vendredi 25 février 2011

Rampe D`escalier..............

Monsier 'le builder' has his father, Bertrand, with him this week. A tiny little man but who is as strong as an ox and has a cheeky smile with sparkling eyes. It`s a little like having a hobbit skipping around the place!

Before he retired Bertrand was a master woodworker and cabinet maker who specialised in hand-making spiral staircases in the finest wood with traditional tools. From the moment he arrived he has become increasingly excited by the whole project at the chateau. Every morning he arrives with some new ideas about what he could lovingly craft for the place. As we share our morning 'cafe' he waves his arms around excitedly explaining his latest wheeze in babbling patois country French and broken English! He makes me squeal with laughter as he is like a little boy going on a school trip!

So far in his mind he has covered the whole place in 18th century panelling , crafted a few archways, added staircases and carved beams!

A couple of days ago he was so excited about wanting to make a stair rail and bannister for the new steps that I thought he would burst right there and then on the spot. I tried to explain that I simply cannot do a "NEW" wooden rail no matter how wonderfully hand-crafted it would look. But, as he walked away still waving his arms and plotting, I feared he might just carry on and make one at home -and then turn up with it as a surprise. How would I get out of that one without hurting his feelings?

I was saved, however, whilst making a trip to a local brocante where I spotted, almost hidden from view amongst a pile of old metal gates and railings, a divine 19th century cast iron " rampe d`escalier". I swiftly brought it home to see if it would fit ( or, failing that, if Bertrand and his son could "make" it fit!!).

I am saved!! It looks wonderful and this morning even Bertrand had to agree it looks as if it has always been here and it excited him enough to want to fit it immediately.

Our builder is making a wonderful job of placing the old stone either side of the doorway to the cuisine and, again, it looks as if it has been there for centuries. So you know that saying about not putting the cart before the horse? Well, we appear to have put the rail before the steps!! But why not, I say!

Talking of horses, I saw in a different brocante yesterday a small set of antique pony driving harness. Definately 19th century;  stunning heavy, old black leather, but the decoration.....................oh my goodness! The blinkers had silver metal intricate scrolled monograms pressed into the leather and on either side of the cheek pieces were old silvered medallions with the same monograms. Who would be so decadent as to monogram their harness?  It was very battered and I didn`t buy it. But now, I'm having second thoughts; perhaps I should go back and do so.  Sometimes such unusual items just stick in my mind and refuse to go away. Perhaps I should just buy it to get my hands on the monogrammed medallions?

Bon weekend, mes belles!

mardi 22 février 2011

The chateau tunnel...............

Monsieur le builder, "Floran", is making great progress in joining the old workers cottages through to the 'chateau'. It feels a little like the Channel Tunnel operation; Mark has been working from one side and Floran from the other. Perhaps as an exercise in Anglo- French relations they will shake hands when they finally meet?!!
This is Floran`s side of the operation making his way through to the chateau cuisine...............
......and this is our side of the operation, being hindered as usual by The Baron du Breuil who likes rolling in sand and rubble!

I should also tell you that I now have a huge metal acro prop pole in the centre of my cuisine supporting a beam - which I have decided I shall be using for lap dancing practise in my spare time! Apparently lap dancers have 50 and 100  euro notes tucked in their knickers by admirers while they perform. I had better find some pretty strong knickers as they are going to have to hold hordes of 50 centime coins!

As soon as Floran leaves  for his traditional French two hour lunch break at midday we dive into our wellies and nip next door to see what he has been doing. (We don`t want him to think we are watching over him when he is working!!). Can you believe that this wall, below, is going be our huge fireplace?

I have also figured out why my Royal wedding invitation has not arrived as yet. Quite obviously it`s all too painful for William to be close to me again after I turned down his marraige proposal last year. Honestly! You`d have thought he would be adult enough to move on and get over the disappointment! I know that his new wife to be is his second choice but "second time lucky" I say.

At the time it was quite a hard decision for me as being carried brocanting in a sedan chair at 4am wearing a crown and having footmen to carry my finds was quite tempting. But I do feel that William wouldn`t have possessed the packaging skills that Mark has - and I couldn`t risk any treasures being damaged in the post. off to grease the pole with French beurre and to seek out my sequin-bedecked pants and tassels!!

A la prochaine mes belles!!!

dimanche 20 février 2011

Off with her head!

I am still unpacking some divine old treasures from the chateau attic clearance......................

I could quite happily keep it all..................................

.................there are still lots more rolls of divine old ribbons.............

and stack upon stack of lace along with some of the finest silk handkerchiefs I have ever seen.

If you missed the link to the chateau clearance here it is;

I haven`t checked the postbox today but I am sure that my royal wedding invite will be there. Of course, William and Kate will have invited me to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony. I am surprised I have not been contacted as yet to make Kate`s dress. I have some old ticking with 19th Century darns, lots of coarse, old hand-loomed linen and some batches of lace that I could use! Wonder if I could arrange to have a banner outside Westmister Abbey saying   - or perhaps I could print it on the back of her ticking train? !! 

 I may be writing my next blog from the Tower of with her head!

samedi 19 février 2011

Swan down......................

It`s been one of those weeks! Chaos reigns at the chateau with the building work and I fell off the steps like an idiot and twisted my foot. Not a sideways twist but a front twist like a ballerina on her points! There was a strange crack, my foot instantly went black and became huge! I was still able to walk so just assumed I had pulled something.

Three days later I was looking at how the builder has progressed, caught my foot on a piece of wood and did exactly the same thing! Needless to say I then found it really difficult to stand on the foot at all!

So a visit to Docteur Sophie was arranged and Mark came into the surgery with me just in case there were any French medical terms we needed to translate together. As is the norm here in France pets sometimes go to work with their owners. So whilst Docteur Sophie examined my foot, her huge labrador humped Mark`s leg and I was trying to keep a straight face as I could see Mark trying to dislodge his new amour!

Docteur Sophie said she thought I had a fracture and despatched me to the local clinic for an X-ray.

Later in the day I was much relieved to find there is no break or fracture and I was sent away clutching my x-rays to keep as a memento ( why?!). I never realised I had such long toes before!!

So...... all I can say is fortunate I turned down the lead roll in the new film "Black Swan". How could I have managed to keep up the filming schedule and keep brocanting with an injured foot? Admittedly like all famous ballerinas I would have liked to have a pudding named after me but sadly it is not to be.

Michael Flatley is also going to be devastated when he realises I will not be his leading lady in the Riverdance tour this year.

But talking of black swans I am listing the most amazing feather plume millinery wings today. All from the early 1900s and probably purchased to embellish the most decadent of hats.

Shame......................I could have worn them in the film!!

A la prochaine mes belles and may all your pavlovas be big ones!

dimanche 13 février 2011

From window space to cyber space!!!!!

Someone recently asked me about the shop I used to own in the UK before we moved to  France - and I managed to find these old photographs.............................

It was hard work constantly having to cross the channel to find treasures to keep it fully stocked as things sold so quickly. Each time I arrived in France I was totally captivated and always wanted to do "just one more" brocante before having to leave for the UK - and quite often missed the ferry home!

Then I discovered the online auction site - my regular shop buyers could still see my treasures but the world became my oyster ...... things changed dramatically.

 I adored my trips to France and as soon as possible we made the move to Normandie and found that we could just as sucessfully operate from there,  not having to arrange the ferry crossings and make hotel bookings was one great advantage.

 But I must admit that I did miss the window and shop dressing having somewhere to display my finds until they went to a new home.

That`s obviously something I can`t do now as the chateau would be full to the brim!   Now, I simply have to photograph my treasures and then pack them away until posting. 

But do I miss sitting in the shop all day?  No way!!! I`d rather be out truffling for treasures!!!

A demain mes belles!

vendredi 11 février 2011


With such wonderful sunny, spring weather at the moment Monsieur Floran, our builder, is able get so much done - and we have quickly gone from this.......


...very quickly.

The area around the house looks in total chaos...

  ....... but the work on both the garden side and the marsh side is taking shape. We have so much wonderful old stone to re-use too for other projects. This will be the view through our lounge window on the marsh side....( minus the rubble, of course!!)

I am beginning to see in my mind what the interior could be like and that gets exciting!  There is a huge old, original stone fireplace at one end  which could work lots of ways. Shall I decorate as period chateau with a huge, gilded mirror above the fire  with chandeliers and old gently-coloured pastel panelling; or shall I go more "grand old hall" with a crest above the fireplace and a flagstone floor? The choices the choices!!!

Charles le Baron du Breuil thinks the sand is his private play pit - rolling around and digging in it like a lunatic!

I have moved the wild birds' feeding arrangements away from the chaos up to the bathroom window sill on the marsh side of the house - and they seem quite happy with it. It also means I can watch them very, very close up which is fascinating. One small blue tit has a rubber band on his leg, a very loose ring and I cannot understand why. Surely a common blue tit would not have been ringed for any reason? But it doesn`t hinder him and it`s quite nice to see the same little guy visiting during the day.

I did have to do a bit of an 'Inspector Clouseau' investigation today. I thought I could hear puppies barking in the field next to us. We are the only house for miles so I was a little concerned as they sounded so close. Although I couldn`t find anything I could still hear them but Monsieur Floran tells me they sound like fox cubs so we must have a new family close by. Good job we have no chickens then!

So here I am....mud all over the kitchen floor, daffodils coming up amongst the building rubble, a cat covered in sand, blue tits with bracelets and a blank canvas to decorate. I wouldn`t change a thing!!

jeudi 10 février 2011

A divine little morceau..............

I love discovering a piece of old toile with a pattern I have never seen before. After 28 years of truffling out old French textiles I thought I had seen them all. But, today, I discovered in a box the most divine morceau of 19th century toile with a pattern new to me with..............


                                 ...humming birds...


..and all teamed with exotic lillies..

I am gently washing it before I list it in my auction. I wonder which room at the chateau this wonderful old textile embellished?

mercredi 9 février 2011

My old mum used to say.................

My mum used to say that with every dawn.........................

comes a clean slate.......!!

As soon as I began truffling through my attic clearance treasures I first came up with this................
...and then this..................
and then this.

I realised that I like what I do too much to be affected by just one person where the concept of patience clearly doesn't exist in her life!   
On a lighter note, my new word of the week is  RACOON . I have never seen one, know nothing about them - and, actually, might quite like one as a pet. Can you imagine me walking through our local town with one on a lead? Unfortunately, we don`t get them in France, and in fact I know nothing about them - but haven`t they got nice faces?!! Any racoons for donation should be packaged well and posted to the chateau; and I promise not to be impatient if there are delays in postage!!!!
I'm moving on from that subject now, but not without ending the subject by thanking all those who have sent fabulous messages of support.

mardi 8 février 2011

Light the blue touch paper..... and run !!

To those who know me well I am quite a happy , calm person. I very rarely moan,  groan or lose my temper. I love my job being a brocanteuse and truffling for shabby vintage treasures but, today,a rare event. I am about to get on my soap box...............................

So, if you are of a nervous nature or delicate disposition you may wish to look away now!

So, you must be thinking, what has upset me?

I have been selling on the Ebay auction site for well over 10 years and it suits my business. I work very hard at it and if I am not photographing - I am listing; if I am not listing - I am packaging;  and if I am not packaging then I am out truffling for treasures. It is full time and I put everything into it.

The "feedback which is left by my buyers reflects, in my view, my reputation and service - and I am very proud of it. I have had many, many regular buyers based worldwide who, over the years, have become wonderful friends too. I love to welcome new clients and the chateau gates are always open to them.

When I lived in the UK I sold both at antiques fairs and in my shops - and loved to meet customers face to face - soemthing which, regrettably, cannot happen when distance-selling on Ebay. So, unable to talk directly, I make my auction descriptions as full as possible, as if I am describing the item in person to the buyer. I try to miss nothing out right down to the tiniest of details.

The only thing which I have no control over, of course, when distance-selling is the postage system, and how long it can actually take for a parcel to reach its destination once it leaves my hands. We package carefully and post off as soon as practically possible after payment has been received. The French postal system -  La Poste - can be a little slow at times but really no slower than most other postal services and, with international parcels, customs checks can also result in a delays in delivery time. Other factors also greatly affect delivery dates: excessively bad weather closing airports ( like at Xmas in the UK last year) or increased security measures. [Thank goodness I have no parcels bound for Egypt at the present time!!]. But if someone is awaiting a parcel longer than normal I literally turn myself inside out to help track a package and give them my full attention.

If someone decides an item is not for them; perhaps the wrong colour or the wrong size when put it in place, I immediately ask that the item be returned and arrange a return. Never any problems;  the customer is always right.

But.......not this week! One parcel has not arrived at its destination ( in the USA) and the buyer, quite understandably, was becoming more and more concerned as to its whereabouts and sent me two emails - both of which I responded to. But, before I was able to start the tracking process between France and the USA .........wham!  The buyer had decided that the delay must have been my fault - and had left me negative feedback on the two items she had bought. Absolutely unfair for something that is out of  my control.  I really have seen red as I was not given a chance to sort it out or even arrange a refund for a possible lost item.  I have politely asked the buyer to kindly withdraw the feedback whilst I sort out the parcel problem but I have received a curt "NO". Ebay, unhelpfully, have said that there is nothing I can do.

 Today I have felt like giving up selling on Ebay completely -  and simply selling from my own website. But I have let my head rule my heart on this occasion!

And so to this particular Ebayer I say this..................

Madam, the gates to the chateau will remain firmly closed to you!

Okay. Rant over....get over yourself woman and move on!
Moving on as we speak.

vendredi 4 février 2011

Tinged with sadness.............

Do you remember the empty silent chateau I blogged about a week or so ago? If not here is the link

I discovered more of it`s history today.

In the second world war the German soldiers that occupied Normandie took possession of the chateau forcing the family that lived there to move out. After the D Day landings the soldiers fled but left a turret booby trapped with explosives. The young son of the family entered the house the booby trap went off and he was killed.
The family left and never returned.
Do you think that houses hold their memories and will this place be tinged with sadness forever?

jeudi 3 février 2011

Delectable romance!

I wonder if Mademoiselle de Marcee wore this for her wedding?
 What did you wear on your head on your wedding day?

mercredi 2 février 2011

And 3 days later....................

It has taken 3 afternoons to empty the chateau attic and I am totally out of control! There is box upon box of treasures and the sitting room is overflowing with old suitcases, sewing boxes, travelling trunks and boxes all packed to the hilt and ready for me to work my way through! Please feel free to visit and help me!

I didn`t realise I had bought roll upon roll of wonderful old floral Paul Dumas wallpapers that had been used throughout the chateau in the 1930s....I can feel some of my armoires gaining some delicious linings!
Here are a few of the first trouvailles to be photographed................

And this is just a few of the boxes and chaos indoors......................( I had to stand inside a tower of boxes to take this photo!!) Early this morning I did see a wonderful box brimming with the pieces to make 1920s corsages, linen leaves and little glass centres.....can`t find it now! In true textile addict style I couldn`t wait to get up and start truffling through the boxes this morning so I was up at 5am!

.......................and this is the chaos outdoors as the builders are in full swing....
If Monsieur le Macon had any idea how hard it has been to establish a lawn there he wouldn`t have piled that stone there....

Perhaps losing myself in those boxes is a little more inviting after all!!
And just for Tartlette..............there is a little muslin angels chemise with muslin wirework wings attached. How fast can a woman get on a plane from Oregon to France I wonder?!
A demain mes belles....hopefully more in order!