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Happy Christmas from France, 2021

Image of Father Christmas driving sleigh over the top of the Eiffel Tower

I’ll be honest, I started to write this newsletter and it was, unusually for me, a bit of a struggle though I love writing to you, it feels personal when I sit in my little pigsty telling you about my life and the people I meet, the things I see in my daily life and travels in France. I am by nature an optimist, but this year has been horrible and it hasn’t ended well with borders closing and yet more restrictions almost everywhere. But you know all this, and I like to tell you the good stuff to make you smile.

I went for a walk to clear my head and decided to pop to Claudette’s house, my neighbour who is in her ninth decade. I’ve written about her many times, the wisest old lady I know and truly inspirational. Even at her grand age she cooks every day, grows vegetables, keeps chickens, and can deal with an unruly cockerel without a moment’s hesitation.

“You seem a little sad” she said to me as we sat in her kitchen, my glasses steamed up from the heat given off by her wood oven. She poured me a glass of vin du noix, home-made walnut wine, and settled down in her comfy wooden chair at the kitchen table for a chat, or as I like to say, a chin wag (which if you don’t use that expression where you live, certainly inspires interesting images).

“I understand” she went on, “we are all sad. Life at the moment isn’t what it was, what we want it to be, what it ought to be.”

I was surprised to hear her say this, she is normally one of the happiest people I know, able to see wonder in the smallest details of daily life from a rain drop on a rose to whiskers on a kitten. As she herself will tell you, she has never been further than 20 miles from the village – “no need, everything I love and hold dear is here, friends and family.” She is by and large, not greatly impacted by what goes on in the world.

But we are all affected by the ongoing situation – some to a lesser degree, others more so.

“I am an old lady” she said, “I have lived through bad times and good times. I’ve seen things change beyond all recognition in the last 90 years and yet some things never change – as Victor Hugo says, ‘even after the darkest night, the sun always rises.’

She has quoted this to me many times in the last two years, and it gives me comfort to know that this is true.

“You must be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings” She said, again quoting Hugo, her favourite author. And she raised her glass. We both sipped and I thought to myself that I would tell you what she said, and I hope that you will take comfort from her words as much as I did. AAnd I also hope you enjoy the feel good features in this week’s newsletter and that the photos I’ve posted on the Advent Calendar on InstagramTwitter and Facebook have made you smile.

This Christmas I wish for you as much joy, happiness and love as there are stars in the sky…

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream – ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online, and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life

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