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lundi 31 mai 2010

Johnny onions........................


Before we moved to France and we still had our shop in Dorset Johnny Onions was a regular caller to the town to sell his Britanny pink onions. He would arrive in his battered old van filled with his wonderfully fresh farm grown onions all strung together in the traditional plaits. Out of the van he would unload  his battered bicyclette, he would don his beret and begin his tour of the town.
When he called into the shop for a cafe we used to have such fun as he would talk to me in his best English and I would talk to him in my best French. He was possibly one of the very last "Johnny Onions" to make the regular crossing with his wares.
I knew that Johnny Onions had been a long tradition but it wasn`t until recently I had the time to do a little research and this is what I found.



Although having declined in number since the 1950s to the point where only a few remained, the Onion Johnny was once very common, and with the renewed interest since the late 1990s by the farmers and the public in small-scale agriculture, their numbers have recently made a small recovery. Dressed in striped shirt and beret, riding a bicycle hung with onions, the Onion Johnny became the stereotypical image of the Frenchman and in the past may have been the only contact that the ordinary British had with France.

Originating from the area around the town of Roscoff known as Bro Rosko, in Brittany, Onion Johnnies are farmers who found a more profitable market in England than at home, and typically bring their harvest across the English Channel in July to store in rented barns, returning home in December or January. They could have sold their products in Paris as well, but the roads and the railways were bad in the 19th century and going to the French capital city was still a long and difficult trip, while crossing the channel was shorter and easier. The trade apparently began in 1828 when the first successful trip was made by one Henri Ollivier. Although journeys are now made by ferry, small sail ships and steamers were previously used, and the crossing could be hazardous. Seventy Johnnies died when the steamer SS Hilda sank at Saint-Malo in 1905.




Next time you slice a French onion will you wonder where it came from?

dimanche 30 mai 2010

A new caring owner.................at last.............

I have watched this wonderful enchanted old chateau slowly crumble over the years. It has stood empty , alone and unloved since before the first time I saw it - some 10 years ago. The shutters were firmly closed, the gardens overgrown and slowly it was deteriorating.





Imagine my suprise when I passed it early this morning on the way to a brocante. A few of the shutters were open, the grass was cut and there were cars parked at the steps. So of course I had to get closer to investigate!



New owners!!! New owners at last!!!! I didn`t have the nerve to open the gates and go any closer ( especially as a few faces appeared at the windows to see what I was doing!) But,I could see that inside was awash with step ladders, painters and builders.



I do so hope they treat the old girl kindly................she deserves gentle care and attention! I hope they keep all her wonderful period features, but if not, believe me....I`ll be through that gate and in that builders rubble as quick as a truffle pig in the forest!!!

I`ll let you know what happens.

vendredi 28 mai 2010

Passionately Paris.....a tassel off the old portiere !

Having been an antique French textile dealer (addict!) for over 25 years now ( ouch!!), my daughter, Kate, grew up amongst heaps of old textiles and trims and hoards of wonderful old shabby treasures sourced from my trips to French brocantes and vide greniers. 
As a teenager I remember her saying that when I eventually moved on to that big brocante in the sky she would immediately throw it all out and buy brand new and shiny!




How times have changed!!!! Kate launches her own, new brocante business next week, appropriately called I think:

                            "PASSIONATELY PARIS"


To help her get started I have been rummaging through boxes and bags in our barns  looking for old stock and a multitude of finds which I have hoarded over  years. Heavens!!! There are things I had forgotten I even had!!!
So............. "Passionately Paris" will begin trading with some delicious shabby chic finds and Kate's first venue is at the antiques market in the Town Hall, Shaftesbury, Dorset on Tuesday 7th June. 
As you will see from the photograph she has quite a wide mix of delights - and this is just a tiny batch of what I have truffled out!!!
So, finally. It's not so much a 'chip off the old block';    more a 'tassel off the old portiere' !!

mercredi 26 mai 2010

Just for me.....................



Just look at what I treated myself to today from  local brocante.............................




Isn`t it just divine?.........................................I have no idea where I`m going to use it yet but I`m sure it won`t take me long to find it a home!!!!

mardi 25 mai 2010

The old barn door................................

This old door was attached to one of the openings on one of the derelict workers cottages here at the chateau...................I used it for my photographs when it was still just attached by one rusted old hinge and I am still using it today even though it has now hit the woodpile!!!



The old paint is just so wonderfully distressed with a look that just couldn`t be reproduced...............


It looks so forlorn in the woodpile. It no longer has a top and is just a bottom half with a handle!! I just can`t help feeling guilty for throwing it there!!
I wonder who used that door when the barn was part of a servants cottage in the early 1800s?

Everytime I go out into the garden he looks at me as it to say "traitor.....you have discarded me....and after all the help I have given you!"

Would everyone think me totally mad if I try to include him somewhere in the renovations?

lundi 24 mai 2010

Two furry little derrieres.....................


Oh heavens the weather is SO wonderful!!!! Instantly forgotten are the lashing wind and cold of the winter!!!
I have recovered from my rant of yesterday, sometimes it`s just good to get things off your chest and move on!
I have been trying to catch up today after being away for a week. I got up early to start the Ebay parcels and only later on did I realise that today is a national holiday here and that I also missed quite a few street brocantes! So with this wonderful light I have been photograhing and listing.
It`s so lovely to be home to my boys.........................two little derrieres toasting in the sun.

dimanche 23 mai 2010

Shabby chic..........................passe?........................NEVER!!!!!!



Very recently I received an email via Ebay from a complete stranger - neither a customer or a personal  friend. Her message to me was simply to complain about my using the phrase 'shabby chic' in my auctions, which seemed to irritate her. She seemed to imply that I should stop describing my treasures  as "shabby chic", adding, in French,  "c'est tellement passe, mon cher".  [ 'so outdated, my dear'].

A day or so later I travelled over to the UK and bought myself the latest (May) edition of 'Country Living' magazine.And what did I read on page 43? A special feature entitled  " The return of shabby chic"!
All I can say to that person ( whoever she might be) is "Ma cherie  [at least I can get my grammar correct!] - shabby chic passe?   Hardly.  I don't think it ever went away!!"

vendredi 21 mai 2010

Chez nous..............

I have been in London for a few days and now I know why I live in France the middle of a field! Who are all those people, where are they going, how can you travel the tube everyday with someones face stuffed in your armpit.............why do people run up and down the escalator when it is already moving?!!!!!
I am such a country bumpkin and I was delighted to get on the ferry back to Cherbourg. Just got home, the cuckoo is in the high tree in the garden, the storks are on the marsh, the sun is blazing, Diggers is ecstatic to see me, The Baron sunning himself and I can hear a woodpecker in the field. No street lamps, no cars...............
Chez nous..............................divine!
Normal service will be resumed tomorrow!!!

lundi 17 mai 2010

Come with me to the Patisserie in Saint Mere Eglise...............We`ll check out the window display first....




Pressing my nose against the window.....................

Okay....lets go in and choose............

A large gateau to share............................?
A wonderful confection dressed with fresh fruit......................
Or do you want a smaller gateau all to yourself? I am having the chocolat covered one in the centre....which one will you have?

dimanche 16 mai 2010

The countess with no linens..................................

Up before the lark today and out into the early morning mist for the first of two brocantes......

The sun was just breaking through as we crossed the river.  The first call was a vide grenier in the grounds of a local chateau. Our local newspaper has advertised that the Countess would be having a stand full of linens in aid of the Croix Rouge.....




The driveway to the chateau was already filling up with the early buyers. I searched for the Countess but no sign of her stand. There were no treasures to be found on the 40 or so stands already set up, so rather than leave and miss the linens we filled the time with a coffee , then another, then another!
We joked that perhaps there would be a fanfare of trumpets and the Countess would come down the drive in a sedan chair filled with textiles!
But no, she drove down in her small car, stepped out in her neat tweed suit and pearls and unpacked box after box of.............................................plants!!!! Not a linen in sight!!!
What a disappointment!!! So we went hot foot to the next brocante hoping we were not too late to miss the early finds.

We arrived just as the Mayor and his assistants were unloading the contents of the ancient library of the "Mairie" town hall and out came the most delicious early books............

All early 1800s and covered in parchment. Printed in Paris and simply divine.
Who needs the Countess and her imaginary linens!!!!!

samedi 15 mai 2010

Back in the land of the living!

Bonjour!!!! It`s nice to be back in the land of the living and thanks for all your lovely messages and phone calls. My cold is on its way out of the porte and I am left with a hideous cough that sounds like a cigar smoking donkey! Oh well, at least you will hear me before you see me!!!
So off truffling for treasures this morning and I found this wonderful old wooden marionnette......





He has quite a wicked little face  and I am going to try and research the character as he seems a little like the English Mr Punch........

Isn`t he just divine? I guess he must date from the early 1900s. I have heard of the French puppet Guignol so I`ll check that out.
Two brocantes in the morning...................let me at `em!!!

lundi 10 mai 2010

Under the weather...................

Missing in action suffering with a summer cold........................
Back soon.........................

samedi 8 mai 2010

Bare faced brocanting.....................

I simply adore Saturday and Sunday mornings here as there is always a street brocante, or two or three (!) to get up early for. It`s no effort to get up early as the anticipation of what I might find is always so exciting. The day it becomes run of the mill is the day to stop and I can`t ever see that ever happening.

 So it`s alarm ring, jeans and sweater on, sneakers on, quick wash, hairbrush, grab an apple as I dive through the cuisine and out of the door into the dawn. Who needs make up at that time of the morning?!! ( I do sometimes regret that by mid morning when the elegantly coiffed and maquillaged ladies who get up much later hit the streets and I look like I have slept under a hedge!!!)
Todays truffling produced treasures that are all divine.................................( you can click on the pictures to enlarge)...........
A batch of gorgeous vintage cherub handles unused still in tissue and a batch of handloomed linen chemises with superb dowry monograms................

Heart rendering childrens work records from the early 1900s for appentices in the textile trade...............
Pretty exhibition advertising leaflets from Paris & Le Mans in the 1900s ..........
Old textile sample cards............quite like that absinthe colour!...........



Delicious old picture frames................



Fabulous old pictorial menu cards printed in Paris all unused and lots more too.

 So tomorrow is another day for truffling so it`s off to bed early. It`s the bare faced bird that catches the worm!!!!
Be at the cuisine door at 5.30 am if you are coming with me................

vendredi 7 mai 2010

Seagrass and salle de bains................

Spent the afternoon laying seagrass carpet in the salle de bains..............
Heavens! Is that stuff stretchy!!! Looking wonderful though.
 An early start tomorrow morning at a local brocante. I`ll let you know what I find!
A la prochaine...............................

jeudi 6 mai 2010

Bienvenue......................welcome......Martha...........

This wonderful pink envelope and notelet arrived this morning announcing the arrival of baby Martha.
A charming notelet from Martha herself written by her proud parents.

And that divine 'Germaine Bouret' picture................so perfect! If baby Martha has half  the chic French charm of her beautiful mother and just a smattering of the warmth and humour of her father she will be an angel.
Congratulations....'félicitations'  Veronique et Guillaume.  xx

mercredi 5 mai 2010

Babes who brocante......................

I am shattered, dirty and heading for a long hot bath! The scaffolding has just come down ready for it to be returned to the hire company in the morning...............but................at least we are finally grey..................

More pictures tomorrow.......but I will leave you with a shot of all the other buildings still to be renovated........................

I am going to lie in the bath and try not to think about the enormity of the restoration but I will instead look forward to when this barn becomes my office and stock room!!

Perhaps we should include some gites and you can all come and stay. Instead of "Ladies who lunch" we could do " babes who brocante"!!!!

mardi 4 mai 2010

Old lush........................

That`s it! That`s it! Enough!!!!! I`ve had enough of this renovation..................enough of the banging and crashing, the drilling and sawing, people stomping in and out bringing plaster and mud, the smell of paint, the cold rushing in when the last one in leaves the door open.............I`m going to have a coffee.....no......to hell with it.....a big glass of calvados.....................a really big glass............



And....I didn`t get to go brocanting all weekend as we had so many people here, builders, painters and uncle Tom Cobley and all so now I have withdrawal symptoms and keep wondering about all those treasures I might have missed.....................

And....I am fed up of having everything packed away in boxes and having to make sure you wear slippers in the middle of the night when you pad to the salle de bains just incase you tread on a nail or screw....

And I am sitting here typing with my coat on as the windows are wide open for the shutters to be fitted...............

And.....some fly has had the audacity to poo on my newly upholstered cafe check stools in the cuisine and when I catch him I`ll swat him flat making an example of him to all the other flies on the marsh......................!!!!!

And ...........its so cold here and there is a gale hurling across the marsh that would slice the face of an Eskimo in an iron mask. So, I lit Hercule the old range and when I was filling him with coal dragged the sleeve of my coat across the top and it sizzled into a charcoal mess................................


And...I can`t connect to photobucket to host my photographs for my auctions for some mad reason........and my hair is like straw and I haven`t seen my make up for weeks......and I have hairy legs......another sip I think...................

And......the house paint is a lot lighter than I thought and its looking like a fairy cake with icing......another glass I think............shhhould I...yesh why not....

and...............I shuppose it will all be okay won`t it? It will won`t it.....I SHAID IT WILL WON`T IT?..........jusht anutha schmall ship of calva....................

Jusht going to resh my head on the table a minute..........................................hello ickle ickle ickle fly.........whatsh your name then ickle fly?.............................



I love you ickle fly......................I really really really love you fickle eye....................


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....................................

lundi 3 mai 2010

The chaton at the chateau.............

The French word for a kitten is a "chaton" so I suppose that makes Charles le Baron du Breuil "The chaton from the chateau". We have spent the day packaging our Ebay parcels, helped or is that hindered by Charles?
He is obsessed by boxes, bubble wrap and tissue paper and can`t resist getting comfy.........................
He doesn`t mind looking a little decorative and is actually quite vain...................

Just look at thoses cheekbones....I`m sure he`s had a little botox.............

He helps with typing auction listings..............

Packaging................

But sometimes he does go a little too far!!!!!