Being part of a village

This past week being almost immobile and having lots of time to sit and think, I have been reminded what wonderful people I am surrounded by.

I have a friend (only recently acquired as she moved to the village less than a year ago) who has been collecting my girls and taking them to school every day and returning them back to me every evening with a bubbly smile, she arranged for them to be in the school restaurant for 2 weeks outside the normal notice and even bought the tickets for me.

I have long term friends and neighbours (now adoptive parents to my first enfant Stanley le chat) who spent four hours waiting for me in urgences despite having only just returned from a week's cycling holiday along the Canal du Midi that same morning. They deliver me bread every morning fresh from the boulangerie, run errands to the local epicerie and pharmacy, brought fresh eggs from the nearest village and did a supermarket shop for me yesterday (which saved me a fortune - no impulse buying!)

Another friend puts my bins out (daily occurrence with 4 mouths to feed and a house to pack).

Two of our close friends have been moving the girls toys and books into another friend's garage, assembling bed guards and one has been round doing the dishwasher and making lunch.

I've had people come round offering to have the girls round for lunch to save them going to the canteen each day and another offered to do my washing.

Another friend looked after my little one all day whilst I was at hospital and has ferried me to the Drs and back whilst transporting 4 kids about.

I then look back at resolving recent problems with the engineer and geologist...a good friend who works in the building industry managed to sort out the lack of communication going on between the 2 'professionals' and actually within a week of his persuasive phone calls I had the geologist and the director of the engineering company on site - after 2 months of delays. This was also after my many phone calls, lettres recommendee, attempted meetings and emails and even a couple of my french or french speaking friends both local and from as far as Paris :) having tried to resolve the lack of communication. I am forever grateful to these friends as I actually had, for the first time in my life hit a problem I couldn't resolve myself. I am still confused as to why the communication was so poor given my many attempts to move things along but I am now just happy that we have moved on and I can focus on the next challenge awaiting me.

My mind also is drawn back to when I had my second child and at 4 weeks old was admitted to hospital for an urgent operation, good friends brought me meals each day, did my shopping and looked after my girls (one shared the precious moment of giving my baby her first bottle feed and stayed in hospital overnight with me).

What strikes me is that in a village over time, people join the village and people leave, you have good friends who you see a lot, then their life changes or yours does and you don't see them as often but they are still there, always happy to help. You make new friends, the village has a renewing life-cycle, it grows and contracts - at the moment ours is growing and as it grows the opportunities to make new friends and have fun times grows too. I feel very fortunate that I have such a strong community around me, people to care and to share my time with.

Often the conversations I have with my husband are about the extraordinary efforts made by others to help us, its quite astounding. I intend to do my bit to help give back, one friend has asked me to help her learn English, with pleasure, another couple I help to learn French, another I am sharing experiences of living and renovating in France...dealing with administration etc. I feel like I have so much to give to our community, I want to do more. I have this space!

With you all the way. In this commune we know quite a lot of people now. The present maire calls in for a coffee and chat, the local carpenter/joiner is young and a great family man who is super with our children and his work brilliant, etc. We go to all manner of events (except that two of us refuse to go anywhere near a quine, I really do dislike bingo) and help out with some things. We are not seen as strangers at all but people who are part of the commune. The village proper is quite a way off but we show our faces, if only to look at the notice board and have a chin wag. When I voted at the communal elections in March I was asked if I knew why the other UK people don't register, I shrugged my shoulders and said that they probably still have an attachment to where they originate from. What else can one say? The community is strong, it is welcoming and gives a sense of belonging and security. Across the river there is a commune, at least the main village, that is quite the opposite because there is a 'them and us' culture.

Living in and becoming part of a community has helped us a lot and by using the reciprocal approach we know we can always rely on that continuing because we are some of them.