camp by Robert Louis Stevenson

The bed was made, the room was fit, By punctual eve the stars were lit; The air was still, the water ran, No need was there for maid or man, When we put up, my ass and I, At God’s green caravanserai.

PS: My kids had never heard the word ‘ass’ before (in this context at least), so they loved this poem…

The Order of Things

Posted on: January 21st, 2014 by Claire - 18 Comments

As I write this blog post I have the head of a very fluey eight year-old on my lap. She hasn’t wanted to do anything for days – not read, not go out and do this:

Feeling full of energy

 

…not sit on the sofa and watch TV even. Nothing except sleep and be hugged. It reminds me in many ways of when she was very new indeed. We spent hours each day attached to each other, while she fed or dozed or did both. Sometimes, when I’d had all the endorphins going I would use the quiet time to type one handedly and write stories.

It is, of course, lovely to just sit and cuddle your child. Unfortunately there are usually other demands on your time – supper to be cooked, bills to be paid, laundry to hang out, another child to help with their homework… And if, like me, you work from home, then there is also work to be done, and in my case also a book to be edited.

For the last few months I’ve been getting more and more wound up about finishing my new novel (the nth draft – the one I am happy to show my agent and publisher – for more on this dilemma see Emma Darwin’s post here). Partly because it is taking so much longer this time around, partly because I have an exciting new one I want to crack on with, partly because it would be nice to answer this question, which people ask me a lot:

“How’s your new book coming on?”

“I finished it!”

And mostly because recently life has conspired to make writing time even thinner on the ground. Sometimes it just does. And unfortunately there is an Order of Things. Work demands have to be dealt with. When the roof leaks a fix has to be found, and builders have to be chased up and eventually sued (long story). Children have to be taken to school and extra-curricular activities. Christmas must be laid on, or delivered elsewhere in suitcases.

Writing, even though it is absolutely a priority for me, gets pushed and pushed by these other things. And there is only so far you can push it until it tips off the edge of today and into ‘Tomorrow’. My ‘Tomorrow’ sometimes seems to be like the universe –  constantly expanding, with galaxies of edits accelerating inexorably away from me and my very limited gravity.

This week was to be the first of a delicious looking block of three weeks following the Christmas holidays when I could finally be home with nothing (it’s all relative) to do except Finish The Book. Instead, I am being Mummy to a sick and miserable little girl.

“But if you are writing now, why are you writing a blog post when you could be editing?” I hear (some of you) cry. I know! But one thing I have learnt about myself this last year is that whilst I find it relatively easy to use the gaps in between all these demands to write a first draft, I’ve found that I can’t edit properly when I don’t have long uninterrupted stretches of time. I can’t get my head around the whole novel when time is thinly sliced. Cue a blog post on this in the future when it’s all done and dusted.

So, I was feeling frustrated this morning, I’ll admit. Then my publicist sent over a scan of an interview that I did last year, which was published in this month’s Writers Forum magazine. One of the questions was why we moved here, to France. It was nice to be reminded (by myself) that we wanted to create time to have children and be parents, as well as time to write.

We wanted to be there with – and for – our children as they grow up, to ensure there was always one of us at home with them. I feel strongly about that. I remember vividly the way my own mother cared for me when I was sick as a child. No matter how busy she was, or how sick herself, she made time to sit with me and did as much as possible to make me more comfortable. There’s nothing better than being looked after by someone who loves you when you’re feeling sick and miserable, is there? When you’re eight there’s nothing more important than that.

So I am glad today, for being reminded of the Order of Things. And fingers crossed, assuming I don’t catch the flu next, the next blog post will be an excited one.

 

Food

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 by admin - 6 Comments

Summer Food

Food has been on my mind lately. (This is not unusual).

I love food. I love the colour and smell and taste of it. I love how tactile its preparation is and I like eating with my hands too. Food is one of the simplest human necessities that is also one of the finest pleasures, and you can do it three times a day. Sitting around a table to a meal can bring us together and it can nourish us. Of course food can also divide us, make us miserable and destroy us.

There’s little wonder, then, that food slips into fiction a lot. It certainly features heavily in my own writing

In The Night Rainbow, food is central to Pea because she’s having to source a lot of it for herself. She picks ripe peaches straight off the trees, waits for the morning baguettes to be delivered by the breadlady, and is very happy to take the biscuits that Claude offers. Her mouth waters at the pans of paella at the market and she tries to improve her mother’s mood by preparing food for her.

Food is also prominent in my next novel, although in a very different way, and I often use food as a metaphor in my flash fiction. Here are a couple of examples up at Fictionaut:

Anything Again

Flesh & Blood

Here is tonight’s supper, cooked and photographed by Mr King:

Since we moved here to France, our relationship with food has changed, and I was recently asked to write a magazine feature about our experience – the way we shop, prepare and eat French food. This week a photographer was sent over to shoot pictures of me with the family, as we took our weekly trip to the market, made meals and ate together. It’s was quite a surreal experience, and a very tiring day, but at the end of it, seeing how we eat through the eyes of someone else made me appreciate more than ever just how fortunate we are.

Here is a picture my husband snapped of me in the kitchen between shoots, wondering what to make for lunch:

Claire in the kitchen

And here is the photographer, Tom Parker, in our very shabby kitchen, taking photos of our pickles and preserves! You can bet when his photos turn up in the magazine feature it will all look very French and glamorous. (UPDATE: And here they are!)

Food_Photographer

But food isn’t really glamorous at all, is it? Certainly around here, the people who produce it work extremely hard for very little pay. If anything, the attitude we tend to have in our family towards food is one of gratitude and respect. Gratitude because we have such good and plentiful food, and respect in terms of our understanding of how it is produced and limiting waste.

This summer we crossed the Pyrenees over into Spanish Catalunya. We stayed at a lovely gîte there, owned by a family who have a few arable fields nearby, plus a farm with fruit, vegetables, chickens and pigs. They also have a Michelin starred restaurant. The farm is called Tancant cercles, which means closing circles, and their philosophy is that they produce the food they serve in their restaurant from start to finish, including growing the grain for their livestock. The owners were happy for us to take our children to have a look around the farm. There they showed us the harvested grain in the hoppers, which they feed to their pigs, they showed us the vegetables they grow and the free range chickens, and let the children go in and collect eggs. They showed us the pigs out and about, and the pregnant sows and those suckling the new litters. Then the owner took us and showed us the fridges, where they hang the pigs which have come back from the abattoir, the sausage and ham making processes and the cuts of meat, ready to be sold, or to be used in their restaurant. Later, we ate in the restaurant, and our children could point out pretty much everything on their plates and how they had seen it at the farm.

I know that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do feel strongly that when many children and adults don’t have a clear understanding of how the food gets to their plates, seeing the end to end process is an important part of having respect for the food you eat. My children are still young, but they can now make the link between the piglets they petted and the ham they ate. As they grow up, I hope that they can keep that in mind, and never justify eating food produced in a way that they would not be happy to witness for themselves.

If you are ever in the area, the hotel/restaurant is Els Casals and the gîte (which sleeps 14) is La Rovira. They are all within a few minutes of each other, not far from Berga in Northern Spain (Catalunya, about an hour North of Barcelona).

Also, I’m thinking that maybe next year I might run a little writers retreat there, so let me know if you’re interested.

Old farmhouse in Spain



Be careful!

Posted on: January 6th, 2013 by admin - 12 Comments

It’s the 6th January 2013 and it’s a glorious warm sunny day here in the south of France. We took the dogs out to a nearby field we’ve named The Big Meadow, for a run. After the Christmas holidays we all needed a good run.

From the meadow you can cross a fallow field and go down to a stream that comes down off Canigou. In summer it is teeming with water boatmen, tadpoles, dragonflies and pond skaters, but at this time of year the water is low and you have to look harder for waterlife. There are also lots of games to be played with pebbles, fallen branches, shadows and reflections and the nearby cows in the adjacent pasture.

My smallest daughter is just 5, and as she crosses the rocks I stand back, because I know she wants to do it, and she wants to do it by herself.

My instinct is to go with her, hold her hand, tell her ‘Be careful!’ But I don’t. I stand back and wait.

“Please don’t slip, please don’t slip, please don’t slip and hit your head.” (What I think).

“You’re doing brilliantly! You’ve got great balance.” (What I actually say.)

She does fine. She gains a little more confidence in the process and I gain a little more confidence in her abilities.

I’ve been following the early reader reviews of The Night Rainbow recently, and one of the discussion topics is about Pea, who is 5 1/2, and the fact her adventures in the meadows and down by the stream are unsupervised.

‘Is that realistic?’ readers ask.

The truth is I don’t know, because I don’t let my own children go wandering off down in the meadows and by the water on their own. When they get to a certain age then of course I will; I just don’t know what that age is yet. I’m hoping I know it when I see it.

But once upon a time young children, some as young as my daughter, were allowed to go tadpoling, or hunting for sticklebacks without adult supervision. It used to seem normal. It doesn’t any more, does it?

**UPDATE**: I’ve been directed to a couple of interesting websites that talk about this topic.

Here is an article called ‘Please don’t help my kids‘ : “I don’t want my daughters to learn that they can’t overcome obstacles without help. I don’t want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort.”

Here’s Free Range Kids : “Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers, Ivy League rejection letters and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”

Prepare for Re-entry

Posted on: September 3rd, 2012 by Claire - 12 Comments

rentree

In September 2002, after our first summer here, people began to ask us “Êtes-vous prêt pour la rentrée?”

We were confused because:

a) We didn’t have any children back then and

b) Our French wasn’t very good.

We were missing the huge cultural significance of La Rentrée which goes far beyond the ‘Back to School’ idea of September in the UK (where we came from).

La rentrée in France is a re-entry into the rhythms of day to day life after a general slow down that has lasted all of August and much of July as well. Many businesses close completely, politicians go off on long holidays, schools shut for 9 or 10 weeks…things just don’t get done over the summer and everyone knows that.

September is back to business. A new year begins. Life seems like a fresh notebook. Things get done that people have been putting off over the summer –  “I’ll take care of it à la rentrée” – and routines fall back into place.

For book lovers there is also the excitement of the literary rentrée – la rentrée litterraire – which sees the mass publication of new books between August and October, including 646 novels this year. 

Ten years on from that first summer and it’s time for la rentrée once again. We now do have children and, since my husband and I are both self-employed, we don’t work during the French summer-time, spending it at home together.

Today, after a summer of bare feet and at most sandals, we are putting our feet into socks again and for the girls there are new shoes and satchels. I’ve just dropped them off at their new school and I’ve a bouquet of sharpened pencils up here in my garret. The air smells of ripened grapes and it’s cool enough to let the morning air in through the windows. I’m all set.

And you? Êtes-vous prêt pour la rentrée?

 

A canicular, French, late summer morning.

Posted on: August 22nd, 2012 by Claire - 10 Comments

There is a canicule in France at the moment – a heatwave. Municipal Lidos are full of people trying to cool off. Only the bravest, or the most determined holidaymakers take to the shadeless beaches between 11am and 4pm. Meanwhile the countryside is parched and forest fires are regularly taking hold, even in the higher mountain areas.

There are two weeks left of the summer holidays, and just as with the end of season peaches and nectarines – although we have already had our fill – we are gorging on the remainder, while it is still good, before the time has passed.

Even as dawn broke this morning the air was hot and by mid-morning it was pushing 35°.

I made pancakes (crêpes) for breakfast, to cheers of delight. We ate them with fresh lemons, syrups and jams and cold watermelon from the fridge. It’s amazing how pancakes for breakfast can make an ordinary day seem like a holiday.

Then the neighbour came round, as he does most years at this time and brought us tomatoes. They have stewed and frozen as many as they can, and still his plants keep on giving. He tours the neighbours with baskets and boxes and bags of the ripe-to bursting fruit.

My 6 year old and I took our dogs out for a walk, to let them cool off in the irrigation canal that keeps the fruit trees and fields watered on our side of the valley. We also took a bag in the hope of hunting down some blackberries. My daughter, who is enthralled by insects, spiders, lizards and in fact any kind of local flora and fauna, found this little creature on one of the bramble bushes. We think it might be a crab spider.

 

As we walked home the farmer was turning hay in the fields. The air was heavy with its sweetness and the warm scent of figs from the trees nearby. We dillied and dallied until we were parched with thirst, then ran home fast for cold water.

This is late summer, in the canicule, in southern France. This place is inspirational.

 

 

The landscape inside a single man.

Posted on: July 4th, 2012 by Claire - 5 Comments

“Le paysage est si vaste à l’intérieur d’un seul homme que toutes les contradictions y veulent vivre et y ont place.” Christiane Singer, in her book “Où cours-tu? Ne sais-tu pas que le ciel est en toi?”

I wanted to share something with you. An inspiration, a piece of wisdom that I came across recently and found perfectly beautiful.

Christiane Singer was a French author, who wrote prolifically until her death in 2007. Her works include much exploration of spirituality and philosophy. I had never heard of her until last week, and I’ve not been able to find English translations of her work, sadly, but here is my translation of the quote above:

“The landscape is so vast inside a single man that all contradictions must live there and have their place.”

It is taken from her book “Where are you running to? Don’t you know heaven is within you?”

Isn’t that an amazing image? That inside every one of us – every one of our characters – is a self-contained, vast universe, where raging storms, parched canyons, soft rolling hills and tidal seas exist together. Doesn’t that inspire you to write?

It’s also perfectly in tune with the novel I’m editing at the moment, which asks a lot of questions about what really lies within us. It’s a big question for a writer. Indeed, for anyone.

Who are these photos of?

These photos are of the theatre/circus company Cielo who introduced me to this quote recently in a local nature reserve, and so inspired this post.

 

 

A writing retreat with the whole family?

Posted on: June 26th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

Jung

Our travelling companion  – Jung.

So, I’ve been working away from home a lot for the first six months of this year. It’s my job, it’s a good job, maybe one day it will give way to actual income from writing but for now that’s how it is.

Summer, though, is about spending lots of time with my family. That’s the payback. And summer is here and we are all very happy about that. We never go away on holiday, because summers here are very smashing, so we do things in the region instead: visit places, have day-trips, that kind of thing.

But…summer is also the time when I can really get into the zone with writing. And this year that means editing the manuscript of my second novel which I want to have with my agent by autumn.

(Update 2016 – I did NOT have it with her by autumn 2012, it took a further TWO YEARS) 

The Canal du Midi and a houseboat upon it feature prominently in this novel, and whilst I had done plenty of research I had not actually set foot on a houseboat in over 20 years. And never one in the south of France. I was missing something – the smells, the textures, the sounds, the sensations, the peculiarities that an author needs to know about if you are really to transport someone into that world.

So, somehow I had to combine my need to get myself away onto a canal boat for a couple of days (and be inspired and make notes) with my need to spend time with my family (and just having them in proximity while my husband babysits doesn’t count)…

I needed to organise a writing retreat with the whole family.

Cue the Magical Mystery Surprise Family Weekend Away.

List of things required:

  • Internet to find suitable boat owner willing to accommodate leggy, exuberant family of four.
  • Own chequebook and email account for secret booking of smashing weekend on the canal.
  • Teasing build up to surprise trip, including maddening hints and knowing smiles.
  • Something for everyone to do:
  • Claire – Pencil, Paper, 5 senses.
  • Husband – Camera.
  • Small daughters – pencils, paper, puzzle books, reading books, travel board games (draughts, chess, back-gammon, cards etc)

And off we go.

It was brilliant! We had an absolutely wonderful and relaxing weekend, taking the boat down the Midi and onto the étangs (salt-water lakes) of the Mediterranean where we moored in a little port for the night, and back again. We spent much more time with the children than we would on a normal weekend, and yet I got much more writing done too. Our hosts were friendly and laid on wonderful food and good conversation. We all came home inspired, zen and somehow exhausted. I declare a success!

What are you writing about now, and how do you fit in research with your other commitments?

Want to see our photo album?

canal

5km an hour is fast enough. You have to imagine the cicadas and the smell of the pine.


window

Yes, I am writing.

Like_mother_like_daughter

Like mother, like daughter.

Lock

Fresh water on one side, salty water on the other!

Etang

Arriving at the étangs.

Aperitif

Moored in a port for the night, playing hangman and drinking aperitifs on deck.

Oysterbeds

15km of oyster beds on the étangs.

Clouds-drift-by

Nothing to see here.

Beatrix

Captain Jean-François allowing a 4 year old to take the wheel.

CaptainAmelie

And the 6 year old!

(In fact, the forty-somethings also got to drive, but we’re not quite so picturesque)…

Mister

Thanks to the photographer!

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