Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Letter from Les Landes, Friday 13th August

And so I have moved my charabanc to France. The last time I was here the call of the cuckoos and the drill of the woodpeckers reverberated in the woods around us; now it is the soft coo of the woodpigeons or the harsh drone of hedgetrimmers and strimmers which accompany our daily rhythms.


The days pass easily enough in a mix of sunshine and clouds. When sun prevails we are on the beach, when clouds win the battle we find other amusements. There is always a wash to put in, a floor to sweep, a meal to prepare, a bed to change or a visit to be made. N has had work trickling through since we arrived nearly three weeks ago and as I sit on the beach writing this, he is at home taking a conference call. All this annoys me greatly as he is never truly allowed to rest, it seems. He deals with it by putting his head in the proverbial sand and saying that it is only 'normal'. I, meanwhile, yearn for the days pre fax and email and mobile and Blackberry - the days when you couldn't be contacted, you couldn't respond, so no-one expected it of you; when you could escape and just 'be' for a while. It doesn't seem to me too much to ask, but in this mad, arrogant, demanding world we now live in, it seems that I am wrong. It is me that is being unreasonable.

I therefore cherish the moments we have in the sea - where the elements rule and not the human ego. Forget that humility at your peril - the power of the ocean, the capriciousness of its currents can quickly show our physical frailty with little remorse.

Today the water is not too angry. The girls are out in a group of other children learning to use her power for their pleasure. I have watched them running along the beach, jumping and skipping, warming up before plunging into the foamy surf, pulling the boards they are learning to ride behind them. Philou - patient, kind, tanned and wiry - has them under his watchful eye.









They count the times they have managed to stand up and come running up the sand at the end of each hour they have been learning, announcing their scores to me proudly. And as I watch them in the waves I see how each girl tackles the task in accordance with her personality: the oldest watches, takes her time, goes out deeper and manages fewer but longer runs in; the middle one stays closer in and attacks each and every little wave with gusto and determination, always coming back with the highest score; the littlest has her chin stuck out, her sticky legs goose-pimpled, part-determined, part-lazy, but always stubbornly in control of what she does or doesn't want to do, which wave she does or doesn't want to take. I look on, fascinated, with the love of a mother.

These mornings on the beach are the best time to be there - the tide out and benign for surfing or bathing, the huge sweeps of wet sand reflecting the strengthening sun; the beach bar serving hot coffee to the early surfers or their patient partners, the soft dry sands newly swept and clean inviting you to place your towel. By mid afternoon the atmosphere will have changed completely from this sense of calm and well-being to full-on holiday hubbub.

But now the girls have ended their lesson and are running towards me in their shiny wetsuits like exciteable sealions. They will tell me their scores, I will help them struggle out of their clinging black prison and we will then all head back into the waves again for a lark about with a new sense of freedom as the water touches skin not rubber. We will then head home for lunch and to do a few chores before returning late afternoon to the beach, as the hubbub starts to subside, to share these elemental pleasures with their father too as is only right and good. He may take his board and fight it out with the waves too; we may play bat and ball, fly a kite, or just lie and read while the girls make castles and roads and endless imaginary scenes from driftwood and detritus. We will then retire sandily and saltily from the beach to find a favourite place to eat and watch the world go by. The world on holiday. A holiday world. My world for now.

11 comments:

TIGGYWINKLE said...

What a lovely family holiday you're having. Your beautifully written account brought back fond memories of watching and observing our girls at that age. Now I have the joy of watching our grandchildren. I agree, mobiles, and business calls are so invasive when on holiday.When I go to visit our grandchildren in Australia in Oct, I touch base every few days, close our business, and don't care if the world falls down. One needs to mentally shut down and just be. Enjoy the rest of your stay.

Pondside said...

Your holiday spot sounds perfect. The details certainly take me back to times when I sat on the beach and watched children play with/on the surf.It was all so beautifully described.

Queen of the Rant said...

COMPLETE PERFECTION

Cait O'Connor said...

Gorgeous pics and happy memories for you (and your children) to keep.

David L Macaulay said...

This is a really nice read. It's funny actually because I'm from the south but the places I miss most in England are the Derbyshire and Yorkshire Dales. If I went back to England it would definitely be to the north.

cheshire wife said...

It al sounds idyllic! I hope that the weather is better than we are having here in England.

Kay Richardson said...

oooh ... this is pretty. i wish i had a family with whom to go on holiday. i have only myself. and a dog.

Buggles Balham High Road said...

I love your Blog and found you in the comments of The World Through My Window.

I live very near Maddie and her enchanted village and my partner was born in Chapel-en-le-Frith and we visit Chapel often to see family and friends. We were there last weekend for a family wedding.

You write beautifully and capture The High Peaks magically with your words and your pictures.

Keep writing please.

HER ON THE HILL said...

Hello everyone and thank you for your comments - all so much appreciated.

Tiggy - you are so right. It must be tough though having grandchildren so far away.

Pondie - thank you as ever for reading and for your kind comments. Glad I bought back some fond memories for you. It is such a special time, isn't it?

Queenie - it could be a lot worse, couldn't it?! I know I am very lucky.

Cait - thank you, and indeed, like you, I like to record the little things in life (otherwise so easily forgotten or overlooked) not just the big things.

David - hello and thank you for reading and commenting. Though a southern myself, obviously, I understand how the north gets under your skin - especially a beautiful, relatively peaceful and uncrowded, place like this. I think it is also because Northerners, further distanced physically from continental Europe perhaps, have a stronger sense of self and place. I must pop over to you and find out where you are currently living...

CW - well, I fear it certainly is at the moment! Though this south-western corner of France with the Atlantic and Pyreneean influences can be unpredictable too...

Hello Kay and welcome though I felt a bit sad when I read your comment. I must come and visit you to find out about you and your life. I'm sure it's a great one.

Buggles - hello and welcome and thank you for your extremely kind comments. How funny to have those two links! I'm glad I can bring a little bit of the spirit of the High Peak to you both :-) We may even know some of the same people up here....Did you realise I live just outside Chapel?

Nutty Gnome said...

This is just what I wanted our holiday to be! Sadly though, we were in Devon not France and it pee'd it down for the entire 12 days!
Himself has the same problem with switching off from work as he co-owns the company, but the phone calls and laptop drive me up the wall!
Next year......

Queen of the Rant said...

I gave you a blog award see mine for the deets

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