Stories and Lentils

Stories and Lentils Follow

French Pyrenees, two forever grubby girls, a house to renovate, home-schooling, simple living...

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Last night's swimming costumes and arm bands drying over the bath have been joined by our waterproofs today. Autumn arrived under a grey sky with a rain storm and a steady wind this morning. Right on time.
The last days of summer sunshine in the street: Heating the tarmac under bare feet, wilting the nasturtiums tumbling from the window sill, inviting the butterflies to dance just out of reach from children's outstretched fingers, chasing the toads into the cool of compost in flowerpots.
I love seeing the girls play in the street outside our home. The interactions they have when friends or strangers pass by, the shout 'car coming' as they dive for the cover of a doorway, the flowers, whales, planets and nameless patterns they chalk onto the road and the knowledge that their games are just a chapter in the street's story. Since this street was, perhaps, first a path and then a track, children must have skipped and raced along it's length, grazed their knees, looked up at a sky full of swallows or a lone silhouette of a kite or buzzard and played with the same tap and sent water streaming down the gutter. There's something comforting in the timelessness of these moments of play.
First ceps of the season. Simplest of joys.
The bit where Little I had to be restrained with help of the battered old sling. Even mountain paths, sheer drops or scree don't slow that one down...
Today we finally climbed the Pic de Bugarach. We'd planned this since we arrived here but the weather can be tricky up there and finally a free day coincided with the perfect combination of not too hot nor too windy...
I failed my driving test this week, in a very conclusive, humiliating sort of way... I have never been so anxious as I was before the test, during and even afterwards. It's such a mundane and normal thing to fail but I seem to have so much of my self confidence wrapped up in this. I know they'll be a next time and today I dragged myself out from under my duvet (both real and metaphorical) and all four of us climbed for three and a half hours to reach the summit. Seeing the girls put all their strength and energy into the climb with unyielding enthusiasm helped me find some perspective. .
Toward the top, swallows darted on the winds, sailing past us, almost close enough for us to touch. An unexpected surprise. At the summit, we ate the best tasting sandwich ever and  looked out across all of the Aude: the Pyrenees, the Corbieres, the Mediterranean... Little I had secretly packed her favourite book into my bag and we all sat there in the wind reading her encyclopedia of animal poo (one of my favourite things about France, the amazing range of subjects covered by children's reference books!) .
This is one of their favourite things: Helping. Sometimes perfectly endearing, sometimes a little frustrating.
I find it really interesting that children have this desire to take part, 'help', share in the chores or pretend to do like the adults around them. I can't pretend to know why or have read anything about why but I love seeing how proud they are when one of them has 'done grown up things'. Perhaps it's some sort of proof that we were all made to live in community, to have a role, to do together. When all our simple living begins to feel like too much frugality or something closer to being plain poor for Florent and I, we remember how rich we are in time. We can invite the girls to help even when the task will take three times as long or there will be a massive mess to sort out afterwards... It just takes a lot of deep breaths to remember this each time.
September. The figs are ripening, the mornings are fresh, some rhythms are returning and someone has just inherited the tiger suit from their big sister. Smiles all round.
So much love for 'Hooky Legs'. They really want a pet....
Saturday: Market. Woods and fire with friends. Bridge building. Dam building. Home. Ray Mears Extreme Survival on the laptop (number one hero with the girls at the moment!). Children glued to the screen (sweet, perfect peace). Fried up leftovers for dinner. Only one argument (who knew that using slightly rotten wood would cause the bridge to break and who doesn't want to start again after building it for an hour and a half...?) and there's even some wine somewhere...
Sometimes the girls are fascinated by something beautiful, sometimes they ask incredibly pertinent questions, sometimes they lose themselves handling a leaf or flower or smooth pebble and then, sometimes, I share something with them and they scrunch up their face and say "BORING" and pull a face that says 'Mummy-you-try-too-hard'. Sometimes they are just too busy arguing about who will get to wear the bloody Elsa dress...
Like when I found this Stag Beatle. Which I think is incredible. But they were fighting over who gets to sing "slam the door" (Little I's favourite line). .
Later, when I was still trying to inspire them to take some interest Little L kindly said "You could put it in my nature box but there's no room because I''ve fitted in all my playmobile people". Of course she has. Little plastic figures crowding out the shells, butterfly wings and lichen.
Summer reaching out toward autumn...
We took our friends on one of our favourite mountain walks and somehow what should have taken a couple of hours took all day. So many flowers to smell, sticks to collect, donkeys to stroke, dung beatles to er, 'help' (forever kind Little L), picnics to share, Refuge coffees to drink and views to pause and wonder at.... Thank you for the wonderful weekend @sophie.willoughby_print and your patience with two of your smallest fans.