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!

Wash Day at the Supermarket

(46 minutes at 60 degrees)

And the high point for today – washing our clothes. We’re parked at a supermarket in Prissé, which is a small town outside Mâcon. There’s a fine launderette with parking in one corner of the shopping center and I’m waiting here for the dryer to finish.

(There they go…)

The sun is shining and it would be so nice to hang the clothes out instead of putting them in a dryer. Can you imagine arriving at the supermarket at home and noticing clothes lines strung between the trees? Covered in pegged-up clothes? Actually, maybe that would be lovely! As an art project, I mean! No one wants to see our underwear strung around Tesco…

(You can tell a lot about a place by what they put in their supermarket foyer…. Charolais cattle originate in the Charolais area which is near here!)

I can see it now, colourful baby clothes, pretty children’s ballet dresses, worn dungarees, sparkly teenage dresses, white shirts, T-shirt’s with band logos, dark trousers, frilly bed-shawls. All the items grouped by age, like a life timeline. It could be called Life Line. Who’ll ring Tesco head office for me? Maybe Fairy Non-bio would sponsor us?

(This old wooden wine press was also in the foyer – wine production is big here too)

This is what happens when you don’t do ten other things while the clothes are being washed by the machine. If I was at home I’d be cutting something, making something, cleaning something or meeting someone while the clothes washed. Here I’m not a bit concerned with multi-tasking. The dishes are done, the floor is grand, there’s nothing I need to cut down or to make up and there’s no one to meet. I have an opportunity to let my imagination run wild, just for the fun of it.

Seriously, does anyone know the CEO of Tesco Ireland? Mairead.

(There we are in Prissé)

Last day in France

(Cherbourg marina)

This morning we drove from Bayeux to Cherbourg. We will park all day in the car park near the Maritime Museum, Denis will work and at 6pm we will go to the port and queue for the 9pm ferry to Ireland.

(This is the theater)

Although we have been in Cherbourg numerous times arriving and leaving by ferry we have never walked around the town. Today is different. I set off to find the tourist office. Cherbourg is huge but the old part of the town is right next to the port and not a long walk.

(The pilot’s building)

The tourist office is located overlooking the water near a yacht marina and close to shops, restaurants and cafes. The streets behind it are car free and nice for a ramble. But I didn’t ramble for long. I found a fabric shop and lost track of time dreaming of all the things I could make if I only had a scissors.

(The journey leads us home)

It is hard to believe the journey is nearly over. I don’t like endings, I much prefer beginnings. In the beginning it felt like this trip would go on forever. Nothing goes on forever. In the beginning it felt like this day was very far away but that’s just a memory and waiting to leave is the only real thing. Here and now. And it’s always here and now. Even with such a long trip stretching out in front of me I was always just here and now. This makes me feel a bit better.

(Goodbye road)

If I’m always here and now and I like the beginning so much maybe it would be helpful to think of this here and now as a beginning. The beginning of the Ireland trip. The one where we stay in a house that’s way too big for us but it does have a shower and toilets and a washing machine and surprise – there’s a bath. The trip to hug family and friends and talk about Ruby, her breakdown and her recovery. The trip where we find a way to keep what we loved about being away. (Except for the croissants, we really have to break up with the croissants.) The trip where we intentionally spend time with each other.

From here and now and a new beginning, Mairead.

(Cherbourg: free parking near the ferry port all the motorhome facilities, shops and cafes nearby.)

Bayeux is Beautiful

(Bayeux Cathedral)

This is our last full day in France and we are spending it in the town of Bayeux. I think I read somewhere that this was the only town in Normandy that survived the Second World War. Imagine, it’s 1944 and the war has been going on for five years everyone is fed up but the allies have a plan. They will land on the beaches of Normandy with loads of troops and tanks and trucks and weapons. Then they will make their way across France neutralizing, killing or capturing the enemy.

(There are 4,000 soldiers buried in Bayeux in a beautifully maintained cemetery)

The day came, D-Day and they landed on the beaches less than 10 km from Bayeux. There was very little resistance to begin with and they were able to make this town a base for the troops and the war machinery. Very soon they realised they had to build a bypass, the first in France, to protect the old town from the war traffic as they made their way south and east to finish the war. Finishing the war took a lot longer than they planned. There were a lot more deaths and there was a lot more destruction. In the end it was the allies who were responsible for the destruction of the other towns in Normandy. War is a messy thing.

(River Aure running through Bayeux)

We arrived at the motorhome parking beside the Museum of the Battle of Normandy in the morning and I went wandering. There was a walking tour brochure in the tourist office called Vieux Bayeux (Ancient Bayeux) with a map and lots of information plaques dotted around the town. I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours following the little discs on the ground and reading the information on the plaques.

(Vieux Bayeux walking tour map)

Bayeux is most well know for the Bayeux Tapestry, a huge panel (over 200 feet long) of embroidery work that’s nearly a thousand years old. It tells the story of an earlier war. War is very popular in art.

(Old ceramic road sign)

Bayeux is a very busy town with lots of tourists and lots to see and lots of souvenirs to buy. English is spoken everywhere and there are English signs in every shop window. It could be because this is the 75th anniversary of D-Day and this is a nice place to come to remember those who have died. Walking through the war cemetery in the afternoon was a sobering experience. The most common age on the gravestones is 22. War is extremely sad.

(Pretty little water wheel near the tapestry)

There’s a huge supermarket near the cemetery and in the late afternoon I dropped in to stock up on supplies for our last day. I didn’t realise I had forgotten my purse until I was in the queue for the checkout. I experienced some panic wondering what to do. I had enough change for the bottle of water but the rest I would have to leave. The queue moved slowly forward as I practiced what I would say in French about forgetting my purse, being very sorry but I would have to leave these items but take the water…

(Beautiful shopfront near the cathedral)

Do you speak English? No… I muddled through but it’s ironic that I’m panicking about such a small thing so close to the war cemetery. If I stop panicking about the small things will I have to start panicking about the big things?

(Artist studio)

There’s an organization called The Commonwealth War Graves Commission set up in 1917. They look after the graves of the 1.7 million people buried in France after the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. There was a plaque outside their cemetery in Bayeux that made me cry. It said their “founding principal is to honour each person equally regardless of rank, race or religion and to do so forever.” Forever. We don’t do this for the living.

If we did, there would be no war. Mairead.

(Bayeux: Overnight parking €4 with rubbish and recycle bins. Very nice public toilet near the museum. Supermarket past the war memorial graveyard.)

And then there were two…

(View from the castle ruins… very familiar)

Two more sleeps until we leave France. I found another lovely place to spend the night. Actually we arrived around 10am so we spent the day here too. I didn’t realize it at the time I was choosing it but this town reminds me of Cashel in Tipperary, where I grew up.

(On top of the rock)

Domfront is a Cité Medieval and is built on a huge rock outcrop on an otherwise flat landscape. And so is Cashel. It was only when I was standing looking over the walls of the old town that I made the connection. The scene in front of me was not unlike the view I knew so well as a child looking over the wall at the Rock of Cashel into the town. There’s a long street in the distance called Friars Street, it runs at a slight incline. It has shops and the church and here was something very similar in Domfront, France.

(Ruins of the castle at Domfront, also familiar)

When I started reading the tourist information stands dotted around the town I realised Domfront is probably as much English as French. Some memory of history class reminded me the kings of England were also kings of northern France. Think of the region of Brittany. Domfront is in Normandy (to the east of Brittany) and the Normans although originally from Scandinavia, invaded England from Normandy. So this place has seen a lot of battles and a lot of blending and mixing of nations. As has Ireland.

(Gateway to the town)

Maybe that’s why this place feels so peaceful. It really does. We both felt very calm as we walked around the old town towards the runs of the castle. But maybe it’s just familiarity. The castle walls are made of grey stone, probably granite, very different from the finish of a Château or the red stone of the walls in Portuguese Silvas. But very like home. The roofs of the houses in the town are topped with slate, most French roofs have red tiles.

(Grey stone, this could be any town in Ireland)

Intentionally choosing this town even without knowing its history or its story reminds me of the time Denis choose to drive to Beja when we needed a garage. Or the time we drove into the motorhome dealer in Benet when we really, really needed a garage. Our brains take in far more information than we are aware of and then they offer it back to us when we seem to need it.

(Higgle-de-Piggledy houses)

It’s not always a given that I listen to the quiet internal voice because it’s hard to believe what’s not in front of my eyes. But the alternative is to work everything out and try to control the results. I would prefer to listen more to that quiet voice because it was right to bring me here. To a familiar place for the first time in a long time.

I love the unusual but maybe I’m getting ready for the familiar, Mairead.

(Domfront: free parking, motorhome facilities behind office of Mairie. Public parking. Best croissants in France!)

The End is Nigh…

(Love, love, love doors)

So here we were with three nights and four days left in France, how will we fill them? There were only three more sleeps until we were going home. In an effort to cram every lovely thing into the last few days I found three pretty towns to visit. Anywhere other than France this might have been a difficult challenge. It was easy.

(Can you see the long straight road leading out of the town?)

We were exceedingly pleased with our route from Chambord. The romans visited France and did a great job building roads. The straightest roads you’ll ever see for miles and miles. Normally we would have opted for motorway travelling at this point in our trip as we’d be rushing for the ferry. But we’re not rushing, we have enough time. So we had a chat about time and money and we chose to spend some time instead of money on these last few days. We could call these austerity measures but we’re calling them time-rich measures instead.

(Pretty houses)

The town of Sainte-Suzanne could be used in a movie from the 1800’s and they wouldn’t need to change a thing. Old stone castle? Yes. Old houses? Yes. Narrow lanes? Yes. Cobblestones? Yes. Nature peeping around every corner? Yes. It is also one of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France (like Labastide in the French Basque region we visited.)

(Pretty views)

On top of that even though it was a Sunday every restaurant, cafe and shop was open. (The small supermarket and the Boulanger had closed at 12.30.) So it was a tourist’s haven and the place was hopping with people. Our new time-rich plan provided for one glass of beer or an ice cream and the ice cream was the more expensive option.

(Pretty flowers)

It’s interesting what happened when we started to notice spending… our time spending and our money spending. Ice cream was sweeter, walking was more enjoyable. We noticed what we were receiving, what we were seeing, what we were experiencing. There was an extra element to the time spending also. Although we had plenty of time, it’s not unlimited and noticing that distinction in this last week makes everything different.

(Pretty buildings plus nature)

It’s not something I think about a lot (the unlimited time thing) but maybe here’s an opportunity to do just that. You know, to use this section of limited time to remind myself of the limited time I have… on earth, I mean. So… it’s not too cheery to think about impending death (I do intend to live for at least another 45 years in case you were wondering where this might be heading…!) but it could be a very useful exercise to focus the mind. To be intentional. To taste the sweetness of the ice cream.

How would you like to spend your next three days? Mairead.

(Sainte-Suzanne: we stayed at the free parking with no facilities. Very good public toilets in the town. There is another motorhome parking with all the facilities €12)

My Summer Residence…

(Driving into Chambord)

We drove for hours after we left the policeman in Fontenay-le-Comte through beautiful countryside. The avoid toll roads was on again but this time everything worked out and we arrived at my Château in Chambord. (Not actually my château but for eleven euro I can pretend.)

(This is how close we are to the Château)

It was after five by the time we arrived so we had a quick cup of tea and some emergency long life Portuguese tuna patê on crackers and then off for a walk around the grounds. It was still sunny but not too hot and the French were doing what they do on a warm Saturday afternoon – walking in a royal garden. This garden is full of wildlife, birds swooped and frogs croaked and there were signs telling us about the wild boar. It seemed like our breakdown experience had reset something. The long drive hadn’t managed to tire us and we walked enough to hit our step goals.

(You can walk, boat, cycle and drive golf carts around the grounds of the Château at Chambord)

Next morning I was on a mission… I had been reading old reviews about the motorhome parking at Chambord Château and one of the reviewers was complaining about the early morning noise from the balloons… the hot air balloons. There were balloons? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Years ago I had seen pictures of colorful balloons flying over the countryside in France and the image had stayed with me. I didn’t want to go up in one but I’d love to see them floating over the Château.

(Sunrise at Chambord)

So I set the alarm (my 6am habit had taken a hit in the past week but here was my opportunity to start again) and hoped the rain would keep off. Next morning was cloudy and grey but I was energised. I had no idea, by the way whether there would be any balloons but even if there wasn’t, sunrise would be more than enough. I was half way across the field between the motorhomes and the gardens when I realised there was a big bird about 100 yards away from me stalking something in the grass. A very stork-like bird. Thanks to all my stork sightings I know it wasn’t a stork but I’ve no idea what it was. I couldn’t move in case it flew off but I needn’t have worried he wasn’t going anywhere he was dead still too. Then suddenly he grabbed at whatever he was stalking and swallowed it! That’s another reason he wasn’t a stork, they don’t grab, they’re very dainty.

(Sunrise on a grey day)

There was no sign of a hot air balloon and I realised I was expecting too much, I hadn’t even googled it to see when or where they go up or even if they go up anymore. I could just make out a break in the clouds where the sun was coming through so I went off to get my sunrise pictures. The hour after sunrise and before sunset are called golden hours and I was definitely getting opportunities on this trip to experience what that meant. It’s supposed to be a good time to take photos.

(Wild boar this way…)

There was no one around, I was completely alone taking pictures and wandering around, like I was a… I don’t know, a princess maybe? It does seem to be a theme… just saying. Next thing I hear something, not bird song, more a heavy breathing or wild boar snorting. I looked up, it was coming from above me (probably not wild boar then…?) And there it was… floating way, way up in the sky.

(Can you see the hot air balloon?)

A balloon! Yep, one solitary balloon way, way, way up high. Every now and again I could see the flame igniting to lift it higher, that was the wild boar snorting sound I thought I heard earlier. (Well, it might have been.)

(This was the closest I got to it)

I was so excited. The whole experience lasted only 15 minutes. I’m not sure hot air balloons have much control over their direction but on that morning some gust of wind brought this one in my direction.

And then it floated away, Mairead.

(Château Chambord: €11 parking for 24 hours, Princess experience included but no motorhome facilities except bins.)

The Lessons of Benet

(1. Watch out for the signs…)

We are still in the town of Benet but… today the part arrived! We are over the moon. Could it be that difficulties arise in order that we can have an opportunity to be over the moon? About a piece of engineered metal getting transported to a small town in France to a man with mechanical skills who is available to do something very specific with it?

(2. Notice the beauty…)

I am also over the moon about all the hours Denis spent with Duolingo in bed each morning practicing French (it’s a free language learning app…) because when we stood in front of the French receptionist there was communication and understanding.

(3. Grow where you land…)

I am also over the moon that we have a place to stay tonight while Ruby overnights in the garage. There will be a bed, a shower, a desk and WiFi and there’s a restaurant and it’s not expensive. There’s even a Lidl supermarket next door.

(4. You might have to go round and round…)

When everything goes well it’s natural to expect everything will continue to go well. When things stop going well, it’s natural to expect things will continue to stop going well. But at precisely this moment we had a choice…

(5. Don’t be dramatic!)

It was easy for us to become disillusioned and only see things going badly now. Today it seems we have an opportunity to be over the moon, notice and be grateful for ever little teeny tiny thing that goes right.

(6. You don’t have to be perfect to be useful…)

In that way we are neither expecting everything to go well or expecting everything to go badly. We have suspended our expectations in order to look at what comes to us in the moment and be grateful for it. If it is something we like we will be over the moon, if it is something that makes us uncomfortable we will deal with it.

(7. Take the next step… open the door)

After sitting for days with the discomfort of a not knowing what will happen next we know the next step… we are off to a hotel to spend the night while Ruby is in the garage.

Missing her already, Mairead.

On a Time Out

(Want to buy a shop?)

We are stuck in a very lovely small French town called Benet. I say stuck but that’s just me being dramatic. We are kinda stuck yes but we could be in worse places. The part for Ruby is due tomorrow and we’ve only been here for three days… Plus, most things we need are here.

(I love the font)

There’s a supermarket (closes for two hours at lunchtime) a cafe (closed today) another cafe (open today) a library (but is it really a library? I don’t know the answer to that) a magazine shop, a post office, an old church, a rustic toilet and three flower shops (all open today and smelling beautiful) and washing machines (open 24 hours.)

(The wool shop)

There’s also a wool shop but I just looked in the window. I’m not going in because the window looks too good and there’s no more room in my craft cupboard… anyways, it’s closed today.

(There are flowers in the car park…)

Yesterday I couldn’t see all the nice things in this town. I was grumpy and had fallen out of love with France. But today it is raining and I realise that love is not always happy… I am weirdly thrilled by today’s rain. (Yes, weird.) Yesterday it was sunny and I was grumpy and uncomfortable. Hot weather is not always wonderful. Life is not always comfortable.

(…and washing machines)

France is France. This is a great place to be if you are irritated by little things because she says, this is how we rock, take us or leave us we will still be here when you come back and you will be glad we have not changed. If you don’t want to come back to us that’s ok we will be just fine without you. With love and beauty from your pal, France.

(The old church, Benet)

Today I can love that France. She is who she is, she is not trying to woo me. She will not be concerned if I do not woo her. She will still take two hours off for lunch and close on Sundays and every Monday and the one Wednesday I’m in town.

(Love the shutters and the lacy railings)

Because, when I go home she will still have to live here and mind her children and water her garden and buy flowers for her Mum. She will still have to get up at 4am four days a week to bake the baguette and croissants and if she knows how to take a break then maybe I should be thrilled because it’s possible that taking breaks makes her croissants taste so good.

My relationship with France just got more complicated, Mairead.