London rooftops

I needed a break — from the countryside, from the reality series that is my life, from all of it, so here I am in London. I’m still getting used to the idea that London is a short distance from where I live; I’m used to it being half a world away.

The stone floor has arrived.

Even by snapshot standards, this isn’t a very good picture. However you can see this truck, which I find quite impressive. The lift is on the truck and the whole process is automated. The guys can just move the pallets from side to side and place then anywhere they want them to go. The whole unloading process, start to finish, was about ten minutes.

Back when I started doing this kind of work, the transporter lost space on the truck because he often had to carry a separate forklift. Even worse, I have seen way too many laborers carrying the stone, piece by piece, long ant-lines of skinny, dirty, exhausted men. This is better.



Just before they wrapped up yesterday,  the guys put up curtain rods and curtains. True, there are a few things missing here: switch plates, a radiator, the TV and, oh yeah, glass in the windows. But I’m not watching much TV, not until the US Open starts. It’s summer and the shutters work — that one, anyway — so I’m fine without the glass and radiator. Any progress looks good to me.

The curtains are by Caravane. They sell you lengths of fabric, really. You fold the fabric to get the length you want and clip it to the curtain ring. Easy Peasy. No way was a professional curtain guy going to show up an hour from the nearest real city and I like these, so they were an obvious choice.


Vallée du Moulin?

Yes, the apartment is more or less ready. It is painted, it has a finish floor and a working bathroom. One apartment all-but-the-kitchen down, one house to go.

So after a roughly two-year odyssey across an entire continent, financial hassles, legal hassles — settling any estate is a legal hassle — mind-bending grief and generally turning myself inside out to deal with all of it, you’d think I would have changed a little bit. You’d think life in France would give me a taste for that Louis-Louis furniture that pops up everywhere, or at least the Philippe Starck plastic version of it. But no. On the first day of unpacking, what did I do? I created a small corner of Mill Valley, circa pretty much any time from the early ’70’s to the present.

So, Cassina sofa on the left, Poltrona Frau Archibald chair on the right and, sitting on the vintage oriental just in front of the Païste 38″ Earth gong, an Archibald footstool. The paint is Flint, a Little Greene color that is blessedly not as white as it looks in the photo.

I just know you are curious about the gong. Païste, a Swiss company that makes cymbals, symphonic gongs and other things, has a series of planetary gongs. Each one is tuned to the vibrations of a particular planet, in this case the planet Earth. You can feel that gong vibrate, no question. Whether in so doing it causes me to vibrate in tune with the planet is an open question. It does make a glorious sound, which the workers assure me can be heard all over the property. Striking the gong and feeling it resonate is extremely calming — extreme calming, how cool is that? — and for that reason alone I am happy to finally have it unpacked.

My friend Nico, who really does live in Mill Valley, has about a dozen of these gongs. Yes, she has more gongs than planets, so she also has Chiron and a couple of other things. She gives you this amazing facial with special wands, oils, tuning forks and who knows what all. Then, while you are laying there hoping some of that goodness will soak in, she gives you a gong bath. She chooses the gongs that her intuition tells her are what you need that day to be emotionally balanced. That’s when you melt into the table and thank the gods that led you to her little tucked-away office. Nico is fully booked and probably has a waiting list for cancellations or I would tell you how to find her.

I am a long way from Nico right now. Most of the time I make do with YouTube. I hope you enjoy your gong bath. Given my level of technical klutziness, I mostly just hope it’s there for you.

Jacques Report


This is Jacques after four hours spent  entertaining three adorable little children. He’s a bit exhausted but the children felt that he, too,  was adorable, so the visit was a success.

I am pleased to report that he recovered. Today we are on a train, headed back to the house. My suitcase contains no clothing. I brought two wifi repeaters, a deluxe hand mixer — bought on sale, of course — a converter for the Vonage box, a pan to test the new induction cooktop and miscellaneous other indispensable electronic and related items. Yes, to the country house. It’s all very “the American has landed.”

Once there I will make sure at least one TV is installed. We will hook it up to the cable box. Oh, and I can finally start unpacking some furniture. It’s just the little apartment off to the side but it’s a start.

In the back of my mind is a Winston Churchill quote about being at the end of the beginning.  Is that right? This hasn’t been a war, for which I am grateful,  but it has been a long, expensive slog.

Now to finish the house.

My house got a peel.

What a change. I guess Stuart just couldn’t stand the sight of all that spalling, decrepit render, so he took it off. I got a call one day. “We’re just going to chip it off. It will be cleaner.” Well, he says a lot of things and chip, it sounds like no big deal. Who can object to clean? I said sure, sounds good Stuart, and went back to playing Crime City. But this, this may be the single biggest visual change of the whole project.

The question is whether I keep it that way or replace the render. I have noticed that a few houses in the village have been left with exposed stones, like this. Sometimes they limewash the facade, which adds a kind of finish but still leaves the stones. It is pretty expensive to cover it all back up again. I have to think about whether I like the look or would prefer the more formal appearance of a smooth finish. I don’t know. Back when the house was built, it would never have been left this way. What do you think?

Almost a terrace

Little by little, we’re getting there. I wanted to be able to sit outside, someplace easily accessible from the kitchen. Not that I have a kitchen yet, but that’s the idea. So the guys put a hole in the future kitchen wall to make room for a door and they built me a little terrace. This will be paved with nice stone or tile — not yet selected — and rendered or something to prettify the sides. They will put a little staircase on the side that you see here and hey presto, I’ll have access to the garden. Off in the corner I will put a Brown-Jordan table and chairs that I brought from California, the first thing that Robert and I bought together. Something old, something really old and something new, I guess.