The ultimate romantic gesture

I have allowed my face to be moulded and ‘splodged’ in latex, come face to face with myself made out of plaster of Paris (a very strange experience) and been photographed throughout as C did weird stuff to me towards her Art GCSE. But I long for the time and space to do my own projects and I fear the time slipping past

When my ‘big’ birthday arrived in September there were generous gifts of chocolates, money and booze – many and varied booze(s), in fact – and an extravagant evening out. So imagine my delight when Baz, the love of my life, presented me with his gift

A gas-fuelled soldering iron/ blow torch

Jason at work compared this to the time when his dad gave his mum a set of saucepans one Christmas (apparently she was livid – imagine!). But for me this little beauty is just what I will need to repair my Jugendstil chandelier, and to experiment with countless other glass and metal projects I have in mind

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Ah, the fun I will have…

But more than that, I believe this gift is Baz’s way of saying ‘It doesn’t bother me that you fill our lives with unco-ordinated tat that needs mending. It’s OK that you never want nice modern things like other people.’

It’s obviously his full acceptance of my obsession with old crap and therefore a licence for me to continue to attempt to resurrect dying things, and perhaps even finish a project one day

At least that is what I get from it. Am I wrong?

 

The Mighty Quinn – my first ‘pet’ spider?

The only water tap at the house is over a massive stone laundry sink in the furthest part of the garage, and the installation of this tap was greatly anticipated because we had no water source at all when we arrived at the house in August

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I was too scared to include my finger in the pic for scale

Arriving at midnight for my first solo visit in October, I was none too happy (terrified, actually) to discover that an enormous spider lives on the windowsill above this tap. On the first morning when I went to get water he marched right out of his web and across the sill to take a look at me. I dropped the empty bottle I was holding, and backed off in a cold sweat

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All empty – time to say ‘Rebonjour’ to Quinn

I calmed down when he returned to the entrance to his web, where he remained for the rest of that week, observing me

With no way of getting around the water situation – I needed to fill bottles with at least 25 litres a day for flushing the loo, cleaning myself and the house and for making camomile tea – I could not avoid at least one visit a day to the sink of terror. So I reminded myself that he was here first, and to curb my extreme fear I named him ‘Quinn’. Through the week greeted him each morning and evening as my fellow resident, nattering away to him in French as I leaned over the tap

As a coping mechanism the friendly approach worked. I am not crazy enough to imagine that it was social interaction for ‘Quinn’ and for the whole week I didn’t take my eyes off this huge ancient spider faded to a shade of dark blond (did I actually just make a spider sound like Brad Pitt?), but I was no longer so scared and was at times actually glad of the company

Charlotte was horrified to hear about my regular chats with him, until she saw his photo – it’s hard not to be impressed by him. When I returned from my January visit she was as disappointed as I was that there had been no sign of him at the entrance to his web. I hope he’s OK and hasn’t decided to move on from his comfy domain. I have tried to be a good housemate

 

Luck is on Our Side, but Gravity isn’t

Today’s meeting with the builder, the plumber and the electrician was another roller coaster. This time it was ‘Non, non, non’ from Jerome the plumber. ‘Non’, there isn’t enough in the budget to do what I want. ‘Non’, we can’t keep the art deco bidet (that was a solid ‘non, non, non’ on its own) and ‘Non’, the soil pipe isn’t working because it runs flat through the cellar to the road, due to several beams. So we’d better stop using the loo for a while. Despite this, we are undeterred. Baz and I aren’t going to let this trio of experienced French artisans pee on our campfire. Non

We plan to up-cycle the few bits of furniture we found here and put various work surfaces on top to make a kitchen next to the garage. Now we need to make sure that none of these tradesman chucks anything away, as to them it is all junk. They may actually be right about some of it

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Doesn’t exactly scream ‘La Cuisine’, does it?

But we’ve had some luck recently. Some months back a company importing stone a few doors away from our office had done a runner and left their unit, so Baz called our landlord to tell him. Baz asked if we could have a look inside when they sent their people in to clean. His response was ‘Go for it’

Lovely jubbly
Lovely jubbly freebies

The tenants left it in a horrible mess, with live electric wires hanging all over the place, several inches of stone dust and a blocked gully full of contaminated water. It took weeks to clear and repair the unit, but thanks to the help of the clearance guys we scored two sparkling white kitchen table tops still in protective plastic, as well as some carrara marble, and a stunning transparent piece, ideal for bathroom shelves. One guy gave us some smaller red pieces too, and he was so enthusiastic that it seemed rude not to take them. They will certainly add some colour somewhere

The joinery company next door has given us an enormously tall wardrobe with huge drawers, which was removed from a London house. It is heavy and beautifully made, with lovely  glazing bars and fielding. If we hadn’t taken it the whole thing would have been trashed, which would have been such a waste. So we have the bones of the kitchen for free

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Now we just need to move the electrics, knock down the dividing wall, install gas, get a new boiler and running water and somehow find a solution for the soil pipe….Oh yes, then get all this down to France. And build something kitchen-ish

Enough. I must stop using this blog as a to-do list. It won’t make it happen any faster!

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

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!