Serendipity: Someone was looking out for us

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As always life shows you the way. I do have a strong belief in that. Some people struggle with it, because sometimes life shows us a way that we don’t want to go. But my belief is strong now: ‘someone else is doing the driving’, to quote the late great M Scott Peck.

Serendipity is my favourite word, and I have written about it in some of my previous posts , really it is associated with fortuitous events but I am not going to take its literal meaning today, I am going to look at it in a different way:

Our French friends are very ‘handy’, it is clear that they can turn their hands to most anything and that includes cars. In fact one of them was a mechanic before he retired. RD suggested that he ask them about replacing the tyres (pneau in French) on our van, and about the rattle we have had for the best part of this year. RD had already asked someone else (an English person) who had said it was the brake discs because the pads needed replacing. Asking our French friends was a learning curve as they looked at RD as if he were mad because he was asking about a cameon (van) and they were not aware we had a van. So a conversation ensued about RD having a van and where was it! It transpires that small vans such as ours are classed as cars over here, no wonder people have been looking at us like weirdoes when we tell them we have a van!

As most of you know money is tight and at this time of year especially; so RD just thought they may suggest something for January. But no! Immediately they were there to help, there is no waiting over here, and Saturday morning RD was at Cheeky’s (our nickname we use for him) with the van being inspected. Now this is where serendipity stepped in:

The rattling noise from the van, that we have been driving all over north west France in, was in fact a loose screw on the drive shaft! At any moment it could have come away as we merried along the winding roads of France, and killed us! Now some would see that as bad luck not good. It depends on how you look at things I suppose, I believe serendipity stepped in: The French took over, made us take the van to Cheeky’s house and found the real culprit.

But it didn’t end there our tyres were in fact dangerous and this morning RD is in Mayenne, with the assistance of cheeky, sorting out the tyres. No we cannot afford them, but we cannot afford to wait either; our French friends have said they need to be done NOW and at one point on Saturday they weren’t going to let RD take the van home. When RD came home he was worried about our budget, but we both looked at each other and said ‘That’s life showing us the way!’

Now RD has called to say that the tyres and break pads have been done, and Cheeky will not take any payment for the work. He has told RD No: because we are their friends. Now that is life showing us the way.

You just have to listen, even when you don’t want to hear. What we need will come to us. I believe.

Rosie

Le Soiree part II: It all went well

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We had a lovely evening, just as everyone predicted we would. Our French friends loved our decorations and how we had arranged our house. It is common here to sit at a table rather than comfy seating, and when they saw a little seating area in the window, where we sit so often looking out at the view they were enamoured.

I made canapés with a lovely tuna ready made mix that I found in a local supermarket (good old Aldi) I added some fish eggs and cucumber and the women of our group loved it. Cucumber is not often served here and I explained that in the UK it is very popular.Nadia and Martine loved it but Marc and Michelle were mot so keen. But the tuna was very popular, I was chuffed when they asked where to buy it.

The other plate is canapés of cream cheese, salmon and fish eggs, again very popular. But the most popular were good old cheddar cheese and silver-skin onions on cocktail sticks. So seventies!

I also did a few canapés Anglais, with cream cheese and marmite all for our friend Virginie, she and I have decided that she has English blood as she loves all English food.

When I moved over here I brought with me some expensive beautiful clothes, you know the type: you ones you always aim to get back in to one day! But over the past few months I have let so much go, and realised they were too beautiful to languish in my cupboards. Last night I showed them to Nadia and asked if she would like them. Bless her she tried them on and looked stunning. I rescued my Karen Millen vintage jacket from the wardrobe and she loved it.

I would rather give such beautiful things to a lovely person such as her than sell them to people who will want them for nothing. I am so pleased she liked them, it made my night.

I love our friends, we had an evening of sparkling wine and whiskey (traditionally French), good chat snd lots of laughs as always. It reminded me again that I shouldn’t let the language get to me, I can speak some French, and when with good friends language no barrier. I am not ready to leave yet.

I am tired now, and allowing myself a weekend off. Why Not? My house is sparkling, so here is to an afternoon of embroidery and writing. Perfect.

Rosie

The Soiree part I: A little apprehensive

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It’s been busy over this last week.

RD and I decided that we should invite our friends, neighbours and the ‘Man who can turn his hand to anything’ Pascal and his family, for a soirée to say thank you for all their help over the past few months. What with the cherry tree that had to be felled, then cut up and transported from one side of our garden to another, to the huge problems with our cess pit that they all helped us resolve, we would have really struggled without the help of all these kind people.

The soirée is set for tomorrow, and I am worried. Our house still has a lot of renovations that are needed, but as I write this I know these people will not judge. They are people who have lived in rural France all their lives, they understand the struggle and I have never felt anything other than they take us as we are.

However French people do like cleanliness, perhaps it is living in this rural part of France: you have to keep on top of things. Now I am back to being me I am also getting on top of things: I have deep cleaned our kitchen this week (and I mean deep cleaned, mixing up a bicarb and bleach mix to wash away the mould that still invades it at times.) Cleaned out cupboards draws (why do we keep the crap that we keep?!) climbed step ladders to get to places that are never seen (but oh my Lordy! The dirt in those places!) washed lights and so much more. It is only when something looks really clean that you notice the places you have missed!

Our ceiling in our kitchen has only been sealed this year, our plan is to paint it white, but we have run out of time, so half of the kitchen is painted and the other half, well! It’s a work in progress, with the electrics to do and so on. So now one half just looks incredibly skanky, highlighting the passage of water that poured in when we had hardly any roof for three years. But only this week an unexpected parcel arrived from England, something handmade by the lovely Mary. So sod how the ceiling looks, I will count my blessings that we have a roof and out up my gift as a welcome for our French friends.

It is always the small things, the gestures with no agenda, that count. Thank you Mary. ❤️

But with regard to the soirée it is the food that is worrying me. We have some friends who are traditionally French, so for them I have the cherry tomatoes, olives, small hot dog sausages (or knackers as they are known out here – which is always make RD and I giggle: given the alternative meaning for knackers in England!) and gherkins. But some of the others like to try something different so for them I have English cocktail sausages, pigs in blankets, celery with cream cheese, silverskin onions, cheddar cheese cubes, Doritos, dips, crisps, both French and English in flavour. I am also going to try my hand at making some canapes, with a mixture of cream cheese and salmon roe (the French do love their fish) and some cream cheese and marmite, because our friends live marmite!

I have some ice creams but also mince pies (we are English it has to be done at Christmas time) We also have a traditional box of sweets that can be found in most households in England at Christmas. But I am worried, will they like it, and will it be enough?

Then I am worried about how we will fit them in, we have to bring our trestle table in, and move some furniture around, will we have enough chairs and will we have enough space for the chairs. RD is sorting the Wii for the kids (and probably the big male kids as RD and Garenne do like to compete!)

I have to admit, I am apprehensive….

But we have to do it, don’t we?

I am off to do the prison task of cleaning my chandelier.

Rosie

All things that twinkle

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Anyone that knows me will tell you that I love things that catch the light, and things that twinkle and sparkle. I was a magpie in another life!

When we lived in England and we had careers that afforded us to buy non essentials every year I would be down the Christmas decoration aisle of any shop like a jack rabbit! So over the years I gleaned quite a collection.

Then we tried branching out into handmade and now I have those to add to my collection.

I used to love Christmas but now, not so much (the reasons behind that for another blog). But I do still love putting my Christmas decorations up.

Because of my extensive collection I can change the design every year from all crystal last year to an introduction of red this year. I enjoy it. In fact it is my biggest enjoyment of the season.

With the addition of my French Antique Buffet (from a French charity shop for silly silly money) in my living room I have been able to go mad with garlands, the addition of the vintage and my collection of cherubs and I am in my element. Next year it will be painted white and will be quite stunning.

Poor RD once finished I then sit looking at the tree instead if the TV, and constantly get up and rearrange it. Just my little bit of OCD.

Small things.

Rosie

French Winter Gardens and Welshies

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Winter arrived quickly, and for the past few mornings we have woken to frosts and temperatures below freezing, which means we are lucky enough to watch the amazing sunrises every morning.

We are up early for work, RD goes off and my day is full of the chores you have when living in an old stone house, in the middle of rural France, on a limited budget: the good old log splitting, hoovering, mopping, cleaning the kitchen, and today removing the mould that I occasionally grows on our old stone walls (I side). It’s just part of this life we chose, I don’t stress over it any more.

I have often said how winters can be long, and that we should all try and embrace this season. Today I took my advice. It is a cold, crisp, sunny winters day, and I am currently sitting in the garden on one of our garden chairs drinking tea; spending time with nature and my dogs.

I was pushing the wheelbarrow of logs across the garden, with the habit I fight every day taking pride of place: planning what I should do next, when I looked around and thought ‘what am I doing?’ I realised I should seize the moment on this glorious winters day, and take time to sit in the garden with my tea and spend time with my puppies, they remind me very day to cherish each moment.

Even Daisy the cat is giving me stinkeye because she wanted to come out and join us!

She looks like a Bond villain!

I don’t know how long I will live in this beautiful place, so I need to embrace it whilst I can, in every season.

As is my want, being brought up by people who worked hard to fill every day with work, to always keep going. As my counsellor said: I am a ‘doer’ I just will work and set myself what are often un-achievable targets, I don’t feel I have achieved if I don’t and often I don’t feel I have because the targets are un-achievable. Those ingrained habits are hard to break! Despite knowing that we should all take time; despite writing in my diary at the beginning of the year a quote from Deepak Chopra:

‘ set aside a little time every once in a while to experience silence…’

I still have to pull myself up short to do it. I probably achieve it once a month!

But today I have taken the time but sadly my teas is now finished, and the sun is now hazy, my fingers are cold and it is time to get on. Now where are my rubber gloves?

Rosie

The Renovation Continues: All the little details

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I love things that sparkle, I must have been a magpie in another life. I love the subtle lighting and ambience it brings.

I have been told often that I have an eye for detail, so we are now taking this forward in our business and offering a staging service, although I fear it will be lost out here! Hey ho!

But this post is about our bedroom: We love it!

Many moons ago I wrote about when we were packing up to leave our old Edwardian house. I wrote about how much I loved that house, I had put my heart and soul into it. But after ‘The War’ it was never the same for RD, and now, after living here for nearly five years I can understand why.

We had so many pretty things in that house, but a lot of things got damaged, and broken, and looking back now I think that was life’s way of telling me to make something new. But I didn’t listen (as we so often don’t) and when we got here we tried to recreate our old home.

Now I have realised that this is new, make it new. I have never opted for mostly all white deco, but now we have, from the white deliberately shabby floor, to the three white walls and the white painted furniture.

The little sparkly stars have been had made by us, the lantern at the beginning of the post was something from two summers ago, which has now evolved into a blue sparkling light. When I wake in the morning this is what I see…

The bliss was something we bought for our first home together, and, despite everything, it has remained with us, sporting various colours along the way. But now it has been embellished to sparkle in the lamplight. My life with RD has always been bliss, and it will be no matter where we live in the future.

I love to sit on our bed and write, and when RD came into our room the other night he said ‘I love this room.’ With its vintage French mirrors, and lampshades, the French vintage glass bowls, and its renovated, recycled furniture So do I …

Our view has changed, we now look out over the valley! In fact RD sleeps by the window, and I no longer look out on my tree of Tao, but is still there, when I need it.

Counting my blessings, and enjoying the here and now.

Rosie

I look at things differently now. It’s an ever evolving world.

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As I wheeled the wheelbarrow across the garden, full of logs to keep us warm this week, in howling winds and driving rain with two mad Welshies running at my feet, I remembered last year and how different I felt then. I can remember RD and I being in the garden, cutting wood to use that winter and begrudging, in some ways, that we had to do it.

When we came here we were both ready to embrace the rustic lifestyle, we both knew we would be cold, with only a log burner and some expensive electric heaters to heat our house. We both knew that living in a stone house would be chilly. But I think we were both looking at the challenge with optimism, and that neither of us really understood how difficult it would be to adjust to a new way of life: a life with no heating at the click of a switch, a life where you had to put the work in to stay warm. In fact in January we considered whether to stay or leave this life we had chosen, for many reasons.

Fast forward now to this year, and as I wheeled the logs across the garden, buffeted by the wind, I smiled to myself because I now respect the fact that I have to put in the effort for what I need. I no longer take heating for granted, I no longer take what this beautiful planet offers me for granted; and because I have to put in the effort I don’t waste what we have. In this world of climate change (living in a rural setting it has become so noticeable) that has to be a good thing.

As always we are open to change, I believe you have to be in life; and one of our biggest lessons has been to not hold on too tight. But next time we will take all we have learned from this adventure on to the next chapter. When that happens….life will show us the way.

Rosie

Inky blue skies, and howling winds, counting my blessings.

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I am sitting here in one of our wingback chairs, and this is the view from our window. We woke up this morning to howling winds and rain; although the rain is pretty much the norm now, as it has rained every day for the past month!

It is 8.30 but the sky is literally a dark inky blue. The wind is whipping up a frenzy around our little house on the hill, our shutters are rattling, the trees are bending in the wind and I can feel a draft blowing up from the cellar. I am drinking tea, Daisy the cat is snoring and I have two sleeping Welshies around me.

I am braving myself because today I have to split logs. We ordered some as a top up, or stop gap, so that on days like today we didn’t have to chop and split our huge amount of wood available from our very own garden. But there was a problem with the wood and the delivery was cancelled!

With RD at work, decorating our bedroom, Felling cherry trees and cleaning out the cellar, which is finally dry now the cess is working properly, poor RD feels overwhelmed. So we still haven’t had time to cut up the huge branches from the oak, that are buried under the bramble in our garden now! That will be a job for after Christmas when RD has two weeks off. But when the cess was repaired the huge pine tree that was cut down nearly two years ago was pulled out of the ditch by the samaritan Marc (I think that will be his name now) and was laying in the front of our garden. It had seasoned all on its own in the ditch. So RD got to it last weekend and cut it up. Some of it is too big to be split, it has to be chopped, but we have smaller logs and some oak left from what had been chopped. I need to split them for us to use this week, or we will have no fire!

Imagine me today, welligogs on, fighting my way across the from the goats shed (no we have no goats they used ro live there before we moved in) through the now sodden quagmire that is our garden (and we live on a hill!) with a wheelbarrow full of logs buffeted by the wind!

Would I have it any other way? No I wouldn’t!

I am blessed.

Rosie

The Renovation story: The Beast

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It will come as no surprise to any people who read this blog that I love old furniture, and in France there is an abundance of old furniture.

This is what I have fondly come to call ‘The Beast’! It is a very old dressing table, 1860 to be precise as the date is written on the back of the mirror! It has had woodworm in its lifetime, and shows the life it has lived. It weighs just under quarter of a ton, with its marble top, and mirror. So imagine the look on RD’s face when I said I wanted it in our new bedroom!

This is our wonderful French curved, small stairwell that we had to try and get this piece of furniture up. We moved all the furniture in the living room and opened up the second door to our stairs (essential for moving furniture, it’s going to be hidden behind a mirror!) as we attempted to get ‘The Beast’ from RD’s van to the bedroom.

And we huffed, and we puffed, as I was at the bottom at one point I thought ‘if he lets this go now I am going to die!’ It got stuck on the low ceiling at the bottom of the curve in the stairwell, so we brought it down and sawed of legs that had been added to it at some point. ‘That should do it!’ Said RD. so up we went, huffing and puffing and it got stuck, really stuck. RD lost it, and punched it and it moved and was free! Once in situ RD said ‘when we sell this house this bloody thing is staying here!’

But the beast was not finished with me: I decided there was too many scratches on it so I was going to paint it (who am I kidding? I didn’t like the colour!) I primed the bottom first, and it bled through like a bastard! So I primed it again, and it bled! I painted it with acrylic and it bled! I painted it another two times with an acrylic lacquer and yey! Then I painted it with chalk paint. It only took me fifteen hours all told! The detail on the pillars had to be painted with an artists brush so that I didn’t lose the definition.

The only way to open the heavy draws was with the key, you can see the keyhole in the centre of each drawer. With our clothes in lace it was too heavy, and unpractical so I added crystal handles.

Then on to the mirror: I had learned and this only took three coats, but each coat took me two hours because all of it had to be done with an artists brush, so as to not lose the definition of the pretty flowers and filigree. But it all served as a distraction for me, to stop me being ‘driven’ about my book I have learned my lessons!

it really is a pretty detailed piece. I finally finished it, I started it over a month ago! But I love it, it now has a new lease of life.

It makes my life so easy putting our clothes away, as the beast contains them all, that and the little French armoire beside it.

Perhaps ‘The Beast’ is no longer an appropriate name for something so pretty.

More to come the bedroom is now our sanctuary.

Rosie