66

The town is packed, market spills down hills into parking spaces, happy chatter in innumerable mother tongues, number plates from just about everywhere. It’s sixty eight million degrees hot and I make a mental note to remember in mid Feb, when it’s -6°C and I’m missing far away friends that here is what people dream of and spend years and small fortunes searching to find…

65

Profound thought whilst cycling 19 km in nine million degrees of heat: true happiness is to be found in the things we have, not in the things we think we want.

64

After seeing Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake LIVE at the Olympic Stadium, my younger son can’t decide whether he wants corn rows, or to apply for Jamaican nationality. Or both.

63

I can’t quite believe I’m telling my teenage son his dad and I are worried he’s too nice, that we’d like him please to be more typically full of teenage anger and sulkiness, that we’d rather he went through that normal and necessary if utterly unpleasant phase now than in his 20s.

62

“Beware of men who cry. It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own” said Nora Ephron, finger on pulse…

61

“All men dream, but not all equally. Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake to find it was all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, and make things happen”. T.E. Lawrence.

60

Nora Ephron, looking back through letters she received from Lillian Hellman, wrote: “it all comes back to me – how charmed I’d been, how flattered, how much less charming they began to seem, how burdensome they became, and then, finally, how boring. The story of Love.” !

59

I’m startled to realise that the end of an affair I truly believed in brings only relief that I’m free to be me again, not the target of someone’s angst, neuroses and destructive anger.

58

With a number of book projects on the go I’m having to learn the harsh discipline of staying focused, though it would be much easier and perhaps more fun in the short term to check email or make a cup of tea…

57

Writing can be a difficult, painful, frustrating, alienating process but when the piece is done, and someone says “it’s great. I really like it” you can’t wait to get going on the next piece.

56

Five years after starting to learn French, my son passes his brevet “avec mention très bien”. Fierce pride mingles with laughter that the highest praise accorded is “very good” but then the French education system is not famous for its motivating techniques.

55

I was genuinely moved to see Jean Dujardin receive his Oscar last night. Cinema was born in France, the French are passionate about film and an incredible number of excellent French movies are made every year. Is it possible the success of The Actor will encourage Americans to watch more foreign films??

54

My teenage self fell in love with France. Three decades later, I’m dining in a magnificent house, in a beautiful French town, with a group of highly articulate, intelligent and creative friends. The food is delicious, the wine excellent, the conversation entertaining, the man next to me beau!… Dreams do come true…

53

Shirley Valentine dreamed of sipping wine in the country where the grape is grown. I have the great good fortune to live in a country where, one unseasonably warm winter evening, I can drink champagne after a long walk in exquisite countryside under bright blue, warm sunny skies. Truly, I’ve found paradise.

52

Rose in the dark, frost in the moonlight. Gangly boys huddle before dawn in subzero temperatures, great clouds of steaming breath billowing above their still tired but excited heads. A rugby tournament, far away. Mon fils, “une tour de contrôle écossaise, un 2e ligne technique, pur malt. » One proud mama!

51

Bright blue skies. Work going really well. Progress on every front: it doesn’t get much better than this!

50

Working from home, trying to meet deadlines, school holidays in full swing (again). Music blaring from wherever there are children. Firmly shut study door regularly flies open with urgent cries. The mess in the kitchen is indescribable: meals merge into one … how I’ll miss this when they’re grown…

49

Mothers’ dilemma: continue working, hire childcare, exercise the grey matter and live comfortably, or stash career on back burner, spend time with the kids, struggle financially, end up crabby, prematurely grey, surrounded by laundry, dirty dishes, mess, grocery bags..? Are we bound to fail whichever path we choose??

48

The (somewhat eccentric) allergy specialist asked “Vous avez un cheval à la maison?” Picturing a 15 hand chestnut stallion in the kitchen, I laughed and said yes, of course. Do you ride the horse? Yes! I replied. My son kept looking at me as though I were mad. I now know “à la maison” doesn’t mean literally in the house…

47

New love enters and a game is played out. Children jealously guard their places in my heart, breathe to see their mother happy, worry because the future is unknown. Divorce carves families; with meetings new ones form. Complicated tendrils mix with hope and desire as we set off on immense journeys, real and metaphorical.