I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I just liked the sound of that headline.

The last few days have been a bit intense. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I went and helped someone put up a 120-metre fence, through our local alternative-currency initiative. This was the first time I’d agreed to do what is effectively a time swap and the benefits were manyfold, including: meeting a likeminded, friendly, interesting and enthusiastic person; eating very well at lunch; learning some new (fencing-related) vocabulary; and using a post rammer like this (image used without permission):

post rammer

After 60 acacia posts rammed on Tuesday, I was more tired than I’d been for months. On Wednesday, we did the strainer posts and some fencing, and I ended up banking the equivalent of 11 hours of work to draw on later. Although you can’t currently eat time banked in this way, I know this will be Incredibly Useful Later.

Yesterday, with rain forecast for today, I took up the floor of one of the 18-foot yurts because the platform needs moving a couple of feet out from the hillside. (This is all part of our theme of doing everything at least twice.) Here’s a very behind-the-scenes shot of the floor under cover in the outdoor kitchen, with the platform up there beyond.

yurt camp

If you work in an office and get paid for being there, you may now enjoy a moment of smugness.

When we first moved here, listening to the radio was like hearing one endless French word, with occasional breaks for music. After a while, you start hearing the gaps between the words – even during the legal bits at the end of commercials. Eventually, you can recognise words you’ve never noticed before, and you can go home and look them up. It’s one of these words I’m going to share with you now: “Machin” (pronounced: “mashan” – with a silent “n”).

It means “thingymajig”.

Now I’ve noticed it, I hear it every day, sometimes several times. “Monsieur (or Madame) Machin” means “whatsisface” (or “wosserface”), which I hear a lot, too. What was once just noise has become something meaningful: “hoojymaflip”.

While I’m on the subject, I’ll give you an English word I learnt last year when reading Iain M. Bank’s Transition. The word is: “susurrating”. I won’t insult you by telling you what it means. And this might be the only time I get to type it. But what a great word!

In this post last week, I said Rob Hopkins had invited me to write something for the Transition Network. After a few false starts, I put something together over the weekend and sent it off. This morning, Rob told me he liked it (huzzah) and, a short while ago, he published it on his blog here (double huzzah – we haven’t had one of those for a while).

That should be enough good news for one post. But it isn’t.

Yesterday, we had a very positive meeting with the mayor about the yurt camp and our future plans. In the evening, I went to a very constructive meeting with our lovely local Transition group (in a straw-bale house – what’s not love to about a building you can grow and put together yourself?), this morning I landed some gardening work for the spring and, a few minutes ago, I found myself back in a band (having been bandless for just over a week) and landed a couple of website jobs to do over the next howevermany days.

If you’d spoken to me on Wednesday, I could have painted a very bleak picture of life. I was feeling like we were putting a huge amount of effort into numerous projects and getting nothing positive in return. Right now, the sun is shining and the world is full of possibilities.

Which reminds me of a Bill Connolly quote about the Scottish climate: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”.

A quick update that’s too long for a tweet but too short for a blog post: The brasse of firewood from this post has nearly all been converted into heat and we just had another brasse delivered this morning. The wood would (ahem) have gone sooner, but the weather has been incredibly mild. So mild, spring flowers are beginning to appear. It’s also been annoyingly wet, so I haven’t been able to cut the dead-standing chestnut I’ve relied on in years gone by.

Yes, I feel like a failure. Yes, we’re €250 poorer. But we looked hard at the situation and decided being warm is a fundamental human need. And on a positive note, I can finally answer the question: “How long will a brasse of oak last if I live in a yurt in the southwest of France through a mild winter?”

Eight weeks.

While I’m here, I’d like to share a piece of news that will make some readers smile knowingly and others feel a bit weird. In this post, I said you’d be hearing a lot more about Transition from me this year. Two days ago (just 24 days after that post was written), Rob Hopkins – yes, the Rob Hopkins, who co-founded the Transition Movement – emailed me (!) to ask if I could write something for the Transition Network.

Very. Exciting.


I’ve been wondering how to start this year’s posts, in which I will explore the theme of “community sufficiency” as mentioned in this post. But we just watched this youtube video, following a twitter tip-off, and I thought you might be interested (click on the captions button and marvel at the Russian-sounding language that is Portuguese a short way in):


One thing I may have written before is that our nearest town, Lalinde, was the first in the Dordogne to start the journey to become a Transition Town. I’ve been to a couple of events and helped the core people put together this blog – and they’ll certainly be featuring here in the months ahead. Along with news of how our new local currencykindofthing, the JEU, develops. (It’s more of a time bank, but I’ll get into that later.)

Final Interesting Thing for Now: I heard just before the New Year that two people are moving to Lalinde as a direct result of the transition initiative. It’s understandable – if we had the money in 2007, we’d probably have moved to Totnes.

Happy New Year, by the way.