Friendships are formed in the most unexpected ways, and I suppose that is part of the beauty of them.
On the plane on the way down to view the house I chatted with the English couple sitting next to me. I will refer to them as G & T – it seems fitting, who then helped me find the connecting bus service to Quillan. This has been a very happy coincidence because as it turns out G is a fellow passionate admirer and saver of all things old, beautiful and undervalued. According to Baz she and I have been enjoying a wo-mance ever since, with frequent supportive texts, email exchanges about various gorgeous things, and then a chat on the phone when G negotiated with (possible!) Russian mafia in order to pick up a mirror I bought on ebay for £10.00. Some of the coincidences have been spooky and we even had to check we were not bidding on the same ebay items. How insane is that?!
So G has been ‘virtually’ with me every step of the way. From the initial viewing through the frustrations with the estate agent and notaire, to finally getting the final completion date, she has been an essential part of the process, keeping me sane via text and helping me understand the system. Now, to top it all, G & T are going to pick up our keys from the estate agent, collect us at Carcassonne and take us to the house when we arrive. This means I will get a chance to show them around (I know they are desperate to see this monument to my insanity), and that Baz and I will have some good old-fashioned moral support when we open the door. Honestly, it has made this whole ‘adventure’ feel way more manageable, and I am dying to buy them dinner to say thanks.
One of the hardest things about being away from home is leaving the chickens. They are very well cared for in our absence by our lovely neighbour Sue, who keeps them fed and puts them to bed. It’s especially hard to leave Audrey (above) who has never been well and has had more meds in her 2 and a half years than most chickens ever have to endure. We all have so much love and respect for her as she has repeatedly defied her odds, coming back from the absolute brink. She is such a fighter, brave and resilient. Luckily, Baz will usually be at home to care for them while I am overseeing work in France.
Now, if the estate agent will only tell us how much to pay and to which account in time for completion on Thursday, we’ll be fine….
It was the late 70s. I must have been thirteen or fourteen years old and I often spent more time at my friend Adrian’s house in Bounds Green than I did at my own. I was in awe of his film star-esque mum Eleanor (part-time opera singer, part-time antiques dealer) and his sister Therri (probably still the person I would have most liked to have looked like). The house was a dog-smelling chaotic mix of antiques and dust. The colours throughout were dark and brooding, with intense colour in unexpected places. There was nothing contrived about the house, it just oozed casual style and screamed ‘home’ to me like nothing else. Eleanor was my self-appointed mentor. She was slovenly, selfish and demanding, and I learned all I could from her! There was a skip outside one weekend and I saw a small wooden Burmese dragon lamp hanging over the side. It was perhaps 2 ft tall, and would have matched the enormous standard lamp version in her living room. I could see it was damaged, but I asked if I could take it. Of course, she said yes. Her husband John was clearing out some of her old stock which she had no room to store in either the shop in Islington or in the house. I grabbed the light and scoured around. The other thing that caught my eye was the most gorgeous embroidered picture I had ever seen. It was all the colours of thread sewn onto a beautiful green background backed by simple cardboard. Someone had obviously spent their own personal hours meticulously creating this and yet it had ended up in a skip?
My gut feeling then was – and it still is – that it was sewn in the 1930s. I hung it in every bedsit and flat I lived in and then when I bought my first home at 21 years old I splashed out and had it framed. The framer in Porlock in Somerset was intrigued, and he suggested that it was older than I thought, but I doubt I will ever know. It remains in the same frame and has pride of place in our living room. I look at it every day and would never part with it.
I was very excited when I saw this rusty chandelier on ebay. It definitely has a touch of the Jugendstil about it. It was honestly described as having two missing, one chipped and one smashed shade and broken glass in the body too, but no-one bid on it and I got it for ten pounds. It’s very heavy too. The guy selling it was so nice that he packed it all up for me (brilliantly, I should add) and wouldn’t take any money for the packing materials. Apparently he bought a very large hotel laundry basket at a local auction and this was inside when he got it home! If anyone knows how to safely remove rust from something like this please let me know, and I will have to find new shades for it, which is a shame as the piece has a very clear style and different shades will dilute this, but it has to be given life again. I may have to look into metal paint, but there is some silver metal coming through where I started with my toothbrush and Brasso. I have done lots of googling but cannot find anything like it anywhere.