June was the month we went from temperatures of 46 degrees, the hottest we have experienced in our 10 years here, to giant hailstones that destroyed everything in their path, all within a couple of days.

We didn’t reopen our pilgrim gite after Covid, so it is a rare delight when a pilgrim stops by. Beautiful Caroline appeared at my door, not even knowing that we used to be a pilgrim’s rest, asking for a square of chocolate. I was very busy, but I knew straightaway that it was important to spend some time with this special human. We were soon lying spreadeagled on the grass, beneath the humming tilleul tree, breathing with the bees. Caroline stayed for two nights, beautifying our overgrown garden to express her gratitude for our hospitality. She loved coming to yoga with me, and inspired me to plunge into the Adour river after a particularly hot class. Thank you, Caroline, and Bon Chemin.

Just two days after the very hottest day, there passed a storm of biblical proportions. Up on the hill at Lahitte, we watched lightning dancing inside crazy bulbous cloud formations. There was wind, there was rain. And along a narrow corridor of villages, including Vic-en-Bigorre, there was hail.

Hailstones the size and weight of petanque balls rained down upon houses and cars, smashing through roofs, velux windows and windscreens. The following day, everyone who could, led by the pompiers, was out to help protect houses from the continuing rain. We did what we could to help friends who were away, moving precious belongings out of the rain, and covering cars with blankets to protect against falling tiles. Walking around the town, it was astonishing to see so many smashed car windows and broken tiles, and incredible to believe that no one was hurt. We are now considering revising our insurance policies to cover hail damage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring turned to summer in May, with creative juices continuing to flow. We played another couple of gigs with Lamb Pancake, and I had my ukelele debut to Don’t Worry, Be Happy. (Before you believe me to be some musical maestro, there are but three chords in the whole song).

La Guinguette du Petit Pont, an awesome hippy festival held beside our beautiful Adour river, made a very welcome return. A celebration of delicious local food, good company and live music, the highlight of the evening was a young dance duo on mixers, digeridoo, guitar and flute.

My lovely friend, Charlie Speller, hosted a full moon shamanic ceremony at Castelnau Magnoac lake on Friday 13th May. Far from scary, it was a wonderful mix of wild women, circle ceremony and skinny dipping, and the perfect preparation for my second yoga retreat at Santosha Yoga in Conilhac-en-Montagne, postponed for two years due to Covid. A heart and mind-blowing few days with 11 of my yoga students, my neighbour, Sylvie, who offered early morning Qi Gong, and, my friend, Paula, who pampered everyone with massage.

Circle time

Sharing

Qi Gong with Sylvie

Mermaiding

Walking

Ice creaming!

Lamb PancakeSpring well and truly sprung for us during April. Thanks to the lifting of most Covid restrictions, the world opened up. We were able to go out and about to restaurants and events, mask-free and tentatively embracing even strangers (with permission, of course). The spring weather also got our creative juices flowing, as we joyfully picked up our musical instruments after a period of hibernation.

One of the highlights was a mini-festival held to raise funds for the Maison des Parents at a hospital in Toulouse. It was one of the first warm and sunny spring days, and there was a great turnout of people doing whatever they could to raise money. We played our first Lamb Pancake gig with our dear friends, the Claydons, and our ecletic repertoire went down a storm. Best thing was, we were up first, so once we had finished, all we had to do was sit back and enjoy!

Happy Yoga StudioI was also inspired to put on my first ever yoga workshops in our beautiful Happy Coulson yoga studio, one of the many gifts of Covid. Fresh from my yin yoga training in the UK, I tentatively planned first one three-hour Sunday morning workshop. As it quickly filled, I scheduled another for the following Sunday. And another, the Sunday after that.

I’m two-thirds of the way through my trio of yin yoga workshops, and these are my findings so far. People are really keen to get out and get together, sharing and exchanging once more. Folk are also aware that they need to take time for themselves, to assimilate the effects of the past two years, and adjust to the new reality of a world with Covid in it.

People also seem more accepting of and invested in their own personal situations, and, as a result, more willing to take responsibility for their own progress. Maybe this is thanks to Covid, maybe it is thanks to a regular yoga practice. Who knows? And actually, who cares? It is wonderful to see and I shall be assuming that this is the new normal.

Skiing 2022Skiing in the Pyrénées was one of the reasons we moved here, and our annual week in the mountains is always a highlight. This year was a bit different as when I went to book our usual apartment in Argelès-Gazost, I was told it was already booked. The owner usually contacts me to give us first dibs, so at first we were horrified. But we’ve been skiing in the same valley for nine years now, so this was just the encouragment we needed to spread our wings. We started looking in the next valley, near to our favourite spa, and also extended the invitation to our friends. We ended up booking a gite for three families, near to a big ski station that Chris and India had tried during the Christmas holidays.

Despite a general lack of snow and some mediocre weather conditions, we all had a brilliant time. The kids loved having other teenagers to race, and I was relieved and delighted with the performance of my still recovering broken ankle. Leaning a shinbone decorated with metal into the front of a plastic ski boot (something you MUST do if you want to move at anything faster than a gentle slide) isn’t the most comfortable thing, but, thanks to some clever padding, it was very doable. And I’m hoping it will be even more comfortable next winter, when I will have had the metalwork removed.

As soon as we had unpacked and put away our skis, I was off again! This time to the UK on my own, for a long-awaited Yin yoga teacher training. I like to do some form of training every year, but Covid put paid to that. I was just about to do a French Yin training in the Dordogne when the first lockdown hit, having fallen in love with this slow yet intense form of yoga while suffering from Lyme disease. I had painful, swollen joints and was too exhausted to do my usual dynamic yoga practice. Yin yoga helped immeasurably, and not just physically. I have been teaching it ever since because of the physical, mental and emotional benefits.

Yin with Norman

When I researched Yin training in the UK, Norman Blair’s name kept coming up, and this training just happened to be in my favourite part of London. This was Norman’s first in-person training for more than two years, so it was already special. Add to that the exceptional teachings of Norman and his team, and the other beautiful souls on the course, and my cup was already running over. But I had also underestimated the pure, unadulterated joy of being on my own in London, staying first in Hampstead, then in Crouch End, with dear friends I haven’t seen for years. I am nourished.

And then it was my turn. I consider myself very lucky to:
a) Have contracted a mild strain that felt like a bad cold
b) Have lots of experience of feeling under the weather
c) Have lots of tools to help me navigate it easefully

My most helpful tools were meditation, yoga, fresh air (barefoot where possible), and cider vinegar and magnesium salt baths. I also have a wonderful network of like-minded souls to suggest other remedies, including which vitamins to take, which essential oils to diffuse, and why and how to drink green clay. Natural medicine is not an exact science, and not everything will work for everyone. But I love unearthing and experimenting with this ancient wisdom that has become lost amid the marvels of modern medicine.

My family

Tana caught it after me, also very mildly, and there were a few anxious days when we didn’t know whether we would be able to go to the UK for our postponed New Year trip…

But the gods were smiling on us, and we finally got to see my mum, my sister and my stepmum. My brother and his two boys even made it down from up north, so all the cousins got to see each other for the first time in a very long time. We went to the beach on the windiest day of the year, in the middle of three different storms. What a wonderful way to blow away the fears and isolation of the last couple of years.

We ended the trip with a couple of days in London with my stepmum, aka Granny Lulu. Always a blast.

With mum and broPunk

SkiingThe year 2022 felt to me like a rebirth, an emerging from the Covid chrysalis. There was a lot of talk about the angel numbers 222 – how they were a sign of good things to come, a sign we were about to enter a period of peace and stability.

And then Covid came to call.

After a wonderful day skiing at Peyragudes to celebrate the last day of the Christmas holidays, one of our party messaged to say they were positive. They thought the culprit might have been the ‘tapis roulant’, the moving walkway, sealed inside a plastic tube, which transported hundreds of heavy-breathing schoolchildren up the beginners’ slopes.

Covid testingSo started a seemingly endless round of nasal probing, as the children and I tested daily to make sure we were safe to go to school and work. India was the first to fall, coming home from school feeling uncharacteristically tired. She even wanted a cuddle on the sofa and fell asleep on my shoulder. I should have known something was up.

Lo and behold, when we tested the following day, India was positive. She was delighted to isolate in her suite of rooms and work on her art projects. The only symptoms she had was fatigue and an ability to feel her face, and she was testing negative and back at school by day 4.

The rest of January passed in a blur of different friends isolating, and everyone reducing outside contact, including the majority of my yoga students. I have to admit that it was quite strange when The Vid, the invisible power that held the whole world in its grip, entered our home. There was no fear. Plenty of our friends, both vaccinated and not, have had it and recovered quickly, with no problems. But it was strange.

The ‘better times’ I forecast in my November blog were postponed by the ongoing Covid restrictions, which meant that we had to abandon our plans of spending new year with family and friends in the UK. But we didn’t let this get us down for long. We might not have been able to see our UK family, but our extended, blended tribe of families were all here and ready to celebrate the end of the year and the season of goodwill.

Present game

Paula’s Dutch Present Game

Macaron Christmas tree

Louisa’s Macaron Christmas tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boxing Day meal

Boxing Day Feast

Winter walk

Obligatory After Feast Winter Walk

 

New Year's Eve karaoke

New Year’s Eve Karaoke

 

 

 

 

Dress Code: Dress Different

NYE Dress Code: Dress Different

 

Our tribe

Our Tribe

November is usually all about the birthdays – mine, Tana’s and Chris’ – and tis true, we did have a blinding party, with the first performance from our new band, Lamb Pancake. But this year, November was even more special as India and I got to spend a few days in the UK with my family.

This trip was ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS. Spending quality time with my mum, my sister and my stepmum, Lou. Walking in nature (the weather blessed us every day), talking, laughing, puzzling, walking around the local towns, browsing the charity shops. Simple pleasures. The real delight was in enjoying each others’ company. But I have to say that, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, none of us felt starved of contact or too sad at the prospect of going home.

Especially as we had another visit to my mum’s planned between Christmas and New Year, this time with all four of us. And, even better, Tana and Chris were coming over the very next weekend, to see a Happy Mondays and James gig in London with dear friends and visit Chris’ family up north. Except they couldn’t, because Covid restrictions got silly again. A final test of our ability to remain positive and optimistic that better times are coming. Challenge accepted.

What I teach in my yoga classes always reflects what I am going through in life. My October theme was to track physical sensation without judgment or criticism. I may still be a little preoccupied with my leg…

While we’re talking about my leg, October was a triumphant month. It witnessed the first walk to our bench since the accident, past the very hay bales where it all unfolded, and a therapeutic weekend at the seaside. We stayed with our friends, Julie and Xavier, at Julie’s family beach house on the dunes at Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains on the Atlantic coast. It is a magical place and Chris and I lapped up the child-free time and late autumn sunshine, testing my ankle with walks along the beach and yoga shapes thrown in the sand.

Of course, my leg wasn’t the only star of the month. October has Halloween, and that’s time to dress up…

After a summer spent in a wheelchair and on crutches, September saw me back on two feet. My intention for La Rentrée, or Back to School/Work, was to work smarter instead of harder. And the theme for all my classes was to meet ourselves exactly where we were, without judgement or criticism. I’m delighted to say that both strategies worked.

September is the month we sort our heating for the winter. Something we’ve been doing together as a family ever since we arrived in France 10 years ago. And something I did with my family growing up. I have always loved cutting, moving and stacking wood. Our kids have not always been quite as  keen as their mad mother, but this year they were awesome.

Sorry, guys, but I just had to share these photos from our first Happy Coulson wooding in September 2012.

 

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