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France in Spring-8France in Spring-3France in Spring-4France in Spring-5France in Spring-6France in Spring-7France in Spring-2France in Spring-1France in Spring-9

Hurray! Spring is here again! Every year I feel so energised and refreshed by the vibrancy of this season. I always think that this is the time of year when resolutions should be made, not in the dark depths of the new year; this is the right time to make plans and sow seeds. At last the lingering gloom and long shadows of winter can be swept aside once again. This is the season of hope and positivity.

The field across the road from the front of the house was planted up with with what I had thought was green manure, but it may well in fact be a rapeseed, or colza crop, which is not quite so environmentally friendly. Whatever it is, these shining yellow blooms throw sunlight through our windows on even the stormiest of days, and fill my heart with joy. Yellow is such a life-affirming, energetic colour.

In preparation for the Easter holidays which begin next week, I have had a major clean of the girls’ bedrooms. For the first time in a long while, I sorted through the books and put them back into a neat order on the shelves. This used to be a far more regular task of mine and I’ve fallen out of the practice simply because with all four of them reading, the books so quickly fall into complete disorder; piling up on every available surface, particularly the floor. Much as it thrills me that they are all so interested in books, the chore of getting them to return them to the shelves is daunting. We’ll see how long it takes them this time… Quite often an entire shelf is swept free by a child to prepare a space to put a doll to bed, even though they have a gazillion other empty spaces to use, including the quite marvellous handmade antique wooden dolls house a friend recently gave to us. All of their winter clothes have been washed and packed away (something I do prematurely every year and inevitably have to dig them all out again when we are hit by a cold snap!) and soon the summer clothes will be unpacked in turn to be tussled and cried over when some are found to have mysteriously shrunk over winter and now must be passed on to the next-shortest sister. This mammoth seasonal clothes-rotation quite often does not get completed: last year the summer clothes sat in my bedroom throughout the winter months as I never found the time to finish organising them. And as ever, more things have been added to my mending pile, which I’d like for once to also get to the bottom of this year! I did say this was the season of hope..

So, the indoor space is prepared: outside there is still much to be done, which I have deliberately left so that I can be productive whilst the girls play outdoors in the (fingers crossed) holiday sunshine. Because I don’t want to use the pesticides my neighbours spray with abandon over their driveways and paths, our yard looks a terrible mess. I have used some poison on the most persistent and difficult to remove weeds, but the rest I will be pulling up by hand or attacking with a hoe. I will have to slather the suncream on because I have recently been diagnosed with Rosacea, a long-term middle-age skin condition which has caused my face to burn red and blotchy without even being in the sun. The medication to treat my skin reacts with sunlight so, big hats and dark glasses are in order! I am very relieved to finally get some treatment for it, as it is very uncomfortable and disfiguring. The doctor laughed at me when I suggested controlling it by adjusting my diet, but I am going to gradually introduce some pretty drastic changes anyway, as from what I’ve read it can be triggered by a variety of foods, much in the way any other auto-immune disorder can be. The first to go is caffeine, so coffee is out and I am down to one cup of tea in the morning, with honey replacing the sugar I normally add. Once the kids return to school again I will start removing other triggers from my diet until I have cleaned my insides and then re-introduce each to judge the effect. An internal spring clean of sorts!

In other health news, I am very pleased to be able to say that Jude has continued to abstain from alcohol, with just one hiccup so far to remind him how vigilant he needs to be to resist that ‘one beer in the sunshine after work’ voice which can be so seductive to him. I watched a great TED talk the other day about addiction and how little help is available to addicts, in comparison to people diagnosed with socially acceptable diseases. There is such stigma about the subject that often people with alcoholism are regarded as being weak-willed or somehow morally lacking, which is why I see the need to be open about how it has affected us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no angel when it comes to drinking, but it doesn’t have the same pull for me that it does for an alcoholic. Turns out alcohol is another trigger for rosacea so it’s another thing I need to eliminate for my health, so Jude will have company in the teetotal corner!

And finally, I took my darling Tula to see her doctor in Caen hospital yesterday and was presented with the news that she will need to have surgery on her spine at the beginning of next year. This comes as quite a shock to us as, although it was inevitable that she would need to be operated on at some point, the doctor had thought that bracing would be enough to delay this until puberty. In fact it now seems that the scoliosis is so fierce that bracing alone is not having the desired effect. So, as I understand it, the surgeon will be fusing parts of her spine and inserting a mechanism into her bones which can be adjusted as she grows. Whilst she won’t need surgery every year after this, it will still mean lots of hospital appointments to check on her progress. I feel calmer today about it, but I’m not sure it’s quite sunk in yet – these words I am writing all seem to be in a slightly different language to one I recognise. Her next appointment is booked for September.

So, this spring is going to be about focussing on joy: enjoying our time in this amazing space we have been blessed with and enjoying our time with each other, living life as fully and as lovingly as we can. Every day gives us a new chance to let go of that which holds us back and be still in the present moment. Every day is indeed a gift. The past is swept clear and I cherish this moment, us, our girls, our home. Tomorrow will come regardless. Here, now is all that matters.