Sensitive skin- and a greater sense of loss








I have had a weird few days.

I should explain that I have spent decades developing coping strategies to deal with the hyper sensitivity/empathy I was seemingly born with which has, historically, proved to be both a blessing and a curse.

Although I have toughened up these days (that’s life)  now and then it rears it’s ugly head

Make of this what you will, I offer no theories, but I get this overwhelming, seemingly irrational feeling that every layer I have put between me and the real world has peeled back like the skins of an onion and left me hyper aware within a situation.


What triggered it this time? I was walking through our local market town in France. I turned a corner by the ancient church  and saw what was left of the burnt out and demolished buildings above.

I stopped dead, feeling sick and shocked and thought “I need to record this”.

A  French guy saw me and stopped to talk. He told me that someone had broken in and set alight the end house and despite the attendance of every Pompier from miles around, the blaze was so fierce and the damage to this and the house next door was so devastating that they had to be demolished, including  part of a further neigbouring property.

These are small, back to back typical French town houses in a tiny, narrow street. Many are of medieval origin ( see the timbering, mud infill, and old stone doorways revealed above). We agreed that not only was the act of arson criminal, but the destruction of so much architectural history.

Can you imagine the terror of these families? the sight and the noises and the destruction and the fear that the flames would reach their homes?

I could, in horrible technicolour and cinemascope as per usual. The lovely French guy was really concerned about me. He patted my arm (very un-French gesture for someone you have just met ) and asked if I would be OK. He seemed amazed  at how affected I was.

Then , back in the village I sat on  the bench at the end of our street to watch the world go by, at it’s usual Campagne pace of one nanosecond a week; My neighbour V  came down the street behind me, recognised me and came over to exchange les bises and talk. She sat down, I asked her how she was with a strong presentiment that this was not going to be a gossip session.

It wasn’t, her lovely husband (local author and artist & generally gifted and highly  cultured gentleman), ill for a long time, had died.  She told me how it happened, and how she felt and still feels. We both cried.

I won’t intrude further into her situation out of respect, but suffice to say that she now faces a life changing decision as to where she goes and what she does next. With only one immediate permanent neighbour and surrounded by empty or second homes (!!) she is as isolated as one can be in a tiny village.

I wish we had been there and could have offered some support, lifts, an ear, a shoulder etc.

Of course there are other kind villagers who are there for her but I am right next door.

I still feel like I have abandoned her. It’s still echoing………..

About coteetcampagne

Artist, period home maker, renovator, restorer, Francophile. My mission is to save the old stuff, one beautiful piece at a time
This entry was posted in Renovation and restoration diary- France and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sensitive skin- and a greater sense of loss

  1. bizzyella says:

    Worry not. Everything ends, one way or another. You honored their passing, at the time and by writing this post. You will continue to honor them every time you think of them. By listening to your friend you helped her more than you may ever realize. Sometimes life sucks, plain and simple.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. poshbirdy says:

    Don’t change. It hurts, I know, but to lose the hurt is to lose everything else as well

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gabriele says:

    Is it a feeling (wbfm) you really want to recover from? As much of who you are (esp at this time in life you know yourself better and accept yourself more) is tied into respect, affection…all the investments of one’s self, tied into what it is to live in your chosen small town. And the neighbor’s loss–yes, it’s difficult to not be able to help but her openness was a gift which you should value. You have her address, write her a card from England. Somewhat formal but still personal and remind her that even though your physical body is not there, next door, the part of you that belongs to your house is still there and she is still your neighbor.
    You could admit that you would have no idea what to do if you were in her situation, that you hope there are those whose work it is to make things happen properly and that they are in touch with her.
    And speak of her husband, even though you might not have known him well. She needs him to still be in her life, if only through others memories.
    The first thing I thought of, reading your thoughts was the Donne writing:
    ” any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
    And so also, the loss of one’s home, one’s history.
    It may hurt to feel the shared loss now but as with the work of removing what cannot be kept (in the house and in articles for the house) we come to accept loss, and move to appreciate the new view, the next step with the new perspective.
    Take care


  4. Osyth says:

    Death waits in the wings all the time and sometimes chooses to show us our mortality in the hardest of ways. For you your hyper-sensitivity is almost unbearable (that is the feeling I get from this achingly anguished piece) but for the recipients (the man in the market town, the new widow) that very trait is what makes you someone that they can connect with and take succour from. Cold comfort for you. I hope this blanket sheds for a while soon.


  5. Goodness me, that is very honest of you to write.
    I am a warts and all kind of guy but I’m not sure I would have bared my soul as you have just done.
    Hope the feeling passes soon and you get back to yourself.


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