In many ways, we (my husband and I) are very much like them, my husband can be a real Dick at times and, of course, I am a complete Angel. Ha Ha Ha
Seriously though, we have very similar tastes, we love all things vintage. We don’t quite have a Chateau to call our very own but an Englishman’s home, even if it is in France, is always his castle and having fully immersed ourselves in many episodes of Downton Abbey recently, I have been once again casting a critical eye around our rooms and dreaming up all sorts of DIY projects for some extra finishing touches. I had to walk out of Maison du Monde the other day when I had mentally spent about two thousand euros on things we simply don’t need, like a very large gold Pineapple and some wonderful peacock fabrics in rich greens and golds. As I said, it was only a mental spend.
The picture above is of the wonderful Chateau de Bagnac which is located not far from us. Sadly, in the last fifty years, it has been abandoned by the family that owns it and left to the elements and has since all but fallen into the ground. Here are some pictures that I took of it two years ago when we passed by, and I believe it is even worse since then.
As much as I am in love with Downton Abbey (or Highclere Castle to be precise) I would certainly not relish the upkeep of such a building. I read somewhere that there are between 200 and 300 rooms in the property but that even the owners are not precisely sure how many. They did start counting one day but gave up! Imagine that, not knowing how many rooms you have. Thankfully I don’t have that problem. We have just ten rooms and a separate barn to keep maintained, and recently we have given a makeover to two of those.
It started with a snowy Friday, my husband was at home, we couldn’t really go anywhere and I had the bright idea of suggesting some pre Christmas DIY, even though I was sure I would live to regret it, I do so hate the upheaval and the mess of any DIY projects, no matter how temporary, so I was quite pleased that in just a single day, starting at nine o clock and finishing at four in the afternoon we had managed to give two coats of paint to the kitchen walls and then put everything back, and also address an oak wall in our bedroom that made the room look a little gloomy. To this, we also applied two full coats and had the bedroom tidied and back to normal, brushes and equipment all washed up and packed away in time for afternoon tea! It was a job well done, a day well spent and pretty good going if I do say so myself. I loved the achievement of having two rooms looking fresher but if I’m being completely honest, what pleased me most was that it didn’t drag on. I thoroughly detest having my home look untidy and disorderly so I’m always immensely pleased when these little projects can be completed inside of a day. Just a little bit at a time. In that respect, I really do take my hat off to Dick and Angel Strawbridge and the enormous effort they put into restoring their beautiful Chateau. I’m really not sure I could have lived there throughout it all, I would be there having a nervous breakdown and wafting around with my trusty dustpan and brush in the midst of all the building works in the vain hope that my wasted efforts would be achieving something. Walls would be getting knocked down, huge piles of rubble and dust would fill the rooms and I would be sweeping up in somewhat of a panic desperately trying to will the rooms back to normal. I’m not really very good at the middle stages, I do know that something generally has to get worse in order to get better, but it’s still enough to put me off even mentioning any improvements, especially as I have a very handy husband who does not like to be bored so he doesn’t need asking twice.
Before now, I have found myself merely thinking out loud and before I know it, a full weekend of upheaval has ensued. No, I’m much more akin to one of the well-to-do Downton characters (in mind anyway!) who would prefer to drift off for a weekend of small talk and champagne and then return home to see that the work had been completed in one’s absence.
For me, the term DIY = Don’t Involve Yourself
With another ‘on call’ day for my husband mid this week, we found the time to unbox Christmas in our house. It was a few days earlier than our normal day of decorating and earlier than tradition would like to allow but we took advantage of the fact that it wasn’t raining and that my husband was at home to carry the tree over from the barn since I had put it away fully decorated last year. In fact, I have done this for the last two years which means that my hours and hours of perfect ornament placement were not wasted. Instead, just an hour later the tree is in place, has been given a bit of titivation and crowned with its glittering star, the mantelpieces have once again been adorned with their twinkling garlands, the door wreaths have been hung and the house has been fully decorated…. Christmas has once again arrived at our house.
Our next job was to go in search of some Christmas table crackers and mince pies which are very difficult to find here in rural France since neither is a French tradition. There is a shop approximately thirty kilometres away which is renowned for stocking those harder to come by English essentials so we took a drive over there later that afternoon once my husbands work phone calls and emails had abated for the day.
Calamity! We arrived to find a blank space on the shelf where the crackers had once existed and instead of the piles and piles of boxes of mince pies that they had boasted the year before, there was not a single one to be found. We left practically empty-handed after a wasted journey and decided to console ourselves by instead doing the Christmas booze shop! Arriving home a couple of hours later with bags chinking from the many bottles within, we filled the wine rack with a mixture of bottles of Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Bergerac Rose, Sauvignon Blanc and also half a dozen bottles of Bubbles. We filled the decanters with bottles of Ruby Port, Rose Port and Pineau Charente Blanc. The Vodka, Gin and mixers are in the huge dresser in the dining room that swallows up literally everything that doesn’t have a permanent home and after a successful day of Christmas preparations, our thoughts turned to what we would have for dinner that evening. Despite that we had been to several supermarkets that day, we had failed to give a thought to any food shopping and our fridge contained virtually nothing edible!
Kebab and chips sounded perfect and very convenient at just a thirty-two-kilometre round trip since everything is a ‘drive’ from where we live!
Living, as we do, in the middle of nowhere and with me not working and my husband working as a remote Engineer for his company, we no longer have Christmas Do’s to go to, in fact, this year we have no Christmas parties or planned soireés at all, we have no visitors planned this Christmas, no relatives dropping by, our friends from Scotland are not planning another visit to their French house until February, it will be a rather quiet affair.
I think back to the many Christmas parties I have attended over the years, where the ever enticing situation of a ‘free bar’ on a ‘works do’ has seen bosses, friends and colleagues alike, plying me with drink after drink after which there have been untold hilarious antics, not to mention hugely embarrassing moments.
In fact, for many years running I promised myself that I would not get drunk at the Works Christmas Do, only to be the ridicule of the office the following Monday and indeed for the whole of January, but alas, for many years I failed miserably in my quest. For some reason, I was endowed each year with the fate of being the office loon, until one year I finally handed my Crown to someone else much to the disappointment of my colleagues who would eagerly await, with some considerable anticipation, my drunken high-jinks each year. Perhaps it was because I was normally such a control freak during my working day that to see me let my hair down once a year with seemingly zero restrictions was such a marvellous source of amusement and entertainment to them all.
Perhaps one of these days, I will try to do justice to some of these events and detail them to you…..on second thoughts, perhaps not! 😉
Sitting here thinking about the years gone by I’m suddenly feeling rather sorry for myself that we don’t have a more eventful and boisterous social life, a reason to get all dressed up and glamorous only to then allow the evening to degenerate into drunken debauchery but I know that if we did we would probably find ourselves making our many excuses in favour of a quiet night in with a glass of wine and a dose of Netflix. Even though we do that most nights, it almost never get’s boring. Almost!
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, I won’t use the words peaceful or relaxing as no doubt with just two weekends to go before Christmas, I doubt very much that they would be either of those things and whilst we might have to make do without Cracker’s, mince pies or cheddar cheese this year, I for one am rather grateful that living in the quiet corner of the world that we do, I can still dare to pop to the local supermarket for a few items without it being a mission which will take several hours of trying to find a parking space, fight my way around an overcrowded supermarket and queue for an eternity. There are indeed some benefits to living in a place where literally nothing ever happens!
The Virtual Recluse