For one day only we had the roof terrace of our dreams. On Wednesday evening the guys left the front attic fully exposed to the sky, creating fantastic views of the hills, both east and west. It was stunningly beautiful and peaceful. I cried
It was the pop-up roof terrace that could never be, thanks to local restrictions. At least we were able to experience it, however briefly
By the end of Thursday it was fully enclosed once more, before the rain arrived. All beams and boards had been replaced, and there was no trace of the terrace of the night before
Having lost this spectacular terrace, the attic space will be used for chilling in the evening with a drink – and a pool table?
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?
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
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
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
Briefly all the builders stood still, drawing in breath and watching me to see if I would cry – I didn’t, quite. Totally my fault, I hadn’t paid attention and turned my foot over on the rubble, yelping involuntarily. Luckily it isn’t broken, or I would have descended in the cherry picker
Today my left ankle and foot are still hugely swollen and sore. A trip to the chemist felt like an expedition, but I came home with ibuprofen gel, arnica and predictable advice
Some of our junk belongings were supposed to arrive this afternoon, but we’re heading toward evening now. What I am most looking forward to is finding and retrieving my pillow: I loathe the square ones with hardly any filling favoured by Europeans. When it arrives I may just take to my bed with my kindle and wallow in self-pity for an hour before dinner
But yesterday was very productive. Having seen the attic roof opened up, we’re adding Velux windows to the new roof and are reinstating the broken chimney to allow us to have a fire in the salon. These things would have been missed if I had stayed away and left the guys to plough on. The price of the improvements so far is my swollen extremity
The Very Busy Cherry Picker has gone home for the night, trundling backward the wrong way down our one-way street. The guys have just left and the drizzle has moved in, right on cue
This is my first online relationship. Somehow I identified this house as my soul mate among all the other potential candidates on the property equivalent of Tinder (what Baz calls ‘house porn’). I had little idea what I was looking for in my partner, only that it would be French, considerably older than me, and would hopefully introduce me to some good walking and a bit of skiing. I didn’t care how it was dressed, what sort of health issues it might have or what its relationship history would be. In fact I don’t even remember what especially piqued my interest when I saw it, but I committed there and then. I could not wait to be face to face, so I booked the first possible flight over, and it felt good. Now I spend my time dreaming of being back there when I’m not …
But what if fate and the internet hadn’t brought me to this old unloved and unfashionable house? No doubt it would have remained empty for another 40 years, and there would eventually be a sign on it – like the one further down the road where the stonework is now partially naked and the front door is rotten through – which unashamedly invites people to ‘make me an offer’
I cannot imagine these beautiful old buildings having no souls, nothing beyond the simple fabric of which they are made. They have withstood so many changes, outlived all the people who dreamed of them, built them, and several generations living in them. They have energies – some are less than positive
It’s also difficult to comprehend how little monetary value they have and how little interest they get. The estate agent had the front door key but hadn’t bothered to free up the lock so that we could use the front door when I went to view. As a result, my first sight of the house interior was while negotiating my way though a garage full of junk, and this made it feel like a bizarre film set, not a place to live. Once we finally completed the sale and wrestled the key from the agent it took Baz 30 minutes and a bit of WD40 to get the lock working. The house immediately felt like a very different prospect – a home with a future
As a footnote, the plans arrived in my inbox this morning. An architect has painstakingly put together detailed plans of the layout to enable me to work with a small local team towards stabilising and saving this lovely building. This is the first essential element of progress. I’ve been told that the plumber and the builder apparently think we are ‘very brave’ to take it on. Should I be panicking?!!!