Sadly, this is the first time I’ve missed a weekly blog post since February. Fortunately, it was due to a huge gathering in the French countryside. A meeting of cultures, generations, family and friends to herald three momentous occasions in one family over the last year. As excuses go, I think it’s a pretty good one.
I don’t even have that many photos. Caught up in all the new faces, the conversations to have, the food to savour, I forgot to step back and look at how much everyone was enjoying themselves. Also fairly excusable.
A break in the socialising for a visit to the chateau
The lack of post might also have something to do with my unwillingness to let go of this relentless summer. While we ‘came back’ last month, it’s felt like an extension of the travels, in part thanks to the freakishly warm weather in the UK which means that my shorts have been a daily necessity for a good few months now.
So why is it that I’m reluctant to really come back, in a way we haven’t yet? It’s strange that we spend most of our time in our ‘normal’ life, but constantly crave to escape it. Daily routines grate against your sense of what it means to be happy, no matter how fortunate your circumstances are.
France gave us a great sunset on the way back
We’ll be back in our home next week, I’ll be preparing to return to a job that I (mostly) love, our baby will be starting at a great local nursery. There’ll be opportunities to reconnect with friends, restart old hobbies, immerse myself back in the bustling life of a big city that I craved so much when we were two months into our trip.
And yet. It’s hard not to have a sense of impending dread. The image of a dreary grey cloud looming on the horizon after so many searing blue skies is hard to shake.
I have other concerns. The baby I took away from our little flat had barely begun to move. There’s a video of her laughing, having just realised she could move her hands to connect with things that made noises. I’ll be bringing home a completely different baby. One who is desperate to walk, is moving her body in new ways every day, is curious and inquisitive and wants to pick up everything to examine it. For the last few months she’s been exposed to broad landscapes, big houses, huge gardens, the sea. How can our tiny space possibly offer her the stimulation she needs and craves?
This little girl is very different to the one that left in February
I am a firm believer that ‘happiness,’ if it can indeed be quantified, is far less to do with circumstances and experiences as it is to do with attitude and relationships. But even the first few weeks in one place have felt stifling, especially with the routines of a small baby to squeeze the day around. As well as her, how will I find contentment and fulfilment back in the place we left behind?
We spent some of our time, while we were in France, looking through our photos and telling stories about our adventures. At so many points we stopped and smiled, looked at each other and remembered a particular moment. There were things, already, that we’d forgotten about.
More glorious skies and architecture
That time in New Zealand when we woke up, freezing, trying to bundle the baby into as many layers as possible when we realised the heating didn’t work in the van. When we spent hours walking through an industrial area in Tokyo to get to the bay because we underestimated the distance on Google maps. Telling stories about ourselves has reminded us of how special our time together has been, what we’ve been through and how it’s built our family in a way that staying at home might not have done.
What I need to remember is that those stories haven’t stopped just because we’re back in the UK. Even after the space of a few days, there are things to tell, images to share, moments to savour. For me, this is one of the reasons that writing is so important. Telling stories is what we do every day to try and capture the beauty of our existence.
A last brush with nature before we returned to the city
I think this is what I want to remember when I see that cloud lurking on the horizon. Within it are things that are unknown and known, mundane and exciting, but how I feel about them depends on the story I want to tell.