My house in its previous incarnation

The woman who sold me my house — when it was in the condition you see in these photos — came by for tea the other day. She brought a friend to show her what I had done with it. I was impressed by her ability to be objective about the whole thing and pleased that she was pleased by the changes.

I have always been deeply emotionally involved with my homes. I have had a vision for them. If subsequent owners do not share that vision, fine, but I don’t want to know about it. I have never returned to or even driven past one of my old homes. So it was a relief to know that she was so comfortable with the idea of this no longer being her house.

She was invited because I want to collect stories about the house and its owners. While there is much talk about “patrimoine,” or heritage, here in France, people don’t often seem to apply it to their daily lives. For example I have no photos of the house that predate these “before” record shots. And, I learned from her, there is a roughly 100-year gap in my knowledge of its ownership and life.

In about the 1960’s her — let’s call her MP — grandfather bought a derelict house. It had been abandoned for some time, so they got it plus quite a bit of land for a song. MP knows nothing about the previous owners. Her family put as little effort as possible into improvements, though to their credit, if they did do something, they tended to get it right. The slate roof, for example, must have cost a bundle. Most of the money went into building up the family business, a porcherie. Where I park my car, they raised pigs. They owned a slaughterhouse in Luçon, which doubtless served others. Granddad kept vineyards where a lotissement now crowds my walls.

Granddad died and, eventually so did MP’s dad. Her brother and uncle discontinued the business. Her mother stayed in the house, living on her share of the sale proceeds, then on the sale of the surrounding land. When she died, the house fell further into disrepair. When I bought it, it had been on the market for three years.

And that’s basically it, for now. What happened between 1860, when it was first built, and roughly 1960, when Grandad’s eye for a bargain brought him here, remains a mystery. Next stop, the notaire. He keeps the ownership records.