Simple minds and simple pleasures

I make no secret of the fact I moved to France to put an end to the miserable, crabby, cross me. Life is too short to spend it so angry. I used to do lists of rants and I didn’t have a short fuse. I had an incredibly long fuse. But aside from the sleep-work-sleep routine, the only joy I really got was at work, and that’s never a good thing. Escaping for holidays here and there just wasn’t enough to help me cope with the ten tonnes of pressure that work life can bring when you know that your results can generate an Ofsted inspection with a team of inspectors who  have already made up their mind upon seeing your results that your school is failing. And the results they look at? English and Maths. No improvements? Schools are closed within a year. Up to 1,800 students, their parents, a staff of 200 depending on you. No wonder I was working from 7am – 7 pm and then bringing work home.

But I don’t have that pressure here. It’s a different sort of pressure, like where the next euro is coming from or whether the hens have got mites. I used to have all kinds of little things to get me through the day – my Paperchase pens, my cute stationery, a well-decorated office, good coffee, lovely make-up, a beautiful car – and here it’s no exception. It’s always the little things that bring a smile to my face. It used to be those days when the English department would all be using furry, light-up Mr Incredible pens or when I’d prank-call Phil for the fiftieth time. Now it’s different stuff that brings a smile to my face.

  • Tilly when she wags her tail in the mornings because she’s so glad to be awake and she lies with her back legs sticking out and her tail wagging and wagging
  • Seeing the stars out of my bedroom window over the quince tree
  • Mr Fox coming in and purring
  • Tilly wagging to see Foxy. Never was a dog so happy to see a cat
  • Feeling cool air blowing in through the kitchen window after a hot night
  • Cool tiles under my feet
  • The quiet of the house in the morning
  • Tilly popping up onto the settee at the side of me for a little bit of company (but not too much or she’ll get off!)
  • Spending a couple of hours digging and unearthing a few kilos of potatoes
  • Clearing weeds – never did I think brown earth could be so satisfying!
  • Baguettes for lunch with egg mayo
  • Seeing the chicken ladies sitting on the windowsill
  • Seeing a chicken run
  • Picking apples from the tree and eating them in the garden
  • Picking up walnuts from the floor
  • Eating grapes off the vine
  • Picking a few kilos of tomatoes for passata and sauce and home-made ketchup and soups
  • Pulling up vegetables
  • Walking in my vegetable garden – leeks, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, cauliflower, courgettes, beetroot, carrots and parsnips still to come
  • Planting  a handful of seeds
  • Picking fresh herbs to dry
  • Collecting the eggs
  • Making cakes and jams and jellies and chutneys and pies with stuff from the garden
  • Cuddles from Molly and curling up with her for an afternoon nap
  • Looking out of the window to see the cows across the street – our nearest neighbours with a heart-beat
  • Tilly foraging for tomatoes
  • Teaching French people to say ‘bath’ properly, and ‘mother’ properly so that it doesn’t sound like ‘muzzer’
  • Seeing people go from one-or-two words of English to being able to have a conversation
A tired Tilly Pop - too tired to stand up to drink
  • When Tilly’s been for a walk and she lies on the kitchen floor with her head resting on her water bowl because she’s too tired to do anything else
  • When Molly wants to get in her bed but she can’t because it’s been stolen by Mr Fox
  • When Fox lies almost on top of Molly on the settee – and Molly is too uncomfortable to sleep and too polite to move
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