What happens when a horsemad Ould Wagon moves from Cork to Provence with 2 horses, 2 dogs and a Long Suffering Husband? Why, she gets a third dog, discovers Natural Horsemanship à la Française, starts writing short stories and then discovers a long-buried talent for art, of course…
Some years ago, I packed up my life and moved from grey, rainy Cork to a small village in the middle of Provence, along with my Long Suffering Husband and a small herd of beasts. Time has moved on. This new and exciting life abroad has become our normal existence.
I’ve stopped riding, due to chronic back pain. Aero is officially retired and enjoying life as the undisputed King of his herd of five. Flurry gazes at me with mournful eyes and wonders why we no longer go tromping through the woods. We lost a Small Brown Dog and gained a high-octane brown and white goofball.
The LSH packed in his high-paying day job last year and is slowly building a portrait photography business.
I work at the farm where the horses live, feeding and caring for 30-odd horses. It doesn’t quite pay my livery bill, and I know I won’t be able to do it for ever. I need another source of income…
and now I’ve rediscovered my long-lost love of art. Frankly, I am amazed at what I am producing. Maturity, patience, better attention to detail and a good teacher are all making me into a better artist. My aim is to earn enough money from my art to keep paying my horses’ livery bill, and (hopefully) contribute to the monthly household income.
Surely that’ll be possible?
The blog as you know it will continue in its sporadic, random way below this pinned post. For new visitors, you can find out a bit more about my past on my About Me page.
…and Failing Heroically.
I had planned on exhibiting my paintings and drawings in a number of places this summer. Unfortunately, there have been “issues.”
The first expo, which I was particularly looking forward to, was the annual local artists and artisans exhibition at La Biscuiterie in Céreste on July 17th. The LSH has done this every year since Manu and Carine, who own the biscuiterie, started running it. It was to be my turn this year. It’s a convivial day, even if it is a long and hot one, but it’s good fun and generally there are a lot of visitors, many of whom do indeed buy something.
The driving force behind the expo comes from two local artisans, Jean-Yves, ferronier extraordinaire, and Stephanie, who makes really pretty and delicate silver jewellery. But in the most bizarre and cruel of coincidences, both of them had a child in a serious accident on the same day in June.
Jean-Yves’ son was a passenger in a car that went off the road near Céreste. Everyone else walked away from the crash, Jean-Yves’ son was airlifted to hospital in Marseille with neck and head injuries. He was in a coma for weeks and is now in a rehabilitation facility,. He may never regain full use of his limbs.
Stephanie’s daughter was on the French inline skating team and was aiming for a world championship team place. She had an accident in training and suffered serious neck injuries. She is currently in a rehabilitation centre as well. She has some use of her upper body and they are hopeful that she will get her legs going too.
The lesson here is that there are more important things in life than exhibitions. Hold your children a little closer the next time you see them…
When it became clear that La Biscuiterie’s expo wasn’t going to happen, I decided to participate in an artistic Brocante (like a car-boot sale). This was to take place on the evening of July 27 in the square in Reillanne. The LSH had exhibited his photos at this before but felt it wasn’t worth the effort – nobody wanted to spend any money! I decided to sign up for it nonetheless (it cost a tenner) and to exhibit my white on black drawings and some prints and greeting cards. I figured I’d have a good chance of selling the lower priced items.
A full week before the 27th, they were forecasting rain. Nah, it’ll change, we all thought. Every other year there’s been a drought, any potential rain never materialises… but this year was different. It rained buckets on the 27th. All.Day.Long. By midday, the organisers made the decision to move everything indoors, into the Salle des Fêtes.
This was all well and good, we set up our stuff and we did indeed stay dry, but the weather was so bad that only a few very loyal and hardy souls braved the rain to visit the Brocante. It was a long, boring and painful evening – it was ten days since I’d cracked my rib and I was not a happy bunny. See awkward posture in above photo! However, thanks to some of those loyal and hardy souls, I sold a lot of cards and made a reasonable profit.
The final exhibition that was meant to take place was in my friends’ house in Apt, Cent Cinq – check out their Airbnb page! The house opens right onto the main pedestrian thoroughfare, which has literally thousands of people traipsing through it every Saturday morning in the summer. Unfortunately, their household insurance wouldn’t cover me as a person using their downstairs for commercial reasons, I need to have my own insurance. And in order to get the right sort of insurance, I need to be affiliated to the Maison des Artistes. Which is something I must do, but I haven’t yet done it. I’m waiting for the accountant to come back from his holidays so we can work out what’s the best way to organise my affairs!
Long story short, this particular expo will eventually happen, but at a later date, probably in September.
Finally, to cheer up this otherwise rather gloomy post, here’s a picture of Albert the donkey wearing trousers.
Back in March, the LSH volunteered me for an exhibition in one of the two local cafés. And then he told me about it. Which was actually a good way to do it, because I’d probably have said no if I had been asked. As it was, it gave me a kick up the butt to really work at producing enough paintings of a good and consistent standard to occupy the exhibition space.
I did indeed work very hard at it. In fact, when you consider everything else that was going on at the same time – revamping Villa Amande in time for our first guests in May; tidying up the gardens in Villa Amande and at our house; preparing a self-contained apartment in our house for my mother; working my twelve hours per week; and (barely) getting our little vegetable garden going – it’s no wonder I’m tired! But I’m proud of what we achieved in those six months.
We hung the paintings on June 30th.
The exhibition corner in the Café du Cours can be dark, even with the spotlights, but I was pleased with how bright the paintings appeared. This was my first time seeing this group of pastels on display side by side, and I thought they looked great together. I had wanted to select and arrange a group of pictures that would look like a cohesive exhibition by someone who knew what they were doing, not like a novice artist’s first steps into the commercial world. Which is what they were, but I think I hid it well 😀
The vernissage or “official opening” was held a couple of days later. I invited pretty much everyone I know in the area – if I forgot anyone it was because I didn’t have an email address for them!
I did a little rearranging before the vernissage – I felt that the two owls were lost were we had put them. It wasn’t obvious that they were part of the exhibition, and besides they looked a bit lonely stuck in a corner in between the stage and the toilets! So I hung them either side of This is how we fly! Like bookends.
Most of my paintings have French titles (except This is how we fly! That does not translate) and I printed out my artist statement in French first and then English. Ya gotta remember where you have decided to live…
And, in the end, I was delighted with how they all looked. I pinned Shiva’s story beside her picture, so that people would be doubly hit by the sad eyes in that smooshy face once they read her background.
I was nervous as we waited for people to arrive. What if nobody came??
My BFF and her BF had come all the way from Ireland for the occasion, so at least there was no way it would be a Zero-attendance vernissage.
Shiva was particularly popular and I saw several people surreptitiously dabbing at their eye after they had read her story. Two sisters were particularly taken with her and it looked like they were going to start bidding against each other at one stage! But they are very nice to each other, and one of them stepped back to let her sister take possession of the smooshy face.
My first exhibition sale! And I didn’t have any red dots to mark it as sold! But the nice lady from the local gallery nipped back to her gallery and gave me a whole sheet, just in case.
The sale of Shiva made the evening a success straight away. The icing on the cake was when Le Patron also received a red dot, followed by a sell-out of the greeting cards I’d had printed, and the sale of one limited edition print.
Does this make me a real artist now?
I’ve been procrastinating about blogging. So much to write! What would I prioritise? Would I make one massive post or a whole series of little posts? There’s the art side… there’s my horsey and expat life… there’s all the books I’ve read this summer… and on and on… I couldn’t make up my mind where to start!
And then a dear bloggofriend rattled my cage a little and woke me up. So here’s the first of a few. I’ll keep it short and sweet. Or maybe not so sweet.
Back in June, on my birthday, we went for a drive with a couple of young visitors. We had a nice day out, touring the Gorge du Verdon and Moustiers Sainte Marie. One of my favourite day trips.
The LSH was driving home, I’d had a glass of wine with lunch (well, it was my birthday…) and I fell asleep, as often happens in the car these days.
He had to brake suddenly, and because I was asleep, my head jolted violently forward. If I’d been awake, it would have been nothing, but nope, I’d given myself a good old whiplash injury. The following day, there was pain down my right neck and shoulder and lots of pins and needles all down my arm.
I saw the osteopath pretty quickly but because the pins and needles were very slow to clear up, she suggested I visit the GP to get referred for an x-ray.
About the same time, I started to have pain and swelling in my left foot. The sort of thing that would be explained by tripping over something or stumbling and giving myself a sprain. But nope, I hadn’t done anything dumb, I just had this mystery pain. So when I saw the doctor, he gave me a referral to get that x-rayed, too. He also gave me a referral for a course of physiotherapy, to work on my neck or lower back, as I saw fit.
I had to wait over two weeks for the x-ray appointment, so I got by with anti-inflammatories most days.
And then, a week before my x-ray appointment, I was forking hay into a feeder for the horses and I slipped on the sloping ground. I fell over backwards and I remember thinking “This is gonna hurt” as I went, because I expected to land on my already fragile lumbar area. But the telegraph pole that’s a support for the roof of the field shelter made contact with my mid-back before I hit the ground with my butt. It broke my fall, so to speak, and most probably did save me from further damage to my lumbar region. However, the pain in my back was such that I immediately thought I’d probably broken a rib.
So I did what all sensible horse people would do in similar circumstances. I carried on feeding the horses. Well, someone has to feed them and it’s my job, after all! And I know damn well that there’s nothing can be done for a broken rib.
That was my last day of work before four days off (I job-share), so the LSH kindly came with me that evening and did the heavy work. I figured that four days of rest might sort me out. If it was not a broken rib.
I started back after the four days and ended up struggling around, with the pain steadily worsening. Forking hay and carrying buckets is about the worst thing you can do with a damaged rib. To make matters worse, the LSH was away for a couple of days, so I had no-one with me to do the heavy stuff.
Day two of back-to-work and I felt even worse. Every step was painful, even when I was maxed out on anti-inflammatories. My x-rays were scheduled for the following day. Could I get my GP to add a mid-back x-ray to the menu? Nope, he was away on holiday. Oh well…
Plan A was to ask if the x-ray clinic would do it without a prescription.
Plan B was to take myself off to Urgences if they wouldn’t.
Plan B it was… The treating doctor poked and prodded, I reacted in a manner which implied I had an injured rib. I had more x-rays, which showed that I hadn’t punctured a lung (no surprise there); I hadn’t a displaced fracture; in fact no break showed up at all. But most likely there was a crack, the doctor agreed, just too small to show up on the x-ray.
He signed me off work for a week.
The girl I job-share with is recovering from a significant injury and, like me, needs her rest days.
Alexandrine has just had cruciate ligament surgery.
Her sister who sometimes steps in has just injured her neck and back (trampolining!)
There is no-one else who knows all the tweaks and knacks involved in feeding the 35-odd horses.
I ended up taking two days and then went back.
It seems to be improving, but oh so slowly.
Oh yes, the other x-ray results.
I have a mild scoliosis, arthritis and 2 compressed nerves in my neck, old wear and tear, but exacerbated by the whiplash. And my neck should not be straight like in the pictures – that’s probably the whiplash.
The physiotherapy is ongoing. (I love the medical system here – it’s all covered on my social security.)
Nothing to see in my foot. It’s all better now, but it was a weird one in that it behaved exactly like a minor break, even in terms of healing time.
Arty post to follow shortly.