Today, February 28th, 2018, marks one year that I shuttered my beloved bookshop. The closing was emotional, exhausting, and beautiful. I said farewell to twenty glorious years, years of interacting with wonderful folk from all over the world, who shared the desire to cook and eat well. And reading, the joy of reading real books. How I lament losing my superb collection of books! It was truly a source of knowledge and comfort for me as well as a resource available to the community. For all of you who miss my shop and library, I mourn with you.
But time and tide wait for no man or woman, especially one who doesn’t care to sit quietly. So, I took an enormous leap of faith and found myself in France, renovating an old house. Many of us dream of moving to a village in Europe, old and storied, quaint and pretty. What a delight to purchase a house with hundreds of years of history and memories. The residue of other people’s lives clinging to the walls. And a garden, a private garden. I am still in disbelief that this house is actually mine. I am the owner of a house in France, with a desire to leave my notch in the annals of its existence.
I did not set out to purchase a house in France. Oh, I had an odd thought about it from time to time but I never seriously inspected the idea. But one day, in this village, I was enjoying a glass of wine with friends and someone mentioned the house across the rue was for sale. Madame had passed and her family was going to sell the house she had lived in for 50 years. Someone else expressed the desire to see the house and I said I would tag along. I walked through a dark house with many rooms and stairs. We exited through the back door of the big house, into a courtyard which has a small house attached. I saw two doors and one window. One door opens to a well that is shared with another property. The other door opens to a room containing a large old concrete sink and a door leading down to a large cave. The stairs to the top floor of this “atelier” are on the outside. We climbed the stairs, turned left and continued along a short passage until we found a door that opens to a workshop. This was where Madame’s husband had obviously spent many happy hours with a massive collection of tools and a well used work bench. To the right of this workshop door are a few steps that take you into the garden. At first glance, I noticed that the north side of the garden is protected with a very high wall. The other side features a view of sloping roof tops that shelter houses along another rue. At the back of the garden is a structure resembling a cloister and, to the far right, there is a gate to a back passage which leads to another rue.
As I stood in the garden, I began to tremble. A vision seared into my brain, swift and clear. I had found a house, with a garden, that I believed I could renovate into a home for me, to share with others.
One might think that when a cautious soul has made a decision to buy a home in a community, she would take the time to see what else was on offer in the neighbourhood. Not moi. I knew this was the house for me and I bought it. Now, I find myself ensconced in the incredible adventure of renovating in a culture that is different from what I have understood, learning to speak the language that has reared this country, and wondering why it is so difficult for a tradesman to accept that I don’t want a closed door in my personal quarters between the chambre and the salle de bain!
And as is wont to be, life is everywhere. The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. To date I have experienced much joy, some sorrow, and yes, I am exhausted! But the vision is strong. Spring is around the corner, and when the planting begins I envision a new life evolving for le jardin, la maison, et moi.
I will keep you posted as the world according to this Madame, moves along. And if I work my luck well, there will one day be an interesting old house, in a quaint town, ready for lively encounters with good folk who love to read, cook, eat, and think well.