Moved !

Now that the dust has settled, it seems about time to bring the blog up to date.

Our beautiful, dream home in Caupenne now has new owners and I’ve moved into my new home, an apartment in St Paul les Dax, nearer to Kieran.

I’d been preparing for the move for so long that the “déménagement” itself ran like clockwork.

My brother, Peter,  and his partner came over for a few days in the week before moving day. They hired a big car at my request, so that we could fill it and my car with boxes, which we took to the garage of the apartment. On the Saturday of their visit, friends joined us, to make up a group of eight, with 3 cars, a van and a trailer, all of which we packed with the furniture I was taking and as many boxes as we could squeeze in. The apartment owners had given me permission to put stuff in the bedrooms that day, which was great; I was delighted to see that my furniture fitted easily into the two small bedrooms. When I’d looked around the apartment initially, it was absolutely crammed with tables, chairs, cupboards, even a piano, to the extent that you could hardly move. Not my style at all.

Peter and Penny left the following day, the same day as a constant stream of buyers came to collect various purchases they’d made through a selling page I found on Facebook (yes, it does have some uses!). When everyone had left, the house looked and felt so sad and empty, it was just a shell, no longer my home. I have to admit to shedding a few tears before I phoned my friend Mart, to take up her offer of a bed at hers for my last few nights in Caupenne.

I continued to box up last bits and pieces, and clean through until the morning of Thursday 16th February, when my buyers arrived. I was inconsolable when the moment arrived that I’d been anticipating and dreading in equal measure for months, when I had to say my final goodbyes to the house in which we’d invested so much time, energy and love and called home for the last 11 years, but life moves on and so must I.

Kieran and I went out to lunch with the buyers, then spent the afternoon at the notaire’s; first we had to sign off probate, then the sale of my house and finally the purchase of the apartment; we were both exhausted by the end of the day.

Kieran took the trailer back to his garage that night and I met him at the apartment the next day, when we moved furniture, installed the washing machine and assembled a bed for me to sleep in.

My friend Adrian came over on the Saturday; we spent the day moving boxes upstairs from the garage (thank goodness there’s a lift). Ade also insisted on removing the large mirror that graced the wall behind the toilet cistern, it seems it was extremely disconcerting for blokes! It’s now in the pile of items left by the previous owners, destined for the charity shop or the tip.

I’d asked the estate agent what to do about the electrics; he told me I just had to call EDF a few days after moving. I hadn’t had time Friday or Saturday, so was planning to ring them on Monday; unfortunately they cut me off on Sunday morning! As the shutters are electric, I couldn’t even open them to let some light in, and it was very cold. I sent Kieran a message and set off for a walk around the local lake, to warm up; I got horribly lost and had to cross a little river on a bridge that was no more than 12 inches wide, with no handrails – I was shaking like a leaf! Eventually I found my way home, Kieran called and invited me to his, where, having fed me, he contacted EDF and got the electrics reconnected for me. What a star!

I think I’ll be comfortable here, there are a few jobs to do and a lot of decorating, but nothing too major.

Kitchen; the orange wooden lump in the middle isn’t really that colour!
Sitting room, complete with balcony table and awaiting a sofa bed.

A few weeks ago

I haven’t had the big computer for a few weeks now, but Kieran has enabled me to publish the blog from my phone now. So this is a post that I wrote two or three weeks ago.

I’ve made so many trips to the local tip over recent months, with carloads of all sorts of rubbish, from half empty paint cans to long dead printers, boxes of old art gallery brochures to heaps of plastic plant pots. The men who work there recognise me now and are always happy to help me lift heavy stuff out of the car and occasionally claim stuff for themselves; such as the two gaudily painted walking sticks that we were given – not my taste at all, but one of the guys was delighted with them.

My most recent trip was just after Graham left; we’d sorted stuff in the attic into “tip”, “charity shop” and “keeping” piles, so I loaded the car with the rubbish and drove down to the tip. I thought I’d been through all the boxes, but as I was emptying the last one, a cardboard folder, which must have been near the bottom of the box, flapped open, showing a small corner of blue paper. I grabbed back the box and took out the folder. I knew exactly what the paper was; a handwriting sampler, done in 1937 by my grandad, in India, during the war, while he was recovering from malaria, and which he had given me when I was about 12 or 13. I’d always intended to have it framed, but had never quite got around to it and since we moved to France, I’d been unable to find it. 

I brought the whole folder home ; what a treasure trove! Amongst a selection of old postcards and Frank Meadows Sutcliffe photos I found a birthday card, embroidered for me by Gemma when she was small, a painting by my step father, inscribed for Gemma, and a professional photo of my mum that I don’t remember having seen before, taken when she was probably about 19 or 20.

To say the find made my day would be something of an understatement; the folder is now carefully packed in a cardboard box, ready for my move to St. Paul les Dax. Once I’m settled, Kieran’s going to teach me how to make simple picture frames – I know what the first ones will be for.

My hero son in law

If I’ve learnt anything over the past few months, it’s who my true friends are. Graham, my son in law, offered to take a week’s leave to come over and help me in January. He arrived at Lourdes airport on a bitterly cold, windy, wet day; he’s never been here in winter before and was shocked by how foul the weather can be. All the energy I’d put into my vide maison had left me feeling flat, but with Graham’s enthusiasm I was soon back up to speed. 

We sorted stuff from the attic; piles to go to the tip, to the charity shop or to be kept and with his encouragement I started the task of rationalising my fabric store. Some fabrics I’d had for over 40 years! If I hadn’t used them yet, I was unlikely ever to do so, so they were boxed up for the charity shop; I actually managed to get rid of quite a lot. The rest we boxed up and put into the now nearly empty wood workshop, along with my sewing machines, threads and other equipment.

We also packed into boxes all the jars of chutneys, sun-dried tomatoes, lime pickle and other home produce from the arrière cuisine ; I had no idea how much there was!

My house buyers arrived with what they had described as their first load of stuff, to put in the garage. The weather was so awful that it had taken them 9 hours to drive from le Mans, instead of the usual 6. They brought three lorries full of stuff, one of which scraped and damaged the guttering on the back of the house and pushed a load of roof tiles out of place. Kieran put the tiles back in place, but could do nothing about the guttering; at least it’s not my problem.

Some local hunters turned up to help them, friends of Jeff, the buyer, as well as several other family members. I gave them all coffee to warm them up, then closed the door on them and left them to it. The garage is bursting with their stuff and there’s a lorry and a huge wooden box on the drive too. They came back the following day with workmen to estimate for various jobs; I just tried to ignore them, I don’t want to know what changes they plan to make. They both seem like nice people, but when they told me that I’m welcome to come back anytime, I just burst into tears; once I leave this house, I can never come back, it will live in my memory as it was.

Once they’d left, we went back to sorting the attic; Graham, being a photographer, was delighted to come across a slide projector and boxes of slides and we spent most of the following evenings digging out boxes of slides at random, mostly having a good laugh (and occasionally shedding a few tears) at what we found. Kieran’s promised me a digital scanner for my birthday, so I’ll be able to share them with the family. 

All too soon it was time to take Graham back to the airport; next time I see him I’ll have moved and will be living in a much smaller space, where I fully intend to live by the ethos of William Morris, who’s quoted as saying  “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. I must say that decluttering has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders and now that it’s nearly done I certainly don’t want to leave to my children the sort of nightmare task I’ve had to undertake over these last few months. 

A few of the photos that we found – Knaresborough bed race, no idea what year, can you spot Nick?
Kieran and Gemma, Newby hall 1986
Alex, Beauronne ?1995
My house buyers filling the garage
Kieran replacing the roof tiles, with Graham supervising