H and I met Ewan and his Mum, Val at the port in St Malo - Ewan had spent 4 days running around with his Mum who is more active than he, they even managed a spot of country dancing - and there was H and I, the opposite end of the equation, trying our best to be as inactive and stationary as possible. So while Val and H headed back to Guernsey, Ewan and I headed off to Dinan for a spot of lunch...
...I am sure Val mentioned something about a lovely picnic in the park with a bottle of sparkles, well at least this is what i had in mind, nice picnic rug, lovely fresh French salad, sun overhead, flowers around us...hmm, one must learn never to have any expectation as we ended up - admittedly - in a park, but squashed to the side of the path sitting on roll mat between two benches with lots of caged birds and even deer within sight - Ewan tried to convince me that they were happy birds and deer but I don't think they looked really happy, more so bored to tears with the limited amount of space they had to move, let alone fly.
Being an increasingly strict vegetarian now on an increasingly ethical basis as much as the fact I don't like the taste and texture of meat, nor the energy of eating a dead animal/bird, I found the whole experience rather stressful, to say nothing of the fact that all the other visitors to the park were walking within 50 centimetres of where we sat and clearly thought us most crazy when there were benches either side (you daft English, why do you sit on the floor...) and stared at us eating our feeble attempt at a picnic. Still, on a positive note, the sun was shining, we were surrounded by trees and flowers and we were together, in France, hoorah!!
From Dinan and the not-quite-so-romantic-picnic (and yet it was in its own way, thank you darling...but what did happen to the bubbles???!!!)we laughed our way out of Brittany and into the wonderful Normandy, I love it over there, the light really is different, the clouds really are more magnificent and the green landscape is really rather beautiful. We stopped for a drink on the way, sitting outside a Tabac in a little village with traffic passing us by, the French really have done much to simplify life, it doesn't get much better than this. I am being serious.
Finally we made it to the Mason's farm, well Tessa and Carl's farm to be exact where they live with their lovely children, Evie (5), and Ollie (9). Ewan met Carl when they both studied arboriculture at college and they met Tessa around that time too. Tessa and Carl "opted out" of conventional living in Reading about 7 years ago and have been establishing their wonderful farm ever since. They now have a plethora of animals and really do live the back to basics good life. I have visited with Ewan a few times and absolutely love being there, it is always a totally grounding, relaxing and inspiring experience. The views are great and it is peaceful and natural.
We were visiting to celebrate Tessa's 40th birthday together with other friends and family but we were the first to arrive s took great delight in choosing our tent pitch with good views into the distance, flat ground and good feng shui, Ewan is a bit of a tent specialist and all aspects were considered before we actually hammered a tent peg into place! We were just finishing setting ourselves up when Nige, Ewan and Carl's other best friend (Nige also having trained as an arborist at college with them) arrived with his 3 children, Jacob (16), Ferg (14) and Millie (13).
The next day we were joined by Tessa's brother and sister with their respective families and by Kate and Andy, Ewan's sister and brother-in law, so the campsite began to fill up quite quickly. Very wisely - and because their drainage could not cope - Carl and Ewan had, a few weeks earlier, installed compost toilets for the campers and on that Friday when everyone was arriving we all helped to establish outdoor solar showers - basically a wooden structure with a plank of wood across the top on which sat a bucket with a black shower bag inside and a shower head dangling from it - the shower bag designed to heat the water by the sun...to an extent! All very clever really.
That same day the marquee, bar and dancing area were set-up with a music system and everything, nothing like living in the middle of nowhere and not really having to worry about disturbing neighbours with any loud late night music. I have to say it was impressive stuff, very organised, amazing how quickly it came together - the campsite, the facilities and a social area together like that. Well done guys, and indeed Tessa, much appreciated. Without realising it we had all helped in one way or another to establish our own little community and as we all know, community is the way forward in this disintegrated (and yet global) world we now live!
So with the majority of the campers present we spent Friday night testing the music system, catching up, drinking wine, eating food, the children playing on the trampoline...actually hang on a minute, even I managed to get on the trampoline although it was a touch scary as one of the sides of netting is broken and there was a moment when I was a touch concerned I may fall off the trampoline...or alternatively fall onto one of the children...incredible how one becomes a touch more fearful as one ages! And we danced too. Lots of dancing, bare foot, on the grass, there was even a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. We all love to dance.
Saturday was the day of the main party and Ewan and I set off early to go and pick up Charles, another of Ewan's friends, from a nearby train station, before stopping for a cup of tea at a local Tabac and then searching for a petrol station (why is it that when you desperately need petrol you can't find a petrol station) and stocking up on supplies at a local supermarket before heading back to the campsite.
A few hours later Ewan and I managed to sneak off to the local outdoor swimming pool for a much needed swim (the sun was intense those first few days and there was very little shade on the campsite!) and a much, much needed warm shower, not to say the campsite showers weren't up to scratch, just that you can't beat a proper shower from time to time!! Actually the camp site showers reminded me a little of Nepal. I gave up on the shower bag itself and opted for filling up 4 bottles of water from the outside tap and pouring them over me in the shower cubicle instead - actually washing my hair was easiest done by literally crouching down directly under the cold tap...like I used to do in Nepal!
So Saturday night was the main party night and we were joined by yet more people, I forget the term but a few English families who now live in France, plus some of Tessa and Carl's French friends and neighbours. A sheep had been slaughtered for the occasion (I chose to ignore this fact as I probably met that sheep last time I visited!) and was set to roast on the spit while yet more meat was cooked on the bbq. Tessa had very kindly prepared some vegetarian quiches and veggie kebabs with the veggies grown in her veggie garden for us veggies so all in all it was a bit of a feast.
It was a perfect night, the sun set was stunning and the clouds incredible, I even managed to capture this strange energy thing going on over the veggie patch, and the moon was 3 nights away from being full so it cast a lovely glow and I bored poor Millie with my tales of the moon's incredible feminine energy and the benefits of dancing naked in its glow, to say nothing of charging one's crystals and letting go of the old to make room for the new.
We danced for hours, Ewan was the main DJ and did a fantastic job, Millie and Jacob taught me many a dancing moves, they ar great groovers, barefoot dancing with the impending full moon, surrounded by friends, on a farm in rural France, I feel it is fair to say that Tessa thoroughly enjoyed her birthday party! As it happens Ewan and I managed to stay up with Carl and Tessa until 5.30am - see this is what drinking green tea all night does to you! I haven't ever done that before in my life and while it felt very strange going to bed when others are rising to meditate, it was a special time as it meant I not only got to see the moon rise but also set, the full cycle. If there is one thing I have learnt these last few months (and there have been many things believe me), flexibility is an important thing!
Sunday passed in a haze of tiredness yet we all managed a trip to the nearest beach an hour or so drive away for a much needed swim in the sea - there really is nothing like clearing your energy and waking yourself up than submerging yourself in sea water. It was warm too which is an absolute bonus! We even managed a game of beach cricket, I was useless and was out on my first bat but it was great fun all the same. We got some food on the way home and needless to say I was in bed rather early that night!!
Monday and our last day. After another lazy start we all headed off for a walk at the Little and Great Cascade, a local network of waterfalls, really beautiful and reminded me of walking through the jungle in Nepal, especially as Rhododendrons blossom in the Spring. From there we headed off to the local swimming pool where the majority of the group played a rather competitive game of water polo while I swam widths with a few of the women, great to submerge the body again!
Back at the farm I managed a Yoga practise while everyone else pottered. There is nothing quite like practising outside like this, reminds me again of Nepal when I lived in a rural village and every day would take my mat out onto the grassy patch below our guest house with views across the green valley and only the sound of nature filling my ears. Here too on the farm, looking across the valley and during the balancing poses focusing my eyes on a tree in the near distance, standing alone in the field as I too was doing, holding tree pose.
I have even mastered practising in the tent these days too, thankfully Ewan's tent is big enough for me to stand up and even stretch my arms up if I am practising sun salutations, amazing how we make do, even on the trek up to Everest Base camp I somehow managed to practise in the tiniest and coldest of places, dressed in my mountain gear, an altitude-induced headache banging my head, yet there is something so comforting about setting up one's mat, I guess it is the familiarity of it all, the fact that people leave you alone, the fact that you have come home, to this space, where you know all there is you need to know to feel safe and secure, in yourself. Hmm.
Anyhow our last night turned into a spontaneous 80s night. Another bbq (thank you to Andy for cooking Kate and I a much loved veggie dish on his camping stove), more music, more laughter, more trampolining and, I do believe, I even managed a game of snap with the children in the house (I gave up on the scrabble, I simply don't have the patience) and a huge amount of crazy dancing. Oh yes, we were all dancing queens that night, everyone let go to some well known and horrible enticing music, got to love it. I had to be encouraged to bed, once the dancing feet are out - and bearing in mind it was the night before the full moon thus everyone was a touch moon-wired - it is difficult to put them away to sleep!
Tuesday morning and time to take down the tent, packing up our stuff, a final trip to the compost toilet, lots of hugs and goodbyes, a few tears (I became rather attached to everyone and rather sad to leave as we really had a good go-with-the-flow energy going on out there) and talk of returning again soon, and then we were off, down the road to Mortain with Kate, Andy, Nige and his children, Charles, Ewan and I, for a quick cup of tea and a picnic in the park before heading the scenic way back to St Malo for our boat home.
All good times must come to an end, otherwise we'd take them foregranted and they would stop being anything other than ordinary...I have fantastic memories, fabulous photos (thank you Millie, Jacob and Ferg for taking some for me, you really captured the essence of the trip)and a sense that everything is okay, see, back to basics, living in the moment, day to day, surrounded by nature, with old and new friends who accept you just as you are...well this is the very essence of life surely.