I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again
– John Ames in Gilead.
I’ve just arrived in Seville, had a three hour nap with a fan pointed at my face and woken up in sweats, beads trickling down my face, behind my ears and into my eyes. The heat here bowls you over – thick and raw and dry, burning off any moisture you might behold. I thought France was hot, but I didn’t realise what hot was. Lethargy is the greatest feeling I currently play host to.
It’s with this overwhelming, unfriendly heat and the putrid stench of marijuana, smoked by everyone, all the time, here, that I look back to my last month in France. Looking back from here definitely hits the final nail in the coffin of love I have for the place I was.
France was a fundamental stop on my trip. To say I have travelled for just over 3 months, and spent almost a month of it at Chateau Madame, it was bound to have a big impression on me, but I didn’t anticipate quite how much. In the words of my host, I transformed during this Workaway. I lost the rock I arrived with, strapped to my back. I found real happiness and contentedness. I developed a feeling of peace. On Sunday, I was sat by the Dordogne river with Owen and Caleb, two wonderful guys I met, and I wrote:
“Life is good here and I am happy. I feel at peace. I have everything I need. How incredibly lucky I am, and how beautiful that is.”
I sat many times, swinging in the hammocks and considering how blessed I was to be there. I feel I made a second family, a temporary one, that will never reconnect in the way we did during these past weeks. Steve, Tam and Gabrielle really helped that – three brilliant people who were there during pretty much my whole duration and who have inspired me, who made me feel comfortable and chatty, and who I’d love to meet again. I met ten workawayers during my stay, Gabrielle, Bart, Tam, Ruairi, Aonghuss, Aaron, Wouter, Caleb, Owen and Cailyn. I made connections that I’ll cherish. Friendships I must cultivate. I met people who inspired me, and people I’ll credit when I complete the book they encouraged me to begin (and keep up) writing.
I explored a side of France I knew nothing about (what I did know remains dubious), the land of Vide Greniers and Chateaus, bakeries and local beer spots. I explored local walks, villages and swimming spots. I stood under a waterfall three times and let the water pound out any tension I held. I drove a digger (briefly), I shovelled around 10 million rocks around 10 million times, I drove a van and I gave my first haircut. Thanks Caleb for being my first head model and embracing your remaining hair tufts, and thank you Owen for letting me drive in your van.
I met Gabrielle, whose first French home in Domme will become the focus of my first novel, currently 7,097 words down. I felt so inspired upon entering her new place, that I knew this was it. I made a further three trips to the place, trying to soak as much of it up as I could, laying on the bed, sitting on the sofa, opening every drawer, taking every picture and making notes of every smell, sound and emotion the place made me feel.
I met three guys from Ireland who came in like a wrecking ball and provided days of entertainment and interesting conversation, followed by the trio of Caleb, Owen and Cailyn who were brilliant too. We had some wonderful days and nights and beer fuelled dancing.
I found myself here. I moved on. I know that sounds trippy but it’s true. The whole goal of this trip was to find out more about who I want to be and what kind of life I want to create for myself. I’m getting closer to finding that out, with part-time coffee shop work and full-time writing squeezed around it. Writing is my first true love I think. It took me a long time to discover that; resenting that I picked English and Creative Writing at university when my heart was in textile design and contemporary crafts. Studying English at university got me here. It opened my eyes to new ways of working and writing, and got me a job copywriting…that I ran away from…that brought me here. Life’s a game of chance and opportunity.
This experience was about so much more than work, but the work was pretty interesting. I learnt about pool insertion and plumbing, I did gardening and used a strimmer (and found out its other English names – a weed whacker or a whipper snapper). I learnt about the value of Round-Up and the minimum necessary angle required for drainage on a hilltop terrace (-2%). I drove and parked a digger (with Tam’s assistance).