My name is Claire Harrison-Bullett, not because I married and kept my maiden name but because I’ve got two dads who would both cry themselves to sleep at night if I deleted either of their names. In France I’ve added an “i” to Clare as the French kept calling me “Clar”. So that’s Claire over here.
I’m 41, I live in this tiny Oh So Lost And Lonely Village in the Ardèche (the south of France), with a population of 30 in the winter and 300 in the summer. The average age of the winter population is 127. So, here I am in this Oh So Lost And Lonely Village up in the hills. However, I’m not totally lost and lonely as I have Tommy, who is seven and already a kung fu trapeze artist who listens to Pink Floyd (yay!) and Def Leppard (ahem) and has the energy of a tornado. I also have Léonie who is 3 and a half and already knows everything. She is always RIGHT. Or else she is whining in a killer high-pitched tone that shaves the skin off your inner ear. Life with these two either makes me feel like I have just done three hours of meditation in a warm, white room and that my life is rich and fulfilled (when they’re laughing, playing happily, cuddling up to me, whispering “Mummy, I love you”), or it makes me feel like a homicidal maniac. Then there’s L’Homme, my boyfriend, Tommy and Léonie’s Daddy – who goes away far too often, touring fantastic shows across France, leaving me to fend for myself on my own with the kids and haul basketloads of logs up to our woodburner. I did have various theatre/dance projects on the go … but all that has been on hold while the children have been dependant on me being home and not touring elsewhere. I’ve been doing some acting with little local groups and I some tour-guiding and teaching and translating and all the things a vaguely intelligent English woman can do in the French countryside… but I desperately miss being part of a theatre company whose work makes me tingle.
Our house is huge, made of stone, and – at last – finished (well, half of it… there’s still another building sitting there wondering if we’ve forgotten about it or just run out of money… it’s a bit of both). We even have a pool in the garden; so we rent the house out to holidaymakers in the summer. We did all the renovation work at the same time as having Tommy and Léonie. Apparently, renovating a house is the second biggest stress on a couple, after having small children. We have survived. So I’m pretty sure we will survive the next test; when L’Homme is home with the kids and I’m off rehearsing and performing elsewhere. Yes, L’Homme is taking a local job in September. Hoo-blinkin’-rah. I shall be able to return to “les planches” as the French say. Meaning “the floorboards”. No, not my old carpentry job… “les planches” means the stage. I literally cannot wait.