Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.
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A Portrait of Harry…

So, Harry … Happy Harry – one of the many Aquarians in my life (along with my husband, mother, daughter, sister…)

Harry and Me…

Born at home in our Isleworth sitting room; weighing in at 11lbs (nearly 5kgs) with only my Mum’s healing hand on my back and Joe’s constant support for pain relief, his birth was followed by a bath in my own bath – Harry with me, and glass of champagne in my hand! Truly magical!

Harry – born at home -Feb 10th 1995

Sensitive; bright as a button, and with one of those smiles that touches your heart…

He had a few tough calls in terms of schooling – whilst he’s always loved learning, he experienced real separation anxiety at nursery, with childminders and at school.

As he settled down and felt more secure he began to love school. Then he suffered the huge shock of his beloved teacher dying. Ms Brown was loved by everyone – famous for dancing on the tables during lessons! She was funny, creative and a heavy smoker, with a good husky voice as evidence. She was off school for a week with a bad cough, and then she suffered a brain aneurism and died suddenly. It was a huge shock for the teachers, the parents and the children. The school handled the tragedy with great sensitivity – counselled the devastated class, and allowed the children to grieve in their own way. It took Harry a long time to settle back into school life.

In Dorset, where we lived, there’s still the Middle school system, and Harry had a really difficult time there. It was hard to know how best to handle it; he was  bright (on the Gifted and Talented register in fact, as was Luke), seemed to be popular… but he was miserable!

We were worried that maybe he was hiding being bullied, but no – finally I could only conclude that his misery (bordering on depression by the end) was based on being surrounded by a general apathy and lack of respect, for the teachers and for learning in general. For him, the negativity was so frustrating and became too much to bear when he himself was so passionate about learning and knowledge.

He’s interested in everything, and has enormous patience – so puts the hours in to discovering how to do stuff. He taught himself to do 3D animations, following hours of tutorials at the age of 11, and now at 16 he’s a bit of an IT genious. He designs websites, does animations and 3D design work, and has earned himself enough to buy an imac, an ipad and a good camera. He has a nice little international client base, and for pleasure he keeps himself at the cutting edge of the design and technology world. Great for him, and extremely useful for us!

Naturally he’s a teacher’s dream, but nevertheless we decided in the UK (after much serious discussion with him), to take him out of school and home-school him for the term before we left on our travels.

He blossomed – really found his radiant inner joy again. He studied, read, talked, designed websites, cooked, played drums and of course built the bus with us, learning to weld,

Learning to weld..

and helping Joe install the complex IT system.

I can’t believe he was still only 12 at the time!

The year on the road was the most educationally rewarding experience for each and every one of us, and I believe really equipped all the children for the challenge of learning in another language.

When in Rome…

When we did decide to settle in France and Harry had the opportunity to try college, he did so on the understanding that if it didn’t work out he could go back to home-schooling. I have to confess I would have worried that it would have been too isolating had he decided to, (not to mention bureaucratically complex) with Beth and Arty both loving school-life and Luke boldly rising to the challenge of Lycée.

Harry probably had the least French when school started in September. The other three had all been more social over the summer holidays, revelling in re-establishing same-age peer groups. Harry was happier hanging out with Joe and I and our adult friends. He’s always found it really easy to chat with adults.

Anyway he started in 4ème, taking extra French lessons when his classmates took English, and within a couple of months he was excelling in all subjects! I think it was probably just the extra challenge he needed – to be constantly intellectually stimulated and stretched in a second language!

He took on the enormous responsibility of Sound Designer and operator on our film If you ever get to heaven, and did a truly remarkable job.

He earned a ‘mention très bien’ in his “Brevet des collèges” (the end of college exam), an extraordinary achievement regardless of nationality, and is now at the magnificent Lycée in Monistrol, which we are so lucky to have as our local public amenity. He loves it – every minute of it, and of course continues to excel.

He’s an extraordinarily good drummer… (he started young)


and now…

A serious “Rugbyman” as they say in France… plays No.8 for the Tence team (means little to me, but apparently I don’t have to worry about his ears!)

Derby match against Le Puy…75-0 in our favour!

And quietly runs his design business – Calvados Web Design

Hat’s off to you Harry – you’re one hell of a credit to us.

Harry – at The Firestation July 2010

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  1. Melanie Gow says:

    We just love Harry x

  2. sophie says:

    …and so say all of us!
    Soph xxx

  3. Mumpat says:

    What joy to read Harry’s story, told with such love. M&Dxxx

  4. tara says:

    He is a joy and a credit to you xxx

  5. Hillary says:

    meeting harry a year and a half ago working on the film, i encountered an EXCEPTIONALLY bright, sensitive, talented young man. and a smile to charm even an old girl like me! my camera loved photographing him, often in the bushes catching sound. it is too bad there are not more harrys in the world!
    and yes, so beautifully and lovingly told, manny. say hi to harry for me.

  6. Simon Wells says:

    Very interesting read , as Harry’s experience of the State Education System sounds SO similar to Charlie’s….he is also distinctly underwhelmed by the lack of motivation he receives , and it would seem that bright , well-behaved kids can suffer in comparison to their less able , “difficult to manage ” peers….great to see that Harry hasn’t allowed this to hold him back….we’re now just hoping that Charlie deals with this in the same way…!!

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