I must have looked bizarre to my neighbours today - walking around in our garden with a bare-bottomed baby trying to offer his slightly nappy-rashed skin up to the healing sun. An age-old remedy but it does work.

Its been raining a lot - so every time the sun show's his face we get on out - walk, sit, let the warmth catch our toes. 

While Alex has been away I have been trying hard to improve my french - every day trying to add a new verb or idiom to my brain's collection. Dear Jess gave Reuben a copy of the "French Alphabet Book of 1814" originally created by Arnaud of Chateau de Beaumont de Beauregard for his nephew Alfred Bourdier de Beauregard... It is a precious collection of every-day words and quirky illustrations accompanying them.

Its strange, but after a year of living here I've only just very recently got to know some our neighbours on a deeper and more personal level. It started maybe four day ago when I was putting the bins out on the street and our turkish neighbour across the road called out to us - the usual conversation of "bonjour! ca va? ca va!" ensured but this time she added a command for us to come over to her balcony and watch her prepare a traditional Turkish dish of lamb filled couscous patties. For the next hour we spoke a little in my clumsy and her heavily accented french - while she tried to feed me and pinch Reuben's cheeks. She got a rug for him to splay out on, and a chair for me... I learnt that she was a Christian Turk, that she was one of 9, and had 6 children of her own. Through-out our time there three of her sisters popped in and a few cousins! 

Then two days ago I was walking with baby in the sling trying to get him off to sleep when our elderly neighbour a few doors down - Mireille - smiled out of her kitchen window. She then came down to the street to meet us and then took me by the hand and led us into her back garden to sit among her blooming flowers... then inspect her sizeable greenhouse... then come into her home for a tour and a cup of tea! I like this lady a lot. She is absolutely french and completely warm and affectionate and funny. She often squeezed me on the arm and exclaimed "formidable!". She also cuddled Reuben and we talked about this and that, mostly I listened to her and nodded and said things like "c'est vrai" and "oui" and "je vais"and smiled. I can understand a lot more than I can speak you see. She told me how she had lived in this house for 57 years and that she once watched a film about Jane Austen. I told her I loved the films "Jean de Florret" and "Manon du Source" upon which she was very pleased to show me her DVD box set of them and lent me a book on wells and waterways in the South of France. Also after she heard my husband was away she gave me all her details should I like to contact her for any reason... and then walked us home to our gate with a bunch of bright pink hydrangeas from her garden. I told her they were my favourite flower. She kissed me on the cheeks and squeezed my arm.

these are tiny stories from my life lately -
sunshine on the skin,
couscous on the balcony,
early grey tea in a musty dining room -
tiny baby steps in language,
smiles from my boy,
thumbing through picture books,
loving my neighbours,
embracing my neighbourhood -
each abating some loneliness I've felt lately,

so all I can really say now is,