French Country

My life in France is not what I expected.


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Buried Treasure

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You can see that I’m not just throwing all my money into holes in the ground. I am also burying it under floorboards.

These are the floor joists in the future kitchen for the little apartment that is attached to the house. Back when healthy people had live – in staff, the butler or housekeeper would have lived here. Now we plug in our labor – saving devices, so this is going to be used for what, I don’t know. No way will a rental pay back what this work will cost. I can’t just let the house rot, though, and it had gotten into a state where this sort of thing was necessary. Plumbing and wiring will be laid around these joists. A finish floor will go on top. Then, hey presto, these joists will have disappeared.


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Jacques Report

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Can you tell what this is? Let me explain.

I have a terrier. Terriers dig things up. Sometimes they bury things. You are looking at buried treasure, terrier – style.

These are little bits of chicken, along with little bits of dog food that got swept up in the haul. I fed Jacques more than he could eat. He couldn’t leave a treat like that in the bowl. Champion food thief that he is, he knows better. So he buried the excess in the sofa, covered it with clean laundry and a pillow.

I excavated and photographed his little trove. I knew you would want me to share. I just wish I had been there, camera at the ready, when my house guest Rebecca found the dead frog.


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William Christie’s garden

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I am starting to give some serious thought to what the garden will look like. I’ll be doing well to keep the weeds down but it’s depressing to think that way. So yesterday I cruised over to the next village where there is a house owned by, ahem, my favourite conductor, William Christie. I was in need of inspiration.

Back in the 80’s, I think, Christie bought a ruin. Since then he has rebuilt said ruin and surrounded it with a stunning garden, complete with a dovecote — all the doves are white, of course — a designer chicken coop with pedigreed chickens, an enormous pool of water, basically  the works. The photo above shows a bit of the monumental topiary that grow toward the front of the house.

I may never manage to grow a topiary that resembles the ocean waves. However I can create a garden with structured spaces, modest water features and a shady corner or two suitable for maybe just the briefest of naps.

I bet Christie started his garden by thinking that way, too.


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The bathroom of the future

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I have been trying to remember how and why I got myself into this project. As I had a little time today, I drove over to spend some time in the house, undistracted by workers. It was time well spent.

Though this looks like a before photo, a fair amount of demolition and cleaning has been done. Earlier shots would have been of a long partition wall which blocked any view of this area. Now you can see where my bathroom will go. That might remain as the bathroom door. We’ll add a couple of walls, a couple of fixtures. The skylights will be upgraded. The beams will remain exposed. We just got a permit to install two dormer windows,  one of which will go to the left, just off camera.

I want the attic to retain this feel but be comfortable and functional. It will be a difficult balance to pull off but I think I have the right team in place to do it. We shall see.


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Today’s Paris weirdness

If I can get a decent picture I’ll edit this post to add it. Just in case, I might as well tell you now.

I had a forced march to the American Library — SFR is out Again and I needed their wifi — and found myself going by the tail end of a race, probably a 5K, just for women. By the time I got there, nobody was running but the power walkers and the ladies in silly hats. Still, the bands were playing American rock music and the crowds were out. That’s all normal. This is the weird part. Greeting the women at the finish line was a team of high-school age guys dressed in full American football regalia: uniforms, pads, helmets. Proto-American guys, what’s up with that? A photo would not begin to tell you how odd they looked standing there at the entrance to the Ecole Militaire in those clothes, at least not the kind of photo that my equipment could take or my access would allow. And just before the finish line, microphone in hand, was a French rap singer. Could this be, I thought, a rap singer at an event intended to celebrate women? I had to wonder: is he going to call them bitches? Order them to shake their booty across the finish line? Last one in is a ho? I don’t know. Maybe the French don’t understand that one of the core values of traditional rap culture is disrespect of women. Maybe in France even the rap singers have a kinder, gentler ethic. Anyway, in the few minutes it took me to get past this guy, I heard nothing objectionable. But seriously, what happened to valuing French culture? Couldn’t he have been doing covers of Zaz or Johnny Hallyday?


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The best shampoo room in the world

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It’s this kind of thing that keeps me in Paris. The other day was haircut day, so I toddled in and was taken to have my hair washed. The  whole process is prosaic, no question, except that this is the shampoo room. I just wish that my living room looked this good, that my living room in the Vendee will ever look so elegant and inviting. In case you are wondering I go to David Mallet, just off the Place des Victoires.

I can’t really tell on this tiny screen but this photo might also illustrate the difference between what the eye and the camera can see. In life the reflection in the mirror is not blown out, nor is the cast of the horse head in deep shadow. In the photo, well, you see what you see.