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Coup de Coeur – Part Three: I beg your pardon …

I’m no magician and smoke and mirrors are not part of any repetoire I possess however much I might sometimes wish they were.   In arrant contrast, it was abundantly clear that the incumbent owner of the house was a maestro of the art.  What greeted us was a filthy mess though there were still a number of rather lovely pieces in the house.  But we had this feeling, this sense that it can be, will be, beautiful again.  We signed the Acte that made us the legal owners exactly a year after we first viewed it.  A year that will remain forever tatooed on my little brain and a year that provides the reference for my novel in process.

Three months after signing the Acte the process of cajoling the previous owner (who mostly spends his time in Marseilles and seems mostly to be unable to leave his bed though he was beyond vigorous when we met) to come and take what he wanted from the house before the start of les grandes vacances on 1st July or thereabouts, was ongoing.  The village had been totally and remarkably supportive of us and we had agreed that they could use the ground floor as an Office de Tourisme and that they could revert to the years old tradition of using the house in their famed Nuits de Marcoles.   In France if the owner of the effects wants them you have to dance a lengthy gavotte before you can retain them or eject them.  We danced.  The village stowed things upstairs to make way for their tourist office.  We continued to dance.  The summer festivites came and went.  We still danced.  Le Monsieur came and went sporadically and things disappeared.  He was clearly suffering from the cold further south in Mediterranean Marseille because he decided to rip the radiators from their moorings excavating chunks of wall with them.  All this is legal by the way.  We carried on dancing.   Finally about a year ago word came that he had taken all he wanted.  Exhausted, we threw off our Red Shoes and stopped dancing.

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I drove south to my newly empty house.  Wind back.  Empty?  Nah!  Every stick of junk he possessed was  still there.  Somehow my enchanting house, the place I fell in love with on the internet, remember, had turned into a cold, unwelcoming landfill site.  We had known it was impossible to walk across the grenier (attic) floor, my husband had kept the worst secrets of the cave (cellar) from me on the basis that the ladder was dodgy.  Lies, all lies – I’m quite the mountain goat on the quiet as it turns out and I bound up and down quite nimbly, thank you.  But I chose not to argue, nor look, frankly fearful of what I might find.  The truth was far worse than any imagined fiction.  And sandwiched in the middle of top and underground floors are two others which somehow seemed to have sprouted their own detritus.  In abundance.

Enter the town.  Monsieur le Maire de Marcoles is officially my hero.  His assistant can clearly trace her ancestry to celestial angels.  The town would see to the emptying.  The least they could do in the face of our saving their jewel (they call it their emblem) … well actually they didn’t need to but my goodness me we snapped their hands off with the speed and certainty of a Kingfisher skewering it’s supper.

The town workers (les chantiers) set about their task.  They fitted it in between their routine and other jobs.  I journeyed down after a month and was overjoyed.  A week later I went again and could not believe it – there was even more debris than the week before.  This bizarre and unwelcome routine continued for weeks.  Smile-despair-smile-despair.  Every single time I thought there was nothing else to unearth, the jolly chantiers found more.  Not that I was complaining, they were moving the damned stuff.  And it was just stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  The physical incarnation of a clearly disturbed mind.  The demented collection of a frenzied, and almost certainly certifiable magpie.

In November, we were in the Mairie discussing something or other with the beatified assistant when the chief chantier came staggering in.  He looked at us, shrugged the most glorious gaelic shrug I have EVER seen and told us we were entirely mad to have taken on the house.  The beatifeic one laughed angellically.  I felt sick.

Christmas loomed.  We were to spend it in England.  HB² arrived at my mother’s house on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day (his birthday incidentally), he checked email.  The beauteous creature who is the assistant to the mayor of Marcoles (I’ve recommended her for canonisation) had sent us a note:   ‘The house is empty.  Happy Christmas’.  We danced.

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PS:  The picture shows me clasping a rose.  A rose plucked by the mayor the first time we showed him inside a house he remembered from his childhood throughout his adolesence and for a large chunk of his adult life when it was always, always part of village festivities.  Until the previous denizen moved in.  The rose-bush flourishes on the side of the house.  The Mayor has taken it upon himself to keep it tended in our absence.  And tells me whenever he has pruned, or re-fastened it to the wall with a liberal sparkle in his eye – something I have noted, he is more than rather good at.   I may not have been promised a rose garden, but I beg your pardon – I got one tended by the highest official in town!

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Catch up on the previous installments of this noble saga here which contains a link to part one

67 Comments Post a comment
  1. OMG – this is spectacular even by French standards – They are incidently, a nation of hoarders – I could cry when I think of the treasured and semi valuable things that I sold for a song in the car boot sale in Wales, because there would be no room for them in our small one bedroom flat – only to have Marc stuff every nook and cranny with empty Felix cat food boxes amongst other things! (he goes on to fill these with more junk!)
    Not quite such a horror story, but when we saw the flat (which we rent) it had a kitchen of sorts, when we moved in all tat was left was a sink (all they have to have to call it a kitchen apparently!)
    So we were off to IKEA buying and building kitchen units on the day we moved (22nd December) as my daughter and her partner were coming on the 24th to stay for Christmas!
    What a super village you have landed in though!
    P.S. I am sorry, after 6 years, I must be becoming French as I am eyeing up the old wine crates in the photo………..

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2015
    • Oh Lindy! You have me laughing out loud all by myself and hoping the neighbours can’t hear! You had me at cat food boxes but when you then own up to eyeing the wine crates – mon dieu! I live in a rented place too – a story in itself – whilst we struggle to make some sense of what can be and will be lovely!!! It’s extraordinary though, isn’t it that all you need to say its a Cuisine is a sink? At least the commune who own the appartement I live in had the grace to give us a few cupboards!!! Bon courage ma brave! xx

      Like

      October 9, 2015
      • You seriously didn’t throw them out! I give you another 12 months and you will be looking at those photos again thinking ‘hmmm Lindy was right’….

        Liked by 1 person

        October 9, 2015
      • Get counting! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        October 9, 2015
  2. PPS – love the title of this post – but now I cannot get the damn song out of my head – cheers Olyth

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2015
    • Sorry! It had to be done …. I made the mistake of finding the youtube clip and playing it so we are one in Ile de France the other in Auvergne innanely playing a beehived chanteuse in our heads!!

      Like

      October 9, 2015
  3. Smile for a while and let’s be jolly……….

    Like

    October 9, 2015
    • Life shouldn’t be so melancholy …..

      Liked by 1 person

      October 9, 2015
      • Anyone under the age of 45 will think we’ve gone stark raving mad…..

        Liked by 1 person

        October 9, 2015
      • Fine by me – after all along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometimes 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        October 9, 2015
  4. I’ve seen worse, we bought worse, I am channelling the little sparrow …………..

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2015
    • Chapeau for what you have achieved 🙂

      Like

      October 9, 2015
  5. It’s a marvellous tool, digital photo editing………………………

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2015
    • The previous owner is a professional photographer – smoke and mirrors, I rest my case 😉

      Like

      October 10, 2015
  6. I think I would have been looking for hired killers to deal with your prevaricating owner….or arranging a booby trap with some of the heavier items….or – a surprise for him – a new trap door under his rubbish….

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
  7. Oh my goodness, what a heap of junk! You must have been overjoyed to get it all removed. Have you been working on the house since then? I would love to see how it’s coming along. (Sorry if I missed a post on that!)

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
    • We are working on the house – you haven’t missed anything (there are three posts on it so far the first in July and the second two in the past week). I will write another installment in 3 or 4 weeks time – it only gets worse 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      October 10, 2015
  8. I love this post! I love how you write and your language! Your picture is lovely next to the roses and yes happy Christmas indeed! You said you danced, magpie, sorry but I just love your language and had to read it again!! What a pile of “stuff” to contend with! Love all of the pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
  9. Like ZuZu in A Berkshire Tale, I do so love happy endings! You are truly very patient souls.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
  10. Cripes, even my personal wailing wall in the garage is tint in comparison to that mountain of crap! Holy Moses! Three cheers for Mr le Maire and his gang of willing hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
  11. Not tint, tiny. I think I should go to bed now.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
  12. October 11, 2015
  13. Love your written and even more love your rock walls….I can see past the junk and see the beauty….did you still have the beautiful turquoise chandelier…..its spectacular…it is a gem in the rough….your very lucky….and I am very jealous…..LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2015
    • Sadly he took the chandelier (took all the lighting except a storm lantern which he seemingly couldn’t remove. You are totally on my wavelength – it will be beautiful. I was sad that he took the lights and mirrors but console myself that I shall be able to spend hours in flea markets, antique shops and best of all at auctions finding the right pieces to show off those walls! Thank you for seeing our poor battered beauty as she really is!

      Like

      October 11, 2015
      • I am jealous, what a beauty you have bought…I was telling my husband last night how much fun it would be restoring the house how you wanted it…I can’t wait for the pictures as you move forward….kat

        Liked by 1 person

        October 11, 2015
      • I feel pretty spoiled as it happens …. I’m so glad you are enjoying the posts. There will be another in 3 or 4 weeks – I’m playing them out a bit until we are up to present. There are a few bumps in the road until we get there 😉

        Like

        October 11, 2015
      • as to be expected…bumps only make the smooth part of the journey all the more enjoyable…

        Liked by 1 person

        October 11, 2015
      • When I’m stamping my foot like a horrible toddler my husband reminds me that it’s all just bumps in the road that make the smooth bits smoother – you two would get one!

        Like

        October 11, 2015
      • LOL we just see life through the same rose colored glasses…LOL

        Liked by 1 person

        October 11, 2015
  14. October 11, 2015
  15. Arby #

    I love the writing, hate the junk. I’ve not seen worse, and obviously haven’t bought worse – guess I live a sheltered life. Anyway, bon courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2015
    • I suspect there are few worse in truth, Arby – the pictures actually make it look better than it was after Mr Magpie had done his worst! There is junk and then is junk of biblical proportions. However, like beauty – perhaps it’s in the eye of the beholder – mirror, mirror, on the wall 😉

      Like

      October 11, 2015
  16. The patience of a Saint yourself Fiona.
    OMG! How do you cope, it must be like living in another country 😉
    Can you imagine the same scenario here in the U.K? I think not!!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 12, 2015
    • Nope – I’m good but I can’t imagine that! Then again, the village councils tend to a bit less ahem hands on over the water as I recall 😉

      Like

      October 12, 2015
      • Yes, if your house here was full of rubbish a couple of years ago, you would certainly find it still full of rubbish today because helping thy neighbour or do something worthwhile from a position of power are a long forgotten memory in this country for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 12, 2015
      • Long may it last here – I’m not at all convinced they appreciate what they have … like us all I suppose 🙂

        Like

        October 12, 2015
  17. Jenny Adams #

    I am so loving reading this as I was privileged to see La Maison Carré when I visited Fiona in 2014. I remember the rose which we pruned a little to tame it. Inside the potential was clear in spite of all the detritus. I am very happy for you both that progress is being made!

    Like

    October 12, 2015
    • It’s baby steps Jenny, but there is more to show … my cadence for these pieces should be around one per month so I hope you will be psyched up and ready for the next in November. On a personal note – I remember so well our trip to Marcoles, our taming of the rose (now taken over by Christian Montin but hold that thought because I feel I may want to have some say about what goes in the flower beds even though they aren’t technically mine) and all the other laughs we had on that little holiday 🙂 Come back soon xx

      Like

      October 12, 2015
  18. vraiment épique… 🙂 coup de coeur ou de foudre?… btw, who’s that pretty lady?!… 😉

    Like

    October 12, 2015
  19. What a great read at 1:30 in the morning with jet lag 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    October 14, 2015
    • Some sort of delirium is certainly helpful 😉

      Like

      October 14, 2015
  20. Lovely story. What a great community

    Liked by 1 person

    October 15, 2015
    • Thank you! They are pretty special – we are hugely fortunate.

      Like

      October 15, 2015
  21. Woo hoo. That is one impressive pile ‘o stuff. Good to know it’s not just Americans who get attached. Congratulations and hope this Christmas is even happier. What this last Christmas? Cheers —

    Liked by 1 person

    October 27, 2015
    • It was last Christmas … 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment – have a great day, and don’t hang onto TOO much 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      October 27, 2015
  22. Pan #

    The previous owner is likely now sprouting a new hoarders nest.. You and hubby must’ve been sporting some mighty blisters from all that dancing !
    I want to hug the mayor and vote for him ! Though neither are possible, please let him know that this american admires him..
    Cute pun on the rose garden 😄 I used to sing along on the radio when it came out..
    The boxes, the junk, 😨 WOW

    Liked by 1 person

    January 15, 2016
    • I will pass your admiration to M’sier le Maire … he is actually quite an inspirational fellow and I will devote a post to him some time. As for the junk junkee ….. I know where he lives and I won’t be visiting!

      Like

      January 15, 2016
  23. Pan #

    Is that a blocked up passageway by the cellar steps ??? I was going to say if it were my project, I’d start pulling out stone 2′ from the cellar floor, every 2′ all the way around.. simply because the building was built in 1203.. I think that’s the year I read.. anyhow, so many centuries ago, could there be a tunnel for quick escape for residents in the medieval era ? Or a more modern body dump ? Jimmy Hoffa still hasn’t been found.. Geraldo would be first to help you there.. Is there a catacomb littered with bones of mislead doomsdayers, sealing themselves up inside, trying to escape Armageddon that hasn’t arrived yet ? There could be a city of bodies in tunnels that wind under.. Or could there be a box full of relics, a time capsule or maybe capsules from different eras in the walls ? Or treasure ?
    Btw, if you start finding bodies, someone with a badge will be visiting Mr. Hoarder if they’re recent..

    Liked by 1 person

    January 15, 2016
    • The passageway that isn’t is actually just where they have put stud walls in to make a bathroom … we are going to remove it and the pre-cast concrete blocks that are holding up the stairs (very unattractive). The bathroom will go upstairs and we hope to put a small WC into part of the bathroom space but want as much as possible reclaimed for the kitchen – a room close to your heart …. The opening to the cellar is going to have a glass door on it and we will light the cellar so that people can glimpse the ‘guts’ of the building which hopefull will not be revealing any petrified guts from a byegone era!!!

      Like

      January 15, 2016
  24. Pan #

    Sigh, I was so hoping for a catacomb or even a little tunnel.. grrrrr..
    But there’s a lot of wall all the way around.. I can at least dream that a tattle tale stone will loosen and drop to reveal secrets from beyond !!!
    I think its awesome that ppl will be able to glimpse a view of the cellar.. If I could, I’d like to see it all, it really is an amazing structure.. It’s one of those buildings you’d love to have the walls talk.. The history it’s stood thru, the ppl who have walked the floors..

    Liked by 1 person

    January 15, 2016
    • It’s an extraordinary place. Quite unique in fact. There are a number of watchtowers intact in the area but ours fell down and the stone was pillaged and then someone rebuilt, on top of the existing remains, with the remaining stone the house that you see today. That was in 1830 and it is my mission to understand why they did it … what prompted it. Inside, according to the Mayor, it is changed downstairs from his childhood when it was 3 or four tiny rooms … now it is almost open plan with the exception of the bathroom which we will move but upstairs the original walls are in place and I will be writing a piece all about them in the next month or so. I’m a bit of a suspense fiend so I am only posting these once a month … otherwise I will catch up with where we are now too quickly. We hope to be finished by mid-September but that may not be achievable. And you never know – it may still have surprises in the cellar – it was after all the Tour Seignorale and originally inhabited by a priest …..

      Like

      January 15, 2016
  25. Oh my God! This looks so much like a Tim Burton movie! 😉 And am I happy that your husband didn’t´t let you go into the cellar – the spiders must have been Aragog-sized! Brrr! All this stuff and clutter – imagine having to get it out all on your own! One would have spent years and years! The roses though are pure delight! 😀 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    March 13, 2017
    • Honestly, I don’t think we would EVER have managed without the help the town gave us. We are so indebted to them and will do everything in our power to deliver them a place that delights them. I couldn’t bear it if they were whispering behind hands in the bar that we had wrecked the place … actually the Monsieur who had the place before provoked not whispers but cries of horror but that is another story! Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      March 13, 2017
      • That monsieur sounds intriguing… maybe you can give him a chapter of your book? 😉 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        March 16, 2017
      • He IS the book…. an absolute gift of a character 😉 xxxx

        Liked by 1 person

        March 16, 2017
    • Oh and yes! Tim Burton! How I love him ….

      Liked by 1 person

      March 13, 2017

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