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.

23 December 2013

Facebook Giveaway

I'm so chuffed to have made 900 sales from Histoires on etsy that I'm doing my first giveaway on facebook.

The prize is 10 very romantic old French postcards.

Bonne Annee cards (Happy New Year), Paques (Easter) and Anniversaire (Birthday) cards, as well as humorous and romantic greeting cards.

9 of them are written on the back, one is blank

3 have the cutest kids on the front

2 are "femmes fleurs fantasie" - pretty French ladies with flowers offering best wishes

Lovely hand tinted landscapes and flowers

A lovely pack of old French paper ephemera from the early 20th century, from the 1910s to the 1950s.

To enter the giveaway draw go to my facebook page and click on the giveaway tab.

Bonne chance a tous !

3 December 2013

Brandy & mince pi-keys

Christmas is on my mind now and the push to get inside the building before Christmas Day is a priority.

We've survived snow and torrential rain in the caravan but even so the lure of living indoors is getting stronger as we move towards the end of the year.

And we're making progress. Channels are being dug to take the drains for our microstation. This is massively exciting to us as it will mean au revoir to the WC chimique (chemical loo)

The mezzanine floor is in too. Just needs varnishing and the staircase fitting then it can be used as storage space.

Our bedroom is taking shape too. The ensuite and wardrobe walls are in. The electrics are complete and the heating / air conditioning unit is heating the space. A temporary shower is in too. Next step is to fit the oak flooring and fit the wardrobes. Then there's more finishing needed, filling, sanding and painting, and then we will move inside!

Looking forward to starting baking those mince pies 

21 October 2013

Chestnut Festival treasure

My weekly trips to vide greniers to hunt for treasures to add to Histoires on etsy often throws up surprises.

Of course I hunt for items I love and I am always drawn to beautiful old linens

This rather unpromising heap of sheets and curtains yielded some beautiful unused hand embroidered metis dowry sheets

Art deco sheets with embroidered flowers, jours work, appliques and large central monograms. Better still there is a pair. Perfect for curtains or use as bedcovers.

These old suitcases had several old handmade aprons in them

Ordinarily, this would be the icing on the cake for me. But this particular vide grenier produced a massive surprise.

I picked up a small bundle of handwritten journals on a stall selling old magazines and paper ephemera. I didn't really closely look at them as I was distracted by a pair of friends, Paul and Sylvie, standing next to me raking through the Pokemon cards.

When I pulled them out the bag at home I was absolutely amazed by what I had bought

3 books of calculations and technical drawings

I searched for the date and found it on the large blue print at the back of the thickest journal

1925 and 1926. But what are all these pages of calculations and drawings about?

Looking at the blueprint I initially thought it was for a flying boat swing ride at a fairground.

In fact they are detailed techinal specifications for the Hanriot H-38 aircraft.

According to my research the Hanriot H-38 was an observational biplane, a "hydravion" or seaplane. Only 1 was ever built. This one H-38 crashed during early flights and no more were constructed.

Sadly I have no further information on this exciting find. I cannot account for how I was able to purchase these incredible documents at the Chestnut Festival (fete de la chataigne) in Dreuilhe, Ariege. I do not know if there was some family connection to the Hanriot company. Maybe these historic journals had been squirreled away by an aviation enthusiast years ago. Most likely they had been forgotten, gathering dust for many years in an attic and were hauled out to be sold by descendants who did not understand or appreciate their significance.

I will always be amazed by the rare, unusual and downright fascinating items I can find in a field of this corner of SW France. My Sundays combing vide greniers are never dull :)

5 October 2013

Life of Pi-key

So we are, at last, installed at our restoration project 2 years after starting work. Actually, we're living in a caravan on the space which will eventually be our "uncovered terrace".

The pikey life is OK during this beautiful weather. I even have a washing up station set up where our summer kitchen will be

Laundry and comms are set up too

Alfresco dining is possible too

Work is continuing and we're hoping to move into part of the house soon. I think I might miss the pikey life :)

7 July 2013

Woman Week-End

I'm such a magpie. How could I resist rifling through the tottering pile of books that were placed on the next door neighbour's front wall this morning? I picked up and replaced books on preserve making, knitting and fishing but could not put down the copy of the “Woman Week-End Book”. This little gem, published in 1949 by Oldman Press, was the first book of the women's lifestyle magazine, Woman.

As well as popular short stories and “many interesting and instructive hints on Beauty, Housewifery and Personal Problems, Cookery and Knitting” it has pages of “useful things to make”. It's a real treasure trove of post-war thrifty ideas and jam-packed (please excuse the preserve pun) with vintage crafting and sewing ideas.

How about this jewellery set made from ribbon and curtain rings?

I don't think I'd have a go at making a rug with a bodkin needle and some very simple double cross-stitch. But maybe a modern knit-wit would make up this “two-piece swim suit of trunks and brassiere, dimond trimmed, for grown-up belles”

And I just love the practical tips for young wives and mothers. How about this article advising you how to achieve a “correct line-up on laundry day”!

But most of all those wonderful brightly colored recipe pages with tasty treats from days gone by. This page shows rabbit casserole, grilled cod steaks and spaghetti with sausage balls... The height of sophistication in 1949 and still to be found in most restaurants in deepest Ariege, SW France!

30 April 2013

The secret of the stones

The symbolic stones that decorate the facade of our 16th century chapel have fascinated me for many years now. A few years back our house had an offical plaque put on the outside outlining the history of the chapel but the information on the stones was always a little on the light side for me.

The uppermost stone in particular has always interested me. According to the plaque it is an equilateral triangle which symbolises the Trinity.  Yes, I can see that, but it does not explain the mysterious carved characters inside the triangle.

Then a month ago a rather unusual incident occured here. Jehovah's Witnesses knocked at the door. Admittedly, this is a rather everyday occurance in Britain but it was a first here in Camon, France. Also instead of thrusting a copy of The Watchtower into my hand they stepped back into the road and pointed to the triangular stone.

"That is the name of Jehovah written on the stone" they told me.

And to back this up they showed me this:

I can see similarities of course, but I'm still not totally convinced. I can see there are 4 characters that I now know is referred to as the Tetragrammaton, but it's certainly not identical.

Then 2 weeks ago we had the pleasure of friends, S&M (that doesn't sound right) or should I say M&S (er, that's not much better), visiting us. After we collected them from Carcassonne Airport we visited the cite, ambling around the narrow cobbled streets, the ramparts, the castle and finally the church. We had just negotiated a path  through the schoolchildren gazing up at the stained glass windows when I spotted this:

A wonderful lavishly embroidered pulpit hanging with a stunning applique of an equilateral triangle with a tetragrammaton in the middle. And this one is nearly identical to the carving on our stone.

According to wikipedia, the most widely accepted pronunciation of the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is Yahweh though Jehovah is used in many Bibles. Furthermore, the written Tetragrammaton must be treated with special sanctity and cannot be disposed of in case they are desecrated. Luckily the symbolic stones on the front of our chapel are protected for the future.

Thanks to Mark for his super-sleuthing research!

7 March 2013

F 2.1 & 2.2

"F" Day came and went in December 2012 without our long awaited floor being poured.

Christmas and wintery weather have prevented a second F day being scheduled until March 2013.

But today was F 2.2 - Floor Day 2 of  2 and now it is done.

The spacers had already been removed and the floor divided into thirds to allow it to be manually poured in sections. Here Gareth is tamping down a side section of the floor on F Day 2.1.

He was being supplied by Big Rolf and Paul

At the end of Monday a.ka. Floor Day 2.1 the 2 outer strips have been completed.

Once again work was stopped by 100km/hr winds and rain. But today, Thursday 7th March 2013, it was F 2.2. The second day of the second attempt to get the floor down. Here Harry and Big Rolfie are shovelling the rapidly dwindling pile of beton into barrows to supply the huge mixer.

Harry (left) and Gareth (right) tamping down the middle section

They're working through the kitchen section towards the French doors onto the covered terrace now (I can see this in my imagination...)

This has been a monumental day in our project.

Not topping out.

More bottoming out!

We're having a "Bottoming Out" BBQ on Monday to celebrate F days 2.1 & 2.2.

Bottoms up, everyone x

30 January 2013

Bienvenu to new staff member

Well, she is going to assist me with Histoires.

Bienvenu to "Mireille".

Mireille, along with "Mabel" the ex-shop display mannequin brought back from Britain last summer, will be modelling dresses, chemises, scarves, jewellery and who knows what else?

Mireille was made by the celebrated Parisien company, Girard, and she probably dates to pre 1920.

She has rather more realistic proportions than Mabel. She's a French size 46 (approximately a UK size 14/16)

Her vital statistics are bust 38 inches, waist 21 inches, hips 42 inches

She has a wonderful turnkey mechanism which allows her to assume rather jaunty angles.

She is covered in rather worn hessian.

She has a very robust and rather heavy base with the 4 legs held in position with a large iron bracket.

She's already had her first modelling assignment

This summery broderie anglaise dress is for sale in Histoires now.

Mireille, however, is not for sale. She's got more work to do!