Life in its current condition


This sort of thing, I kid you not, is roughly what I had in mind when I moved to France. Clean, simple, a little elegant, a little unexpected-but-nice. That was it. I’d get my photographic technical chops down. I’d always have my camera handy when I wanted it — not like now, when I am in Paris and the camera is hundreds of miles away, thus forcing my to break out the mobile phone or take no photo at all. No, I’d have it together.

I was going to be an amateur still life photographer. I’d have my pretty house in the countryside. It would have a garden and a potager from which I would select lovely items to present in a pristine fashion, then photograph. If that ever felt a little small, I’d vary the routine with some landscape shots. Maybe I would learn to play the piano. What a great life. If only.


This was yesterday and is actually a little more like my life right now. No one is hurt. I think they’ll even save the wheel. But hitting a nail on the motorway was not fun. By the time I was towed to the garage all I could think was, it could be worse. The motorway wasn’t flooded, for example, nor was my house; a lot of people in France right now would happily trade places with me. I ground to a halt at the side of a busy road but I did not flip over. I did that once, a long time ago. I do not recommend it.

And the house? Well, like a snake, it is shedding its skin. Down at the far end they are popping a doorway through a wall, so my imaginary potager will have an imaginary potting shed to go with it. Soon enough I will be able to show you how it looks all shiny and new. Well, more of a matte finish and new to the 19th century. Some day. You might even find a piano inside.


17 thoughts on “Life in its current condition

  1. Are you going to leave the stones showing? I think it’s so pretty, though a French friend who studied history and architecture tells me that houses without crêpie are considered “pas sain” because they take on humidity in winter.

    1. I’m going to refinish it the way they did originally. The house had a smooth finish, while the apartment had the stones showing. It’s kind of interesting the way the house talks to you. In this case the house stones are set in from the corner stones, while the apartment stones are nearly flush with the corner stones. The house stones want to recede. The apartment stones want to show off a little. So okay, we’ll let them get their way.

      I have to tell you, I’ve been looking at this crepie/render stuff and I don’t think it does anything but keep the birds from nesting in the cracks. Anyplace the guys didn’t put damp-proofing, I have moisture issues. I have rot on chairs that were stored in my supposedly dry basement. I have horrible spalling anyplace water found a resting place, including huge chunks of formerly crepie’d wall. One reason I put in the heated floors was to put a stop to rising damp. I may turn down the heat but I would turn it off at my peril.

      In Berkeley standing water and freezing are not issues. Here they are. So I have the heated floors. I have mega-super insulation, including foam filler at the window frames. The guys are resurfacing the walls, replacing the spalled corner stones, rebuilding one chimney and repairing or replacing the downspouts as necessary. Fortunately the slate roof was already done. I expect that nothing will leak until I hit maybe my ’90’s. Then, you know what? I’ll probably just let it go.

  2. I hope you are really OK … I had a double blow out at fortunately low speed last summer in Cantal with my daughter. The kindness of strangers was immense but my imagination would not sit still and keep reminding me how much worse it might have been. So I hope you are really OK. The house, I need hardly tell you, and the life, piano and all will emerge, are emerging. Life is good if we let it be 🙂

    1. Oh, thank you, that’s nice. These people were kind, too. There was some kind of mixup with the cab, so the folks at the garage waited with us, hours past closing time, until one showed up. They even played with Jacques and gave him water. The worst part wasn’t afterward. It was during, while the car was rattling around on a busy highway. But I had the little yellow reflective jacket and my resident French guy to run interference. Plus I have insurance. When I rolled the car, so long ago, I found out that my dad had let his lapse. Oops. So given the situation, it really wasn’t all that bad.

      1. I’m sorry – I have to laugh at you father lapsing your insurance. It brings to mind an impoverished moment in my life when my sternly loving father was working out my balance sheet and announced the dog insurance was a frippery. I protested that if she was sick or injured I would struggle to pay the vet bill. He rather disparagingly said if the need arose HE would be the insurance and cover the bills. A week later she was diagnosed with a phantom pregnancy and put on several months of expensive treatment. He paid and I kept my thoughts to myself!!

        1. Funny. I wouldn’t have rubbed it in but surely I would have said something. Lucky you to have a dad like that. Back in my college days my cat was hit right in the eye with a baseball. I paid the vet bills out of my grocery money, I think. My parents would not have had him neutered and they would have had him put down.

          1. I was extremely fortunate. My father was a good, decent, gentle man. Family lore is a strange thing … we have a code of silent-communication in our family … often nothing is spoken, in fact I have described my older brother as mute on more than one occasion (I am not – I talk. A lot) but we sort of understand the points without them being spelled out verbally. Back to your story though …. I imagine that the moments when the tire burst on the motorway were extremely frightening. I am also extremely glad that Jacques was well looked after. The French are particularly good at being decent to animals, I find (pet animals that is).

  3. It sounds like you were lucky, again. It does put stuff into perspective though.
    Surprised by your damp problems. We have had none apart from ingress from the formerly neglected roof, obviously, and a little efflorescence under the stairs in workshop which dried out when the new doorway was opened up.
    We are rendered, a decision made before our time simply because its a patchwork house.
    I do think yours wants render. We have to.

    1. Yes, the render covers a multitude of sins.

      I think the fact that you live so far south of me solves a lot of your moisture issues. It gets wet but then it dries out. We are in the water, canals and everything, like Holland, so we have to think about it all the time.

  4. I like the render and I like the stones. We have a complete mixture in our house here in the Charente Maritime too. The house is rendered, painted white and the guest house has been left with the bare stones showing, the contrast is quite striking and it works well. Neither have damp problems though, but we have had to deal with leaking Windows instead! Life with old French houses!

    1. Thank you. Of course I can’t help but think that if I were truly sane I would not have gotten into this. Someday, though, it will be quite nice.

  5. those iPhone cameras are not too bad

    the plan sounds wonderful – but then it seems that there are many exciting things happening – whether on the plan or not

    looking forward to seeing pictures of the house as it moves closer to completion (is there such a thing as completion as a final destination?)

    gmn >

    1. It’s taking a long, long time, Gerard, but yes, one fine day, I’ll be able to show you photos of a completed house. By the time the last one gets to your inbox you will have forgotten the others, that’s how long it is taking. And really, having the house done just means I can move onto the garden and back into having a life. This house renovation was supposed to be a project, not the only one.

Comments are closed.