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Coup de Cœur – 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 a novel in progress in my head.

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 Marcolès.   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.

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 despicable lies – I’m quite the mountain goat on the quiet and I bound up and down ladders 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.   Abundantly.

Enter the town.  Monsieur le Maire de Marcolès 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 (generally referred to as les ouvriers) 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 what greeted me – 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 ouvriers 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 (town hall, if you will) discussing something or other with the beatified assistant when the chief ouvrier came staggering in.  He looked at us, shrugged the most glorious gaelic shrug I have EVER seen and told us we were entirely and clearly 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 Marcolès (I’ve recommended her for canonisation) had sent us a note:   ‘The house is empty.  Happy Christmas’.  We danced.


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 adolescence 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 – sparkling at ladies being 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!

And just because I can and I fancy giving you a bonus … here’s Moira Shearer again but this time strutting her red shoes  to Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’  … let’s face facts, I know the feeling.

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

155 Comments Post a comment
  1. Goodness the previous owner would definitely find a place on “Hoarders”… I cannot fathom how removing radiators from walls could be allowed. You are blessed to have had such wonderful support from the local people. They are indeed angels. The rose is indeed a beauty to be cherished.

    January 10, 2018
    • French laws are a little strange (though doubtless ours are to the French) and it is not at all uncommon to move into a house with no light fittings, nothing but a tap in the kitchen …. the villagers are amongst the most beautiful people I have ever encountered and we do feel extremely fortunate to be accepted by them. There are more stories to come about those roses but not yet written – just lurking in my soupie brain!

      January 10, 2018
      • Scottish law as I remember it was at the other extreme. Everything had to remain the same as shown. Curtains etc that were to go had to be listed…

        January 10, 2018
      • They brought that same law south just before I sold my last house in 2008 and I remember the endless form that had to be filled out. But it was a good thing – no nasty surprises for anyone!

        January 10, 2018
      • Yes. It is a pity you had to go through such a trying time.

        January 10, 2018
  2. Finally, I have finished Part Three! I have been so looking forward to reading this series but family stuff has taken over and now I am about to have osteopathy and take a break for a couple of weeks, so I will have to wait even longer 😕 I am at a complete loss to comprehend how someone can get away with leaving a house in that state. What wonderful neighbours you have to help out with it. I think I would have had a never-ending attack of the vapours on the spot. What a lovely pick of you with the rose, I’m not a fan of roses, but that is a glorious red and suits you to a ‘T’. I hope it survived all the coming and going. 💜

    January 10, 2018
    • French law is different and when one is dealing with a nutter one stays calm and tries not to ruffle the waters. The people had known him and were hugely sympathetic and delighted that at last someone wants to rescue their gem. I guess that sums it up. The red red rose is gorgeous (and so is the pink one) which is fortunate because we actually do not own the ground except exactly what the stones stand on so the little beds are owned by the town and require tender negotiations to allow me to grow the things I might want to down the line. Fortunately I do like roses and hydrangea which are abundant. But I do need my herbs ….. 😉

      January 10, 2018
      • I do understand. My mum had a lovely friend next door who sadly had to go into a care home. Her son took over the bungalow and things went south from there. He had schizophrenia and was a hoarder, he had rusting cars on the front, his gardens became a haven for wildlife – the sort that invade your (and Mum’s) home – the house was filled with detritus, and dogs.
        Mum had to put up with it for years, she was frightened of shaking the tree.

        January 10, 2018
      • My brother-in-law is schizophrenic …. there are often OCD and hoarding tendencies. It is awfully hard for someone living next door. This particular fellow though, I call a nutter advisedly – like us all he has a particular personality but the most outstanding quality is his narcissism and zippo understanding or care of his own impact on others including the wife that left him, I believe. He moved to the village, lived there for 13 years and gradually lost all respect from the community. Which when you consider the house is literally in the middle of the village with no ground around it, seems a tiny bit foolish. But as I say, he had no notion nor care of his own impact – very very selfish in fact 😔

        January 11, 2018
    • PS …. hope the back breaking goes well … I sympathise utterly

      January 10, 2018
      • Thank you. I wince at every picture thinking about the back-breaking work going into it.

        January 10, 2018

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