At Ardingly last week I was amazed to find the weather reporters to be correct and the sun shone for both days – quite a novelty for Ardingly which we seem to do in quite a bit of rainfall. Due to the lovely bright weather we had lots of visitors and everyone seemed to be in a happy mood, after the long, miserable wet winter.
I was very optimistic and took lots of garden items, including a few benches which I was glad went to new homes. I do try and enjoy some items a little, before taking them to a fair to offer them for sale and both benches had been in our garden for a short while.
Whilst out wandering around the site, I returned back to find out that the singer Will Young had been and I had missed him. I dutifully stayed around desperately waiting to meet him as he was returning for something from one of our neighbours, but I had to pop out. and of course, missed him again. I do see famous people at fairs, but quite often have to have them pointed out to me as they are usually unrecognisable in a different setting. I was told that Mr Young was a complete gentleman and I am really sorry not to have seen him, although I would probably have been quite tongue-tied around him. Maybe Mr Clooney or Mr Brosnan will attend the next Ardingly and I can swoon some more.
After a long drive we arrived at Shepton Mallet in thick fog. The weather forecast had said that there would be sunshine for the whole weekend so we had dressed accordingly, having left home in France when it was 20 degrees! (Note to self: Remember that the weather forecasters are nearly always wrong when there is a fair on.) Two jumpers later and we had unpacked the van and set up our stall. Lots of friendly people came over the next three days and we had a lovely time, although the weather did not really improve until Sunday. Daughter No 1 visited us and took a few photos – I did intend to take lots but of course it was busy and so completely forgot.
Although I love our life in France, I also like to stock up on some English staples that I just can’t find here. So boxes of teabags and digestive biscuits are always purchased. French supermarkets can be fun when just on holiday, but food shopping is still a bit of a chore to me, although our local supermarket has an amazing fish counter.
This has got me thinking about how the French do things differently, and how we are adapting. Now we have only been here permanently since last summer, but already I am getting used to the break in the day when the shops close and I can justifiably sit with a book and a coffee after lunch. I also love the courtesy when in shops, and the friendliness of our local hamlet as everyone has been unfailingly kind and welcoming. We are now planning for Newark so lots of pootling around hunting for goodies. One of my favourite finds are these lovely antique chairs which more often than not have to be stripped. If we are lucky, they have original tickings underneath which means they can be used without recovering.
When it comes to the division of household and work labour, my other half and myself tend to fall into equal shares with both of us doing what is needed, or what we are good at. However, when it comes to anything wildlife, my hubby is on his own. Since we moved to France I have come across an assortment of wild things that scare me half to death. Now I know that they aren’t life threatening, but I still run a mile when I come across a mouse, or anything that scuttles away. So, creepy crawlies, fuzzy bugs, flying or hopping insects, all have to be caught or in the worst case, squashed, when they invade my kitchen and bedroom.
However, since the builders have now completed their works and the house has been reclaimed for human use, we are finding less that dares to cross our threshold. Last night my loud screams startled my hubby to rush in to find a small gecko in our sitting room. It wasn’t doing any harm, and was playing dead probably due to the shock of hearing me scream. When instructed to catch it quickly, my brave brave husband disappeared into the kitchen and returned wearing one oven glove and a thickly padded garden glove, and delicately scooped up this tiny monster and gently placed him in the barn wall, away in the garden. My Hero, just!
Our very large garden here is basically just a field at the moment. I have lots of plans which entail lots of work, so as spring appears, little changes are beginning to take place. One of the dreams I’ve had for a while is for an old cart. I occasionally come across them at fairs and brocantes, and they are a regular site at the entrances to villages and on roundabouts here. So, whenever I see one I have to imagine how it will look in our garden, and then try and envisage how I’m supposed to get it back. We went to a professional only event and this one caught my eye.
However, whilst our brocanting yesterday, I came across this small treasure and couldn’t wait to bring it home. Although too small for our space, it’s perfect with it’s original paint finish and hopefully somebody else will love it as it is going to Shepton Mallet next weekend. Bonne weekend – M x
When we bought our house 9 years ago, we were told it had a fosse septique (septic tank) and other than a few problems over the years, nothing happened to convince us otherwise. Since moving into our home full time, of course, there have been weekly problems, which culminated in 2 lovely men with a large tanker hosing out our pipes. It became apparent that we didn’t have a fosse, and had been happily discharging into next door’s garden. So, after much discussion with our local Mairie and planners, a new micro-fosse has been fitted which certainly takes away the worry about future problems. This new kind of system is different from the old ones, as it is a smaller tank and works with an electric pump. During each stage of it being fitted, different men kept coming and peering down the pipework, before finally expressing a job well done. The man who sorted out the electric pump merrily waved goodbye with the promise that he would return in a month or so.
Meanwhile, I recently bought a large batch of linen sheets, torchons and chemises from one of my favourite dealers, who saves all the linens he finds for me. This means I get mixed batches, some fantastic, some good and a few with areas of thinning or patches. I measure every one as it comes in from hanging out in the sunshine and mark labels with any damage. About half a dozen sheets of this batch were an odd shade of pale grey/pink and no matter how much I laundered them, the colour didn’t change. So in a fit of creativeness I decided to indigo dye them. Which has gone really well and I am happy with the results, even making a few cushions. However, yesterday the fosse septique man arrived to inspect the pump and to make sure the whole system was working. Imagine his face as he lifted the lid to find dark blue foam swirling around and his laughter as I tried to explain why!!!
Bonne weekend x
Another 2 events under my belt. February was always going to be busy, first with Newark and then Ardingly, but I hadn’t counted on the wet British weather. Newark was windy but it didn’t deter lots of lovely customers and although I didn’t get out and about very much, there were plenty of callers to our Marquee. I sold a lovely antique French quilt to a lady from the RSC which is to be used in a production of Henry IV.
Ardingly was a bit of a damp ordeal as we weren’t in our usual place due to the ground being heavily water logged. Stilll, a big thank you to all those who came and found us and put up with the truly terrible rain and mud. I know you can pay vast sums of money to have it slathered over your body and face to ‘improve it’ but splattered from the front wheels of the van as it is towed off the wet ground by a large tractor is not ideal.
I am rethinking all the events I do, especially the ones in the winter months. I am considering going to Shepton Mallet in March, but am keeping an eye on the weather forecasts before booking anything, so please check again for details nearer the time.
When we moved permanently to France last summer, I thought the winters here would be cold and crisp and so we had a lovely wood burner installed. Phillipe, a local farmer, was asked to deliver 4 steres (cubic metres) of wood which he duly did on the back of a flatbed truck. Unfortunately he tipped the whole amount at the top of our garden, in front of the car, which meant we had to move all the wood before we could get out. Yes, that’s approximately 4 tonnes of wood, all cut into pieces to fit into our burner. It took us hours and hours and eventually I had to stop as I couldn’t straighten properly. After a restorative glass of whiskey, and a lot of swearing, the rest of it was stored into one of our barns. We are steadily going down this massive pile of logs, but it’s not been that cold and snowy, just wet and windy. Still, the odd sunny day reminds me that spring is just around the corner and that I really must think about planting our garden. I am really just a city girl feeling out of her depth in the countryside here, but hopefully I will get some help from a friendly local. That is, once the rain has stopped.
I have 2 daughters who technically have both left home for different cities and universities, but to be honest I feel as though they both still live with us. To make matters worse, we upped and left the UK for our new home in France so their place of escape has now changed, but both still have boxes and clothes with us. The eldest, now graduated, has a wonderful job meeting interesting people and travelling all over, and the youngest is still a student. So why do I feel a need to ‘mother ‘ them, and when does the worry about them eating properly or staying out late, go? And why don’t they want me to help them, or interfere as they call it, anymore?
The youngest student one has resisted all attempts for me to introduce cushions and rearrange her living space, but she does have 3 male housemates to consider. The eldest one, having spent years refusing to allow anything antique or vintage into her bedroom, has now decided she may actually like old stuff and isn’t interested in shopping for her furniture at that large Swedish store. So, at last my 20 years worth of pushing the value of ‘old’ over ‘new’ has paid off and I can help out with advice and maybe a cushion or two. But it has got me thinking about how relationships between Mothers and Daughters change over time, and how although I occasionally long for them to be small again so I can rub away hurts and dress them how I would like, actually I love them this age when we are friends and they let me help, occasionally.
Cushions for home
Well, another year ended with many of my plans not yet started. I know this is probably the same for lots of people, but occasionally I meet people who are very dedicated and seem to accomplish so many different things. So 2014 is going to be my year. I will be letting you know about fairs I am attending, regular updates on our lives here in France, and generally just trying to start and maybe finish a few of my plans.
We moved permanently out to France last summer and after many months of building work, I am now ready to decorate. Yes, paint charts abound here, both UK companies and French ones, and the choice is enormous so of course I am dithering. Who knew there were so many hints of grey?
Tess in the heavy snow a few years ago
Tess hiding in the van cab
My next fair is Newark the 6/7 February and we will be in our usual spot in Marquee 9a with Liz, Maud and Alan. I love doing the fairs and meeting everyone, and for the last few years we have been bringing our dog, Tess, to all the events. Tess is a heinz 57 variety, a rescue dog who obviously has quite a bit of collie sheepdog in her, as she is predominantly black with white tummy. She is the most neurotic dog I’ve ever met, and we believe she considers herself human not canine. Since she has been coming to the fairs with us, I have had to replace her water bowl many times. I have dropped pot ones, and the plastic variety just seem to disappear. We do recall leaving a few under the van which we’ve driven over (how much we laughed at the first, but not at the fifth) as we left, and we assume the others have all been left on our pitch when we’ve gone home. So, Tess starts the year with 2 new shiny bowls, hopefully non-breakable plastic, and which we’ve promised ourselves will be collected and not abandoned.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year.