They say a change is as good as a rest and we have certainly indulged in both over the last few days. The thirteen-hour drive to northern France was incredibly dull and ridiculously tiring considering we spent most of it sitting on our backsides, but it was well worth the effort for the holiday we enjoyed once there. Mayenne is very different to Asturias: no dramatic green mountains or rugged coastline, but instead a rich and fertile open land, rolling softly beneath wide lark-filled skies.
This is growing country, the poppy-edged fields of ripened grain rippling like water in sunlight, the massed ranks of sunflowers turning their faces obediently to the sun and the thick groves of maize brooding and silent, greening the patchwork landscape. We lived there once and it is always a pleasure to go back.
Away from the noise and busyness of the building work, it was lovely just to unwind and relax and spend some time enjoying old haunts and treats. When the temperature hit 35 degrees we decided it was time for a swim and headed to one of the beached lakes the French do so well; it was blissfully quiet (I’d forgotten how sacrosanct lunchtime is in France) and the water was warm enough for a long, indulgent swim. Wonderful!
Of course, I had a bit of yarn therapy planned, too. Initially when packing I had thought just to take my sock knitting as it’s small and very portable . . . but my little bower bird looked so appealing in its nest of wool that I succumbed to temptation and decided to treat it to a French holiday. Well, why not? There was plenty of room in the car for my basket after all and I can’t resist having a choice of activities to fiddle with, which is why my projects tend to run away with me at times.
One happy hour with my crochet hook, one striped bower for the bird.
Where the sock knitting was concerned, sitting in the dappled shade of a young oak tree to work on that intricate leaf lace pattern seemed very appropriate. Having got off to such a tricky start with the pattern, I truly love these socks: they are so pretty and feminine and summery, just what I had hoped for. A bit on the tardy side for a June birthday gift but hopefully I will be forgiven!
One of the important things on our French agenda was a long run. Roger is toying with the idea of running a marathon in October so he wanted to try something close to 20 miles to help him decide. (He said he probably wouldn’t bother doing any more marathons as the training means he can’t enter other races but I have a sneaking suspicion that is about to change . . . ) For me, it was an attempt at 10 miles / 16 k where I could give it a go on the flat. Despite being on holiday, I went to bed early the night before, gave up my lie-in to have an early breakfast and passed on the pain au chocolat, having a healthy bowl of oats, yogurt and banana instead. Talk about commitment, this is not normal behaviour! When we have run down the old railway path before I have tended to plod out only two or three kilometres from the car, telling myself I can always run a bit in the opposite direction if I feel the need to run any further once I’m back. Ha ha, like that ever happens! I have always made sure to take a book or knitting and a deck chair so I can enjoy some post-plod relaxation while Roger is off pounding out the miles.
Ah, not this time. This was all about running 8k out and 8k back with no wriggling out of it in a well-I-could-always-do-6k-each-way-and-the-rest-when-I-get-back-to-the-car sort of way. After all, in a race you don’t get to the finish line then have to do several kilometres beyond it so I needed to take this seriously. I even carried a little bottle of isotonic water Roger had been given at the end of a race in Spain; I don’t like the stuff, but stupidly I felt quite nervous so I think it was my security blanket, really. I promised myself a very quick pause at the 5 mile /8k marker if I needed it – after all, I may well stop at a water station in the half marathon so it’s not cheating as such – and off I went. Did I do it? Well, yes, I did. I ran 10 miles, the furthest I have ever run in my life, with just the briefest of breaks at the halfway point to strip off my vest, blow my nose and have a slurp from my comfort bottle. I was so intent on keeping my pit-stop to a minimum that I didn’t even notice the message of encouragement that my coach had lovingly scrawled across the gravel path on his way through. The last mile was excruciating, pure agony as I started aching in places I’ve never ached before. Roger tells me this is quite normal and will happen in the race – that’s why the long training runs are so vital. What is strange is that I had expected to feel physically exhausted and mentally elated if I managed it . . . but in the event, the only word to describe it was ‘shell-shocked’. It all seemed a bit surreal, actually: I wanted to feel happy and joyful and bouncy but I didn’t.
Reassurance from Roger once again: it’s a perfectly normal feeling, partly because I was tired but also because I know subconsciously that even though it was a mighty milestone, it’s still not enough. There is another 3.1 miles / 5k to find (I can’t think that’s just a Park Run because I find 5k as hard as I ever did) and a lot of work to be done before September. I’m not there yet . . . but on reflection – and after a good night’s sleep – I did manage a little smile at the fact that I’m well on my way.
So, home again, and what have we come back to? Well, the roof is shaping up nicely but new scaffolding has appeared which makes getting in and out of the house an exercise in gymnastics.
There obviously hasn’t been a drop of rain in our absence and the garden is dried to a crisp, so emergency pot watering was the first job. I love that first look round to see what’s new, it’s incredible how much can change in just a few days. We certainly have food a-plenty and lots to come.
The squash patch is now officially out of control and all I can do is try to encourage the plants from swamping other things as they go about their business. We will definitely be playing ‘hunt the squash’ come autumn but that’s part of the fun of growing them. I can’t resist a little early peep, though . . .
Ah, holidays are great things . . . but it’s good to be home! 🙂