Opening my birthday presents on the trampoline

Opening birthday presents on the trampoline

November is birthday-tastic at Happy Coulson (we blame Valentine’s Day). My birthday’s on the 14th, Tana’s is the 21st and Chris’ the 25th, with friends filling up the other days. This year was strange as France went into its second lockdown at the end of October. Thank goodness the weather has been outstanding since the summer. We still managed to have a lot of fun in our bubble but it was kind of irritating not being able to do whatever we wanted.

It was the first time I’d felt a bit trapped and restricted, which isn’t bad after a total of three months in lockdown this year. I wanted to have a big party and invite ALL of our friends. I wanted to take Tana trampolining, go secondhand clothes shopping at Emmaus, have a coffee in a bar, eat out in a restaurant, go to the cinema, listen to live music and go to a party somewhere other than at Happy Coulson. I wanted to be able to go anywhere I wanted, at any time, without having to make it fit one of the boxes on the ‘attestation’ we are legally obliged to carry.

We’re still in lockdown until 15 December but shops are open and we’re allowed to travel up to 20km for the purpose of exercise, for a total of three hours. When lockdown lifts for the festive season, the 9pm curfew comes back in, which, if I’m honest, makes me feel like a moody teenager. Who are they to tell me I have to be home at 9pm? I’m 47 years and two weeks old. We do get two curfew-free nights, on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve so we’re planning the mother and father of all parties. But only for six people, obvs.

France slid back into confinement at the end of October, via a 9pm curfew which felt, in some ways, even more bizarre than full lockdown. We went to a bar the night before the curfew started and everyone had to leave in time to get home by midnight. All very Cinderella, with a hint of police state.

Full confinement kicked back in a week later, with the difference that schools would remain open and people who couldn’t work from home could still work. So this lockdown feels a lot less fearful and more ‘normal’, with loads of people out and about. Although Tana is now only at lycée for half the week and India’s collège is talking about the possibility of home-schooling so all may change…

It certainly is a year of change and crazy energy, which can feel scary at times. But in the words of my wonderful friend, Rozy Kalliabetsos (www.rozyglow.com), who offers world service meditations:
ALL you have to do is MAKE A CHOICE ❤️ IN YOUR HEART ❤️
The rest is gifted to you depending on the choice you make.
NOT making a choice in and of itself is complying with giving your power away.
This makes YOU easily manipulated by F.E.A.R. (false evidence appearing real).
So I invite you to remember your POWER and CLAIM IT NOW.
The LIGHT HAS WON!
How quickly YOU see it depends on the choice you make.
The walls of the old world ARE coming down and one REVELATION after the next is on its way.

Rozy’s meditations always come with the full and new moons and this October has gifted us three glorious moons. We love stargazing here as there is so little light pollution and the skies are often clear. So we had front row seats for the Harvest or Blood Moon, the Hunter’s Moon and a blue moon (second full moon), which you can see in the photo taken from our favourite viewpoint out the back of our house. 

Whether or not you believe in the power of the stars and moon, taking time to look up at the sky is a wonderful thing. Stargazing is a free, constantly-changing show that generates conversation and bonding. Thoughts clear and connection to nature strengthens. It fosters inspiration and imagination, alleviates stress and can even increase happiness. Job done.

What an unusual rentrée (back-to-school). And that’s being polite. Both children at new schools – Tana moving up to lycée after passing his Brevet with a Mention Assez Bien and India moving to Marciac collège in search of tolerance, kindness, and harder school work – and not a word from either establishment before the first day. Really, no one knew anything. Apart from what time the children needed to be there.

It was a similar situation for my yoga classes. Would I be able to use the rooms? How many people would be allowed per class? Would we have to wear masks? Would I have to clean all the rooms before and after use?

In an effort to avoid frustration, I found myself constantly reminding myself, my family and my students of the three As of yoga (and life) that I learned in my first teacher training – Adapt, Adjust, Accommodate.

And here we are, nearly a month in and both kids are super-happy and settled at their new schools. Tana is doing the sports option at the local lycée, which means he gets to do sport as part of his Baccalauréat, and he’s also playing in the front row for Maubourguet rugby club, which he loves. He’s finding new friends, learning to live with old enemies and standing steady in his regained confidence, gifted to us by the virus Corona. India is loving her new school, where she gets loads more homework and no one bats an eyelid at her undercut, earrings and awesomely weird dress sense. She’s doing dog agility with Minty, riding (of course) and twice a week kicking butt in Krav Maga (Israeli self defence) at our beloved martial arts school.

Chris is still working flat out on pools but is looking forward to closing them all and getting stuck back into work here, finishing the yoga studio and starting on the chillout space upstairs. I’m back teaching full-time, more classes than before as numbers are limited, but very pleased that the vast majority of people have come back, and I have a steady trickle of newbies. We’re doing full-contact karate again after taking a year off for Lyme disease, and we’re determined to get our black belts this year. We’re also making lots of music, with friends and rehearsing with our band, The ZamZams. I’m talking about Lyme disease in the past, having done A LOT of work on myself during lockdown – I’d call it a full cellular and emotional detox. I still get the odd symptom but choose not to let them rule me. And it seems to be working thus far.

It is undeniably a strange time. We are very fortunate here to be protected from the worst of it but we still feel the effects. The most obvious is the wearing of masks and the children have to wear one at school all day. I am not convinced that wearing a mask is necessary for most people but I do it when I am asked to, and take it off at all other times. No one really knows what is going on and what to do for the best. There is a lot of fear and mistrust and that, in my opinion, is the biggest danger. So I will be focusing on getting steady, breathing, letting go of fear and tension, and being kind. Being kind to myself, to everyone I know and also to everyone I don’t know. Big changes are afoot and this is a good way to deal with any change.

August, the cherry on the top of an amazing six months, brought to us by the virus Corona.

Our second amazing canyoning adventure.

Tana backflipped everywhere, all summer long.

The Happy Coulson Shindig 2020. Bring it!

Rick proposed to Claire at the Pond of Huw.

Freezing cold river walks in the Hobbit Forest.

Discovering Lupiac lake and its Guinguette.

Decorations go up in the studio of dreams.

 

 

Our 17th anniversary.

July, usually the start of the long summer holidays, where we have to prepare ourselves for having the kids at home all the time… This year, we slid into the summer months like pros.

Neither Tana nor India went back to school and both will be starting new schools in September. The brevet exams were cancelled and marks attributed on continuous assessment. This was a real result for Tana, who failed his brevet blanc, as he managed a Mention Assez Bien. We couldn’t go to any  of the lycée open days so he chose to go to our local lycée in Vic-en-Bigorre and applied successfully for the highly competitive Option Sport. We made a ‘demande de derogation’ to move India to the Collège Aretha Franklin in Marciac for 4ième and 3ième. She’s in but we don’t yet know whether she’ll be able to do the jazz option…

Other big July moments: the floor going down in the barn, thanks to Chris and workaway Elliot, so I could teach the first yoga sessions in my own space; and Happy Coulson Pools welcomed Egon onto the team.

Following on from our hedonistic June, July has been an orgy of fun, with our Arabian Nights mini-festival, India’s 13th birthday (complete with piercings), band practices and bromance aplenty for Tana.

Salvador's school leavers party at the pond

Salvador’s school leavers party at the pond

Loving the Pond of Huw

Loving the Pond of Huw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabian Nights mini-festival

Arabian Nights mini-festival

The Genie in the Cave of Wonders

The Genie in the Cave of Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madame Flore the Oracle Reader

Madame Flore the Oracle Reader

Maryjane the belly dancer

Maryjane the belly dancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floor going down in the yoga studio

Floor going down in the yoga studio

ZamZams loving the new space

ZamZams loving the new space

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bromance - Jules, Phoenix, Tana and Benjamin

Bromance – Jules, Phoenix, Tana and Benjamin

Canoeing on the Adour

Canoeing on the Adour

Two beardy pool guys

Two beardy pool guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one turned 13

This one turned 13

 

 

June was a gradual emerging from lockdown. Masked visits to opticians and dentists, the setting up of yoga classes outside, children supposed to be returning to school. We decided not to send ours back as everyone preferred home school! Most of the month was spent planning a Solstice party to celebrate Darcie’s birthday. It was the first Happy Coulson party to venture into the field and wood and it morphed into a mini-festival.

Solstice festival

The festival field

Teens in the comfy seats

Teens in the comfy seats

 

 

 

 

 

The Witch Tree and the Wishing Tree

The Witch Tree and the Wishing Tree

The Clearing, where we wrote our wishes

The Clearing, where we wrote our wishes

 

 

 

Dancing and juggling

Dancing and juggling

The party went on all night

The party went on all night…

We are in the ghostly world of post-lockdown. No one quite knows what they are allowed, or not allowed, to do. The threat of a second wave looms. Most people don’t want to ‘go back to normal’. There is a collective desire to go forward to a new normal. But how? In the words of Arundhati Roy, this pandemic is a portal.
Pandemic is a portal

We are out of our depthWow, that would have been the mother of all April Fools…
But alas, it is not. We’re in week two of lockdown, waiting for the crest of the coronavirus tsunami to flood our corner of Europe. We are very lucky here. We have lots of space, inside and out. If we turn right out of our house, we walk straight into the countryside, not a road or a house in sight.

Chris still has some work as he is now allowed to open and maintain pools, as long as he doesn’t come into contact with anyone. I’ve been forced to get to grips with recording videos for my yoga students and, you know what, I’m actually enjoying it. The kids have settled into a homeschool routine and we are all enjoying spending more time together.

So yes, we are lucky. But we are still worried. Worried about our health, worried about our family and friends, worried about work, worried about the kids missing important time in school, worried about small businesses, the list goes on…

And that’s where I feel most lucky. I feel that, for the past 20 years, I have been training for this. My study of yoga, the challenges and breakthroughs, the years of self-practice and my experience as a teacher have been equipping me with an arsenal of weapons to help myself and those around me deal with the weirdness of what we are living through.

If I had to choose one weapon, I would choose awareness: awareness of your breath, awareness of how you are reacting, awareness of when you need to do something, awareness of when you need to do nothing.

President Macron said “Nous sommes en guerre (We are at war)” and he’s right. We are at war with the virus and we all need to do our bit. But I also believe we are fighting for a better way of being for us and for the world. People have been talking about this for years. When John Lennon wrote ‘Imagine’, he envisioned a more equal world where peace and love triumph. Some will call it hippy shit, others will say it will never happen so why bother. But there are positive changes that can happen as a result of this crazy sabbatical from so-called ‘normal’ life, and we should all fight hard to make them happen. Aux armes citoyens!

I don’t always like my 14-year-old son’s choice of music. He tends to prefer low-grade (in my opinion) American and French rap with sometimes questionable lyrics. But every now and then he finds a real belter, and this is one of them.  He played it to me last week, when I was feeling pretty shitty, and it genuinely made me smile, inside and out. Just perfect for a sunny Sunday after a couple of weeks of rain.

Now, I know that a couple of weeks of rain is nothing to complain about when Britain said goodbye to the sun last September, but it has reminded me how the weather can influence how you feel. I’m just back from a dog walk with our two blonde bombshells and I quite literally feel sunny.

Feeling and seeing the sun come out after a while behind grey clouds is joyful. Actually, it’s rather how I feel this weekend as more than two months of Lyme symptoms seem to be lifting. As I walked this morning, I ran through the daily check I use to chart my progress:
Knees? Ok
Headache? Ok
Cape of doom (sore neck and shoulders)? Ok
Brain fog? Ok
Nausea? Ok
Chronic fatigue? Ok

Ok, so one day I’d like all of the above to be better than ok but, trust me, ok is ok for now. In fact, it’s more than ok. When I felt a rush of my normal energy come back on Thursday evening, it felt like I had drunk a huge cup of coffee (and coffee has been very much off the menu due to headaches). I couldn’t help but break into a huge smile and start giggling, which was a little disconcerting for my yoga students…

Since Thursday evening, I have really been able to enjoy life. And after a wonderful day in the mountains yesterday, eating a delicious lunch and lazing in the spa before having supper with dear, dear friends, I feel genuinely ok. No. More than ok. I am greater than the sum of my ok parts and I FEEL GREAT. (Although it is being marred slightly by the two men sawing beams outside my window. Just saying. #sundayworking).

Feeling moved to write another blog just two days after I posted my January update as it left a rather bitter taste in my mouth. I always like to be honest in my blogs, so if I feel like something the cat dragged in, you are going to know about it. (Humorous cat-dragged-in-related aside: I was in the kitchen today, folding washing, when all of a sudden a dead mouse flies up from the floor and lands on the table. Seriously. It was a moment before I realised that Gizzy the cat was under the table…).

Anyhoo, it wasn’t so much the blog that left a bad taste, but the words I used to post it: “So long, January. Goodbye and good riddance”, which rudely overshadowed the wonderful times I had last month. I didn’t even bother to share it to my own Facebook page as I just wasn’t feeling it. But after 10 hours of sleep, I woke up this morning without a headache to the sun streaming in through the windows. I was home alone, so after a barefoot morning dog stroll around our beautiful garden, admiring the snowy mountains in the distance, I decided to do an online yoga session with the gorgeous Charlie Speller.

Charlie started the session with a meditation on gratitude, which I found super easy this morning, filled with appreciation for this incredible place we call home and the warm sunshine. I was also able to remember much more vividly the magical time I had with my mum and sister last week. Thank you, angels. The last part of the meditation, which was to be our theme for the practice, was to choose an aspect of ourselves we were grateful for. I had to pause the session here, to really let this percolate. It wasn’t easy but I eventually realised that, despite the blips, I am grateful that I am NOT going to give up fighting Lyme disease.

The word that resonated with me was ‘tenacious’, and suddenly, there I was, Tenacious K. This made me laugh out loud and I carried it with me throughout the whole practice, breathing it into different parts of my body. By the time I finished, I felt like I’d had a complete cellular recharge, my head was still clear and my knees almost normal. There followed a lovely day filled with friends and birthday cake. So thank you, Charlie Speller. Thank you, Jane Tatford and Vicky Holmes. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, friends. And thank YOU, Tenacious D, for the inspiration. May we all rock on 🙂

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