Now what? Life in rural Ariege

Burblings about adjusting to life in the deep south west of France or "la France profonde" as they call it here and the challenges of restoring a ramshackle collection of tumbledown buildings. I mainly write about local festivals, events and celebrations and, most of all, the weekly ritual of combing vide greniers and brocantes for pre-loved vintage treasures.

30 April 2012

What lies within?

First of all I must tell you that I love boxes. I really do love boxes. Just ask my mother how every Christmas as a small child I was far more interested in unwrapping and playing with the box rather than playing with the contents.

I'm slightly different nowadays. A closed box has to be opened. I spy an attractive box - and this is most boxes to me - and I have to lift the lid to know what lies within. Sometimes they are empty. Sometimes they hold random items. Frequently they conceal treasure.

This box caught my eye at my favourite brocante this morning. It's a basic cardboard box but with embellishments. Somebody has glued paper to the lid, attached handmade lace bows and sewn on buttons. Surely a box like this has to contain something precious?

And it did. Lengths of broderie anglaise lace carefully removed from old petticoats, lovingly hemmed and stored in this pretty box.

Hand worked crochet lace, beige linen mats trimmed with white cotton crochet lace from the 1940s, a wonderful crocheted dress yoke.

A black satin clutch from the 1950s still in it's original box, along with a lovely hand done cutwork dresser scarf (under the box).

And my favourite item - a tiny hand made crochet drawstring pouch containing over 100 mother of pearl buttons.

The contents of the box will be appearing in Histoires. The box itself will stay with me.

9 April 2012

Omlette de Paques

We had intended to attend the annual village event to celebrate Easter last year but it was unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather. In time-honoured local tradition the villagers gather to consume large amounts of omlette, local cheeses and red wine on Easter Monday and I was rather afraid that this year would also be a wash-out. Our local "animatrice", Emilie V, had told me rather assertively that it would not rain this year. And she was right!

We assembled on the voie verte (literally the "green way" which is the disused railway line that has been turned over to non motorised usage - you can walk or ride bikes and horses but no motorbikes, cars or trains!) and unloaded our picnic hampers of plates and cutlery while the feast was cooked and served by village ladies.

The dapper gent sporting an artfully knotted torchon is our esteemed Maire, Monsieur Huillet!

As the temperature rose and more wine was consumed Pat also donned a tea towel. Her style was more Laurence of Arabia rather than Donald McGill

Chapeau envy even gripped Jeff who succumbed to wearing my very pink, very floppy straw hat

And the food just kept on coming... pate and bread, followed by pasta salad with tuna, onions and olives. The omlette itself was varied - some had lardons, some had onions and I even managed to get a "nature" egg flavoured omlette. Then there were large platefuls of local Bethmale cheeses - vraiment bon. And to finish tarte aux pommes decorated with sugar roses, leaves and little birdies. Finally basketfuls of chocolate eggs for everyone, not just the kiddies. I really can't remember a more enjoyable Easter.

6 April 2012

My Downton Abbey moment

During my recent spell in the UK I managed to get along to my favourite auction house which holds cattle and chicken sales during the week and every Friday night at 6pm has a "general sale". A huge container of beautiful 20th century buttons, ranging from tiny Edwardian shoe buttons to 1970s plastic ones, caught my eye. The only problem was they didn't have a lot number! The auctioneer made an excutive decision and popped them into a huge box of rather mediocre linens. I let out an audible groan as I really did not want to bid on doilies and tray cloths just to secure my button booty. Oh well, I reasoned, see where the bidding goes. I really, really wanted that treasure trove of buttons.

Luckily for me I managed to outbid the competition and went home with a car load of linen and my precious buttons. So what exactly had I bought? I confess I had not closely examined the linens as I thought they looked pretty dull. And sure enough I pulled out tray cloth after doily after crochet mat and put them straight into a charity bag.

Then I reached a layer of aged tissue paper. Lifting off the first layer of paper revealed this:

This is an Edwardian maid's uniform. It has this amazing organdi handmade apron with pleated bib top and pin tucks and ladderwork detailing at the hemline. It has wide waist straps that form the most wonderful plump bow when tied

There were also 2 head bands and the original black velvet ribbon that would fasten over the top of the maid's head.

The name of the master is sewn inside the waistband of the apron and stamped on the head bands. Underneath this maid's uniform was another organdi apron with a simpler headband. Beneath this one was a scullery maid's uniform - a simple cotton apron with a handmade cap that would totally cover the hair while the maid performed cooking and cleaning duties. Beneath this apron was a simple cotton cook's apron.

I still get a massive thrill from finding something so totally unexpected in the most unlikely places. Who knows who wore these aprons. They have been heavily repaired and have clear signs of many years of use. I hope to pass these on to someone who will display or just occasionally admire them. Now where's my Downton Abbey DVD?