Is it really over a month since we left leafy Lindfield for our new adventure?
Well, from the first opening of the Manoir’s enormous door with an equally enormous key it has become an amazing adventure. I remember actually not quite believing it was truly ours for the first three weeks… a bit like an amazing holiday stay but with extra cobwebs and mummified flies.
So, after the first days of running round like a headless chicken opening cupboards, doors, boxes, toilets (promptly closing that one again) and oohing and aahing about linens, wedding dresses, crockery and historic papers…we slowed down…
Oh my, this was the year we decided to move and climate change decided to arrive too. Now Lot & Garonne is normally a sweaty 35/36 degrees in summer and for this Brummie girl that’s pretty tropical. 40/41 degrees is extreme – sweat running down your back extreme. So if any jobs were done it was at 6-7 am and all done by 12. Shutters on all houses closed and retreat inside.
The fires in Bordeaux made news and made me nervous with the smell of smoke travelling 2 hours down to us in the middle of the night … “Alastair Alastair. I smell smoke – quick pull all the electric fans, plugs, iphones out of the sockets” (I have to say it will be a first big job to do, rewire the house – as everything fizzles when you pop a switch on – a perm will be inevitable) Alastair did this at 4 am half asleep in his pants …”Alastair Alastair what if it’s a tree in the garden…..go look” (I have enormous trees for the first time in this garden I love them but the garden is dry as tinder) Alastair returns after walking the garden in his pants – all good, back to bed.
“Alastair, Alastair… what about the old dry loft?” “NO!”
The next morning everyone in our village had smelt the smoke from the fires in Bordeaux. I also caught up with UK news on the heat wave and fires there – crazy times.
”DONT WORRY LEESA, EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH IN DORDOGNE & LOT”
Well not on this day lady! The day I have to buy a new TV!! Armed with proper cash to get a new big snazzy TV for a room that will be our snug (note…this will be a small room – no antiques, no style – just big sofas, a big TV, good heating ready for winter. When its freezing here and nothing to do, and we close down all the big rooms).
I headed to the TV shop with Cersei to find the only assistant available can’t speak any English – so my one term of French lessons had to work.
It went like this (in English but just add ‘allo allo’ accent)
Me – Hello I would like this TV please
Benoir (that’s the guy) – Let me check. No this one is not in stock
I look around again. “Ok I would like this TV then please”
Benoir – Let me check …No this one is not in stock
And then the third and fourth…arrgh
Cersei “lets go bigger and go for a modern Samsung” Obviously more money and I’m delirious now on all the screens
“Ok Benoir this million inch size screen, made in 2021 that you have on show which is also 800 euros over budget, please”
Benoir…..let me check stock… No this one is not in stock
Benoir – But we do have this 2022 million-size screen, which is 1000 euros over budget available?
Do you Benoir? Do you?!…
Cersei and I congratulated ourselves on our purchase as we loaded it into the car with a high five and confidant smile to myself that my French worked a dream… I wonder if that’s the technique Benoir uses on all English buyers….hmmmmm
Heat wave is still going strong and we are doing jobs – it’s starting to feel like home, smell and feel better – we are cleaning, re-arranging and visiting the dump every other day. We open one door to an outside room linking to the house to see a carpet of mice droppings, nice.
Days are spent cleaning, opening boxes from home and generally trying to empty the barn so we can start making a studio – exciting.
The house is beautiful, historic and full of treasures but I do not want to live in a museum. I think the house needs a refresh and bought back to her glory days. New chinoiserie wallpapers, subtle paint colours, belle époque and some deco pieces and this will be for the coming year’s transformation.
THE OLD LORD RAGLAN PUB
An English pub in a very French village? Who knew? Only this pub is not your typically expat English pub. The owner is an English musician who only opens on Friday, Saturday and Sundays with live music. He brews his own ales and the crowd is a mix of French, English, Dutch and tourists – it’s fantastic and gives the village life.
The music ranges from brass band, jazz, bands doing covers of Eagles, Stones etc., to 60’s harmonies like Mammas and Papas – lots of styles. The best thing for us is if we don’t want to walk down the road we can still hear the music in the garden while we eat.
THEY ARE ALL BASTIDES!!
All the pretty villages that our guests and visitors will want to visit are bastide towns – here’s the science bit:-
Definition of bastide : a village or town in medieval France built especially for defence and usually laid out according to a definite geometric plan.
We are currently visiting and enjoying discovering these villages and towns such as Eymet, Monpazier, Monflaquain, Monsegur, Montaton, Issiegac and there are more still to find. They are beautiful stone villages with market squares and arched buildings around the squares – really pretty and very paintable.
During July and August the Marche Gourmands, (evening night markets) where everyone comes together to eat and enjoy entertainment, are wonderful. It feels like you are completely part of French tradition and community.
I’VE GONE ALL ANGEL STRAWBRIDGE
It had to happen…. while inside to get way from the heat I decided to sew some lavender bags for the cleaned out armoires (we have 15 – all need cleaning, relining with linen and then filling). I found a load of vintage handkerchiefs which I washed and made into bags for the fresh lavender that I got from Eymet market. Angel would be proud.
The heat has caused a false autumn here and the leaves are turning brown and falling. Berries are ripe and ready to go, in fact shrivelling fast. So I found sloe berries and rosehips ready to be picked and turned into … well I looked up recipes and spent the afternoon making sloe cordial and sloe gin (gin ready by Xmas) and rosehip cordial. A new skill and I felt like Barbara Goode, fab.
Alastair is taking the month to work on and settle into the scale of work to be done. Cersei missed home, family and friends in July but is slowing starting to settle and as it gets closer to September and school the more she feels this is home – she is very brave and I hope by next year she is really into the new life.
MICE KILLERS & MOSSIES
Cersei wanted cats and with the mice-dropping situation mentioned earlier we thought this would be a good idea at some point. That point came 2 weeks ago when we just popped into the Bergerac Pet Rescue place just to “look”.
2 kittens later, one bemused dog and separate rooms for them to stop the chasing –we have Mia the tabby and Ellie the grey tiger stripe – I like Ellie as she already shows great killing ability – hard, but they gotta work this winter.
Mossies are bad this year for everyone – but just to go one better than you the Lot & Garonne were the first region in France to have what are called Tiger Mossies – extra bad mossies that are nasty and stripy – they spread all over France from here – you’re welcome! My legs look like I’ve been machine-gunned…some people are more attractive than others, what can I say they adore my blood and me.
AUGUST IN FRANCE
This is the month the whole of France go on holiday. Everything and everybody stops so we have taken this time to start a chalk board of jobs in order of importance to get ready to start properly in September.
The house has 44 shutters, 9 bedrooms, 1 shower, 2 loos, 1 tiny kitchen, bad electrics, lots of missing window glass, holes in floors and the list goes on…. but what an adventure.
Next week I’m starting on the small house in the grounds which will be my personal studio. It will be nice to get that sorted soon while the big one is being made. That reminds me apparently I’ll be skimming concrete for an enormous terrace and floor on the 16th Sept, new skills hey?
Next month, real progress reports on actual physical work achieved, pain, sweat, tears and more photos. History of the house, volunteering at the Manoir, breaks to book and some before and after changing rooms stuff…
With love from France – a bientot