French village houses


Taking our promenade around Campagne one evening we notice that many of our neighbours are painting their shutters and walls.
There are no colour restrictions imposed here; despite the historical buildings and yes, you can see the church from our terrace!

So, we have all these pretty little colour schemes going on


I really need to get my head around painting our house.
It really lowers the charming tone of our street by several style notches. 
I keep changing my mind.

Talking of style, I could not resist taking this photo.
Where else would you find colour coded laundry pegged out?


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Some you win some you lose


It’s a miracle! The last row of insulation batts going under the kitchen floor butted up perfectly against our crazy walls. REE….sult.
The last whole plank of wood under the window is tough to get in as no room on the front wall side to readily lever the tongue into the groove here.
A very red and grumpy Trev has just announced that he has finally finished laying 63 rows of plank floor and he is now going for a lie down.


We are delighted to announce that the only restaurant proper in the village has now reopened following a classy makeover.

The bar cafe does food and rooms on a more modest scale , but not having a full restaurant within walking distance was a pain.
The original owners have come back to revive The Relais de Haute Vallee’s fortunes and the unsuccessful tenants moved on; none too soon as they provided us with a meal so awful Trevor wouldn’t pay; and that’s a first.

On the negative side, our favourite restaurant in Carcassonne has reduced the size of its portions noticeably.
Bad idea at the start of the main tourist season guys…..

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Episode 140 – the phoenix will rise, eventually

cave ground floorI have been prompted to post today by three things really- after reading about  Poshbirdy’s mammoth work on “de-guano-ing” her attic in her recent post on 23/05/16 “L’Air de Pigeons“;

I had also been looking at the photos on the 21/05 post from JP.

That room on his post could easily be an early shot of our salon or the tulip bedroom with ingrained builder’s/demolition rubble on the old floors, semi-stripped walls and piles of stuff in the corner.

Top left- Our cave; no pigeon poo , but smoke blackened ceiling where the boiler was not attached to the flue(!) , we have the same in the atelier, but in that case it is greasy black and burnt dirt where the old open kitchen fire was. I don’t know how we are going to clean off all that.

Ancient ingrained dirt between your floorboards and on your stone work takes some shifting too.

No, our default choice is not just to  plasterboard over it , or to destructively sandblast our already historically both neglected and abused stone walls and beams.

Because both budget and choice meant we have had to do much of the restoration work Chez Nous ourselves, we have lived and worked through conditons like P & JP for a very long time.  I’ll admit I was a little stung by a comment on my last post that kind of suggests that I am unaware of the realities of owning old houses and I  care too much about clean.

Well, believe me  guys I know ALL about the positives and negatives of taking on an old French house.

My current preoccupation with “clean”  is , in  many ways, a backlash against  what we have had to deal with and are still dealing with in parts of the house.  Arriving in France to what was ,when we last left, a clean  washbasin & shower, now  full of rubble that’s dropped from the exposed underside of the roof above. Having to cover everything new or clean in dust sheets because the detritus from the still ongoing work just gets everywhere.

So you clean when you arrive, you clean when you leave, you clean (losing the will to live) again and again whilst you are in residence.

If you leave people working on the house when you aren’t on site, it’s a complete lottery what you will return to; some of them will make an effort to tidy up after themselves, but none are going to get out the rubber gloves and the Cillit Bang. Most of them will look at the inevitable dust & chaos around and figure that there really is no point in clearing up after themselves anyway because it’s still a building site.

So, leave the cigarette butts and the fruit peelings in the courtyard……………….

Or maybe they think we live like this because we don’t care??

Believe me, oh commenter who thinks I would rather clean than cook, I would like to do both  and have the luxury of choice.

I know it’s not all about dreaming of high style, decorative finishes and sourcing textiles.

For G**d’s sake let me at least have these perfectly justifiable aspirations amid the brute reality of our ongoing project.

OK, rant over……………..

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French Property P**n Fix- pratique? non…..!

753028c5754e6a856fb33d0b00ff8549I have had to censor my own posts FOR THE FIRST TIME on FPP because several folk have searched and found me using the tags “French P**n” ; I expect they were very disappointed when this search led them only to an old,  mad woman with a fixation on French style.

The paler blue on this photo –left- is exactly what we found patches of in the salon.

It’s a very pretty cloudy sky colour, but I think I’m done with cold blue decor. Sorry you authenticos out there,but it has to be liveable with.5cc65f8a03525420a6f2ab513606451c

I truly don’t think these gorgeous and authentic looking pebble floors are pratique at all ( with my default footwear choice of none indoors?)I see them a lot in images of pale and interesting French interiors.34b0b10557b6c8597be3a1f7328f239a

And this- right-is a fairly humble French room, like mine, so why is it rocking a chandelier when MY French House won’t countenance one, to the GREAT disappointment of my daughter?

I’ve tried every which way, believe me

186c8893a2d7567667db7c25b445cddbAnd why isn’t this door-left- in my house? And this –below- is exactly what the cave walls look like right now, so should I make an authentic style statement and leave the walls like this ?

No! No! and thrice No..! b45ff931e9cb2c970b3697001927cc95



How does anyone keep these interiors wall and floor treatments clean?


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Kissing coussins

antique Indian textiles cushionsDO you remember the three antique Indian cushion covers that I rescued and washed about fifty posts ago? No?

And the others I’ve tried in the salon that don’t work because the house does not appreciate dainty textiles that any other French house would absolutely love to have scattered about?20151006_145538

I give up, it likes these. What do I do about the rest then?  This AM PM jute/cotton/wool cushion cover was reduced from ridiculous (i.e anything over 20 quid) to acceptable £15 from Laredoute so I bought it


Indian Kilim




Too neat and bright and new and stiff, and ostensibly Dry Clean Only , so I turned it inside out (textile hint#1) and washed it anyway. It’s lost intensity, the weave looks a little more battered and it will now work with the genuine antique covers.

DISCLAIMER- I do this a lot. Wash things that aren’t supposed to be laundered.I am not advocating, merely throwing caution to the winds

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Buying Property in France- A cautionary tale

DSC02770Just to let you know, I now take requests.See “Taste of France” blog-

The area around Puivert is mentioned. Very pretty, has a chateau & museum, too cold for me.

It took a while for us to find out that our chosen department of the Aude has pockets of delightful little micro-climates. Sure, it has seasons, with a proper winter between December and February, but in general, temperatures are higher than the UK .

Other areas are  nice enough in the summer , but can be cut off for days in the winter as you go higher into the mountains. The snow poles are a clue. Sited to stop you slithering off the mountain roads when they are covered in a white blanket! It is a fact that one can drive just a few miles from our French village in certain directions and the drop in temperature can really  be felt .

We didn’t know this back when we went house hunting in the real South of France.

We had a tiny budget ( still have, as I am sure you have noticed) and we went to view a large and apparently bargain property in Puivert.

The estate agent just gave us the address ( that doesn’t happen now!)  and sent us off to view, telling us a neighbour would show us round.

The little old man, ninety plus, but nimble,  from over the street let us in.

The place was HUGE, with an overwhelming odour of odd things…..The charming little French man proudly told us that he had put in all the wood panelling on the ground floor himself, “it is ideal for  covering up the damp!” quoth he.

The rooms were large and really well proportioned, no need for any structural tweaks, just the installation of a couple of bathrooms, and there were plenty of rooms to choose from. Even the plumbing (lead) was sensibly sited to add bits

Still blinded by the gorgeous old front door and the beautifully decayed windows, we mounted higher.The first floor had six bedrooms, all to die for and the epitome of decaying grandeur. The trendies would probably leave it just like that, just add some carefully concealed “facilities”  and inhabit the Miss Havisham style spaces dressed in boho-chic. It was ticking a lot of my romantic notion boxes.

Then we got to the twisty stairs up to the attic. “Is there head room ?  ” we asked “oh yes” said our new buddy, who was planning to take us home for a lavish lunch if we signed on the dotted line..”but you cannot go up there madame. Your husband can go up, but you will stay here with me”.

Bemused (is this a French chat up line?) I asked why. “because you die” he  replied with a beautific smile.


” is not safe, you die” he repeated. Like I am going to let Trev look further at this gem whilst I linger daintily downstairs? Don’t think so… so I mounted the rickety stairs, leaving the now hand-wringing little guy below, shaking his head and muttering about stubborn English women.

We looked around…Wow. Several Acrow props held up the sagging ceiling. Maybe a third of the floor boards were nothing more than powdery wood dust. You could virtually see the beetles AND active wood worm adding to their industrious little piles.   I made to walk over to look at the amazing ancient fireplace and (alarmingly) mortar free stone chimney on the other wall.

By this time our little friend had climbed up also. As I moved forward he silently, but suprisingly firmly grabbed my right arm. Trevor, equally silently, but anticipating my next move, grabbed the other.

No!/non!” they said firmly in unison.

We didn’t buy it….. and I got over it.

So, dear reader, what lessons do we learn here?-

  1. Moderate damp & leaks will dry out in the southern French sun, and you won’t even realise you have a problem till it’s too late. Believe me, people, if a place still has any odour of damp in the summer, then you have a HELL of a problem.
  2. Don’t be blinded by beautiful period features unless the property is intrinsically sound and isn’t going to cost twice or three times the purchase price to restore. Unless you are happy to pay this out.
  3. Visit again in the rain,  and if possible in the cold, or RESEARCH the weather, prevailing winds, historical flooding issues . Boring but you’ll thank me one day.
  4. If it’s on a narrow street, does it get ANY sun? Or does it get too much in the summer and some rooms will be no-go saunas in August ? Again, you’ll thank me one day.
  5. If it’s stone built, is it solid? or merely a rubble core wrapped around with stone to LOOK solid. Crumble issue and expensive structural stabilisation factor alert


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Me and Room Service (baby)- The Thursday Three

passementerieYou may be familiar with the Jackson C Frank song “Blues run the game“, covered by Counting Crows, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake. Anyway, it was played on the penultimate episode of “Vinyl” a couple of weeks ago and has been my ear-worm ever since.

“Send out for whisky, baby,
Send out for gin,
Me and room service, honey,
Me and room service, babe,
Me and room service……..

Well, we’re living a life of sin”

I spend too much time overnighting in hotel rooms for the day job, so the whiskey & gin has to wait for the weekend; but what gets me through the long watches of the night when I can’t do any more prep is ebay.

I am addicted I think.

I haven’t bought much recently (NO, CAMERON, I HAVEN’T!) but I needed to pick up some tie top curtains to dress a pair of ciel-de-lits (bed coronas) I picked up to paint and sell on. So I trawled, and along with some bargain drapes I checked out “seller’s other items” These beautiful curtain tie backs.

IMG_20160512_152423Cut glass beads, wired silk covered loops between. I may wear them to go out in.Will bounce light around the French House terrace bedroom so perfectly justifiable.

That’s only two, I know…so may I show you something we’ve just painted?

chalk painted table Moroccan chalk painted table


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