Wednesday, January 24, 2007

“there is not effort without error and shortcomings” Theodore Roosevelt (26th president of the United States, writer and soldier,1858-1919)

Very often, I reflect on what we have here and I think that I already have everything I dream of and therefore how privileged in life I am. I don’t want a professional footballer’s wage and the ability to instantly purchase a luxury house, I’m completely happy that we’ve got a building plot and some ideas and enough cash to buy some wood and straw bales to build it ourselves. This is helpful as I was completely useless at football as a schoolboy in the 60s and was therefore always put in defence where I rarely saw the ball and could do the least damage possible. Anyway, away from my obsession with football and back to our lives in Brittany.

Despite the many moments when I stop working—maybe to regard the antics of our characterful and entertaining troupe of chickens—and think how lucky I am, I also have my down moments, for example, when overwhelmed by the way the list of things to do grows in inverse proportion to what I achieve: the more I do, the more there seems to be to do. In that grey space between Christmas Day and New Year’s celebrations, we travelled over to see our Somerset smallholding friend Val and family at their newly renovated French holiday home in central Brittany. We exchanged one of our oven ready geese for a beautiful brown lambskin rug. Over dinner, she told us about an interesting blog written by Neil, a friend of theirs. Neil, his wife and son, have moved to Somerset “to give the organic, green and simple life a go…” with a difference. Neil has become (the first?) organic producer of halal meat! I had a good look at his blog the following day and he seemed to have achieved so much and everything was working so well. Good on you Neil but, in contrast, this was showing up my own small achievements and large frustrations. While I was reading through the blog, Gabrielle was watching a TV programme on the famous free diver, Tanya Streeter: the superwoman with model good looks and the ability to swim to the bottom of the sea, hold her breath for 25 minutes, whilst swimming and conversing with dolphins and whales (maybe I’ve exaggerated that a little). Perhaps you get the picture, my morale had been completely crushed by these two superstars.

The following morning, Gabrielle had a look at Neil’s blog to see what had so upset me. She started with the recent entries and, on the blog for 14th November, read “I am finding these shorter days a bit of a pain in the bum. By the time I finish work it is pitch black and nothing ever gets done! At the weekends you have to juggle your family with what needs doing outside and most of the time the family wins. My list is getting huge now - on top of that the garden area outside is a neglected mess. I have no idea when I am going to have the time to do anything.” In my anally-retentive, ordered way, I’d started at the beginning of the blog, where there was perhaps more dreams than reality and Gabrielle had read the recent stuff, where there was plenty of the reality of the countryside dream. She counselled me, made me a cup of tea and we sat down to make a new, more realistic “to-do” list and relate it to the diary as well. Equilibrium and a smile has been restored, so thank you Neil!

Do have a look at Neil’s blog, he writes well and honestly, and has maybe a unique slant on the “green dream” with his organic halal business.