Finding my French Feet

It had seemed like a good idea… I was feeling tired and low, so on a whim, booked a train ticket and hotel to a random destination in France.  So far so good, but then I got cold feet and a sudden case of shyness…  But then I know that I’m a creature of contradictions, with warring inclinations alternately sending me off on adventures and then making me hide from them.  Basically I’m a brave wimp.  Is that impelling or introspective?  Either way it’s time for me to explore ‘Finding my French Feet’…

My inclinations are all at odds again….  On one hand there is…
The Extrovert me!
I write and put my personal stuff out there.  I give speeches and presentations.  I even take charge and am decisive.
Sometimes…
And I like being that person…

But then again there’s…
The Introvert me…
Look for me on another day and it maybe that you won’t find me, since I’m staying safe and still, hidden blithely out of sight.
And I like that version of me too…

It means that I’m a mixed up marriage of a girl with gypsy instincts, hitched to a stay at home hermit.

So the gypsy in me frets to flee my responsibilities and set myself free for a while.  It’s such a wonderfully liberating ideal.  But then my inner hermit gets cold feet…

Despite my misgivings I still bravely boarded a Eurostar train.  And suddenly, there I was, in the city of Lille, in France, on my own.  And so I had to own my sudden shyness.

I had embarked on a mild mannered adventure, breaking my norm, expanding my horizons and insisting to myself that I must practise a language I rarely speak.  So I’d made the journey and so far so good, but still I needed some time to adjust to my new solo world and overcome my protectionist fears.

Smartly marching off the train, I floundered around on foot until I finally found my hotel – hidden away in plain sight.  I must have walked past it at least 5 times.  Oh well – I didn’t earn the nickname ‘Crap Nav’ without good reason…

But having found my new home I wasn’t quite ready to adventure yet.  Instead I quietly caught up on work in a café, with a croissant and hot chocolate for company.  Then hid away in my hotel room to sleep and read my time away.

The heated world of France outside my room intruded into my idyll.  The bars, cafes and hotels surrounding me were full of people watching football, as France played a World Cup round against Uruguay.  I could tell from the never ending cheers that my host country had won, so my inner gypsy pushed me out to revel in the atmosphere.  And when the revelry reached fever pitch, my hermit took over and I skulked off to the quietest, least threatening restaurant I could find for dinner.

As I sat with an aperitif waiting for my starter to arrive, I mused that being middle aged is interesting…  I’ve definitely lost the confidence of youth, but now I have more knowledge and surety.  My gypsy and hermit tendencies may be constantly contradicting each other, but at least these days I’m good with that and I know that on my path, I can make my own rules.

I realise too after half a life time, that the French I have learnt over the years is stuck in my brain, so that’s as good a metaphor as any I can think of for where I am in life.  I have amassed a set of skills and experience.  On my little sortie into France it was time to add to those – to speak and act in a different lexicon.  Time too to stride out into the world, be a bit of a braver soul, an unashamed tourist and an observer, encore…

Somehow after some time I eased in and found my French feet.  The next day was a shamelessly touristy one of shopping and walking, as I wandered around, happy as a clam.  My French wasn’t perfect, but it served, I got by and on the whole I was forgiven my linguistic imperfections.

 

Being in a city, I didn’t expect to get eaten alive by (what felt like at least) 60000 or so avaricious mosquitoes.  I was covered in itchy blistering bites from head to foot.  Then again all the gluten I’d consumed into my gluten intolerant body had given me indigestion.  I decided this was all part of the experience and headed for the nearest Pharmacie, there to consult with a man in a white coat who recommended homeopathic remedies to me in a typically French fashion…  I chose to keep enjoying myself and that minor medical misfortunes were of no consequence in the grand ‘weekend’ of things.

Whilst my gypsy let me play Russian roulette with the food to get the full on French experience, my hermit told me to avoid the strong French coffee – that was one food intolerance TOO far (the stuff makes me seriously ill).

The next day I had a late breakfast in a little enclosure on the pavement outside my hotel which faced the Gare de Lille – the city’s train station.  I sat watching the road works and the people go by, including 8 soldiers cradling their macabre rifles as tenderly as if they were babies.  I’d already seen them at the rail stations I’d passed through in France on this trip, but to see armed soldiers on the street like that felt raw and odd.  I rationalised it as a show of protectionism, given recent terrorist events in this country, but it seemed odd, just a couple of hours from my English door, where we’ve had our own share of similar atrocities.

lille 6
Soldiers on the streets of Lille

An American tourist oblivious of my musings wandered in past the street barrier, seeking ice cubes for her for her flask – asking the waiter in a mixture of French and English.  He shook his head and I tried to translate.  “I looked the word up on google” she said adamantly.  Then she asks me if she could buy some from the hypermarket over the road.  I explained that it was Sunday so it was closed.  “That’s strange”, she said.  “That’s how it is in Lille” I replied with a Gallic shrug.  I spoke to the waiter again and he reluctantly purloined some ice from the bar for her.  “Your French is fluent, do you live here?” She asked.  Suddenly I wasn’t such a shy a stranger…  Cue another Gallic shrug – “I’m just here for the weekend”…

Another day of sightseeing / meandering ensued.  On a tour bus, there was some light and friendly French chatter with the woman sitting next to me.  I’m particularly proud that I made her laugh, when I pointed out the bird sitting atop the proud head of very serious statue.  I made someone laugh…  In French! She hadn’t seen the bird or the joke at first, but a few words and a dramatic mime had her laughing and frantically snapping away with her phone camera, hopefully to share the joke with who knows who back home.

Lille is close to the Belgian border and still has a distinctly Flemish flavour, especially in its architecture.  On the bus I saw a city of history and modernity, the two sometimes neatly dissected and often fiendishly integrated.  At the end of concreted side streets I’d glimpse churches of astounding beauty and gargantuan proportions.  Behind road works and sitting amongst rows of modern terraces, ornately façaded buildings would suddenly assert themselves to my senses and let me admire them from afar.

The bus whizzed us pass the cathedral, statues and civic buildings – ancient and modern.  We skirted the old quarter and admired its historical tweeness.  We craned our necks to fill our camera lenses with giant towers -precariously shooting our photo prey in between the silhouettes of the couple sitting in front of us.

Disembarking the bus I made my way back to hone in on the places I wanted to pry on some more.  First stop was the Old Market, where the locals come to buy fresh food produce and then get a beer at the one of the surrounding bars – to smoke and talk and create a cacophony of crowded Sunday sound.

I dawdled through the old quarter and stopped for lunch outside a bistro on a sunny street.  Having read that Lille followed the Belgian fashion of drinking beer rather than wine, I plunged in and ordered a Leff Ruby – a lager of a rich red colour and gorgeously fruity taste to go with my Tarteflette.

I lingered around the flea market housed in the square of the deliciously ornate Stock Exchange building, then wandered back to my hotel for a nap.

Later on I found a Moroccan cafe where I seemed to be the only tourist they had seen in a very long time.  The waiter bade me to sit inside, but I asked to sit out on the street explaining that I didn’t like football (which was loudly blaring from the incumbent TV attached to the wall).

The only other customers outside were a young couple, who seemed to be smirking at me.  Feeling the discomfort of their attentions, I ignored rather than engaged with them…

I know my Moroccan food and am fluent in menu, so confidently ordered a lamb tagine, washed down with water, since no alcohol was on sale – at this Halal establishment.

The food was scrumptious and I slowly picked it apart and devoured it, watching the street comings and goings in the shadow of a huge and beautifully ornate church.

Feeling the need of a drink to finish off my last evening in France with a suitable finale, I headed towards the tourist area.  Suddenly I lost my nerve again.  The bars were crowded and noisy.  I circled them all at least 3 times, until finally I told myself to get a grip and just sit my arse down at the nearest one.  I drank more Ruby beer and watched the world go by, then followed the sound of music, around the corner in the Place Charles de Gaulle.

I sat myself down on the wall of the fountain, alternatively watching water splash and then the couples who had gathered to dance tango to modern Latin beat.  The sun sank down.  It felt like a gourmet slice of heaven…

Despite my occasional timidity, travelling alone is liberating – you set your own agenda, you make the decisions and the only ego you have to tussle with, is your own.

As a creature of contradictions, I’m a little home bird hermit that loves to nest in peace and I also have a gypsy spirit (and Traveller’s ancestry in my DNA), so necessity has been the mother of invention when wanderlust calls and I need to fly the confines of the familiar, soaring over the horizon of my fears.

So maybe my inner gypsy and hermit are not at odds after all.  In fact they allow me simultaneously to adventure and keep me safe.

And if that is yet another contradiction, then it is also a choice and one I know that I will keep making, as my adventures through life – huge or tiny, continue.

~ Sandra Peachey – Timid Adventurer

PS: My book – Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life has been featured in Psychologies Magazine and The Lady, it was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.  

The book takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a satisfying structure – that will make you feel the love, entertain and enlighten.  It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which sees love in everything we do in life – from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too.

Buy the paperback on my website – here for just £7.99 including P&P…

  • Or get it from Amazon for £11.99 and from all great book websites anywhere in the world.
  • You can also buy it in Kindle format…

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here…

I’m also variously known as:
* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor.
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* As being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.

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Missing your mother or miss being a mother, this Mothering Sunday?

It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK – time to celebrate and venerate those who gave us life and / or raised us in the Christian and Hallmark calendars.  I see a lot of joy around this time and I also see a lot of sadness.  As a woman whose mother is no longer here and has no children of her own, I wrote this poem to celebrate and demarcate the child…

Mum and Kids cropMy mother and the children that made her so

HAPPY CHILD’S DAY

I’m reading all the Mothering Sunday posts and reflecting:
I don’t have a mum any more.
And I’m not a mother myself.
So, regardless of why, that’s just how it is today…

For every mother and every child there’s a single story.
And it’s different for each and everyone of us.
Made out of genetics, chance and a million interactions.
Starting in the womb, then pushing out and pushing a way through life.

And I’ve heard it said that we choose our parents.
That’s both coldly crazy and softly sane in different measures.
I know I have chosen what I take from and learn from mine.
That’s some bitterness turned in to much sweet reason.

I’ve chosen the love and the laughter.
The generosity, the surprise gifts and all the toast.
The recognition of a tough job with the tough and easy love.
And today, what ever our story is, to celebrate my mother.

And there are no birth babies for me, but I’ve created so much.
I’ve played with god children and cooed over little ones.
I’ve hugged, hid, tickled, spoilt and giggled many times over.
I’ve witnessed the joy of new generations and played my part in their lives.

So Happy Mother’s day, what ever your denomination.
Whether in flesh or memory – seen or invisibly felt.
Regardless of our parenthood, there wouldn’t be a mother without – us.
So celebrate and be a cause for celebration:

And most of all – have a Happy Child’s Day – what ever that means – for you.

~ Sandra Peachey – Child and Creator

PS: I currently have a Child’s Day special offer… You can buy the paperback of my ‘Love Letters to Life’ on Amazon for £11.99 or as a Valentine’s treat you can get an author signed copy on my website – for just £7.99 including P&P…

Featured in Psychologies Magazine and The Lady, it was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.  

Making a perfect Mother’s Day (or any other day) gift, the book takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a satisfying structure – that will make you feel the love, entertain and enlighten you.

It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which sees love in everything we do in life – from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too

Buy the paperback on my website – here for just £7.99 including P&P…

  • Or get it from Amazon for £11.99 and from all great book websites anywhere in the world.
  • You can also buy it in Kindle format…

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here…

I’m also variously known as:
* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor.
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* As being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.

Happy New Year – 2018

Another calendar has closed;

A new year with fresh pages, beckons me on.

As I turn the next leaf, I will not start anew;

since I’m taking myself with me where ever I go.

So I shan’t be making resolutions or casting spells;

Just starting afresh in each new given moment;

I’ve learnt a lot in 2017 – I’ve laughed, wept and wondered too;

I’ve loved and worried, shaken my fist and hidden in dark corners – mainly in my mind.

I tripped on, and became a doormat; then travelled, changed direction and dreamt of different dimensions.

A full moon turns the tides tomorrow – a wolf wagging the tail of another lunar cycle – new and millennial.

Next year is nearly here, so it’s time to celebrate again: a new day, a new month, and a myriad of minutes.

I wish you clear sight for 2018;

with a wide open heart.

May you love freely and learn much;

laughing loudly and often.

Being blessed with a deep well of forgiveness;

All of which will lead you on to health and a wallet of honeyed abundance.

As earth’s children we deserve so much – so here’s to a brand new year for you and for me – whole and healed and happy.

Here’s to 2018.

My Hobnob Hero

It was an odd, emotional day – I had some scary news about someone I love and I wanted to be with them, but my car had developed not 1 but 2 faults…

I live in a village and it was a busy shopping Saturday close to Christmas. I ponder my options and feel that I can’t do nothing, but neither can I take a risk… I need my car to be in full working order.

Everyone is busy, the roads are crowded, but I decide to be accepting and, well, nice to anyone I speak to today. I have to go to 3 garages before I can get sorted and saved…

At garage number 3, at the back of a lonely industrial estate, a man in oily overalls comes to my rescue. It can all be fixed – cheaply and quickly. I sink gratefully onto a plastic chair in their cold waiting room.

My knight in oily overalls finds me there and asks if I’d like a cup of tea while I’m waiting. I answer with ferocious gratitude that I would LOVE that!!! He sees my stress and brings me 3 chocolate hobnobs too – “because you look like you REALLY need them”, laughing at me and caring for me all at once. I smile, inside and out. I thank him sweetly. He tells me that no one is looking – so I can dunk them too…

He is my Hobnob hero and has made my day… Out of all this, I’m just happy to know in this crazy world that laughter, customer service and biscuits are all out there too.

Once saved and sorted I then got to where I wanted to be, safely…

And you know what? ‘Nice’ rules and so do Hobnobs!!!

Letter to My Dad on Father’s Day

Dear Dad

It’s Father’s Day today and your birthday tomorrow, so thoughts of you float through my consciousness on this particular day, in this juicy month of June.

Not that you were ever bothered with all the commercial trappings of this modern fad of a Hallmark day; but still, this is my absolute favourite time of year, since June really is MY month.  My birthday is only 3 days after yours after all, the sun is high and hot and the evenings are lusciously long and light.

And after a long and difficult Spring this year, it’s time for me to be reborn; delivered into the summer, with a new number for my age along with fresh dreams and schemes to be hatched then fledged – to take flight to only my heart knows where.

And today I dream of you Dad. I was 23 when you died, so now, as a middle aged maiden, I’ve lived my life far longer without than ever with you.  But if I count the years, those numbers are somehow unimportant to me, because of course, you are always with me.

Dad & Me Coombe crop
Me at 15 and Dad at 60

I have decided to linger on your legacy to me today and it comes to me in many ways…

The older I get, the more I seem to look like you and sometimes your words fly out of my mouth – passed along the line of time, from who knows who, before us.

Memories are composed of thoughts and feelings, so when I think of you Dad, I feel love and I always think of that as your greatest gift to me. I was so fortunate to be planned and wanted and appreciated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that love and like go hand in hand. Yet we did genuinely like each other and were easy in each other’s company – so I can see how this shaped the way I still like to gently debate the world and then laugh uproariously at it – usually with words twisted into a perfect pun or a clever curve of connected thought.

You left school at 14 to learn a trade, but still you were an avid reader. You read to me every night at bedtime and so I know my love of words and literature, ignited by my imagination, most definitely came from you.

And there are the practicalities too: as a plasterer, you taught me to be fearless about DIY – I have wall papered, tiled, sanded, sawed, chipped and hammered, whilst many of my female friends looked on in awe. I have to say that in these middle aged days I don’t really want to do any of these things any more; but when I delegate those tasks out, I like to smugly think that I actually know what I’m talking about.

You told me once that I was a country girl, not a ‘townie’ like my mother; following instead in your rural (size 12) footsteps from your native corner of Cambridgeshire; even though, as I smartly pointed out, I grew up in a city. “It’s not about that” you said with certainty. I certainly know that I now live happily in a village, as does my brother and I don’t think this is down to serendipitous chance. We both had the nurture of spending time with our beloved grandmother and Aunts, chasing geese, collecting eggs and milking goats; all freely idyllic occupations compared to the strictured squareness of our other concrete childhood urban world.

And I love the countryside – whether to sit, wander or be walking through it or trying to constrain it in my garden; so much so in fact, that I simply feel that I have just a natural, easy affinity with it.

Along with the easy comes the harsh too… Despite being recklessly gung ho so often in my youth, I find more and more that I can so easily now be defined by fear too – a constant preoccupation of yours, to a degree that would often make you cry out with terror in the darkness of the night.

In body I’ve inherited your flat feet, though this means that as therapy, I went to dance classes for many years as a child and am now, when I set my muscle memory to it, very graceful and light on my own ‘plates of meat’ (as you always called them). When I don’t think about it though, I clash, crash and am extremely clumsy – but that’s me, a constant dichotomy of characteristics; some which I get from you and your family before you, some from my mother and still, some more – all my own.

You not being here is a physical fact of long standing, but over 30 years since your passing, I can still miss you, and yet still feel that in my head I can talk to you, and that somehow, you will always understand and be on my side. It goes without saying that I  feel, deep down, that I can take your pride in the things I have achieved in my life for granted.

I’m sure I could write another 20 letters about the traits, lessons and DNA you passed on to me, but ultimately you told me that you wanted me to be happy and true to myself… In this, I’ve both succeeded and failed; but pondering on it now, I know that for a very long time now I have been fearful and miserable, yet now it’s time to come back into the summer light of our birth month of June, so to smile and start again.

And already Dad, I feel the quickening of our (re)beginnings in joyful June.

As a fitting end to my latest letter to you, I’ll recount the joke, you told, ad infinitum, all throughout our life together…

“Why did the owl ‘owl? Because the Woodpecker would pecker.”

Oh dad, you’re so punny…

Bye then and bless you.

S xx

I currently have a special Father’s Day offer: You can buy the paperback of my Love Letters to Life on Amazon for £11.99 or you can get an author signed copy on my website for just £7.99 including P&P.  You will also find my book on all good book selling websites around the world.

Featured on the BBC, as well as local and national media (including Psychologies Magazine and The Lady), the book was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. 

Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a sweet bookish structure. 

It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which sees love in everything we do in life, from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too. 

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here:

My external plaudits include the following – being:

* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor.
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* Being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.

 

Manchester – Love for All, Hate for None

The news from Manchester is devastating… The unbearable thought that so many loved ones will never return home. That so many will have to go through such agonising grief and trauma.

Like so many, I cried for them all…

And we hear how the community pulled together and how taxi drivers ferried people home free of charge and my heart aches in a different way.

This awful act was perpetrated by sick fanatics. People who seek to destroy in order to create hate, fear and pain.

In this sense I’ve decided to honour all those who have lost so much, by not being scared. I’m going to continue to live my life as before. So if I want to go to a concert, I will and not even think about it.

And I’m not going to hate or retaliate. Neither blame – I know that the perpetrators of this vile act do not represent the majority of Moslems.

I send my condolences to those who have lost. And finally my thanks goes to those who have supported them.

I just didn’t now how to finish this post until I watched the coverage on the news tonight.  At the vigil held in Albert Square in Manchester was a banner that read:
“Love for All, Hate for None.”

I can’t add anything to that.

~ Sandra Peachey
Blogger & Believer

The Priority of Worry

It was the 16th of July and a Monday – that I remember clearly…

I got a call – I had to get to the hospital quickly as my mother had been taken in…
“Don’t die today, please” I thought with irony “I’ve got such a busy week…”

Oblivious to my plans, she left this life anyway, as it was, in every way HER time, and suddenly none of the things that had been so important to me just seconds before, mattered an iota…

I like to remind myself of this at times – what is REALLY important – when I stress and chunter about details, discussions and deliberations.

I think of that day now and can’t even recall why all my worry and busy-ness were so important at the time; only instead feel a loving ache and a knowledge that though part of her is gone, my love for her remains, changes and is with me, whatever I have on the To Do list in my life…

— o0o —

I currently have a special offer: You can buy the paperback of my Love Letters to Life on Amazon for £11.99 or you can get an author signed copy on my website for just £7.99 including P&P. 

Featured on the BBC, as well as local and national media (including Psychologies Magazine and The Lady), the book was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. 

Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a sweet bookish structure. 

It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which sees love in everything we do in life, from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too. 

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here:

My external plaudits include the following – being:

* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor.
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* Being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.