30 April 2016


Our house is not very grand or posh but it is very, very old.  We know from maps that it pre-dates the Napoleonic era and was probably built during the1700’s.  It probably started off as a modest stone dwelling and has been added to over the years.  We know the stones used for the original roof were re-used to build the top storey before the roof was rebuilt using clay tiles.  The pigeonnier tower was added at a later date.

Arched entrance to the old forge (now guest bedroom)

The building was in a derelict state before restoration began in the 1980’s.  The ground floor was used as a forge with a big open fireplace. We still have the giant bellows.  All the living, cooking and sleeping areas were on the middle floor, with another large inglenook fireplace.  The top floor was just an attic room used for storing tack.

A large barn still stands that once housed the horses and cattle. An open grange for carts and farm equipment now acts as covered parking for cars and a ping pong table.  The old piggery completes the quadrangle.

Surf boards stacked up behind the old cattle stalls in the barn

Today it is a comfortable home.  We have tried to retain as many rustic, original features as we could.  Someone once said that the insensitive restoration of ancient buildings is like removing an old master from the Louvre, scrubbing the canvas clean and re-hanging the picture with a factory produced print in the original frame.  But a house is for living in, it is not a museum piece. The rough stone internal walls remain. A wood burner has replaced the open fire, internal walls have been removed to give it an open plan feel, and the top floor has been converted to provide bedroom space.  Our bathroom is in the pigeonnier.  (The owls live in the attic above the bath.)

In winter it can feel a bit cold and draughty but during a hot summer the thick stone walls and cool terracotta floors provide welcome relief from the heat. 

 Forge bellows


29 April 2016

Little things in life

It’s the little things in life that please me...

“William’s back, quick look, William’s back!”  Was it the return of the prodigal son?  No, just my over reaction to the return of William the Woodpecker to the nut feeder.  Most years he monopolises the feeder, scattering the sparrows as he swoops in.  But this year we have been back almost a month and there was no sign of him until this morning.  Actually, it might be Wilhelmina, I must check the colour of his head.

Hearing the cicadas buzzing away as we cycled up the valley, surely a sign of warmer weather.

See original image

Hanging my washing outside in the fresh air – such a simple pleasure after a winter stuck in the confines of a flat in England.

Finally, a long, cold martini in the sunshine before dinner.  Bliss!

28 April 2016

Ding Dong Dell

All this talk of toilets and drains from Tom, John and Rachel  has reminded me of an incident that happened here a couple of years ago.

There is no mains drainage here so we have a fosse septique that drains away our waste matter.  There is an inspection chamber in the garden with a heavy wooden lid on the top in case you ever feel the need to inspect the fosse.  At the side of this ‘well like’ structure is a pampas grass plant.  It is the most magnificent specimen, absolutely glorious in autumn with its striking feathery plumes.  But by the end of the winter the plumes are broken and bedraggled so it is necessary to remove the old plumes and cut the grass right back. 

On this occasion I started to cut the long plumes away and Paul warned me not to stand on the wooden lid as it had started to rot.  After a while I realised that the job was too big for me to do with the garden shears and asked Paul to finish it off with the brush cutter while I went to make a cup of tea.

When I returned with the tea this is what I found...

Luckily he wasn’t hurt.  He blamed me for setting a trap and camouflaging the hatch with the dropped pampas plumes!  As if I would do a thing like that.

French Countryside

The sunshine returned today so we set off after coffee for a ride out along the ‘Cathedral’ route.  We didn’t actually ride anywhere near any ecclesiastical buildings but this ride has been christened by us due to the ethereal nature of the woodland we cycle through, the magnificent trees arching high above us with the sunlight filtering through.  It's enchanting.  I wanted to stop and take photographs but my cycling buddy was out to break the land speed record on two wheels so there was no stopping him.

But he did skid to a halt when he saw the old red tractor half buried in weeds in a farmer's field.  All the men round these parts hanker after tractors.  And who could resist the cute little calf pestering his mum for a kiss? They might be Charolais cattle but I’m not sure.