Thunderstorms Always Include Lightening

(One Mississippi)

My shoes are still soaking, so are my second best pair of jeans, socks, raincoat. We walked back from the town last night after dinner. All day it was hot and overcast. Funny weather. The kind you know means something is coming. What could it be? What’s coming?

(A different happy day)

Rain. It could be rain is coming. It was rain. Rain came. Buckets of it. We weren’t very far from town, just far enough to get totally soaked and totally frightened to death. Well I was totally frightened to death. Denis thought it was a “new experience”.

(I’ll never complain about fog again)

You’re probably thinking rain isn’t that frightening. Who would be frightened of a little rain? Not me… I’m not afraid of rain. Lightening, I’m afraid of lightening… it was lightening. We were having a lovely meal when it started. I nearly choked on my canard trying to count one-Mississippi; two-Mississippi… to figure out how far away it was. But what does that number mean anyway? How big does the number have to be to be safe? Please god let 4 be a big enough number!

(Lovely clouds)

It’d be ok we’d ask the waitress to call a taxi. I went back to chewing. Excuse-moi could you call a taxi for us please? Confused looks, French words, not sure what that means but no, it’s ok she is calling. Hang on, she’s saying je suis desole…

(Nice flower)

She’s sorry, why is she sorry, Denis? No taxi. The weather is too bad, he’s taking the night off…. What?! My eyes are on stalks. She asks, Do you have an umbrella? I make a smile appear on my face, Yes, thank you we’ll be fine. She is distraught, No! Don’t use the umbrella, it will be dangerous! I make a laugh come out of my mouth, Oh, thank you. We’re dead.

(Happier days)

We’ve finished eating ages ago. Everyone else has left the restaurant. The waitress is closing the door. It’s time to go outside. This is a new experience. Don’t you love new experiences? Don’t I love new experiences? No! No, I don’t love new experiences. I actually bloody hate new experiences! I have rain proof shoes, I’ll be fine.

(Reflecting on nice things)

They’re not rain proof. I can feel the water squelching around my toes. I instantly forget that with the first flash of lightening. I call the son of god, his mother and Joseph, I can’t help myself, I am way beyond dainty cursing.

(Formerly, my biggest fear…)

Denis’s arm is black and blue from the tight hold I have of him. I’m back to counting Mississippis and now I really need to know what number is safe? Is it three?!? The thunder comes at eight and I start to remember the other things that keep you safe… Don’t stand under a tree… ok. Don’t stand in a doorway… ok. Don’t stand out in the middle of a field..ok. But where should I stand? Can I stand in the middle of the road? Do I have to stand? Can I keep walking? Should I run? Not run?

If it wasn’t so frightening it would be beautiful. Unfortunately, the part of my brain that recognises beauty is short on oxygen at the moment. All oxygen supplies are needed for fear production. We’re home. Get into dry clothes. Take a breath. Oh no hang on, what do that say about sitting near windows? Denis, get away from the windscreen!

(Scary bridge on the way to CERN)

Hang on I’ll ask Siri, HEY SIRI! WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM IN A MOTORHOME IN A THUNDERSTORM? It took her a moment to process and then she said ok, Married (she can’t pronounce Mairead) I found this on the web, Thunderstorms always include lightening. Don’t use anything electrical… I slowly back away from my phone.

Not a true story, Mairead.

Ps. Is.

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Living Rich in Ancient France

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(The single-lane stone bridge into Vieille-Brioude)

Stopping for a coffee or for the night in ancient villages and towns is making me feel a little bit overwhelmed. They are so beautiful, they are so weathered, they are so peaceful… and there’s so many of them. They are telling me something. But what are they telling me? No idea… yet. We keep moving on, as we have a plan to be in a big city by next weekend, but I want to take a moment here to listen to a few of these ancient places.

(On the stone bridge)

We stopped in Vieille-Brioude on our way to Massiac (the Village Étape). Something made me tell Denis to follow the signs. We were on a dual carriageway but I spotted the village in the valley below. A single-lane stone bridge led across a river valley. It was about that time I started doubting the detour. All is well, it was sturdy, we survived.

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(Worn down by the years…)

After a peaceful coffee (yes even the coffee has a touch of peace about it) we went for a wander. I took photos of almost every door in the village. They all looked so good, I suppose it helps that the sun was shining but it wasn’t just the sun. Every door seems to tell a story.

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(Briode is 4.1km away from Vieille-Briode)

On Saturday after leaving our spot by the river and visiting Puy de Dôme we travelled to Meymac. Here we were lucky enough to wake up to a market on Sunday morning and a story.

(Jean Gaye-Bordas built this house in Meymac during the good times)

Jean Gaye-Bordas was born in a nearby village in 1826. He had a poor start but that didn’t prevent him from leading a very interesting life. He put Meymac on the map with his slogan, Meymac, prés de Bordeaux, (Meymac, near Bordeaux.) Not exactly a catchy slogan, not accurate either as Meymac is nearly 300km (3 hours by car today) from Bordeaux but the people in the north of France didn’t know that nor did the Belgians. They didn’t care, they were delighted with Jean. On with the story…

(The church in Meymac)

You see, Jean had this great idea, the results of which can be seen in the very impressive houses in the town. He had travelled as a young man to Bordeaux doing anything he could to earn a living. He was illiterate but very smart and noticed everything around him. He spotted opportunities, like when he saw a guy sending wine to a relation in Lille (a city in northern France near the border with Belgium).

(The hotel, notice the telephone notice over the door…)

Jean realised, what no one else did, that wine from the south would be most appreciated up north because even back then Bordeaux wine had a great reputation. His idea – travel to Lille and Belgium and go door to door selling wine from “his vineyard in Meymac near Bordeaux“.

(Center of the old town)

You already know Meymac isn’t near Bordeaux and you can probably guess he didn’t have a vineyard either but he didn’t need one. He sold the promise of wine, before it was produced and then used the advance money the Belgians gave him, to buy from real vineyards in Bordeaux and deliver back up north. He was an entrepreneur. You could even say he invented crowdfunding.

(Even the sheds are cute)

Many others in the village followed his example. A lot even made enough money to buy vineyards in Bordeaux, as did Jean. By the time he died on the 30/12/1900 he was penniless. He had won and lost many fortunes. As you walk around it’s possible to see the results a thriving wine business can have on a community.

(Fortunately, we didn’t try to drive down here)

I really like Jean. I was a bit sorry he didn’t die rich but then I realised he lived rich and that’s probably more fun.

Live rich, Mairead.

General Area…

Meymac on left; Vieille-Brioude on right

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The Sleeping Volcanos

(View from the top)

There’s a lot I didn’t know about volcanos. Like, they are called dormant if they’ve erupted in the recent past and they are extinct if they’ve erupted in the distant past. We visited Le Puy de Dôme volcano and it’s dormant… sleeping. So not extinct then? Fortunately, I didn’t know this before we stood on top. As I also didn’t know that recent past, can mean 15,000 years ago, no harm done. Unless we are very unlucky today isn’t the day it blows.

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(Oh look a train…)

We were driving for about an hour when we saw signs for Puy de Dôme. We’d been here years ago on the motorbike and Denis said, Pourquoi pas? (his favourite French phrase) meaning, why not? The sun was shining and it seemed like a nice opportunity for a walk. It was… after a train ride up the steep bit.

P1080407(That’s a visitor center on the right)

This whole area, Chaîne Des Puys, is full of volcanos and I learned that there are three different types. (1) The Dome, lava seeps our through a gap near the top of the mountain, leaving a dome shape when it cools. (2) The Cone, where the lava blows the top off the mountain leaving a saucer shape. (3) The Maar, lava and water mix and there’s a huge explosion creating a crater with a lake. There are examples of all of these around here.

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(That’s one of the cone volcanos)

The Romans recognised Puy de Dôme as the perfect place to build a temple, so they built one. The ruins are still here. The Romans were way ahead of their time and invented creative ideas for lifting huge blocks. There was a video (in French) explaining how they did it. It involved a notch in the huge stone block and a block of wood, a similar size to the notch and some clips. I wish I had pictures to help me explain but trust me it was ingenious. Oh, now I’m wondering if the notch shaped block of wood might have actually been a notch shaped block of metal… apologies to any Romans reading.

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(There was a beautiful view out this window…)

The French recognise the beauty here and have been visiting the Dôme for a long time. There was even had a steam train at one time. It used to be you could drive up to the top too but now you can only walk… or take a little tourist train. We took the train.

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(Our fellow travellers)

The train leaves every half hour at this time of year and travels slowly up to the summit, passing walkers and even cyclists. We didn’t wave out at them but they made us feel absolutely thrilled to be sitting inside. One needs to know one’s limits after all… or does one? Possibly one is just choosing an nice easy day in France.

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(And Denis on the edge…)

Pourquoi pas? Mairead.

Ps Puy means ancient mountain, isn’t that lovely?

(There’s the Puy de Dôme)

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Village Étape

(Our view)

The difference a few hours makes. We drove to the town of Massiac after the fog show. The sun shone the whole way and the temperature rose… to 23 degrees! That’s 19 degrees hotter than in the morning. Massiac provides a beautiful space for camping cars (that’s motorhomes) alongside the river, so we were very comfortable.

(It’s also on the Camino de Santiago)

Actually this town knows what travellers want. It’s a Village Étape. Literal meaning is a stage village and it makes me think of a stage coach. You know in historical movies when the stage coach stops at an inn and they change the horses? Or the passengers take the opportunity to have a meal? Or stop for the night?

(Petrol pumps are very important here)

Well, these towns are all over France, near the main routes and they are designated places travellers can get a meal, stay in a hotel and buy fuel for their vehicle (oats for the horses?) There’ll be a supermarket, a boulangerie, a tourist office and public toilets. Massiac has all those things and it’s bustling and friendly.

(Can you see the rock in the distance? There’s a church on top!)

We stopped at the Library Cafe this morning before we left, it’s a book shop and cafe. That’s another thing travellers need – books! Unfortunately, none in English so I bought a copy book and a notebook.

Now we’re off to see a volcano! Mairead.

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Four Degrees!

(Sunny evening in Coubon on the Loire)

We stayed in a town called Coubon last night. It was 4 degrees Celsius this morning when I got up. Four…. It was 12 degrees at home in Greystones! I got dressed in no time and went outside. We were surrounded by fog.

(Four degrees and fog)

When Denis got up he went to the boulangerie so we have bread – we won’t starve. Is bread enough? I was thinking about the places people choose to live. On the banks of the Loire in a cute town with a cafe, a bar, a restaurant and a boulangerie seems lovely and it is lovely but it means for this town, as they are situated in a valley, they probably get a lot of foggy days. On a sunny day they possibly get less sun than their neighbours up on the hill.

(Can you make out the top of the cloud?)

I was still thinking about this when we drove off. We were leaving anyway but the fog made it easier. Our drive was taking us uphill and in no time we we’re above the clouds and it was glorious. It was hard to believe that ten minutes away everything was so different. There was nowhere to stop on the narrow roads so I took pictures through the window as we continued up and up. Then we turned away from the river and we could no longer see the valley.

(We seem to be we going down again…)

I couldn’t stop thinking about the people in the town, still stuck in the fog. Do they go up the hill on days like today? Do they forget that the sun is up top shining to its heart’s content? Do they just put up with the fog and get on with their day?

(That little line of white behind the tree line is the fog)

And then we turned a corner. We could see the valley again, stretching for miles and miles. There was a blanket of fog laid out all along the river’s course but it was a blanket with holes, where the hills peeped through.

(It’s good to be alive)

We spotted a patch of grass just big enough to stop. I set off down the road and into a field to get photos. I was about to take the first one… and the battery died in my camera. When you find a little hill peeping through a hole in the fog you can put up with almost anything.

My feet were wet, I was freezing cold but I was on top of the world, Mairead.

Ps I had a spare battery in the van.

(There’s Coubon)

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Brives Charensac

(Cheerful flowers)

We were passing through a lovely little town, with a long name, this morning and we stopped to have a look around. No big deal, you think… but it kinda is. You see, we’re normally too big to fit in the car parks in the lovely little towns unless they have assigned camping car parking or big supermarket parking – with no height barrier.

(Can you see the old bridge?)

In France there’s so much assigned camper car parking that we don’t mind when we can’t stop everywhere. But I saw a knitting shop and two seconds later a car park with a wide entrance – it was a sign. Stop here.

(Reflecting on the Loire… see what I did there?)

We got a grand spot too, it might have been for a bus so we fitted in just fine. Then we went off for a wander. This town is also on the Loire, so we’re definitely getting better acquainted with the longest river in France, and it was looking beautiful today.

(There’s the old bridge from the new bridge)

We stopped for a quick cafe long (might be spelled allonge) it’s the French version of an americano and then a little look at the wool shop. I’ve been thinking of knitting a cushion with huge needles in very chunky wool. Every time I think of it I get a warm feeling in my stomach or could be my gut, somewhere in the middle anyway. I know exactly what I want. I didn’t find it… yet.

I’ll keep looking, Mairead.

(There’s Brives Charensac!)

Here’s the link: Amazon.co.uk where you can go to get yourself, or a friend, a copy of Everyday Fearless… I’m off to my next project but before I go I have two favours to ask. 1. If you have a friend who likes reading please let them know about the book, I have such a small community and I’d love to share my work with more people. 2. Please leave a rating or review on Amazon, it really helps people find the book. Thank you so much! xxx

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Everyday Fearless

(The Book!)

I did it! I finished writing my book about our journey earlier this year to Portugal and I’m really excited. (I’m sick with anxiety too but as that feels very like excitement I’m grand.) Do you remember I was telling you about the book I was going to write and publish on Kindle in a post in June? At the time I was not feeling very confident that I would finish it. I had a story running – on repeat – through my head. The, You never finish anything, story. Well… that story is gone now and I’m really excited!

Actually, my excitement is a bit boundless at the moment so bear with me I’ll make sense in a minute. Maybe if I make a list? Yes, I like lists. Here goes…

(love this bell!)

Things that are making me feel excited

  1. Finishing. I am completely amazed at what a difference it makes to finish a project but I nearly missed this step – the one where I notice I’m finished.
  2. Getting rid of the, You never finish anything, story. Stories are great because they have a message. When we tell stories to children we are telling them a useful message. For example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf – don’t tell lies. Le Loup qui changer de couleur – accept yourself. But sometimes we hang on to a story with a message that is no longer useful. You never finish anything– don’t try something new you’ll be disappointed.
  3. Telling you! You have no idea how lovely it is to have you on this journey with us and in particular on this journey with me. I love writing and it’s way more pleasing to write to someone. Thank you for being that someone.
  4. The name of the book, Everyday Fearless, came to me after a conversation in Dijon with a friend. Sometimes it takes courage to do ordinary everyday stuff. Like ask for help. Or speak in French. Or find your way in a strange town. Or take a picture. Or start a conversation. Or say, I’m sorry. Or make a phone call. Or run screaming, into the sea at Magheramore Beach. Or do anything that would make me look silly or stupid or flawed. Like telling you before I’m ready that I was going to write a book.
  5. Being alive.
  6. Letting go of waiting to be perfect me, I’m ok with just being me. A few years ago during autumn I went for a walk along the driveway to Powerscourt House in Enniskerry, looking for leaves. I wanted the perfect leaves, the ones that looked symmetrical with no spots or cuts. I couldn’t find one. I searched for a long time. None of the leaves were perfect. Maybe perfect is unnatural?
  7. Imagining myself in twenty years time… at 78. I’m in my art studio. It’s an old run down former car mechanic’s garage with old grease stains on the floor and oil blackened benches but very well insulated so it’s warm and cozy. I make art, I practice Everyday Fearless, I share how to be everyday fearless, I write books (my 16th book was a bestseller) There is laughter all around and I am beyond happy.
  8. Everything starts now….

(Magheramore Beach in Co. Wicklow)

So off you go, click or tap anywhere here and have a look at the book that made me realize that feeling sick with anxiety is just another kind of excited! Mairead.

Ps. If that link doesn’t work for you, go to Amazon and search for Everyday Fearless Mairead Hennessy. Thank you!

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