Sunday, 19 July 2020

A glimpse into the past

Many of you know that I can't resist a rummage around a second hand store. Whether it's Emmaüs, a ressourcerie or vide-grenier, I'm there. Why do I do it? Several reasons really. I dislike waste, so much modern furniture and household items just end up going into landfill as a short shelf life seems to be the norm now. I also have concerns over the manufacturing processes on new items, the exploitation of people who work in the factories not to mention the environmental implications.

The quality of older items is often so much better, yes it may need a bit of work but it's worth it. And there's the additional bonus of developing a unique home, it's very unlikely someone will walk into your sitting room and say "oh yes my best friend has exactly the same one as that". But for me it's also about the small items that open a window onto a past time.

Friday afternoon I visited Emmaüs and then swung past my favourite brocante. Her hours are a little unpredictable but she was open. I found some cocktail forks for a friend and a little Le Creuset dish for my collection (total spend so far 2 euros). I then spotted a book, beautiful cover but no title. The spine was a little damaged but inside was fine but what was it? It was a 1925 almanac for the Grands Magasins du Louvre.

I turned the pages, first up was the obligatory list of French saints days, then a history of the shop. Next were two humorous essays on etiquette and dancing.

Finally were the diary pages. Half a page for each day, black and white illustrations across the top and expenses and income columns down each side. At the end of the month you have a summary sheet for your accounts and budgeting for the month. Housekeeping included cooking, laundry and maintenance and a clothing allowance for Monsieur, Madame and the children.

My favourite page has to be the list of departments some of which we would recognise today - shoes, mens shirts. But I really want to go into a shop that has a special department for feathers and feather boas! Or an area devoted to black silk.

It made me think of a purchase I made a few months ago having no idea what I had bought,  just loved them. I subsequently found out that they were French store parcel handles. When you made a purchase it was wrapped up in brown paper and string and secured with one of these little wooden handles so your hand was not hurt.

I've had so much pleasure from this small purchase and will continue to do so - one euro well spent!

If you would like to know more about our life in Corrèze then feel free to follow or friend on Facebook or on Instagram

If you want to know more about this wondrous store then this Wikipedia article is quite interesting.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Slow living in France

I'm often asked why did we chose to live in France? The answer is not simple, so many reasons really. For inveterate house restorers like us France gives the opportunity to buy beautiful buildings in stunning locations. The food was a major draw - who can resist a French market? The people are delightful and have taught us so much, but above all it was the opportunity to try and live more slowly that made us want to move here.

Regular readers will know that I've touched on slow living before. It started in Italy during the 1980's as the Slow food movement, promoting an alternative to fast food with the emphasis on preserving traditional and regional cuisine. Since then it's developed to embrace a slower way of living but that doesn’t mean doing everything at a snail's pace but rather defining what is important to you, concentrating on that. It's doing things at the right speed, treading gently instead of charging about. It's not an easy thing to achieve, habits formed from decades of living a hurried life are hard to lose. So how are we trying to make it work for us?

Andrew and I like to do things together, it's just how we are, and sometimes that means getting up just a little bit earlier to achieve this. We still set a working week so Monday to Friday I'm usually up at 6 ish so we can breakfast and walk Mortimer together. Sitting at a table for meals, all meals, is really important to us, as is setting it properly. Friends know I have a bit of a table linen obsession so even weekday breakfasts involve a laid table with the requisite napkins.

Set for breakfast
Our renovation project is big, and we really want to be open for business next year. We would achieve more if one of us leapt straight into action while the other walked Mortimer but we rarely do. For us, the morning dog walk is important, we get a chance to breathe before the day really starts and we get time to observe our surroundings. The Santiago de Compostela route goes through Corrèze and most days we walk some of it, reflecting on the centuries of pilgrims who have trod these paths.

Santiago de Compostela route

Hydrangeas in the village
The village is full of hydrangeas, I hadn’t realised quite how varied in colour they were all before and capturing the different varieties has become a morning challenge. It’s this awareness of where we are that makes us really appreciate the life we have here.

Once we’re back home we sit and have a coffee before work, no rushing to start. We always break for lunch and it's usually for an hour. Our finish time will vary depending on the tasks we've been doing, if one of us wants to get something completed then occasionally it's a solo dog walk but that's not often. The evening walk is a good time to reflect on what we've achieved and our plans for the following day. If we stop and have a chat with friends, or share a bottle of wine with them well, does it really matter that much if supper is delayed by 20 minutes?

Talking of supper it’s quite often a joint effort. I defy anyone not to be inspired by French food shopping. We both find cooking relaxing and like to try out new recipes. These are usually not overly complicated, spending hours in the kitchen type of dishes, but trying out a different way of cooking with familiar ingredients. We're now coming into peak soft fruit season so I've started jam making again. Our local shop had 5 kilos of apricots for 8 euros last week - that was a lot of jam! It's certainly something that can't be rushed.

Moving to France and the changes we have made meant we could lose a car, we only need one now and if I'm honest we can go a week without using it (longer if I didn't insist on Emmaüs runs!) We chose to live in a village with shops and amenities that we can walk to, it certainly made life under lockdown easier. Our supermarket shop is fortnightly and we buy fresh food locally. We try to be more organised so that when we do go out in the car we do several things in a journey rather than a lot of mini-trips. I feel quite guilty when I remember how in the U.K. I used to get the car out just to buy a couple of rolls for lunch.

We're not perfect at this, we still get stressed when we try and pack too much in a day but we're learning to relax more. We still have goals to achieve, we still have to work hard but sitting down  enjoying a cup of coffee together isn't really going to make much difference to the schedule but it certainly makes a difference to our wellbeing.

If you would like to enjoy snippets of our slow life in Corrèze then feel free to follow/friend us here on Facebook or on Instagram

A special spot on the Corrèze

Sunday, 31 May 2020

So what happened to May?

For the life of me I can't understand where May went! I know, I know, I'm getting older and so the years seem to shrink but it's getting a tad ridiculous. Last time I posted it was the 3rd of the month and tomorrow it's June. It's not as though we've been gadding about. French lockdown restrictions have been eased, and will do a little more from Tuesday but even so. I've had to have a look at my photographs to see what we've done this month. So here we have a pictorial record of May 2020 at The Old Notaires House.

It was the month that I noticed the bearded iris around the village. I had never really spotted them before, maybe it's been a particularly good year but some of them have been stunning.

After the rain

This has to be my favourite, such beautiful faded colours
Before we were allowed to stray more than a kilometre from home we were still exploring new paths around the village and we forged a new route. At one junction was this seemingly ancient stone cross marking the Saint Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route. I know I've mentioned before that the Rocamadour path goes through our village and there are several examples of the cockle shell on ancient buildings.

Cross of St Jacques de Compostelloe
We also found this old wood shed. I can't resist an old building -  barns, sheds, old doors are a magnet to me. In a roundabout way this led me to artist Sharon McDonagh who paints on the subject of decay and also 'urbex'. Urbex stands for Urban Explorers, people who go out in their urban environments photographing old and abandoned buildings. If you have Instagram do a search for Urbex, there are some amazing photographs.

Old shed

Making the most of our new freedoms we went dog walking a couple of times at Château Sédières, a favourite of both us and Mortimer. We need to go back soon as the water lilies are just about to flower.

Never one to miss an opportunity to paddle

Château Sédières
Work on the house has been going well. Andrew is ploughing on with the new electrics. Nothing had really changed since electricity came to the house in 1959 but because we are redefining spaces it needs a complete re-design of the system. It also means 101 decisions and I need to be confident that the furniture will remain where I've designed it, sockets stay in place and the lighting works. With metre thick granite walls it's not an easy task to add a power socket. I've been continuing the window restorations and will be doing so for quite a while as there are still eleven to go.

One of many that need refurbishment

Poor Andrew spends a lot of time chiselling out the old granite walls for cables. It's tough work.
We have been having some fun too. The brocantes are slowly starting to open and we've purchased some vintage lighting and some art. The weather has been beautiful, really quite warm for May with several days at 30 degrees. This is the first year of the barn terrace so I was able to get out the table we found at the end of last year and we added a large sunshade. It's now a rather pleasant spot to enjoy a coffee or evening apéros while we watch village life.

This one is for the garden guest suite

We needed to try this one out for size and fortunately it's perfect for the new dining room

And of course we've both had haircuts which was such a relief, if not a slightly bizarre experience.

Haircut in a bin bag and a mask
Slowly the village is coming into summer mode, fishing is now allowed and this is a favourite spot just by the chapel.

Fishing in the River Corrèze

And of course the markets are back and we are enjoying the most wonderful vegetables.

Woodland asparagus

So that was May. I will try really hard to not leave it quite so long until the next blog post. If you want to know what's happening on a slightly more regular basis then we'd be delighted to see you here on Facebook or have a look at our Instagram squares

Featured Post

A glimpse into the past

Many of you know that I can't resist a rummage around a second hand store. Whether it's Emmaüs, a ressourcerie or vide-grenier, I...