Sunday, 9 February 2020

Living the dream?

Living the dream. It's not a phrase I particularly like although it's been said to us regularly, especially in the early months of our life in France. Yes, I had been plotting and planning a move to France for quite a few years but my dream of French life was far from reality! My 'idyllic French life' was a strategy I developed to help me fall asleep when the demons arrived in the night and kept me awake. My perfect French house had a courtyard out front with a leafy tree providing shelter over a rustic table, the site of long lunches. Originally this tree was a fig but, even in the middle of the night, I realised that wasps feasting on squashed fruit was not conducive to a relaxed meal so I swapped it in for a walnut. The house itself was double fronted with a beautiful door. The hall had terracotta tiles, on the left was a country kitchen and to the right a comfortable sitting room with soft, squidgy sofas. It was all planned.

Maybe one day...

I didn't stop with the house. Oh no! In my French dream I wore silk and linen in the summer, cashmere and velvet in the winter. We ran a small, stylish and highly successful bed and breakfast where we were complimented on our hospitality.

Beginning to see where I'm going with this? Regular readers of our blog may have an inkling that 'living the dream' isn't quite like this, maybe you would like to share a week of it with me?

The week kicked off last Sunday with a fairly late breakfast (it's the one day we don't have an early start). The downside is I get a little twitchy as to what may be left at the boulangerie if I don't get there before 8.30 a.m. Sunday is also the day we take Mortimer on a long walk but it was chucking it down with rain so this idea was swiftly quashed. Andrew sat at his desk planning the electrical runs for the house restoration and after I had finished the ironing I got the household and restoration accounts up to date.

Monday we arrived back home after the morning dog walk to find our roofer in the drive, an unexpected sight. Our roof is beautiful but with old slates and zinc flashings. It's fine as long as we keep it maintained, which we do, and our next bout of work was to replace the flashings and ridge (it's one of the few jobs Andrew won't do and I really don't blame him). This curtailed Andrew's plan of starting on the new steps leading up to the kitchen, which have to be done before the new doors are installed.

Starting the steps
My role for the week was to start chipping out the old mortar in the hall and dining room. When we bought The Old Notaire's House both these rooms were plastered but had damp problems which the previous owners 'fixes' had not solved. In the dining room (which was the old summer kitchen) cement had been put a metre or so up the wall and then this was covered with carpet. The hall had a metal backed paper put to the same height and then wallpapered over. Both 'solutions' merely caused the water to be pushed further up the walls.

Chiselling out the old mortar
The damp has/is caused by soil being piled too high against the outside walls plus drainpipes that don't discharge away from the house. These two issues are fairly easy to resolve and we've also decided that if we take the walls back to the granite stones and repoint, they will have chance to breathe as well. Needless to say this very dirty job does not involve cashmere and velvet!

One of the causes of our damp
I have had an able bodied assistant for a couple of days who has also been involved in some roof work as well. It was decided that we needed to replace the existing satellite dish and T.V. aerial. If I'm honest this has all passed me by, we haven't owned a television since 1991 but it is felt (by some) to be a necessity for guests. I did take some photographs of the installation and even doing that made me feel queasy.

Wednesday was more of the same except for some light relief in the afternoon. We had inherited with the house the two safes that the notaires had used. We decided to keep one and the other I had put up for free on Facebook and it was being collected today as it had to be moved before the steps were built, we didn't want then chipped. The safe is very, very heavy but fortunately the operation went smoothly. The happy couple gifted me with two bottles of sparkling wine which was unexpected but charming of them.

Details from the old safe
Thursday morning could have been a little midweek treat. Andrew's barber is in Beaulieu sur Dordogne, a delightful small town about 45 minutes from us. I know, it's quite far to go for a hair cut but Girogio is excellent, and fascinating to watch. After the appointment we are in the habit of buying an almond croissant from the rather excellent boulangerie and sitting for 15 minutes with a coffee, watching the world go by. Sadly today we had to dash home as our roofer was still at work.

Giorgio in action
Friday was a mixed day for me, originally a sort of day off. I had a hairdresser appointment in the morning, which if you live in France you know can be quite a traumatic experience. The first hairdresser I went to after relocating had been recommended. I took in a photograph so she could see what I wanted (it wasn't complicated - I always have a bob-type style) and I was very insistent the minimum length I would accept. Smiles and nods followed, as did 10 centimetres of my hair. I came out and cried, yet being English I had still left a tip! Fortunately the hairdresser in our village is much better and never cuts more off than I want but I do miss the cups of coffee and hand massages I used to get at Top to Toe.

An early lunch so I could get to Emmaüs close to opening time. There was nothing in the furniture warehouse I wanted but I had more success in the china shop. My final call was to see my friend in the haberdashery section. Larissa knows my taste well and had saved me an adorable 1950's sewing box. I also found a vintage cushion and throw, perfect for the barn. When she saw it in my basket she said "I knew it" she couldn't save those as well but hoped they would still be available when I came in. There is a brocante nearby which I hadn't been in for a while, nothing of great interest although I did find a Le Creuset frying pan for a euro. It would have been a nice day if I hadn't received a telephone call from my mother in England saying there was "nothing to worry about" but she had slipped over on the ice and broken her wrist. Needless to say the next 36 hours were fraught with phone calls and planning for a possible trip back to the U.K. This still may happen but for the moment I can stay put.

Some of my purchases
Finally the weekend (Saturday was only yesterday but I'm struggling a little to remember). Oh yes, a trip to Gedimat to get more ballast, cement and other items needed for the new steps. Emergency washing and ironing in case I needed to return to England and several telephone calls to my mother. In the afternoon a friend came over with his new dog, a delightful five year old collie, so we gave up all pretence of trying to work and took both dogs on a walk. At this point Mortimer developed a limp which we think may be a recurrence of a shoulder injury he had last year.

So 'living the dream'? Despite the wardrobe aspirations not being quite there (although I live in hope) yes I am and wouldn't change my life in France for the world.

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  1. I hope your mother's wrist heals nicely: though a trip to England seems likely. You really are cracking on with every aspect of your lives in Corrèze - you're definitely part of the fabric of the town now. Wonderful!

    1. Apologies for the delay in responding Margaret. You were right - heading back to the UK tomorrow as my mother needs an operation. Will miss home.

    2. I've only just seen this. As I use Wordpress, I didn't realise I wasn't notified of replies to my comments. And now you've been, and come back, successfully.

  2. I'm interested to find your blog. We too lived 'the dream' for 12 years, in Brittany and later in the Gironde. Back in England now with no regrets, though there are so many little things we miss.

  3. How nice of you to comment Elizabeth, thank you. There are things I miss about England but I’m very content with life in France 😁


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