Sunday 30 March 2014


Ça fait longtemps que vous vivez ici, en France? Question rituelle des Français. 

J'étais déjà venue, plein de fois. Parfois longtemps, un an passé comme un éclair. Après, parfois quelques semaines à peine. Combien de fois, je ne sais pas, je ne sais plus. Je sais juste que ce pays m'attire tel un aimant depuis longtemps.

Puis vint le jour que atterrie dans une petite vallée au bout du monde et que je commence à y construire un petit nid. C'est parfois difficile, la vie en montagne. Mais je sais aussi que quelques temps sans la montagne, elle me manque. J'ai besoin de son immensité et de son intensité. J'ai besoin des parenthèses qu'elle sait m'offrir. Mais aussi encore plus peut-être de cette incompréhension permanente où elle m’envoie.
Ça fait longtemps que vous vivez ici, en France? Oui, ça fait cinq ans. Effectivement. 

Vous avez votez? Question incrédule sur les lèvres de chacun que je croise ce matin à la Mairie. Ce matin décisif du deuxième tour des municipales.  
Avant cette semaine, je n'avais jamais voté dans ce pays. Je n'avais pas vraiment sentie chez moi non plus. Mais ce matin, ma carte électorale à la main et une grande fierté dans mon cœur, les choses ont changé pour moi. Et je ressens aussi que le choses vont changer ici dans cette vallée...

Friday 28 March 2014


Here we are already nearing the start of April. Although it often feels as if my life is grinding to a halt at the moment. The wondrous thing about the universe of course is that the year continues to march on regardless. A comforting thought. Lately, we've been watching the light change, sitting out the balcony, drinking in the warm air.

Then yesterday, I found myself quietly cleaning our homestead with spring on my mind...and snow whirling outside the windows. It's been snowing on and off all week.

Each morning, the sky has been the colour of raw silk. Then yesterday, the blue hues returned. A sprinkling of fresh snow capped the rooftops, the gardens, the young leaves on the pear tree.

Stepping outside I braced for the chill, and instead felt a balm I didn’t expect. Not a trace of chill in the gentle wind. Only a soothing touch in the air that promised that spring really is coming.

And so.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

spring snow

I wake to a gentle pitter-patter on the rooftop, almost inaudible. I go out onto the balcony to inspect. The rain that was supposed to come today arrived this morning instead as snow. Not a raging snow-storm nor a heavy dump. Spring snow, snow without purpose, not driven, not sticking, just dancing in the air.

In the neighbours garden below, the daffodils hang their heads forlornly. "Too early," they must be thinking. "We emerged from our winter slumber far too early this year."

At first glance, winter seems to be hanging on longer than usual this year. But then I look more closely. This isn't serious mid-winter snow, but rather ephemeral spring snow. As we watch the great fat flakes tumble from the slate grey sky, they settle only momentarily on the green boughs and yellow flowers before dissolving into nothingnesses. And I realise the reason for our delight. Spring snow is just as beguiling as the snow of the bleak mid-winter, except now we have only the beauty and none of it's sting.

For me, the flurries outside my window are also welcome this weekend. I embrace the excuse to stay inside, with an internal focus. I've got no good reason to go out into the cold, and instead can stay in to rest and recharge. I've got a good book on the go, a knitting project to begin and a roaring fire to keep me company.

Monday 24 March 2014

snowing and sewing

It snowed all day. We sewed all day, side by side.
The next morning, there was half a centimetre of fresh snow on the rooftops. And I have a half-finished skirt (with pleats and gathers!)

Sunday 23 March 2014

surprise birthday

A very good friend turned forty this week. Her husband is standing as the opposition in the local council elections which will take place this Sunday. We were worried her birthday might get forgotten in all the hustle and bustle of politicking. So we organised a surprise birthday elevenses for her. Nico made a quatre quarts cake, oozing with salty butter. It was delicious.

Friday 21 March 2014

out on the balcony

The narrow wooden walkway that is our balcony has become one of my favourite spots during these early spring, sun-drenched days. The sun's rays are arriving earlier and earlier every morning. Which is a welcomed change after the long winter months  spent deep in the bowels of the valley.

From my vantage points, I can see cats frolicking in the surrounding gardens.  I've observed the neighbour's pear-tree come into bud, then blossom then bloom. Amourous kestrels chase one another overhead, shrieking as they dash and dive through the cloudless sky.

I love it out here, wrapped up in the warm breeze and sunshine, a knitting project on my needles, and my eyes and ears open wide.

Thursday 20 March 2014


Somehow, spring seems such a hopeful time of year.
Somehow, against all the odds, we have made it through the winter.
Perhaps we'll make it through this blip after all?

As the days lengthen once more, the buds turn to blossom then leaves and the song thrush sings late into the dusk, I find solace in nature, in this season of renewal.

baby steps

It was very difficult at first, getting to know the wheel, how to turn the peddle, adjusting the tension. But one evening last week sat beside the fire, everything just seemed to click. I stopped thinking and let my fingers do the work, teasing out the fibres, twisting them with my fingers, guiding them onto the bobbin.

And all of a sudden I was spinning, actually making my own yarn!

Next step...plying - eek! 

Wednesday 19 March 2014


Going for a rummage at the recyclerie naturally means I come back with a heap of useless junk treasures that need sorting and laundering and organising. 

Coming home with a crate of old sheets, curtains, bedspreads and pillowcases naturally means that I'm aching to get started on a heap of new projects right away. 

I started by doing the laundry....

19 mars

This is what an immigrant looks like, grinning from ear to ear and full of wide-eyed wonder and hope, having just set foot in the country she has longed for from afar for so very long.
That was me back in 2009, at the start of my year abroad. The 19th of March 2009 will forever be a day engraved in my memory.
It was the day I was first woken by the bells of L’Eglise des Templiers, the day I took my first steps as an English Language Assistant in Esquièze School, the day I began my life here in the Pyrenees.

We visited the school, we went to Lourdes, I drove in the gorges for the first time. My Pa was with me every step of the way, getting me ready for the inevitable separation, which at the time was heartbreaking.

Apart from the smiling face, I can hardly recognise myself in that photo above, hardly believe I had the courage, aged only 21, to take the plunge and start up life abroad. As I think back to my first few weeks out here, it is wonderful to realise just how far I have come, how much I have grown and learnt during my time here. And how attached I have become to this place.

little sheep

This is a gift for a good friend whose first baby is due mid-April. She is Scottish and the wee bairn's papa is French and a cheese seller. So I thought a little sheep was quite appropriate, and perfect for tiny hands to clutch at. 

The improvised pattern turned out better than expected, although I might make a few adjustments to the shaping. Once I've done some more fiddlying with it, I might put it up here. 

I suspect I'll be making plenty more of these little lambs as having a baby seems to be pretty contagious round these parts at the moment...

Pattern: My own improvisation
Needles: 4mm
Yarn: Unidentified recycled acrylic

Monday 17 March 2014

doing the laundry

Of all the household tasks, washing and pegging out laundry has to be the least mundane for me. The washing, the pegs, the basket: it's timeless, homely and an oddly cheering sight.

If only I found ironing just as satisfying....

Saturday 15 March 2014

bear # 5

My niece will be eleven years old in April. I hope that's not too old to be given a hand-knitted teddy? I enjoyed testing a new bear pattern for this ted - complete with contrast paw pads and a stripey sweater.

Pattern : "Annie and George" from the excellent book "The Knitted Teddy Bear"
Knitted for the first time

Knitting needles: Size n° 3 mm
Yarn: Unknown, recycled yarn, around 100g for the bear, 30g for the sweater
Stuffing: Laine cardée récupérée

Technique : ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Result : ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Overall cost: around 1€50 for the recycled materials

This is the first time knitting a bear from a different pattern, the main difference being each side of the head and body are knitted up in one piece, with a central seam down the body. I'd like to try this pattern again, this time finishing it in stocking stitch (rather than reverse stocking stitch). I'd also like to try using beads for the eyes as once again, I found the embroidery a little difficult. This bear's face ended up being a little on the wonky side for my liking, but he still passed quality control of both Nico and my brother!

Wednesday 12 March 2014

big brother

My brother has been visiting for a few days. The men folk went out ski-touring every day. I mostly stayed at home on the balcony, knocked out by a chest infection, but knitting to my heart's content in the sunshine.

It's hard to describe how wonderful it is when a family member or close friend comes out to visit. Walking to the boulangerie to buy the morning croissants. Cooking dinner for him. Flopping on his bed and talking like when he was still living at home. Sharing with them little aspects of my life out here.  

I treasure these intense moments spent together. Even the most mundane task becomes special simply because for a short time, we are doing it together. 

When they go back again, it can be hard. But to know they've been here, walked through these village streets and along these valley paths is enough.

Monday 10 March 2014

hello, sunshine

The past few days have been just glorious. Warm breezes, cloudless skies, sunshine on our faces. Trees, flowers and hedgerows bursting into bloom. White blossoms against swathes of blue sky. Delighted cries of "It feels like spring summer!" when bare legs and bare toes get their first outing of the year.

We're halfway through the new month and I've decided to take a break from work. I need a bit of breathing space. To slow down. To gather my thoughts. To listen to the rythms of my body. To find a place for healing.  

It's not been an easy decision to make, and we certainly haven't taken it lightly. Right now, I'm a little afraid of what this is actually gonna mean for me, for us. But as the anxiety and tension gradually melt away, I'll gradually be able to appreciate the decision. This slower life is exactly what I need right now. Knowing that I have nothing to do but to listen to my body, to pace myself, to finally find balance. I'll have time for siestas. Time to slowly walk around the village, leaning heavily on Nico's arm. I'll have time. Time to sit out in the warming sun and do....absoloutly nothing.

As we step into this newness, as we slow down, I say with a joyful heart: "Hello, sunshine. You are so very welcome."

Saturday 8 March 2014

things that go bump in the night

Step out on to the street tonight and find the world has turned upside down.
The streets pulse with the noise of the samba band. The rhythm chases my feet down the street and a hundred, thousand rain drops are shouting silvery excitement.   

A strange creature  rattles through the village tonight, surrounded by a thronging crowd. A low moan follows us down narrow stone pathways.

Yet even as I’m staring open mouthed at this otherworldly spectacle, bundled up in layers of clothing, in an Arctic defying jumper and a scarf wrapped around my face, strange creatures walk past me: ghosts and ghouls, vampires and witches and a whole host of other-worldy things that go bump in the night. The night seems populated with the abnormal side of humanity...and I'm not along in my wonder. The villagers and tourists look on in disbelief.

We take Monsieur Carnaval to the village square, put him on trial and sentence him to a burning. Before the touch paper is lit, we hurl abuse at him.

Where are all the feral people tonight? Tonight isn’t for sitting in by the fire and drinking tea. It’s a night for howling at the night, at the winter.

Carnival is one of my favourite parts of the Pyrenean calender. It's a reminder that winter is still here...but not getting the better of us.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

yarn basket

On a recent rummaging trip to the recyclerie, I came back with a basket crammed full of various yarns. The women in charge was so pleased I was making some well needed space in her shop, she let me bag the lot for a mere twenty euros.

I've spent the past week sorting through the muddle of fibres, restoring order and calm to the chaos. It has been both a theraputic and eye-opening task. I was delighted to discover a variety of different yarns, ranging from bog standard acrylics to pure wool, gorgeous summery cotton and linen and even a hemp mix.

It's made me realise how little I actually know about different yarns: about their properties, their composition, where they come from, how they can be used. It's left me feeling eager to learn and even more eager to get something cast on! 

Monday 3 March 2014

scissors to cloth

The other day, I remembered an article of clothing, something I wore long ago when days were warmer. I have a few of them folded neatly on my bottom shelves, relics of another time. But for some time now, I have also had one in my imagination, wondering when it will be sewn into a reality...

There was only one way to find out. I spent the afternoon over at my sewing friend's house. I took an old pair of blue curtains, pins and a pattern. As snow fell in great swirls outside, I put pins to the pattern and scissors to cloth, getting started on my very first skirt...

Saturday 1 March 2014


The holidays are late this year. Like the first signs of spring, they took their time coming. But today is the start of the holidays, so the fortnight of lesson-free days has begun.

And I'm overwhelmed with a strong urge to get to know my sewing machine. Yesterday, I went to Pau with my sewing buddy in search of fabric for her wedding dress. I ended up coming back with a few metres of fabric myself. All I needed was a pin cushion.


I took a few oddments of yarn.
Followed this super easy pattern.
Stuffed it well with some carded wool.
Et voilà...a new pin-cushion knitted up in less than two hours.

mountain views

This morning is still and cold. I woke early and headed straight out of the French doors onto the balcony to admire the view. 

It's a familiar view, a treasured view. A view that lifts my spirits no matter how low they may have fallen. High above the village, the wind bent bows on the hillsides are silent and still, covered in a dusting of overnight snow. Even when the dawn has broken, the moon lingers on in the still, blue sky. And the surrounding peaks are struck with the golden early morning light.