dimanche 30 janvier 2011

Truffling in the attic.....................

The Lady Mayoress of our village recently asked me whether I would like to attend a charity coffee morning. Of course - when the mayoress asks you to do something, you usually do as you are told! I went along with a feeling of dread as I discovered that the ladies who were attending spend most of the week in Paris,  returning to their family piles only at the weekends or to attend charity functions. I duly turned up to find them all stick thin, impeccably coiffed and dressed in that casual 'Parisian chic'  that seems to come naturally to them! It's so annoying! What was worse, they seem to find me fascinating; an English lady who works for a living and is not "kept" by her husband and who gets up at the crack of dawn most weekends throughout the year to trail the flea markets but without having a top end Parisian antiquities store!

So - it was polite conversation all round, with me being interrogated about all manner of things in an ever increasing fog of cigarette smoke around the table. We were at a very beautiful old manoir - and I simply longed to be able to escape their clutches and go exploring!

I was at one point introduced to a very stylish and elegant lady who must have been well into her 70s, covered head to toe in Chanel and with her hair swirled into a chic knot. She was fascinated by my passion for old textiles and asked me if I would be interested in looking though her "grenier" (attic) as she believed she still had some costumes and pieces from her grandmother and from her husbands family stored at the chateau.  Suddenly the morning seemed much more interesting!  I wanted to bundle her into my car immediately and drive away to her home. But no.............. I managed to stay calm and made an appointment to visit her a couple of days later. She gave me her address and a time, adding that said she never gave out her telephone number(!).

The morning of our 'rendez-vous' was yesterday - and our new "Tom Tom" Sat Nav made it easy to find her address in the country.  As soon as I arrived outside the old period gates to her driveway I had a feeling it would be good.

Madame had returned to Paris but I was greeted by her housekeeper who was expecting me and who led the way though the hallway and up a tiny wooden staircase. The old wallpaper was enough to make me want to peel it off and put it in my pockets but wow.....what a real treasure trove I found. Trunks, boxes, bags full of period textiles, trims, costumes, lace, linens, monogrammed sheets with aristoctratic crowns ( EEEEEEEEK!!!), boxes of ribbons and more. I told the house keeper I would like it all and she left me there whilst she went to call madam. She came back and said that Madame had invited me to make an offer for eveything  save for the monogrammed sheets with the crowns because they were extra special heirlooms which she wished to pass down to her children and grandchildren.

So I was left alone for a while to rummage through all the textiles before arriving at a figure.  When I had finished truffling I found my way down the stairs, spoke to the housekeeper - and she duly called Madame again. I stood and waited for what seemed like a life time. What if she said no? How could I sleep if I could not have what I had seen up there? If she said no would it be impolite to up my offer again? What if I had underestimated and insulted her? All sorts of things raced through my mind as I stood there!

The house keeper returned, beamed at me and said "oui, c'est bon, Madame est contente" -   and I almost jumped for joy. We spent most of yesterday packing up the car and plan to return tomorrow for the remainder.

Here is just a little glimpse of what is to come...............................

I`ll show you more later in the week as I unpack it all. I still have no idea myself what is in some of the boxes!!

vendredi 28 janvier 2011

Panais from heaven.................

I went to the local supermarche today in Ste Mere Eglise with a shopping list, determined to stick to it and not be tempted by 'goodies' in the patisserie section and on the huge 'chocolaterie' display. But little did I know what temptation was to come!!
As I wandered into the "legumes" vegetable section I stopped in my tracks. My eyes widened; for there he was - sitting in the exotic section.  A parsnip....a lone parsnip!

Now, English readers and probably readers from the rest of the world will not understand why I found this exciting. But the French do not do parsnips at all;  except, I think, being used to feed cattle in the winter.

I immediately looked left and right to see if any other English shoppers were close by and strained my ears for an English voice just in case I was going to have to dash and grab him with a rugby tackle. And believe me.....I would have done it too!

When I realised I was safe I looked again and he simply stared back at me. Oh yes, he knew he was something special; and he knew exactly what he meant to me. He knew I wanted him and knew I would do anything to make him mine . He knew he was special and stared me right back in the eye - a Mr D'Arcy stare, if you will -  full of arrogance and in his prime.

But no, I wouldn`t pander to him. I approached the exotic section and averted my gaze from his piercing eyes.I checked out all the produce around him, taking my time and not even paying him any attention. But I heard an English voice approaching so had to act. I lunged out and grasped him and quickly placed him in a bag and sealed the top with a strong knot. Mission accomplished!

With him safely in my trolley I looked above for the code for the 'weigh and price yourself' section but there was no picture of him, nor was there any indication of a number or name. As I searched for a means to identify it a tiny old French lady approached;  so tiny that the shopping trolley was almost bigger than her. I asked her for the name of the parsnip in French but she had no idea, though helpfully said it may be a white carrot! She called another passing shopper who also didn`t know the name - and she in turn called yet another lady for inspiration.  Again no joy - and then they decided to summon a shop assistant! By this time I was wishing I hadn`t asked at all as they huddled together in a noisy gang discussing the "exotic" item. I was a little nervous as he had left my grasp and was being bandied around between them willy-nilly.

Eventually the assistant called for the manager - and he proclaimed him to be a "panais" - so he duly  priced him and returned him to me.

So , now I am home and I realise what a huge responsibility he is. I know that he has to be eaten immediately otherwise I know that all my English friends who live locally and who read my blog will be over to steal him. It may even bring on a visit from the Parsnip police!

I toyed with the idea of locking him in the safe or just placing him on the chopping block so I could look at him longer. But I knew that I would do nothing but worry if I had to turn my back on him and would look pretty stupid taking him everywhere with me all day.

So, as we speak, he is newly chopped and hiding amongst the other vegetables in a huge pot of beef stew cooking on the aga.

The  possession of a parsnip is a huge responsibilty, you know!

mardi 25 janvier 2011

A moment to reflect....................

It is sometimes nice to just step off the treadmill and reflect. Our local church is so beautiful with the most amazing family crypts , crosses and angels. You can double click on the pictures for a closer look. No need for words..................

samedi 22 janvier 2011

Que sera...............

Ever since my daughter Kate can remember I have come home laden with shabby French treasures............textiles, objet trouves and vintage shabby fripperies.........

When she was a teenager she always told me that after I go to that big brocante in the sky she would throw out all of my old shabby treasures and fill the place with new Ikea furniture!
But oh!....how things have changed since Mademoiselle has started to trade as passionatelyparis on Ebay!! She recently came to stay for a few days and instead of raiding our armoires she went off truffling for her own treasures without me!
All I can say is that over all those years something must have sunk in as she came home with some divine old treasures! I would have brought most of them home myself and almost had to try and truffle away a few items as she packed for the ferry home!

Que sera sera.......................whatever will be!! Perhaps I was useful after all?

vendredi 21 janvier 2011

Breeze blog!

It has been a busy and very noisy few days here with the building work having commenced on the main extension to the chateau.

The lorry arrived to deliver the breeze blocks that will line the inner walls before the old stone is put back in place.

The driver promptly ran over my treasured flower-filled Victorian chimney pots that I have had for 28years and smashed them to pieces!

There is now a huge hole being made in the barn wall that will eventually be our sitting room with beautiful views over the marsh.

I decided to leave them all to it and went off to La Haye du Puits for a little retail therapy!

The fleuristes always lift my mood with their delicious display and Monsieur Brigard at the epicerie has the most enormous basket of oranges you have ever seen! I treated myself to a large cafe creme and a warm croissant amande  followed by a browse in the quincaillerie hardware store and felt a whole lot better about the chaos at home! 
You can`t make an omelette without breaking a few oeufs!

jeudi 13 janvier 2011

A crumbling confection........................

Yesterday, we had been driving out along a road we had not driven along before - only about 5 miles or so from our little chateau - when we stumbled upon the most amazing confection! Mark slammed on the brakes, I got out the car and I stood in absolute amazement. It had been under our noses all the time and we never knew. A fabulous building not far from the edge of the road. I could see it looked empty and knew I just had to get closer. But, aswe were "en route" for a rendezvous, we had to continue our journey.

Last night I couldn`t sleep for thinking about it, and so today we went off, in the rain, with our camera. We arrived and tried to get through a crumbling old gate which came off in my hands (!) which Mark had to lift it back into place just as three huge dogs dashed over from inside the garden barking loudly!
We realised that someone was living on the courtyard in front of the building so followed the road around until we found a small driveway marked "PRIVEE".

Undeterred we left the car and walked into the yard to be met by the same huge dogs who happened, fortunately to be friendly  - and a charming farmer in overalls. We asked permission to photograph the place and he agreed telling us that he lived in the farmhouse on the courtyard. He had inherited the all of the buildings from his father , who had in turn had inherited them from his father and so it had been passed down through the generations.
So, with permission granted. out came the camera and I will show you the photographs just as this delicious old building unfolded it`s charms.
Starting with the view from the road when we slammed on the brakes!! Click on the photographs to enlarge them ( a double click will go really close in!)
The side view on the drive where we asked the farmer for permission to proceed.......
And then.....what I was waiting for......the front view.......

................absolutely enchanting you have to agree? Just look at the faux bois rails that flank the stone steps.
Whilst I stood talking to the farmer Mark did some shots of some of the gorgeous features. The farmer told me it was built in the 1500s and no one had lived there since the early 1900s. Sadly, he cannot afford to restore it and it will stay empty and slowly decaying. As we spoke I was willing him to ask me if I wanted to peek inside, and yes, it is true that my friends say I can get where water wouldn`t! But sadly, this time I failed and the invitation didn`t come. I figured I had already pushed my luck enough intruding into the farmer`s day so didn`t ask!
So I will console myself with.....................

.....Divine Oeil de boeuf zinc windows and that sweet little bell...............

...........................pointy roofs, zinc finials...tall stone chimnies and tiny windows.........

A turret that the farmer tells me houses a twisting stone staircase.
This is the only place I would ever consider selling our beloved chateau for and I never thought I would ever say that!! 
But, it is not for sale and it will remain standing proud like an old Dame and hopefully in the same family for more generations. Perhaps the next generation will be able to afford to save it? I do hope so.
But......................now I am desperate to see inside and I may burst if I cannot peer in , even if the floor is unsafe I could peer in through the doorway or a window?
The only inhabitants are the white barn owls...............I need to grow wings!!!

mercredi 12 janvier 2011


I listed this charming antique French flower filled locket on Ebay yesterday saying I had no idea what the flower inside was. A fuzzy little bloom I wondered if it was cotton but managed to find a photograph and realised I was wrong.
 It came to me in a box with an antique wedding head dress so thought it may have been a love token of some sort. Knowing that most Victorian flowers had a "meaning" I was intrigued to know why a bride had packed it away for so long. The head dress was so pristine it looked as if it had never been used.
This morning I received an email telling me it is Eidelweiss so looked up its meaning I found 2 tales:

In the country of eternal snows, lived a white lady: the Queen of Snows. She was surrounded by many small wights, who were in charge of her protection. Armed with spears of crystal, they protected their queen from the intrusion of stranger folk and those who might do her harm.

When a hunter or an imprudent mountaineer approached the beautiful lady, she was often pleased by the visit, and she would encourage him with her smiles and her eyes to join her. Fascinated by the gentle eyes of the beautiful lady, the mountaineer forgets the danger and continues to climb…and he climbs higher and higher with the hope of seeing more closely this beautiful face.
Confronted by this apparent danger, the wights take to their spears and push back the suitor until he falls into a precipice.
The white lady at the sight of that horrible spectacle began to cry; the tears then ran along the glacier and flowed to the pastures, and when arriving near the rocks, they changed into Edelweiss.

General Meanings

The symbolic meanings of the edelweiss flower are daring, courage and noble purity. These meanings are derived from the plant’s ability to grow in harsh mountain climates and from its pure white coloring.

Cultural Significance

The edelweiss has had cultural significance to military operations in the Alps. In 1907, the Austrian-Hungarian Army made the edelweiss the symbol of its Alpine divisions. A metal badge depicted the flower on soldiers' caps. During World War II, German soldiers stationed in the Alps sought edelweiss to wear on their uniforms. Edelweiss was considered a symbol of bravery because it was dangerous and difficult to climb up to the high, craggy areas where the flowers grew to obtain them.

I think I prefer the second version do you?
A la prochaine mes belles.....................

lundi 10 janvier 2011

Distressed?.............................no not me!

One of the joys of being a brocanteuse is the damaged and distressed items that you get to keep!!! I have so many wonderful little treasures on display that have seen much better days and I have still brought them home because I could`t leave them behind.
This divine little embroidered organza bag dates from the early 1900s.................

It is battered and shredded with age but I don`t care I simply adore it! I do sometimes wonder if everything I leave behind me when I have gone to that great brocante in the sky will be distressed!!!
Gorgeous daughter (passionatelyparis on Ebay) has a mannequin to die for up for sale at the moment.......me thinks I taught her too well! Might have to confiscate that one!
Tartelette who came to stay and shop late last year is building up to blogging about me on her blogsite. She is a loose cannon so heaven knows whats coming and I am waiting nervously! Save me someone please!!!!

dimanche 9 janvier 2011


Although the skies were almost black this afternoon there was the most amazing rainbow over the marsh..............

I had to rush out with my camera before the rain started to capture it at its brightest.

It felt so close that I could have reached out and grasped it!

jeudi 6 janvier 2011

Travels with Ming-Hoa..............

We went to Carentan shopping this afternoon in the pouring rain and discovered in the local 'supermarche' the most amazing bread that we hadn`t tried before. Their "in house" patisserie produces chestnut bread. Ooooooooooh.......the taste is amazing and wonderful; shame it's not really a good discovery as the New Year diet has just started!!!
Even though we know the route to Carentan with our eyes shut I decided to try out, en route, the car Sat Nav I bought Mark for Christmas. I had such fun changing the choice of available voices from Jill to Edward but my best choice was when we were driving through the country lanes being instructed in Chinese! A bit like a Chinese taxi ride but I am not really sure that Ming-Hoa will be much use when we really do need instructions to a location.

Still on the subject of technical things we have now finally downloaded Skype so we are now able to both talk to and see our kids back in the UK.  What a scream - and what a saving it shall be on the phone bill!!! I feel I have to dress up for the video calls so did my first one in a very elegant hat and plan to do tomorrow's calls in a pair of fluffy rabbits ears.
Can`t have the kids thinking I`ve turned normal can I?
A la prochaine mes belles..............

mercredi 5 janvier 2011


She is so occupied listing her Ebay treasures today that she has no time for me at all........................how dares she!
I`m going to get comfy in this packaging box................................she`ll be sorry when she can`t find me......

and I have posted myself off to....


Charles le Baron du Breuil

mardi 4 janvier 2011

A host of angels....................

I`ve had a whole host of angels on display this Christmas............................
The one unable to stand in the middle has enjoyed Christmas just a little too much and is now so full of plum pudding that he is no longer able to stand.........................exactly how I feel now too.

Both he and I start  the diet together tomorrow.......

dimanche 2 janvier 2011

Please....please....no more...no more..................oh okay then!

I had intended this Christmas to be a quiet affair.  We would simply close the chateau gates, slump in a heap, watch some movies, generally slob out and enjoy each others company. How wrong could I be?!!!!
Our plan started well with our traditional trip to Bayeux to visit Patisserie Mathilde on 22 December - but then it all started to go wonderfully wrong! It went something like this.......

23rd Dec- our annual mince pie and mulled wine party where 24 good friends filled our cuisine for a lively and very noisy party. Mark`s recipe for mulled wine which, this year, also included a drop or two of port in his secret concoction (no doubt from "pass the port" and all that from his Navy days!) perhaps  explained the noise!!

Christmas Eve........ a lunch that started at 12 noon with four fabulous friends which lasted over 6 hours! Lively conversation, wonderful food -  and all in a divine Normandy farmhouse that just happens to have it`s own snowy white swan as a permanent visitor that I long to kidnap.Our friends, Viv and Mike, are the warmest of hosts and possibly slightly dafter than we are! Viv writes a wonderful blog that you might like to look at. http://lifeinfrance2010.blogspot.com/

 We arrived home at 6.30 - changed quickly and went off to what we were told was to be a traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper. I felt a bit like the Vicar of Dibley with the last sprout!! A very late evening - and, as I was the designated chaffeuse, I drove home through thick fog with poor Mark slumped in a heap beside me!!

Christmas day and Boxing day were just as we had planned;  very peaceful, just us two and crashed out! Traditional turkey, nice Burgundy and plenty of chocolate!

27th December. We were experiencing cabin fever after just 2 days at home alone and went off to shop in preparation for our own Christmas party -  managing to call in on some good friends en route.

28th December. Our Christmas party at home. 30 friends  joined us for a very raucous night! Mark had spoken to each guest in secret before the event to find out an interesting fact about them that no one else would know. He had devised a party game - sometimes known as an "ice-breaker" - where guests were given a list of questions and they then had to talk to everyone else at the party to find out the answers. Some of the questions were:
Who had had lunch with Peter Sellars and Britt Ekland?
Who in his youth had dropped out and lived in an Austin Princess with Donovan?
Who met Huey Lewis in an elevator?
Who was wearing odd socks that evening?
Who has sat on an unarmed nuclear bomb?
Who shared a chat over a whisky with Margaret Thatcher?
Who had walked the Great wall of China?
Who had had lunch at The Savoy with Charles Hennessey?
Whose best man at her wedding was Jimmy Tarbuck?
I never knew our friends had such amazing past lives!! It was certainly a good game to break the ice with folks who had not been introduced. Much later into the evening there was a smell burning and  we wondered whether we had overloaded our electrics with all the Christmas lighting, and feared we would need a visit from the "pompiers" to deal with a fire.   But, no! One guest had stood too close to a candle and had begun to singe her top; and then, to top it off,  another guest stood in virtually the same place and singed her long curly hair!! [Note to self.....never place candles on the patisserie counter at parties!!!] Again a very late night - and  we made the mistake of not cleaning up before we went to bed! Next morning.....ouch!

29th Dec. A friends, evening party with a good mix of French and English guests. A delicious spread of home-baked food and more hilarious party games. I was saved from insulting someone by Viv`s fabulous grasp of French when I told one sleepy guest he was " very tiring" instead of looking "very tired"!

30th Dec. A friends' lunchtime birthday drinks party. More fabulous food and company with two huge labradors in bow ties mingling with the guests!!

New Years Eve.  A superbly elegant dinner party with our friends in the next village. The first opportunity I had to wear my latest favourite find - a fabulous 1940s vintage black silk velvet bolero jacket with a silk ribbon tie. ( I knew I would get to wear it sooner or later!) We toasted the French New Year with champagne and fireworks - and then repeated it again an hour later (due to the one hour time difference)  for the English New year........and why not?!!!!

New Years day after getting home at 2am from the previous night we set off at 10am for a New Years Day breakfast with more friends. A huge traditional English breakfast just too good to resist. I may explode soon!

So, today, we are trying to get back to normality. I have photographed and listed on Ebay, our recent sales have been packaged ready for posting off - and I've finally managed to blog!
Bonne Annee!!!!