Too much of a good thing

The holidays are over, and on day four of being back at work I am still working my way through the pile of washing with which we returned. As we opened the door on Sunday, as well as the usual pile of post, there were four handwritten notes about the health of three members of the congregation. Then checking the phone messages there was a fourth to add to that list. So even before dawn broke on Monday morning the plans for this week were taking shape.

But the holiday memories remind me that the fortnight has been a good rest.

The weather in Brittany in the past three years has not been as good as in many years before. However this year was better than last, and we’ve never been a family that allows a dull day or potential rain to stop us getting out and enjoying the world. We returned to the house we stayed in two years ago, which is perfectly positioned in a small, seaside town popular with French holiday makers. So much so that there are events at the start of the French holidays to welcome the “vacanciers” to town. The town square hosts a local produce tasting night, and there are boules and badminton competitions. There is a “Moules” (mussel) Festival, and around Bastille Day there is a parade, dance and firework display.

The house is perfectly situated on a roundabout with five different exits, although it sits back from the road, and below the street line. One road leads directly to the beach, another to the local shops and bar, and the third to the twice weekly market. We didn’t have to leave the town unless we absolutely wanted to.

We’ve managed 8 days on the beach ( for Scots on holiday please read 8x 1.5 hours with a minimum of factor 15, and for most of us factor 30). Most people were in the sea for most of the time on body boards or blow up dolphins. There was leaping into the waves, diving under water, and much sand sculpting and digging. I managed to read 7 books, most of which were easy read, trashy novels. I’m part way through “The Scots”, the book about the genetic make up of those who now live in Scotland. I’m only part way through because it became my beach book, as that way I would read it as there was nothing else to read with me. I had hoped it would be fascinating, and instead have found it deadly boring as it repeated information I’ve read in other books, or became so caught up in the science that you lost the historical situation. So boring that on at least two occasions I feel asleep on the beach with the book lying on my face.

We did some revisits of old places, either doing similar things or trying new experiences in these places, or we were in new places. So we returned to Nantes to visit Les Machines, having hoped that we could return and see how they were coming along with the building of the three-storey carousel of sea creatures that they were creating when we were there two years ago. The carousel was opened on 15th July 2012, and we visited on the 19th. Adult and child alike had a shot on a sea creature, and enjoyed the participation, as well as the spectacle of the creation. This is no ordinary carousel, for each of the rides can hold a variety of people, and each has working parts for those riding on to use to make the creatures come to life – from moving fins, to smoke. Having ridden the carousel, we then went to see what the next project is. They are now working on building a gigantic heron’s nest, with the possibility of fling under the heron. The projected completion date for this is anything between 2016 to 2020. There are already some members of the household planning return visits, although we have mentioned how old they might be by then and that they might not want to go on holiday with their parents.

New for us was a visit to the Blockhaus at Batz sur Mer and the Escal’ Atlantic. The first offered us an opportunity to engage with French wartime history and the impact of the German occupation in the Saint Nazaire area. The second was indulgent as we ventured around an early 20th century cruise liner.

We also went to an airfield and met enthusiasts restoring old planes; wandered around a Carolingian Abbey; sat on the beach at La Baule; visited castles, lighthouses and shops. But we’ve also eaten lots – French bread and croissants; ice cream; crepes and gallettes; and mussels and chips. On our return home we had definitely had our full of these things. We go to France to enjoy them, and we do, but by the end of a fortnight we are quite happy to eat the steak and chips in Roscoff knowing we will return to plain food the next week.

So why call this “too much of a good thing.” I think holidays are just about enough of a good thing. We look forward to the food, the experience, the being together, and we enjoy the moment that is our holiday. But we return home satisfied with all we have experienced, knowing there is more at another time to encounter, but also knowing that we enjoy our ordinary living. We enjoy our own activity, and how it shapes who each of us is individually, and what our individual gifts, skills, hobbies and passions encourage within our living together as a family and with other people.



Life Changing

We are 36 hours from leaving for our holidays. Tomorrow will be a frenzy of packing, taking cats for their holidays, organising holiday money, and packing food for the trip so we don’t have to pay service station prices. We are making our annual trip to France and on this occasion returning to a house we’ve stayed in before. However while the holiday is much the same, it is longed for and certainly comes with the knowledge that life will be changing when we return home.

Over the last 8 weeks I’ve been trying to improve my fitness, and have gone from being a relatively fast walker to this evening being able to run for 20 minutes. I’ve been following the couch to 5k programme and have been genuinely amazed at how the podcasts have pulled me on to the next level. Can’t say I’ve noticeably lost weight yet, but I’m consoling myself with the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, and that my legs and backside seem to be reducing in size. Now if the stomach and other areas would follow that would be good. At the weekend I signed up for “Parkrun”‘ and plan to take part in that following completing week 9 of the running plan. Hopefully that should mean I would complete a 5k run in under an hour.

Life is changing for my eldest as he move from primary school to high school. The last week of school was full of emotion as they were encouraged to grasp the maturity and freedom they were offered. There was dancing, fun on the beach, and parades round the playground – all with tears from children and parents. His year group are a fairly amazing bunch of young people, who seem to enjoy each others’ company, and who have all charmed their teachers.

But life is is more turmoil than that in our house. For the Holy Spirit seems to be dancing. It has been unsettling and unnerving for us all. And we wait for the dance to end. That still lies ahead I think.

As a family we’ve tried to support each other. Parents assuring that all will be well, while amazing children offering assurance that they have more trust than could be hoped for. There is nothing more touching than your children’s belief in your abilities.

Hopefully we will return from our holidays refreshed and willing to face all that might lie ahead.