Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for August, 2007
We have been inundated with wildlife.
Currently an exhausted bat is clinging to the light in the kitchen. A sweet little thing, it made itÄôs way into the kitchen whilst we were making breakfast this morning. I get the feeling that Baptiste is not interested in dealing with it at all. It is way too high for me to reach, but I know something will be done.
One morning I reached for a peach and something beside it reared up and squawked at me. I was so shocked that I screamed. (Very unlike me). It was a Pon de Nuit. A very large moth with a skull marking on the back of itsÄô head. Baptiste was thrilled. There had not been any for years, very rare etc etc. It is huge and when you touch it the cry is bizarre. We moved it out onto a tree and have subsequently dealt with 7 of the delightful things.
I saw a snake yesterday and this is the 4th amongst us on this trip.
Spiders here are staggeringly huge. I am settling a bit with them but can still throw a wobbly at the remembrance of a huge one walking across my face one night. I was sleeping on the floor at the time and will never be doing that again here.
Politicains. We went to a nearby town yesterday to go to the Musuem de Bouti. It is a style of needlework that I want to learn and they sell kits at this place. A very beautiful house in the village. As we walked towards the building, Sophie, BaptistesÄô sister called to us. She was sitting with several people outside a caf?©. As we were introduced, the relief on the face of the woman was palpable; she had quickly discovered we spoke English. I sat next to two men whose names I had not taken in. I turned and asked one of them, in French, if he was from the region. He smiled sweetly and said he was from Camberly is Surrey and his friend froom somewhere near there. I asked why they were here and if they were enjoying their holiday. Not a holiday. They were policemen.
Why not aholiday? They nodded toward the man espousing in a broad Scottish accent. We are guarding John Reid, the ex Home Secretary.
Hard to know what to say at that point. But his wife and Sophie left the table to look at the museum and we were left to chat. So we did. He was fun, interesting, willing to talk about himself and open minded.
Having written so much about fear I thought it a perfect opportunity to check my theory; That we are kept in a state of fear because it serves the state.
He disagreed and said that the threat of terror was huge. ( At that point a motor bike came whirling around the corner and both policemenÄôs heads whipped round. Phew, it was an old man). So there goes my theory.
Or does it? I am not sure. I still feel abundantly that we are kept scared. I know that I always feel awful after watching or reading the news. It is all so dire and awful that I ma now not allowing myself to look at it and funnily enough it takes a certain strength not to. Quite surprising.
We are back in London on Thursday and back into the mainstream by Saturday.
It has been fun.
It is less than a week now until we start he long drive back home.
I must confess that I am dreading it. I always do. I love my Landrover unless the drive is over 4 hours. This one will be at least 13. Sadly a DVD lasts only 90 minutes which leaves an awful lot of games, talking, fighting and deafening noise from the car to be experienced. I am always nearly deaf for at least three days after the drive. We are thinking of driving all night so there is no traffic and the children can sleep.
We had friends for lunch yesterday and were talking about how time flies and that the more pesent one is to the moment, the more slowly it passes. Well I can say that it has flown by here. I have not been very present. I have thought a lot about all manner of things and am feeling clear and full of vision for the next year.
I still find that my year starts in September. It always has done, as a sort of hang over from the old school year. This new year is exciting. The shop has changed our lives so much and I am excited about the future. I know there is a lot of hard work ahead, but it is fun and stimulating. I have always promised myself to work on and with things that I enjoy and to hold space where people can really show their skills and strengths. Where we are now is a great place for all of that.
The time spent here, at this rambling old family house has been the best in 15 years of coming here. So many changes, and some of it really painful. Everything is being divided between all the family members and it is as though the memories of the house are disintegrating. I have silenced some of the ghosts, and although it makes it a hundred times easier to be here, it also adds to the sense of dissolution. It may be that we inherit the place. We do not know yet and are loathe to commit tot eh commitment, but for the first time it has been a pleasure to be here. It has been relaxing and fun.
Returning from England, it appears that I have dragged the clouds there in the tailwind of my plane and we are now all shady.
It eases the pressure of how to spend the days as there is less reason to get organised and head to the beach but it also means that the day rather yawns in front of us and the options are rather limited as to what else to do.
Last night we went up into the attics and looked at all the Victorian clothes in the huge armoires. Such amazing shapes, colours, stitching and boning. It was very inspiring. I am working on what I will be making for the clothes next summer. My mind turns constantly on the colours, the fabrics, the possibilities, the options. I look at everything that anyone is wearing and either dismiss it out of hand or move it into a great stack of possibilities that are banking up on the sides of my mind.
I do not want to have to start on the next collection until I have an idea of how this one is going to do, and it has not yet arrived. Deeply challenging stuff.
And my mind is back in london. I know it is. New staff needed, all chamge in the shop display, new collection, website changes. There is a thread of me that has stayed there.
Life goes on at this alarmingly relaxing pace. Sun, swim, eat, sun, swim, sleep. There is a lot of eating too and therefore much cooking. The French idea of vegetarian is to throw in a few prawns. I nearly gagged on a salad yesterday having clearly ascertained that it contained no fish, meat or chicken, only to find crustaceans curled on the parmesan cheese shavings. I suppose it is the height of elegance and I have no tasteÄ¶
I just returned from London with a few days of really hard work restoring the shop to itÄôs usual glory. The sale ended on Saturday and the new stock arrives in a couple of weeks, so all had to be moved around, labelled, priced and made to look absolutely fabulous. l am really looking forward to seeing the marble, wood, bronze etc. Sadly it is all on itÄôs way, rather than actually docked, but the first 200kgs landed this last weekend.
The idea of having a holiday with two small children always proves to be very different to the reality of the experience. It may be the energy of the house which renders them incapable of doing anything alone, without an audience or in silence. They have discovered the music to Moulin Rouge and the Rocky Horror Show, playing certain tracks endlessly, and I suddenly have enormous compassion for all that my parents went through and at times fervently wish I was a better person.
I find this fervent wish has eased a little recently. It used to be my least favourite feeling in the whole gamut of human feeling, the low self esteem, self hatred and lowness of it all, but time has honed it into an acceptance of myself and an awareness that I must try harder. Nice change, I must confess. There is little more loathsome than self-loathing. And yet it is one of the most challenging states to alter. Something, somewhere, is finally working. How tiresome it would be if it was just age. It would mean that all the effort meant nothing and I would have got here just by sitting back and waiting.
Baptiste made a bow for Louis this morning. He is an excellent shot and the Dangerous Book for Boys has a really good page on archery. They are now crashing through the bamboo looking for bits to make into bows. Then Louis wants another hair cut. A boy was here today with a cut that Louis envies and has asked for, so it is my job to come up with the goods. Not my favourite thing, cutting hair, Especially my sonÄôs. Not because it has never been cut, but it is so straight and heavy and has to be really well cut! Arghh!
We are preparing for a big dinner tonight. It is our responsibility, so there are lots of women in the kitchen all chopping, grinding, cooking and singing. Great fun.
We found an old ice cream churner and were planning to make home made ice cream until we discovered you have to turn for one hour! Wow. What we all did before electricity is amazing. Although I thought further and realised there must have been some kind of electricity to make the ice in the first placeÄ¶..
The sun tan is coming along really well. I do love a good deep colour and do not subscribe to the sun cream notion. I am quite sure it is invented by skin cancer drug companies. I am about to be shot by Nestle, I am sure, so will espouse no more theories on that mark, suffice to say that I do a little and unprotected. Make of it what you will.
The daily routine is so relaxing I almost do not recognise myself. I think I hit new levels of stress whilst thinking of opening a yoga centre, that I can feel it still peeling off me in layers whilst I am here. What has also happened is that a month of Äúnormal eatingÄù is not a pleasure and I am bouncing, literally, back to being free of carbohydrates and eating mostly raw food. Wow I feel better.
I use the internet in the apartment of one of the sisters here. It is a place where I have had the worst ÄúspiritÄù experiences of my life and it is strange to sit here even in broad daylight. The furniture beside me creaks and cracks and there is a very real sense of someone looking over my shoulder, almost touching me. It takes great resolve to continue sitting here. I was doing the internet in the semi darkness the other night and lost my nerve. Funny.
We went early because it was Sunday. We were not early enough; there were no places left to park and the beach was packed. It was relaxing and fun until one of the ice cream vendors whom we have befriended told us that 5 children have disappeared on the beach this year.
Arghhh! Not fun. I have since come up with many questions about this statement, but it drove a stake of cold fear through my heart. He did not know if they were drowned or abducted. How big is the beach? From where I look it goes on for miles and miles. Why are there no notices? Why are there no police? So many questions, but I am suddenly more careful.
I have a new bunch of sage drying outside.
I took a friend up to the attic the other day. She knew nothing at all of my experiences on the house, and she went really peculiar. She had to be escorted downstairs and I had to ÄúcleanÄù her of the energy that had attached itself to her. Fun to know I can, but I have not yet had the time to ÄúdoÄù upstairs. So if my sage is dry, it is my task for the evening. The rooms are full of broken chairs and great cobwebs moving slowly in the breeze. A swarm of bees got trapped in the house earlier in the year and hundreds of them are lying dead all the way up the stairs. It is quite a trip to get there. I am always wearing the big skirts and have to throw it all over my shoulder to avoid dragging the empty bodies of hundreds of bees around with me. It would not add to the experience at all to have them whispering along the floor behind me. I will report how it goes. Horror films do not help the experience of these talents AT ALL, I notice. My mind can go all over the place, but the reality of the experiences is easier than the mind wants them to be.
It is already getting darker and I really want to do it in daylight or I will be quivering and quivering. Having identified 4 spectres thus far I am not entirely thrilled at the idea of more.
I was talking about it with Baptiste the other day and he said: ÄúI donÄôt think the Germans actually killed anyone here. I know my father stopped them executing someone. Äú Yuk. I cannot imagine what it must have been like then, but so much trauma has to leave its mark.
Following on from the success of the previous nightÄôs sage experiences I dried a much larger bunch and last night went around the house again with great plumes of smoke wafting everywhere.
It is an interesting experience, particularly as it really was dark when I did it again and I could feel for sure the 4 places where spirits are residing in the house. The sage has an interesting effect and increases courage but at the same time expands intuition. It was wild, and more than that I slept really well for the first time in 15 years. So I am now sold on the benefits of the herb.
We had a great morning on the beach. Somehow, and I am quite sure that it is nothing to do with me, the beach we go to is a gay magnet. It never used to be. It is a new thing. They all lie around like seal eyeing each other up all the time and fiddling with their packets, but on the whole it is a delightful experience, as a topless bather, to be surrounded by gay men who do not give a monkey.
After lunch we went to see bull teasing. It was a beginners day and not very exciting. I was getting bored and under my breath said Äúget on with it you pussiesÄù. Louis heard me and shouted it into the arena. Oh well. Time to learn to watch my mouth, I guess. It was funny, though. Except Bapitste was furious, as he is from the region and all. Cudos, cudos.
One of BaptisteÄôs sisters appeared at breakfast the other day with a scorpion that she had found in her bedroom the night before. She is here alone and had killed it herself with a broom stick, picked it up and put it in a saucer to give to Louis. We were all thrilled and amazed to see one so close up and rendered so harmless.
I touched itÄôs claw and it moved! I screamed, everyone else screamed and the sister was moments away from vomiting. She had been sleeping with it in the house, carrying it etc.
None of us have the strength of character to kill it because it would have to be stamped upon, or else it would have to be pierced with a very long pin to avoid the tail coming up and poisoning who ever was brave enough.
So it sits, semi-paralysed in a saucer with one of us periodically checking that it hasnÄôt ragged itÄôs sorry carcass under a table to wait upon one of us sitting down to be stung.
It is not very nice, is it? But what else to do? I burn the odd incense stick, and could feed it to the peacocks, but even that seems too horrid. A decision will be made today.
Otherwise we give the children treasure boxes to put all the things they find here. Cicada skins and very beautiful shells, tiny peacock feathers and of course, scorpionsÄ¶..
I had an interesting evening yesterday. I dried a bunch of sage and then went around the house burning it in all the rooms. All went OK until the libraryÄ¶Ä¶ Here the spooky music starts. I had been quite brave going into our room in the dark and finding my way to the light whilst wafting the smoke around. It was not fun but I somehow felt that the sage was protecting me. I kept expecting things to happen, like not being able to light the matches, that they would keep being blown out. It did, I could not get the matches to light. My heart began to thump harder and then I heard footsteps.
The au-pair was on her way to her room. I called out and told her, firmly, to follow me. She did it very literally, almost sailors walk, staying very close behind me. So with my courage bolstered bv her presence I went in to FelixÄôs bedroom. He had died there a few years ago ad it is always a very heavy room, right next to the deeply spooky library containing a table where, for many years, spirits were called upon.
The library was dark. No lights work in there, the shutters are closed and the curtains hang in threads. There are high shelves of books and big looming globes of the skies. As we walked in the shelves began to creak. It was horrible. As I want closer to one side I could feel energy backing away from me and the whole bookshelf was creaking. We were both very scared and breathing very quietly. It was hairy in the extreme.
By the time we went to bed I was terrified that I had left a burning ember in the library but despite holding my breath for a long time and waiting, it did not go up in smoke.
I went to sleep with some misgivings, still expecting to be punished. Oh the joy of a catholic education. When I woke up from tortured dreams feeling really thirsty there was no water. This I did take as a punishment, a in the cold light of day could still be a trifle perturbed. I have decided that if it is everyone then it is not personalÄ¶Ä¶.
It is not. No one has water. Phew.
A few days later I am a little browner, the children have relaxed and I have major issues with spirits in the house.
It happens every year, and every year it gets worse and worse.
There is no one here to discuss these things with so I get moments that are quite challenging, especially in the middle of the night, but having dealt with a spirit that hits in India I feel better able to cope with this one.
Actually there is more than one, but there is a main one who is grumpy and a few less noisy followers. They tramp through the house each night and I must say that I do not like it.
Otherwise all is well. The weather is not fab, but it is great, too, because it means that no one gets burnt.
We have all recovered from the festival, feet are finally clean, bites no longer itch and the diet is a little healthier. I am starting to work on the summer clothes and that is fun.
I am off to look for sage to burn in the house. Apparently this is something the spirits move away from. I have not yet ascertained where they go, exactly, but it clears spaces. So I will be creeping around with a bowl of sage later.
It was interesting, a little fun, tiring, stimulating, thought provoking and exhausting being at the European Yoga Festival.
The children loved it. Absolutely had a tremendous time. So much so that we barely saw them. They spent all the time going around in a pack, just appearing for meals and then skipping off again. Isadora included herself in this group for the first time and I got over it quite quickly, only panicking about her a couple of times. Louis, I had more scares over, but that is because he is older and therefore capable of being naughty and stupid. A dangerous and scary combination.
We are now in the South of France and have been here for a few days. We are all struggling a bit, I must confess. We have gone from no children most of the times to children 100% of the time and I am really not enjoying it. Horrid, I know, but true. They have both totally lost the ability to play on their own and look for attention, reassurance, solace, things to do, food, treats, swims and games ALL THE TIME. I confess to being close to screaming, but I do also see that neither of us grown-ups are settled in ourselves, either.
My time at the festival was really busy. Either it was endless meetings, the shop or preparing meals for 15-20 people in the woods. I now need a break after the last 6 months and the past 10 days, but alas, here there is no break. Bapatiste is immersed in endless meetings with his family and I am still cooking three meals a day because there is no concept of vegetarianism here unless you eat fish or endless pizzas floating in fat.
So my serenity is ruffled, if I ever really had any which I sorely doubt. I just want it. A lot. The inability to accept my reality is something I really struggle with and the struggle is exhausting. I am happy being a Mummy. Some things I am actually really good at, but I have an au pair with me. What is she doing? Washing up. Thank god, because there is no machine, but it is not enough. I feel like screaming, like leaving, like walking away. But to where? I will only be back with me and it is me that is having the problem with my reality. Round and round in circles I go, endlessly squirming through every page of my life, never able to sit back and let it be what it is.
What is it? I cannot see the wood for the trees. The drama of being me is absolutely wearing me out. Why donÄôt I want to endlessly go in the pool or the sea, then endlessly want to watch films and eat biscuits, why do I not see the joy in endlessly looking for things to put in the treasure box? I do. I do do these things, but it is never enough. It is never ever enough. More is always needed. More attention, more swimming, more looking, more playing. This is life with children. Endless sacrifice. But at the same time I have to design a range of clothes. I have to make the collection work in the shop. I have to make them beautiful, original and well cut. How? How does this happen in all of this?
So, no wonder the children are unsettled. That and the fucking cicadas all rubbing their knees together 24 hours a day.
It will get better. It has toÄ¶.. because reading through this I sound like a really spoilt brat.