How Low Can We Go?

There are clues everywhere, but put on your sunglasses

It’s exciting to find dates on things. I got a rush when I noticed that the panel of the attic door which we use on a daily basis is patched up with a financial report from 1914. Did someone from the house have links with Paris at that time?

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Newspaper seems to have been used liberally in the house. It’s great because it helps establish dates. The latest so far is 1983

On our first weekend at the house (Wine, Weather and Woodworm – 4 nights in Quillan) we noticed a door from one bedroom which didn’t open, while the other side of it in the ‘Jewel Room’ had fabric wall covering continued across it, making it invisible. The fabric covered the entire room, but we removed it from one wall amid a tempest of dust, exposing two layers of paper, the bottom one being pure ‘jazz age’ in exuberant zig zag, while also incorporating stripes and curves (below right). I love art deco but this is hideous

Having removed the paper from the wall with the door, I found that they had filled out the old door with cardboard and newspaper to make it flush with the wall before papering

The date of the stocks and shares is 9th August 1895. Under the newspaper is also some very old sort-of-flock paper, in a beautiful teal colour. It must have once looked very impressive, and it presumably pre-dates the newspaper

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Back in ‘the big cupboard room’ I purloined the builders ladder from the attic and have unleashed a torrent of papers. There are flowers, geometric print with flowers, stripes with bouquets, just stripes and then a simple one-colour blue on a pale background under them all

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Geometric with flowers – do you think it’s too much?

The one thing the occupiers of this house didn’t over-use was restraint. My neck and shoulders ache tonight, but I’m getting a little bit closer to the bones of the house now

 

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

 

Things Removal Men Say

Do they have to share opinions?

The two guys delivering my much-fêted pillow also brought some other bits I’ve been hoarding in the UK. They did a good job overall, though at least one of my Fragile – this way up boxes, containing an irreplaceable wall light, arrived the wrong way up. I pointed this out to them as they unloaded the vehicle and was greeted by blank expressions. After 20 years working in relocation I see that removals men still have no sense of orientation. Hopefully my packing stood up to this abuse

They made the normal compulsory comments about the size of the house, the state of the house, are we going to turn it into gites, etc, and had a bit of a dig about ‘the French’ while they were at it. They were just trying to make polite if opinionated conversation

Among the goodies was one of a pair of leather club chairs that we can’t fit in our living room at home. I had them place it in the empty salon, where I have now successfully tested it. It rocks

Then it happened…

‘Now this’, said one of the blokes, himself a Brit living in France, ‘is a man’s room. That armchair there and a big TV on that wall, that’s all you need’ He kindly expressed through mime the approximate size of his enormous imaginary TV and indicated the wall where I should put it, between the elegant, if very shabby, French doors

I really don’t think so

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The Savoy Still Sparkles

Baz picked up a ‘Groupon’ for Kaspars Grill at the Savoy. Even more than the food, I was aching to visit such an art deco icon. We tubed it to Green Park and took a walk first, past the Ritz and down through St James (we’re such tourists!)IMG_7630

My ‘Rivoli Bar’ shot

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Baz’s ‘Rivoli Bar’ shot

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We passed Rowleys with its sumptuous tiling. Then we stopped for a pint at the Admiralty on Trafalgar Square to start the evening

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Love the tiling at Rowleys
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We’re told this is the only right hand drive road in the UK

The Savoy is of course a landmark. Inside it is a grand space, but the intimate seating areas and changes of floor level and finish, make it feel cosy as you pass through. It was tempting to sit and try every grouping, every corner

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Over a glass of champagne, we ordered scallops, ceviche, chargrilled halibut and a cod loin served with poached egg, followed by heavenly desserts. Despite the voucher it really wasn’t a cheap night out!

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Perhaps what really grabbed me was the use of glass. There were mirrors, glass sculptures and lighting everywhere. It was glamorous and opulent, as it should be

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the fountain

Our cameras sat upon our table, and a waiter was surprised to see that I have a Canon while Baz has a Nikon. Oddly enough, it was Baz who always had Canons until he bought this camera., whereas I bought my first Nikon at 18 years old and remained loyal until I tried a Canon at a photographic event in Yellowstone Park and found it very user-friendly. They are both entry-level cameras and our first digital SLRs . The results we get are often very different, mainly because of our approaches. The top photos illustrate this quite well

We wandered past the stately Simpsons as we left, and felt the fairly hostile night-time atmosphere of the Strand as we headed to Charing Cross for the journey home

Baz snapped a deli on the Strand. The staff were still at work and the interior looked cosy and inviting. Both of us felt this was our favourite shot of the night

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I borrowed this atmospheric deli shot from Baz

Getting busy with the fizzy

Charlotte lamented recently that ‘humanity has evolved too far’, because every time she has a spanking new idea for her art, whether towards her GCSE or just for her own interest, she finds that someone has already thought of it. And done it

I know how she feels. We have now decided to keep the little sunburst drinks cabinet in the UK as it is so typically British and so 1930s. I fancied a mesh-covered soda syphon to sit on it, but I’d never use it and could not justify having one purely as an ornament, so I decided to up-cycle one into a lamp base because I (obviously) like anything booze-related. Google tells me that this is not even slightly original and that companies already buy them up, convert and resell them. Buying a ready-made one just didn’t appeal to me, so I grabbed one off ebay. (For argument’s sake I’ll call this the first of my birthday money). There are so many types of syphon available, from the bright metallic ones of my 70s childhood back to gorgeous elegant coloured glass examples, but I just love the texture of the mesh over the chunky glass, and it reminds me of my years working behind bars (oh dear, that doesn’t read well, does it!)

wonky shade, but you get the idea
wonky shade, but you get the idea

The one-piece electrical fitting cost me £5.80 on Amazon and could equally be used on other bottles, etc, so I may buy more in the future. All I had to do was take out the chrome top and delicate glass inner tube – and pack them away safely in case I ever need to restore it to usage. I then just stuffed the fitting into the top of the glass. No electrician required, and cheap as chips

Ray the sparky was round yesterday and he had not seen a fitting like this before. I have topped the base for now with a shade which is still a little drunk from an accident last Christmas where I swept it off the dinner table and it’s only held together by brown tape, so I need to make a new one using the old frame. I will search for a suitable remnant of fabric at the market this weekend ….

Cosmetic reconstruction at 50

In my mind I am still an irresponsible young thing. Sadly, in reality I am an irresponsible middle aged woman, and this is what the rest of the world sees. Sunday was my 50th birthday and Baz says that the house in Quillan was my birthday present (!). It really is the most brilliant timing, purely accidental, to have completed just a week or so ahead of this milestone birthday

The IT people were messing with my computer at work on Friday and there was nothing useful I could do. Some people might book a relaxing birthday facial or manicure, something to make them look great and feel confident for such a grown-up celebration. I went on ebay and found myself a birthday present, this 1930s sunburst cupboard, which I couldn’t resist and which will have a new (and hopefully, exhausting) life as a cocktail cabinet in our snug

A few bottles of Hendricks would look well in this
A few bottles of Hendricks would look well in this

So, is this a mid-life crisis? When I buy things that are older than I am – things that need restoration and repair, the equivalent of reconstructive surgery – am I trying to reassure myself that their age (and therefore mine) doesn’t matter and that it is still worth moisturising and dressing up?  Of course not. I have liked pretty much the same old things since I was a toddler and I’m just indulging myself. And yes, it cost less than a facial!

Tuesday afternoon brings an inability to concentrate

I had a ton of things to do today but it’s been very hard to apply myself. We set up our account with Credit Agricole, Baz having had an ‘interview’ on 27th July. He just told me off for putting our French address on the payment instruction to the bank, as we don’t actually own it yet. I know he’s right but I just couldn’t resist, so I hope it doesn’t bite us.
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We are very aware that August, the month of doing nothing in France, is almost upon us and we still don’t have a date for completion. On top of that I am away for a week. In the absence of real progress I’ve been struggling to keep my mind on work so I occasionally break off to Google stuff. It’s mainly harmless, but it can lead to me buying bits and pieces, as well as to schemes in my mind becoming grander. Or more time-consuming, at least.
We have both looked at the photos so many times now, and despite having quite a lot of them, it’s all getting a but tiresome. I wish I had taken a bloody tape measure with me to the viewing as we are constantly trying to guess the dimensions of rooms. Last night we were trying to figure out what size the courtyard is, based on various possible dimensions of the floor tiles. Obviously we don’t actually know the sizes of the tiles, the doors, or anything. So we’re still none the wiser…