As I spend a long weekend writing, feverishly beavering to complete my first book draft while the boys adventure in the snow in Andorra, I am reminded that loneliness is a major challenge we face when uprooting ourselves from our regular lives, wider family, friends, colleagues and connections to move to the other side of the world.
As an extrovert and a fairly social person, who likes to spend time with people, it is unexpected and unsettling for me to discover it is possible to be lonely, while surrounded by people; living in a sizable town, even while having good ‘friends’ and neighbours and knowing others in the wider community.
For once, we were finally able to use a sled. A toboggan. Being a Wednesday, I had school in the morning. Naturally. It was boring. But while I was at school, Dad went out to a large sports shop near Carcassonne, called Decathlon. They have so many things there, including sleds. Dad got two sleds. One big, red one with brakes, and one small green one that looks a bit like a spade. When I got home from school, we made sandwiches, and Dad, Nicholas and I went into the snow.
This week I left Stephen to enjoy the bracing walk and scramble up to the arche perdue while I looked after the toddler at home, and beavered away on my book, but last week, as school had not quite started back, I persuaded the two older boys to join me for the weekly Monday full-day walk.
Prospects looked good for a sunny day once the mist lifted, but it was the iciest morning so far, for the walk around the hills between St Ferriol and St Just-le-Bezu.
Tomos would have loved some of the drinking water, but the spout was completely plugged with ice.
Today I join the local walking group on their walk up to L’Arche Perdue, the hole in the rock above Maury. Last month I wrote about that remarkable rock formation and my hope to visit it. This is the walk that was scheduled for last month but cancelled due to high winds. Today is also windy but we do it anyway. I drive to the meeting point at Maury, half-way between Quillan and the Mediterranean coast. We have friends at Maury, very close to the meeting point, so going there brings back happy memories of pit stops and a summer evening barbecue three years ago. Continue reading
This year was the first time the boys had experienced Christmas in France. It was an opportunity to do things a bit differently, being away from home, living in someone else’s house, visiting others and sharing the Christmas festivities with French friends.
It helps that Christmas in France is in the winter – with the dark and the cold, it fits all the prevailing stereotypes of the season and actually feels like Christmas!
At Quillan three years ago I explored many of the tracks in the hills surrounding the town. On my very first foray into a forested mountain area I felt a little on edge, not knowing for sure what dangers I might encounter. Hans Christian Anderson tales had taught me from a young age that Europe’s forests were to be feared. Should I watch out for snakes? What were the chances of encountering a wolf? And what of the people in these remote hills? As time went on, and reassured by a little internet research, I became more confident and saw that the only risks were familiar ones: getting lost or breaking an ankle. On this current visit, the winter weather adds the risk of hypothermia. Continue reading
This week I went on my second full-day walk and it was one I was quite excited about, taking us in a long loop up from Alet-les-Bains to the hilltop hamlet of St Salvayre and down via the vineyard and farm at Les Payroulies back along the river to Alet.
When the boiler broke down last week, I wasn’t initially too worried as I have become experienced in resetting it thanks to an earlier failure. But after four days of freezing temperatures, no heating, no hot water, and no sign of a qualified tradesman willing or able to fix it, I was becoming less optimistic.
This afternoon Tom and I go exploring up the hill above Quillan’s old castle. Despite the sunshine, I wear many layers of clothing. You can’t be too careful at this time of year. Tom is more lightly dressed. More sensibly dressed, as it turns out.
We start by going up Rampe du Chateau. This leads us onto Rue de Bitrague. Now we go offroad.
Chateau de Quillan