lundi 31 décembre 2012

Bonne Annee

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year. May it be a year of discovering delicieux timeworn treasures to warm your heart.

Bonne Annee mes belles


dimanche 30 décembre 2012

Elvis Superplum? who are you? I am Elvis Superplum!!!

A demain mes belles

vendredi 28 décembre 2012

I simply couldn`t help it................

At a dinner party a few nights ago I was sat next to very  charming lady who I had met only briefly before. During dinner she told me that she had heard I was an antiques dealer and also that I had a passion for visiting Venice. I simply couldn`t help myself and much to the amusement of the host seated opposite, this is what I told her.

I told her that I was in fact an orphan and that in the 1950s (when it was still a scandal for a child to be born out of wedlock) I was left in a simple basket at midnight at the gates of the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. The ospedale has cared for foundlings since the 13th century, the children raised by the nuns who live there.

As she sat open mouthed I told her that babies were left at a small opening in the wall where the mother would  then ring the bell before disappearing into the night. Many babies were left with a token so that they could possibly be claimed at a later date should the mother`s fortunes change. Half a locket, half a letter, half of a picture or similar would be carefully stored and recorded by the nuns. Should the mother return with her half of the token then the child could be claimed.

Still managing to keep a straight face I told her that on the night I was left outside a Sister Bernadetti, the greediest and laziest nun of all I discovered much later, was on evening duty. When the bell sounded she found me at the gates and took me in, finding inside the basket where I lay a half  bar of hand-made Belgian chocolate.  Sister Bernadetti quickly ate it and threw away the wrapper to hide the evidence. Tragically that meant that I would never be re-claimed!

By this time the host of the party was hiding his laughter behind his table napkin as my victim sat silent and open mouthed.

I went on to say that this would explain my addiction for " chocolat" and my passion for Venice - and my lack of family history gave me the passion to truffle out other people's heirlooms.

I went on to describe how, as a three year old, I had stunned the chapel with a rendition of 'Ave Maria' and that I hoped I had been the result of a romantic tryst between a noble woman and a gondolier. But then  I even couldn`t hold up any longer and had to confess!! 

So........... where did my ridiculous tale come from? I have recently finished reading a divine book - "Vivaldi's Virgins" by Barbara Quick - and it was a captivating read. If you look at her website it describes the tiny museum hidden at the Calle del Pieta in Venice that houses some of the tokens mothers left with their babies and some of the children`s histories. Here is the link

And now of course, I am desperate to go back to Venice and find that tiny museum.

I do not apologise for my addiction to Venice but I do apologise to that poor lady who had to suffer me over dinner!!!!

My listings will start again on the 2nd January when I shall be listing not only a delicieux linen dowry sheet with a baron's crown but also its matching pair of crowned pillowcases. Just sublime! 

A bientot, mes belles

lundi 24 décembre 2012

A niche for Noel...........

Bonjour mes belles!!!!
"Joyeux Noel"..... a very Merry Christmas to everyone!

The flood water is has now reached the gate leading onto the marsh and we now have swans swimming ["seven swans a-swimming"]  just over the garden wall. Even Charles, le Baron du Breuil, has decided that they are too big to tackle, and is spending most of his time snoozing on one of the chairs. 

But no need to panic! This old house has stood here on the marsh since 1838, so if it was ever going to float away in the floods we think that it would have done so by now! Yesterday four deer in line shot past us and ran along one side of a field in search of cover, their grazing ground slowly being reduced as the water rises. How I wished I'd had the camera for that shot!

Earlier Mark had called out for me to come and look at something. And....would you believe it? A man getting into a wet suit at the gate before paddling off across the marsh in his canoe. Now that's a sight I've not seen from my bathroom window before!


Back to the village - and the village creche is still without a baby in the crib. When we return home late this evening from dinner with friends I will let you know if the baby has miraculously appeared - I suspect placed there by the Countess!!!  Failing that I shall paint a face on a sprout and place it in the crib! Or might this be night I catch the Countess in her nightie with her curlers in by torchlight finishing off the display?!! I wonder if she will be carried down the lane in a sedan chair?

Last night we hosted a candlelight mulled wine and mince pie " soiree" ( not trying to sound a bit like Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet) from TV's "Keeping Up Appearances"!!!) for some of our French friends and neighbours. The mulled wine went down a storm but I am not so sure the mince pies were a hit. I did explain they are an English tradition - but when someone asked me if they were a "cheese" pie I had to try and explain the ingredients, which isn`t easy when Mr Kipling is not to hand! Mark had also added quite alot of cointreau to the mulled wine so, at the end of the evening, who really cared what is in an English mince pie!!

We lit the chateau outside with tiny white and blue twinkling lights and, with the rain we've had, Mark had to place planks down over the flooded lane so our guests could reach us, with a flood light to show the way!

Marie Antoinette, the daughter of  Madame Guerin who had lived at the chateau before us, was too ill to attend - but her son and his family came along with a note - which turned out to be the best present I could have imagined.

When we first looked at the chateau and agreed to buy it there was a small stone dog kennel in the garden. Made of stone but in the wonderful "faux wood" effect it was totally charming. I was told it was the "niche a Kiki",  the pet dog of Madame Guerin. I fell in love with it straightaway

Imagine my dismay when we finally got the keys and found that the kennel had been removed from the garden.  

The niche had been removed beyond the chateau wall to a small farmyard up the road. I have been looking at it for the last three years and, on one occasion, even forced the visiting Tartelette Amy onto my shoulders to peer over the wall to check it was still there.

I have mentioned the 'disappearance' of the niche several times but nothing has ever happened. Last night, however, Marie Antoinette`s grandson was very eager for me to open a note she had sent me.
Marie Antoinette is giving me the niche for Christmas as her present - so it will be returned to its rightful home and I am over the moon!!!!

And a late addition to the blog.....we have just returned home late from dinner with friends and howled with laughter to find that someone has actually gone to the trouble of trecking out in the pouring rain to complete the creche and the baby Jesus has arrived!!!

Have a wonderfully happy and peaceful Christmas mes belles.


vendredi 21 décembre 2012

I surrender! Bonne Noel!

Since we came back from the UK my 'derriere' has hardly hit a seat! It's been so manic that I haven`t even been able to truffle through all the latest treasures I found last weekend at the brocante. I did take a few quick photos of a divine box of old Christmas tree decorations that I found - see above.  How wonderful that they had been stored away in their original box. That delicieux petite angel will be making an appearance on my tree!

With a host of village lunches and Christmas events to attend life has been so busy. The days are just flying by.

We dashed out yesterday to buy a Christmas tree and managed to find one with a good set of roots so we can plant it in the garden after Christmas. I was trying to get it into a large pot in the garden, my plan being to fill a large plastic bag with soil and then place it in the pot. 

Whilst  waiting for Mark to arrive with a shovel the heavens opened - so rather than let the tree go I simply put the plastic bag on my head to try and keep dry. At that precise moment two friends happened to pull onto the driveway to find me wearing this years latest "carrier bag" head gear and clutching a tree. So..............what? Everyone will be wearing them soon; I am simply starting a new trend!!! Needless to say the tree didn`t get potted and decorated as time slipped away.

Last night we attended two carol concerts, one almost immediately after the other! The first was a village event; an appearance by Father Christmas for the children in the town square, some carol singing and  lots of hot mulled wine. 

The second took place in a charming old chapel in the next town. The chapel had been beautifully dressed, and the evening started with a local lady singing the most wonderful solo of the old traditional 'Coventry carol' . The purity of her voice was so amazing, enhanced by the acoustics of the old church that I almost cried as her voice soared up to the vaulted stone roof.  I was saved from more singing by my good friend Marianne, standing by my side, who sang for both of us.  I had no idea  she was a budding opera singer and could hit such high notes! 
It was at that point ( whilst miming 'Oh come, all ye faithful;) that I at last started feeling " Christmassy"!

Today we dressed the tree but progress was slow due to a  a stream of welcome visitors, who enjoyed coffees and hot chocolates.

So.....I have finally decided to give up trying to photograph and list new items.  I also have given up trying to catch up with everything;  I am simply going to go with the flow! I surrender - just put a flashing Santa's hat on me, and drag me where you will!!

My new listings will start on the 27th  - subject to not having been kidnapped between now and then by more friends with their madcap festive antics. Bah..humbug!.

As for the village nativity scene ? The crib remains empty but, surprise surprise, a log fire with twinkling fairy light flames has appeared. Those shepherds must be warming the stable ready for the arrival! I will keep you posted on that one!!

Bonne Noel mes belles

mardi 18 décembre 2012

Let them eat cake...........

We travelled to the UK last week to visit family before Christmas. We all had a wonderful day out in Whitby but I was soon reminded of home when I came across this sweet cafe called Marie Antoinette`s.

Twinkling chandeliers and an inviting sign that reads "Let them eat cake" we did!!!!

We arrived back in France early this morning, left the airport and dashed to a 2000 dealer brocante and have just returned home shattered but the car is filled to bursting with treasures. I will try and add some photographs of the haul here tomorrow.

A demain mes belles

mardi 11 décembre 2012

The Countess and the creche

The large chateau in the next village is ensconced behind high walls with turrets on the corners. There is a long driveway from the entrance on the main road where it is just possible to see the chateau itself in the distance.

The Countess is responsible for the village Christmas creche and it always makes me smile when it is erected just outside one of the turrets for all the villagers to see - all of the figures are put in place except for the baby Jesus.

Last year the baby suddenly appeared on Christmas morning just as the bible story says. So I have spent all year wondering whether the Countess herself was driven down the tree-lined drive at midnight to place the baby in the manger; and did she wear her usual tweed chic suit or was she in her nightdress?

This Christmas eve we are going out to dinner with friends. When it is over should I hide behind the creche and see what happens. Will the countess or someone else place the baby Jesus; and, if he has already been placed, should I replace him at the dead of night for something else? A teddy bear? A pumpkin with a face painted on it? An inflatable Rudolf?

I know I would risk being struck by lightening for such a sacriligious  act - but I would love to see the villagers faces when they imagined that Madame La Comptesse must have been full of Christmas vin rouge when she tripped down the driveway to complete the scene!!

I love this sign on the chateau wall name could be added to it next year if I had the nerve to do it!!

For those readers who have read the earlier blog, here is a Ragondin nest ( or two!!) in the still-flooded marsh.

A la prochaine mes belles

dimanche 9 décembre 2012

Coffee and crowns!!

Yesterday I received an email from a lady asking if I might possibly be interested in an antique trousseau sheet with matching pillow cases that had been in her family for many years.

She added that the fact that they had embroidered crowns might put me off buying them - and  would understand if I said "No"!!!

I opened the photographs attached to her email. Oooooooh la la!  Nine 'points' across  the crown top....the aristocratic crown of a Count or Countess! 

My response to her email was definitely " OUI OUI OUI MADAME!!".

She lives quite a long way away from us but as there happened to be an  early morning flea market taking place close to her village today we decided it would worth making the long trip. We arranged to meet up with her early, and set our alarm for 6.30am.

When I woke up I noticed that  it was quite light outside - and then, in shock, realised it was 9am;  the alarm hadn`t gone off!

What a panic! We left the house at a gallop, hardly dressed and looking pretty dishevelled. We didn`t have  phone number for the lady; we just had to drive and hope she would wait.

Fortunately when we arrived she had spent some time looking around the brocante herself and was still there. We managed to complete the deal and still truffle out a few extra treasures even though we had arrived so late.

Setting out for home after the brocante we stopped off at a local cafe for a hot drink to warm ourselves up. Sipping my coffee I flicked through the local newspaper and something caught my eye.  A 'once a year' sale taking place at the beautiful Chateau de Tailleville with all sale proceeds going to charity...and the day of the sale:  today at 2pm!! I waited patiently whilst Mark checked the road map. Yes, Tailleville was only a half hours drive away.

Well , it just had to be done, especially after driving so far! We arrived at around 1 o`clock to find the chateau grounds deserted; not a car in sight so off to find another cafe for some lunch and more coffee.

We arrived back at the chateau at 1.45 to a very different sight: the car park was virtually full, but we were lucky to squeeze into a spot near the chateau entrance. Where had everyone suddenly appeared from?

Despite the large crowds we still managed to buy some gorgeous pieces. 

So what could have been quite a disappointing morning  actually turned out to be a wonderful full day of truffling!

Who says too much coffee isn`t good for you?

A la prochaine mes belles

vendredi 7 décembre 2012

New neighbours...........

The marsh water in front of the chateau is still flooded - but  daybreak can be simply spectacular as the sun begins to rise.

When I looked out a few mornings ago a whole host of  mud and straw huts had appeared,  each one popping out of the water like an igloo.

The Ragondins are here and have made themselves comfy for the winter.

Ragondins are marsh-dwelling coypu. They are normally very shy and keep themselves well hidden and although they live  here all year they are not easy  to spot.

They live in holes on the riverbank but when the marsh floods the river banks disappear deep under the water causing the ragondins to lose their homes.  Gradually their new huts appear as they gather sticks and straw to build a new lodge half under the water and half out in the dry.

  In the eight years we have been here I have only come face to face with one just once. We were as shocked as one another; we both stopped in our tracks and stared at each other!! I stared back into those huge, watery brown eyes - and my first thought was that the ragondin looked as if it should have had an apron, mop cap and a shopping basket!!

Every morning a new lodge seems to have appeared by magic -so how many ragondin families are out there? They eat only vegetation and are no danger to any other living species.

Sadly, they are quite unpopular with the French farmers who claim that the ragondins cause flooding and block the water courses with their activities. They say that their large subterranean dens undermine the surrounding land and they will sometimes eat wheat if found nearby. Any excuse for the hunters!

 Sometimes the hunters on the marsh will shoot anything that moves just for the fun of it - and I hate that! I have been tempted to creep out at night to drill holes in the boats they leave tied at the edge of the marsh by our gate! Can you imagine them all floundering in the water with their guns and all their hi-tech equipment in the mud? Sooooooooooooo tempting!

The regulations for hunters shooting on the marsh state that a hunter cannot fire his weapon 150 metres within the range of your home. I may have to move those huts even closer!

 I am keeping very quiet about the new families that have arrived. I like my new neighbours!!
Bonne weekend mes belles

dimanche 2 décembre 2012

What I want for Christmas............

I have told Mark that this is what I want for Christmas. Somehow I think it will be a "non" mes belles!!!

Oooh la la! Stunning desk and bureau once belonging to French royal mistress expected to fetch £20million at auction

  • Furniture once owned by Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompadour will go under the hammer at Christie's auction house in London this week
  • The items had been owned by Paris-based Iranian businessman Djahangur Riahi and his wife
A desk belonging to a French royal mistress on which she is said to have written her love letters to the king is expected to fetch £20million at auction.
The beautiful desk, owned by Louis XV's lover and one of the most powerful women in 18th century France Madame de Pompadour, will go under the hammer at Christie's auction house in London later this week.
The 18th century desk forms the centrepiece of a private art auction featuring two pieces belonging to Madame de Pompadour.
Regal: A beautiful desk belonging to Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompadour is expected to fetch £20million at auction this week
Regal: A beautiful desk belonging to Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompadour is expected to fetch £20million at auction this week
Beautiful: The desk is said to be the place where Madame de Pompadour wrote love letters to the French king
Beautiful: The desk is said to be the place where Madame de Pompadour wrote love letters to the French king
As well as the desk, a Louis XV ormolu-mounted Japanese lacquer secretaire-à-abattant by Bernard II van Risenburgh, a bureau will also go on sale.
The items had been owned by Paris-based Iranian businessman Djahangur Riahi and his wife who are among Paris' most prominent collectors of high value 18th century art pieces.
Part of the Riahi collection fetched £40million in 2000 in a sale at Christie's New York auction house.
The price of 18th century furniture by some of the most collectable cabinet makers has shot up.
The illegitimate daughter of a financier Madame de Pompadour, or Jean-Antoinette Poisson as she was born in 1721, was groomed to become a play thing of the king. She became his mistress and one of the most powerful women in 18th century France.
She met him at a ball in 1745 while dressed as a coquettish shepherdess and the king dressed as a tree.
Madame de Pompadour.jpg
Louis XV of France.jpg
Royal love: Madame de Pompadour, left, was King Louis XV's mistress
Her carriage was spotted outside his apartments later the same evening and although the pair's relationship wasn't expected to last, she had moved into rooms at the Palace of Versailles within weeks of their first meeting.
Madame de Pompadour is said to have been determined to make the relationship last and split with husband soon after moving into the palace.
She gained her own coat of arms and the title the Marquise de Pompadour.
She is said to have been attractive and educated.
Madame de Pompadour had a particular passion for porcelain and used art to seduce the king. She is said to have miscarried several times and eventually the pair's relationship become platonic as she was no longer able to have sex.
She began to commission images of herself based on the theme of friendship. Her final portrait shows her as a respectable, cultured middle-aged woman.
She had influence over all areas of royal police and was the unofficial minister of culture.
From the mid–1750s onwards, Pompadour became involved in foreign policy and was indirectly responsible for starting the Seven Years' War in which France suffered a humiliating defeat.
Her popularity slumped and she died in 1764 aged just 43.
Detail: Madame de Pompadour had expensive tastes and was unofficial French minister of culture
Detail: Madame de Pompadour had expensive tastes and was unofficial French minister of culture

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