Reflections and Repairs

It’s all done with mirrors

I love all sorts of mirrors. There is the enormous (sadly, recently smashed) Mafia Mirror with its smugglers cavity, which Gill kindly picked up for me from the ‘Russians’ last summer, but at the other end of the size scale I have a few damaged 99p jobbies, one of which is splayed on a towel on my living room floor awaiting further surgery this evening

Before and after bending with pliers, then applying elbow grease with rottenstone and good old WD40. It still has a patina but is no longer filthy

I tend to think of mirrors as things to look at, rather than to look into. And ironically for someone so mirror-happy I spend way less time in front of one than many people, and probably less time than I should, taking the ‘casual’ approach to clothing and make up to the extreme. This despite the fact that I have hung good mirrors either side of the front door, in an attempt to remind me to check myself before leaving. (At least C and Baz use them)

Recent examples include:

Leaving yoga class last week I looked down at the logo on my vest top, wondering if it was Adidas, Sweaty Betty, New Balance etc, and realised that it was just a blob of grey undercoat. When I pointed this out to C she just said she assumed I already knew

Recently, Baz has pointed out blobs of face cream as I get into the car to work in the morning

One morning, C turned to me in the hallway and asked me, without a trace of irony: ‘Aren’t you going to work today then?’

To be fair, the skanky chicken-flavoured flip-flops didn’t help the look

I genuinely admire people who take the trouble to look good but I fully believe that one day it will be discovered that there’s an actual gene which compels some women to match handbags and shoes to outfits and to iron their clothes. Sadly, it’s a gene I do not possess, but thanks to Baz’s side of the family, C has inherited it (in part. Not the ironing!)

Isn’t nature wonderful

I’m not hideous, but I rarely get compliments on my appearance, even when I have made a real effort. At one excruciating Boxing Day family get-together where I was wearing a nice top with good jeans, someone remarked cattily that ‘I see you’re wearing your best socks’ and everyone roared with laughter. I wasn’t wearing my best socks, of course, but Baz’s socks as always. I just hadn’t dressed to impress

So why all the mirrors for someone so unglamorous? I love the light they bring in to a room, and the way a bevel (I do LOVE a bevel) sends light and reflections shooting off. Of course I buy mirrors with a past, so damage is acceptable and foxing is actually desirable because it just adds to the mystery

And it means I don’t have to look too closely at my reflection

But I digress. Back to the patient: its dear little asymmetrical bevelled mirror has had a hard life and the silvering comes away from the back in large thick flakes, so I’ll clean it up and put acrylic mirror (90p) behind to cover the silver losses. It’s very effective

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And after all, it won’t often get called into active duty!

 

 

 

 

 

Gratuitous shots of someone else’s house

French Property stalking for a quick ‘fix’

I arrive in Carcassonne alone, and drag my wheelie case along the cobbled streets to find the house we saw when we came here a few weeks before IMG_8991

I am a huntress. I know when I am getting close, even though I am not that familiar with the streets. I just feel that I am getting closer

I have only a short time before I have to catch my train, but I just hang around outside,  taking photos when I think no-one is looking. Does this make me a house stalker?

Yes, most definitely, as I press my face to the window to see inside IMG_8601IMG_8607It was for sale but the owner has now decided to ‘renovate’. I don’t know what that really means, but I hope they will not strip the original interior features that I can still see

It’s the many details which make this wonderful house. Each one is complete in its own right, but they also work together to create the beaux-arts buildingIMG_8982IMG_8613

Hundreds of people must pass by this street every day, yet other than the graffiti artist who has recently made their mark, few seem to notice it. Does that make it any less special?

I think not

West Bay Weekend

Is that OUR van?

Having parked the van way too easily the night before (The Thrill of the Chaise / Pugs and Pink Jugs ), we were stopped in our tracks as we reached the car park

All down the back and sides of the van was a stream of seagull ploppings. In less than twelve hours it had been completely ‘pebble-dashed‘ and the two gulls on top looked pretty bloody smug. Baz suggested that perhaps the Bridport and West Bay Tourist Board could use this photo?

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‘Still Life with Van and Gull’

At Bridport market I found lovely brass tiebacks on a stall where the lady remembers us even though it’s sometimes months between visits. Her price was so good I took the lot, and she shoved them into a carrier bag, telling us she only brought them with her as an afterthought that morning and that she’s still hoping to find suitable glass shades for my weird chandelier

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We wandered around the junk shops of St Michaels without buying anything, then took a friend’s tip for lunch at the recently-opened Dorshi – absolutely delicious

After a coffee at the flat and armed with ice creams, we struck out in our walking boots in search of bluebells at Eype Down. My sprained ankle made me very slow, but I needed to see how it coped on uneven ground. Not very well, as it turned out. Unfortunately we were a couple of weeks early for the best of the bluebells

Chesil Beach was lit up by the sun and Portland stretched across the horizonIMG_8776.JPG

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There were lambs – it is April, after all. They are such dear little things. There were ones and twos, blonds and brunettes

And even a little redhead

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Back at West Bay we went out on the harbour and watched the late afternoon sun hitting East Cliff, along to Freshwater and Burton Bradstock

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After missing out on beer the night before we had a proper night out with friends watching the Skimmity Hitchers at the Ropemakers (And yes, the beer tasted WONDERFUL)

Job done

The Thrill of the Chaise / Pugs and Pink Jugs

One of those evenings when you just want to get to the pub

We borrowed the company van for the weekend and headed off for West Bay. The weekend stretched ahead, promising two nights of proper pubs and some live music. We could just taste that first beer

We needed to make a detour off the M3 to pick up a chaise I had bought on Ebay. The seller seemed fairly abrupt in her messages, so I kept her updated on our progress, arriving at the agreed time of 7.30pm, despite the satnav spluttering and flatlining when we needed it most

We parked up and could see a lot of junk/stock piled in a conservatory. Baz stayed at the gate and I rang the doorbell several times to no avail. I tried repeatedly to telephone the lady, but it just rang and went to voicemail, over and over. I sent emails. I knocked awkwardly a few times on the door but I really didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go peering in the windows but we had come all this way and…

Judging from what I had seen, she was obviously a hard-nosed dealer

Or…

Or…

…Or a delightfully eccentric elderly lady who had fallen asleep and who eventually came to the door flanked by two pugs, one of whom had apparently woken her up

She told me the chaise was in the garage, but after looking around extensively she concluded that she could not find the garage key. A mere mortal such as myself might have been embarrassed and apologised. But not Lady with Pugs

‘Never mind. My partner will be back from Keep Fit class soon. One of us is very fit and the other is fat’ she announced. She was not very fit. ‘You’ll have to come in and wait. I’ll make you a coffee’

Baz and I exchanged exasperated glances as we stepped through the door behind her.  ‘Are you a dealer?’ I asked LwP, taking stock of the lime-green painted dresser in the kitchen, crammed with a jumble of mainly green jugs and vases, and pointing out to Baz a cute pink art deco jug on the top shelfIMG_8826

We followed LwP to the kitchen, where she set about making me a coffee. ‘Oh yes, I was a trader for years, but at my age it’s getting difficult because I have brittle bones. The class finishes at 8 o’clock, so she should be back by ten past’

I saw Baz slump at the prospect of spending over half an hour in an elderly stranger’s house. We were totally trapped

By the time my coffee was ready, the three of us sat at a small kitchen table and a little black pug was asleep on my right boot, snoring loudly. The larger pug was happily licking the knee of Baz’s jeans. It felt quite homely and I made an effort to keep chatting to pass the time. She asked what sort of things I like and I told her of my lifelong obsession with art deco and my love of art nouveau. I was sitting next to an impressive metal art nouveau jug, just plonked on the kitchen surface and barely visible, competing as it was with random other stuff

LwP said she had given up collecting art deco in favour of her passion for the work of Edinburgh-born artist Russell Flint She struggles with mobility after a huge operation on her foot and she spoke of how she’d like to sell up and move back to Spain. To be honest the time passed very quickly, it was easy to make conversation and soon the front door opened. A petite spandex-clad and slightly younger lady stepped in, carrying a yoga mat

‘This lady is here to pick up the sofa and I can’t find my garage key’ said LwP

‘Oh, have you lost your keys again?’ (Fitty in Spandex)

‘The one thing does not equate to the other’ maintained LwP

As the lady in lycra was infinitely more mobile and had a key, she suggested we follow her to the garage. I thanked LwP for the coffee and as we were leaving, she asked me what I had seen on the dresser. I told her it was the little pink jug and she told me to take it, but of course I refused

‘I do a boot sale on a Wednesday morning and that was going with me this week. I’ll get nothing for it. I want you to take it’

I thanked her, embarrassed, and asked Baz to reach up for the jug. As he did, LwP said, ‘Just check there’s no money in it’. Baz dutifully shook it and it rattled. At first I wondered if it might be her keys (it was one of those evenings), but there was a load of change inside it and he tipped it out for her. She shook our hands warmly at the door and I meant it when I said it had been a pleasure to meet her

The nippy little lady in lycra made light work of moving things in the garage and she helped us load the chaise into the van, easily hopping up inside to make sure it was securely loaded, and we said goodbye

I spent the rest of the ride clutching my precious vase, delighted with this little gift. It was getting quite dark and Baz wanted the journey to end. We were an hour behind schedule, hungry and thirsty

So, did we make it to the pub?

We did not. We parked up opposite the flat and threw together some pasta, washing it down with red wine. We sat in front of the telly, dissecting the evening’s entertaining events and the little jug sat in its new home

 

When Offered an Olive Branch, Wear Safety Goggles

a difficult decision – is it the right one?

To ‘offer an olive branch’ is to make good with someone, to try to resolve issues. The definition I found online was ‘to do or say something in order to show that you want to end a disagreement’

Our builder may define things rather differently. He was at a tasting in an olive grove this weekend, and managed to walk into the branch of a tree while not wearing his specs, very badly bloodying his eye in the process

Oh, the irony. He looked terrible, poor man, but assures me it looks worse than it is

At today’s meeting he confirmed that the structure I have found is indeed a very old fireplace, but said that the work required to uncover it (my work, not theirs) would be far greater than I realise. Part of me wants to continue, but once fully revealed it would surely compete with the wooden 19th C fire surround next to it

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This wooden surround is a strong enough statement

It’s tougher than I thought, this job!

When we bought the house we knew the building was 17th C, but the huge attraction was very definitely the 19th C aspirational makeover, which was done with some conviction and was largely intact. The danger is the distraction of earlier finds, some of which (the lion murals, for example) will have to be worked in, because they are very special

So I will document this latest find and allow the builders to put plasterboard in front of it, thereby preserving it, at least. I had hoped to avoid using plasterboard, as I know that builders can be overly fond of it, but perhaps in this instance it’s the best thing (however, if you ever see me referring to the use of ‘plasterboard’ in a future post, please stop me!)

We don’t want this house to be sanitised and shrouded in board. It must keep its character, but because of that we must also hold onto a reasonably cohesive scheme – something I was reminded of only today by another blogger’s post

Perhaps covering up this very early fireplace is our offer of an olive branch to the ’19th C’ house we fell in love with:

First step to owning our new gorgeous wreck/house in Quillan

 

Inspiration and Help from a Friend

A friend came to visit from Provence on Tuesday. She arrived mid-afternoon, bearing bread, cheese and champagne (she even brought champagne flutes) so I abandoned yanking fabric from the walls and we enjoyed a lovely boozy afternoon snack. Her plan was to stay overnight but due to car trouble she has been here for two. This has been priceless because she had brought her work clothes and she helped me with the dirtiest jobs possible – clearing things from the attic, and bagging up about half a tonne of charbonne from the second floor (we carried it down all the stairs to drop it in the garage with the other several tonnes). It would have been impossible for me to do alone and it took the entire afternoon, working solidly. We looked like Dickensian chimney sweeps when we finished, but it is a relief to have achieved it. Of course, the house is once again filthy throughout, covered in black dust!

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The other unexpected bonus is that she has been staying at a quirky B and B down the road, an enormous house which I have wanted to go inside ever since I first came here. We went down to check her in and the owner, Guy, very kindly offered to show us around. It has amazing original belle epoch ceilings and is a masterpiece of recycling. He even has a terrace with a fantastic view of the mountains, something we can never have

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This incredible paper sculpture dominates the courtyard. It was made by a Brazilian artist who stayed at Guy’s house. He was full of ideas, and suggested using our courtyard to screen films, projecting them onto the huge wall. Well, we just have to do that, don’t we!

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Guy knew the lady who owned our house. Apparently she fell totally in love with the house but her husband would not move from Castelnaudary. So she never got to live in it, which was a source of great sadness to her. He was clearly very fond of her, and he spoke about how she was a very attractive lady, not very tall, and always well-dressed. She didn’t walk well towards the end, he said. A few years back she was paying Taxe d’Habitation because there was furniture in the house, and she called him to ask him to clear the everything out. It must have been terribly difficult for her, because she was giving up on her dream of living there. Apparently she hoped that whoever bought the house would be in love with it the same way, so it seems that fate has played a part here

Art Nouveau is back!

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Source: Art Nouveau is back!

Please just take a look at this lovely post, which I just found. I think she makes a very good point for an Art Nouveau revival. We really do need beautiful things in our lives and there is nothing more lovely than the curves and strength of Art Nouveau. And take a look at the Butterfly Chairs by Eduardo  Garcia Campos – aren’t they amazing (wish I could afford a pair)!