Archive for the ‘News from the House’ Category

La Transhumance

June 4, 2019

To steal a phrase from Garrison Keillor, it has been a quiet week at les Sarziers . . . .

On Thursday we played an Apéro Swing in Vernoux for Emilie and her dancers, which was a lot of fun.

The next day it was time to get started on the elderflower syrup.

Then the weather suddenly turned boiling over the week end and it was both a real pleasure and a relief to spend a day in Brice and Lisa’s wine cellar helping them to bottle 600 litres of Cuvée Morlanche 2018.

But the highlight of the week definitely came yesterday afternoon when we were able to help our friends Catherine and Robin, from the nearby village of Bozas, to walk their three donkeys and one horse to their summer quarters.


They were running out of grass at home  – apparently Pomme the mare never stops eating – meanwhile Brice and Lisa have a lovely little sloping meadow, either side of a stream, which is just crying out to be munched. So it was arranged that the animals should take up residence at Morlanche for a few months. Robin had fenced off an area for them and all that remained was to walk them from B to A.

When we showed up at their place, Couette et Tartine, Robin had got all the animals penned into a small enclosure. He told us that they seemed a little anxious, not sure whether they were going to end up “en sauce” as he put it, but otherwise ready for departure.

He himself took Pomme the mare, Catherine walked with Pilou, Markus had Django, I led his mother, Babou, who was said to be docile (“une crème” affirmed Catherine) and off we went.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The distance by road is 4 miles, but we took a much more direct series of tracks, some of which we had never walked before. Robin told us that this was once the route between the upper farms between Bozas and Arlebosc but, as was so often the case, when it came to deciding which ones to maintain and surface for road traffic, the longer routes with less steep gradients were often preferred. Incidentally, we learned recently that as late as the 1960’s only 20% of the roads in the commune of St Basile (the setting for much of Welcome to the Free Zone) were tarred, which would explain why the occupying German forces rarely ventured into the more remote locations and hill farms.

The route was enchanting, and the donkeys behaved beautifully for the most part, walking along steadily with occasional halts to get their breath and admire the scenery and sneaking a quick munch of tempting lush grass, clover and wild flowers as they passed. There was a bit of pushing and shoving, especially on narrow downhill stretches, but nothing too alarming and our fears that we wouldn’t be up to the task proved unfounded.

Roger told us that Robin and Catherine’s farm was once home to a famous bull and he remembered frequently walking the route as a young man in order to borrow the bull to put in with his cows. This was of course common practice in the past but only a few years ago a very old lady, who lived alone with her animals in an extremely remote farm in the hills above the village, told us that an equally elderly farmer, hearing that she was looking for a billy goat to put with her little flock, walked 10 miles over hill and dale from the village of Paiharès to bring the bouc to her farm.

Our walk took less than a couple of hours, but it was a wonderful experience. The countryside is looking glorious at the moment, and we passed a couple of farms garlanded with roses and irises and basking in the sunshine. There were also some furious dogs, (mercifully on chains) but everyone arrived safely to be welcomed by Brice and Lisa.

The animals quickly took possesion of their new home and after some pretty enthusiastic intitial grazing, set off to explore, led by Pilou, whilst we all settled down with a glass of Morlanche and reflected on the many quiet pleasures of living in the middle of nowhere.



Buying a sofa

April 4, 2019

We have been telling ourselves for some time that we really ought to invest in a good sofa-bed, to put up extra visitors or Walksweeks guests.  And endlessly putting it off. It’s not easy to motivate yourself for this kind of purchase when you live in the middle of nowhere. There are no huge furniture warehouse chains in France, no frenetic TV advertising in the run up to Christmas (why?) and in any case we haven’t got a television.  Add to that the fact that French furniture makers have for some years followed an unfortunate trend, set by the up-market Roche Bobois, for sofas with such deep seats that your guests are obliged to sprawl almost flat to reach the back, and so tend to perch uneasily on the edge of the seat, whilst you pass them cushions in an attempt to make them look and feel more comfortable. No, we didn’t want to get caught out like that again!

Of course there is always the trusty Ikea, and indeed we have turned to them many times and always been pleased with the results, but it’s a trek to our nearest store, too much hassle for now, so we kept putting it off.  In any case the questions just mounted up: could we get it delivered? would it go up the stairs? what colour? what to do with the old one? (a rash purchase at the first auction we ever attended, almost immediately regretted) . . .  and so on.

And then I was passing La Maison Richard in Lamastre, a family run establishment which sells everything from sewing cotton to furniture, and spotted what looked like a very possible sofa in the window, reduced by 100 €. A few days later Markus came to have a look and realised that it was indeed a canapé convertible. We went inside to investigate.  It turned out to be perfect, made in France, reasonably priced, comfortable, with a human-dimensioned seat and a high back, and amazingly easy to transform into a full sized bed with just one flick of the wrist.  No cushions to store and a very comfy mattress: c‘est un Dunlopillo confirmed Monsieur.  Deal done.

Could they deliver?  Mais certainement!  Would that evening be convenient? (it was about half past three) Perfect. Would we mind if they came after they had closed the shop as Madame likes to go out for a spin after spending the day indoors?  Yes they would take away the old one for recycling, no we didn’t need to pay, we could write a cheque later.  What address?  We started to explain that we are les Sarziers not Sarzier but Madame stopped us.  Of course I know she said, I was born in the house!

Yes, it’s another of these stories, but each one adds a little to the history of our life at les Sarziers.

They rolled up at about seven and made very short work of getting the new sofa upstairs, re-assembling it, showing us how it works and stowing away the old one in their van.  Then we settled down in the kitchen and Markus opened a bottle of Brice’s wine from the La Mouna vineyard in Empurany.  They took one sip, looked at each other and exclaimed c’est exactement comme le Gamay du grand-père!”  They explained that Madame was only eight months old when her father died and the family left the farm.  Her mother needed to complete her nursing training and so the baby was looked after by her maternal grandparents, who lived above the village of Empurany.  Grandpa must have been quite a character, to judge by the stories they told us.

In the 1920s he travelled with with his ox cart to the Beaujolais, north of Lyon, to buy Gamay plants for his vineyard.   Arlebosc and Empurany were well known at the time as winegrowing villages and Gamay was, and still is, the favoured varietal.  Goodness, we said, how long did it take to get there?  Oh about a week, they replied, adding that it was just as well that the oxen knew their way on the final stretch of the return journey, since there had been a lengthy pause at the village café to celebrate the event, and le Davidou had to rely on them to get him safely home with his precious load.

Later on he had a 2CV which he was liable to drive off the road because he was always interested to check on his neighbour’s crops and animals and was inclined to “turn the steering wheel the same way as his gaze”. He once famously “harvested” a neighbour’s wheat with his Deudeuche, by driving through a patch without noticing!

He drank only his own wine, which he also supplied to all the neighbouring restaurants and cafés, not forgetting his own family. When his older sister had to go into a nursing home he kept up the supply until she died at a ripe old age. He himself died about 15 years ago, accidentally as they said, at the age of 94!

Madame’s husband also lost his parents at a relatively young age and he too was brought up by his grandparents. They both remarked that they were fortunate to have known their grandfathers, since so many of that generation did not return from the Great War and frequently their contemporaries never knew theirs. This particular young man had lied about his age in 1914 – he was 16 – and joined up so as not to be separated from his older brother.  They both only expected to be away for a few months (“over by Christmas”) and instead spent four years at the front.  Both brothers survived the battle of Verdun, which lasted from February to December of 1916, claiming 360,000 French lives, and is remembered by French people as the defining battle of WW1.

The family business will celebrate its centenary next year, having been founded by the grandfather in Lamastre in 1920.  They started out as matelassiers and Monsieur told us how he and his boss would travel each year to distant farms to remake some of the family mattresses.  As he said, with families of fourteen or so, there was always the need.  These were wool mattresses which the family would have unstitched, before taking out the wool and washing it – some people better than others, he added dryly.  Then the wool was re carded and the mattress remade, with 3 or 4 kilos of new wool added to each.  He certainly knows all about mattress making, and his approving comment of le Dunlopillo took on new significance for us.

I have always found Madame to be a trifle intimidating, although she has an unbeatable eye for matching colours when it comes to zips and thread, but on this occasion I discovered her softer side and passed her the tissues as she looked around the kitchen and tried to picture the father and the family life she had never known.  They stayed for a couple of hours and as they rose to leave, the carefully prepared, hand written invoice was produced and we made out the cheque (everyone uses cheques for everything here, even in the market).

After they had gone we reflected on the enormous difference there is between this sort of transaction and the “couple of clicks”, totally automated kind.  La Maison Richard will not continue after this generation as both their daughters are trained district nurses and love their jobs – so crucial to rural areas like ours.  But as long as local businesses like this exist it is a real pleasure to have an opportunity to support them.  We are delighted with our new sofa, and just as delighted with the experience of purchasing it.


PS. A while back we noticed this rather saucy description on a double mattress, displayed outside the shop.  So French!




Life goes on ….

June 5, 2018

It was Roger’s birthday on Sunday and we popped round in the morning with a present.  It’s not easy to get him to accept a gift: in the past I have managed an enamelled coffee pot to replace his, which had sprung a leak, and once I made him a new red flag with which he could warn traffic when he was bringing his cows home for milking and needed to get them across the road.  This year it was Markus who had the perfect idea.  Roger’s transistor radio had got stuck on the wrong station and, in order for him to hear the Mass which is broadcast on Sundays by the local radio station, he was obliged to go outside to sit in his van and listen on the car radio.  He has been doing this for some months now, all through the bitter cold of February, and Markus decided it was time to recycle our portable radio.  Roger was (discretely) pleased with his gift, and after the regulation pastis we said goodbye – he was off to lunch at his cousin’s.

As we scrambled down the short cut over the bank we realised that a group of  about a dozen people were milling about interestedly in the courtyard.  It was a family, en route for a get-together in Empurany, involving more than a hundred people, and this group had stopped at les Sarziers so that the patriarch could show them ‘our’ house, where he was born.  The inverted commas are because we have always felt that we are simply custodians of a place which has had a long history before we came, and will probably continue its life long after we are gone.  Over the years various people have shown up and told us about their memories, living here as the children of tenant farmers.   In this way we have learned about the animals they kept, the crops and vegetables they grew, how the water supply worked, and how hard it was making a living on poor, dry soil, enduring long freezing winters and baking hot summers.

This family were delightful, and so grateful to be shown around.  Michel had lived here for just one year, from 1939 to 1940 when he was sent away to be brought up by a relative as the family had grown too large for the farm to sustain all of them.  He told us that he came back to visit his parents from time to time and showed us photos of himself as a toddler sitting on a rug in the courtyard with a sibling.  He remembered the wine barrels in the big cellar and was delighted that they are still in situ (although unfortunately now empty!)  We have long wondered who was the Marius who carved his name into the kitchen window sill, and it turns out that it was his uncle, who worked locally as a builder.

It was a lovely visit, and he thanked us with a gift of a bottle of vin de noix and reproductions of a little watercolour painting that he had made of the house.

Just a few weeks ago, at the reception after Carla’s concert, I got talking to a lady I had met just once at a friend’s house, who worked as a district nurse here in the 1960’s, braving the twisty lanes in all weathers in her 2CV.  I could see that she was very struck to find herself in our kitchen, and she asked me if I knew anything about the last people to live here before us.  Indeed we do know that the family left after a tragedy – first the father died and then the son fell ill with terminal cancer.  It all came back to her then, it was she who had come daily to care for him in his last months.  I showed her his room and she gazed around, her eyes full of memories, it was a very moving moment.

On a cheerier note – the widow and daughter moved only a little way away, down closer to the river, where the family still owns a little land, on which the daughter has a mobile home.  Years ago she stopped and asked to have a look at the house and garden and told us that what she loved most was the little medlar tree which grew by the Doghouse, she even confessed that in the winter, when the fruit had bletted, she sometimes came up and picked some if we weren’t here.

We told her of course that that was fine, but after she had gone we were left in a quandary.  The medlar tree was seriously in the way of plans we had to reorganise, but now we simply could not cut it down as we had intended, without planting another somewhere else!  We hastily bought a sturdy specimen and installed it under the garden wall where it continues to thrive, producing masses of fruit every year.  Personally I’m not a big fan of medlars, so I do hope she still comes up foraging for some in the winter!


December 8, 2017

It is now 30 years since we bought Les Sarziers and we definitely feel our roots growing deeper into the Ardèche soil. Let’s not be mistaken: will we never be “des gens d’ici”. For that, your family name, if it doesn’t do double duty as the name of your farm or hamlet and if it has not been inscribed on the village war memorial, must appear on a headstone in the cemetery – a privilege which we luckily don’t yet share with the villagers.

But just now I’m not concerned with those sorts of roots. I mean the roots of our horse chestnut tree, which gives us welcome shade in the summer, sticky buds in the spring (that stick to the soles of your shoes and then leave traces all over the floors) and hundreds of conkers to pick up in the autumn. Since the 1930’s these roots have quietly travelled underground over a distance far greater than the expanse of its branches.

This does not matter until they start finding their way into pipes. How they managed to break into a sealed PVC pipe we do not know, on the other hand we do know about the results.

Of course it all started with a blocked outflow pipe, followed by unpleasant manoeuvres involving buckets in the cellar. The local plumber comes with a high pressure hose and solves the problem – but only temporarily. The pipe blocks again and the specialists come with a bigger and better hose. It blocks again. They return with a camera that must have been designed to explore a dinosaur’s intestines. And there we met the roots – underneath and smack in the centre of our tiled terrace.

“We’ll need to have those up”, the plumber announced with relish (and of course in French, but it sounds just the same). As we could not bear the idea of demolishing our beautiful old tiles we decided to re-route the outflow pipe altogether: a dreary and expensive job but with the bonus of being able to link up the system with last year’s work in the stables.

In a noble spirit of economy I volunteered to dig the trenches through three cellars, leaving the professionals to do impressive things with mechanical diggers and to cut through the walls. This is cellar number three

… and who do I meet there?

The good old roots, at least 30 yards from the trunk, two inches thick and two feet down, turning neatly round the corners and happily spreading far and wide.

After the pedicure we decided to get round to the haircut – a pruning job which we have been putting off for far too long. Last year I attacked the sycamore …

. . .  which was enough of a challenge, so this time we were looking for a specialist.

I chanced to encounter Emmanuelle in the boulangerie when I went to get the bread one morning. She was having a cup of coffee, and joined in with the general chat, even though she lives in the wilds above Empurany and has only been here for a year and a half (see above). She was there to drop of cards advertising the lopping, pruning and tree surgery services which she and her partner Johan offer. Voilà!

They popped round one evening to take a look at the tree and a couple of days later Johan was perched on a rope assessing and sawing with the grace and artistry of an acrobat combined with the expertise of a surgeon.

He told us that he started out as a cordiste in Marseille, but, although the word conjours images of steeplejacks mending church bell-towers or hanging daringly from suspension bridges as they work, he said drily that “there were an awful lot of windows to clean” and that it became boring. So the couple, with their little boy, relocated to the country. Both trained in tree surgery, they have found the perfect solution in a job and surroundings which they love and which provides endless interest and fascination. As Johan said, working on a complex living structure is both challenging and rewarding and the care with which he shaped our tree was impressive.

All in all a genuine case of root and branch reform!
Markus (and Kate, who pulled up roots!)

A short history of wheelbarrows . . .

November 13, 2017

In between two episodes of Kate’s silk stories here is a short interlude. The protagonist is this rusty wheelbarrow that has been helping us right from the moment we bought Les Sarziers with all the big jobs.  It has transported cement bags, sand and gravel, stones, tiles and – in the garden – plant prunings, leaves, manure and compost.  And last week, like the autumn before, it helped us storing our fire wood.

Last year’s log pile was starting to diminish as for the last two weeks the evenings have become autumnal and the nights longer and we started up our two wood burning stoves.

Our neighbour Roger’s nephew Dorian brought round a couple of tons last week, cut and split from timber that he had felled in the little wood below our garden, just as Roger used to do before he was reduced to crutches.

As we loaded the first of them into the wheelbarrow, Dorian stopped for a moment and bent over to look at the wheel. “Solid rubber? Haven’t seen one like this before.” I tried to explain – but utterly failed – why this is a special wheelbarrow, which started its life in Paris in 1980.


 Well, since you ask …. below is a picture to prove its early glory.

Dorian won’t be interested, but perhaps some of the readers of this blog might be intrigued or even remember. It was our first show with our Theatre/Dance Company Reflux performed in the Théâtre de la Plaine in the winter of 1981. The show was called “Kaleidoscope” and as you can see, the wheelbarrow had a starring role – just don’t ask what the hell we were doing.

Later, for the more challenging building jobs we bought another wheelbarrow – a boring standard type with blow-up tyres.  It is still with us, but has had already several punctures and is NOT orange.  Here are some archive pictures of it in action, and as long as we have the strength to push it it will continue to be with us.



Leaving our personal memories aside, isn’t the wheelbarrow one of the cleverest inventions of human kind?  I just wish sometimes it had three more wheels and an engine!


A quick update

November 7, 2016

A few photos of the transformation in the stables.  We’re already daydreaming about possible concerts, dining opportunities …. who knows!!







Armageddon at les Sarziers

October 26, 2016
Peaceful les Sarziers

Peaceful les Sarziers

We were expecting a hectic October and my goodness we have not been disappointed!

The month kicked off with a great Walksweek.  We hosted a lovely couple from Canada who were lucky with wonderful autumn weather and  enjoyed glorious walking, a trip on the vélorail, picnicking by the Doux and a special peep into the wine making in progress in the Morlanche cellars.

They could hardly have imagined what was about to unfold as soon as they had left!

The peaceful courtyard

The peaceful courtyard

We had carefully scheduled three successive professional renovation jobs, on the kitchen and the stable, but first we needed to take care of all the preparation.

We started by getting stuck in to clearing centuries of junk, beams, stones, straw and unmentionables out of the stable prior to the laying of a concrete floor.




By which time the courtyard looked like this:


Next we attacked the kitchen.

The kitchen as you may know it

The kitchen as you may know it

We have decided that we are tired of living in a museum: the soot of ages has to go from the ceiling and the fireplace needs to be plastered.  Inspired by the results in Patricia’s amazing renovation project at her chateau of Hautségur, we decided to go for Aérogommage, a less aggressive technique than sand blasting.  It uses much finer particles and much more air, at lower pressure, so the result is spectacular, as you can see from Patricia’s blog.  But of course there is also a fantastic amount of fine dust, so everything had to be cleared out or protected.



Then everything started to happen at once.  It began to rain – just what the construction team had been waiting for – and they went into action in the stable …..


whilst Emmanuelle and Philippe got to work on the beams.



By the end of the day the courtyard looked like this,


but the ceiling was starting to look good!


The next day . . . wow!



Interlude ….


The builders disappeared, as builders do (the sun had come out again) and it was time for Daniel to plaster the fireplace.  Unfortunately we have no pictures of him at work, but once again he did a fabulous job.  We chose this family firm from Lamastre to plaster the inside of the house 25 years ago because, given their Italian family name, Avandetto, we were sure they would do a good job!  The business was begun by Daniel’s grandfather, who came to the Ardèche in the 1920’s, to get away from the ascendency of Mussolini’s fascists in his native Turin, where the family had been bronze workers, specialised in creating equestrian statues of the Savoy monarchs to adorn the city’s squares.


What a difference!

Then the heavens opened and the heavies were back!






After days of rock breaking and jack hammering, finally everything was ready for La Toupie ….


which arrived at 7 sharp this morning.



It took until around 10.30 to get the floor laid and the guys are coming back intermittently throughout the day to “passer l’helicoptère” or surfacing machine.


We still have a way to go, but we’re getting there!  And meanwhile the trees are into full autumn swing and the countryside is beautiful.



The Barn Floor One Year On

August 23, 2015

1 exhibition

Assiduous readers of this blog will recall that last year we demolished the rotten barn floor and put in a new one.

In the backs of our minds we had the idea of creating an indoor space in case of bad weather for our annual concert, but of course very soon the barn was once again filled with paint pots, matresses, circular saws, old doors and stuff in boxes from Paris, all coated in the usual dust and cobwebs.  Added to which the birds had no intention of changing their habits and continued to build nests, for which they seem to need a lorry load of moss, most of which they drop inconsiderately over everything beneath their flight path.  So in a way it was a relief that the weather was gorgeous for the concert with Toss the Feathers on August 7th. But somehow we were frustrated not to be able to inaugurate the place, so we decided to hold last Friday’s music workshop in the barn – and as it culminated in an open concert we took advantage of the occasion to set up an exhibition of photos by Markus’s godfather.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a week of clearing up and cleaning up, we were finally ready to hang a selection of photos and prepare a catalogue.

The musicians arrived for lunch . . .

6 lunch musicians

Then they got down to thrashing out the repertoire . . .

6 rehearsal keyboards (1024x768)

Jazz to Folk is pretty challenging . . . .

8 rehearsal Jazz vs Folk (1024x768)

and there’s a lot to keep in your head . . .

7 rehearsal deciding on solos (1024x768)

After dinner in the kitchen, the saxophonist finally arrives . . .

8.1. late arrival of sax

And we’re ready to go!

9 ready to start (1024x768)

The new barn floor

October 23, 2014

The summer was not all jazz and junketing. Inspired by the burst of activity on the barn in May we thought we really ought to continue replacing the worst sections of the floor. We made a second trip, this time with a slightly larger trailer, to M Sovignet at the sawmill in St Félicien to pick up more planks and having made most of the floor safe we called a temporary halt to operations.



We sawed up and stacked all the old boards, which will keep us warm this winter, cleared a space in the stable to store them and thought we’d leave it at that for the time being.  But this sort of job is a little bit like picking flowers in a wood: there are always a few more lovely ones just a little further on . . . and you end up as Red Riding Hood!

The next section was rather more challenging since the beams were very widely spaced and uneven.  It was at this point that, despite our endless admonishments to each other to be careful, Markus fell through into the stable, unfortunately landing on an arcane bit of agricultural kit rather than on straw and ancient manure!  He was very lucky not to be more badly hurt and got away with just a few visits to the local physiotherapist who is as effective as she is charming.

Nothing stops Markus for long and soon we were back at the job, turning this….. IMG_5589 (800x600) step by step ……

into this!
IMG_6717 (800x600)

Having done so much it seemed silly not to go on and finish the whole job and before long Markus was taking careful measurements and making calculations on spare bits of board.  We borrowed an even larger trailer and set off again for the sawmill.

We first met M Sovignet years ago when we were negotiating floor boards for the house.  A tall man, he was standing, dramatically silhouetted against a stormy sky, on a pile of tree trunks with a massive chainsaw hanging from his hand. He looked formidable, but turned out to be charming.  We knew his father and they have the same ironic but basically optimistic view of life.  M Sovignet père was apt to remark, when some natural or unnatural disaster was under discussion “Il y a bien longtemps que le monde il tourne”, implying that the world keeps rotating no matter what.  His son has enlarged the family business considerably but he always has time for a friendly chat and treats our orders a seriously as if he were supplying a major contractor with the roof timbers for an entire housing development. We loaded up again and made multiple trips back to les Sarziers.  The job proceeded steadily and we impressed ourselves by replacing a further two beams without mishap.

Kate was employed in cleaning and nailing (we used kilos of nails) and Markus’s measuring skills proved impressive – we used up almost every scrap of timber that we had ordered for the job.

The transformation of the barn has been spectacular and we feel that we have acquired a whole new useable space.  Certainly the floor, although now  level, still has a noticeable slope on it since the whole house and barn were originally built that way.   But from the outset we did not propose to do a major demolition job but rather to make a structural and practical floor.  And there is an upside . . . we now have a great space for bad weather concerts, with a raked seating area for the audience!

Looking from the house

Looking from the house

and from the other end

and from the other end

Renaissance of an Ardèche farmhouse

May 20, 2014

In the early days of les Sarziers we imagined a steady stream of visitors coming to enjoy the rural life for a bit and incidentally giving us a hand with the restoration work. We pictured industrious sunny days during which our ruin would slowly emerge from its chrysalis of neglect and reveal itself as the gorgeous butterfly of our dreams.

The reality of course was somewhat different. We soon realised that guests understandably prefer a minimum in the way of running water, windows and electricity and that not everyone wants to spend their country holiday making concrete.

We slowly came to appreciate the enormity of the task we had set ourselves as we spent weeks at a time battling electric cables through walls four feet thick, exchanging massive beams, laying floors, plumbing, plastering, tiling and so on, and all apparently to very little effect, so huge was the project we had undertaken. We are now immensely proud of what we have achieved but it took much longer and much more effort than we could ever have imagined and the weather was often very far from what we had pictured in our early flush of idealism.

But this is not to say that we had no help from our friends. Sometimes it was more enthusiastic than truly helpful as on the occasion when we had popped into Lamastre to buy a kilo of nails and returned to find that our guests had demolished their bedroom ceiling because they thought “it looked a bit old”!! But many people did chip in with both restoration work and general advice and encouragement which kept us going over the years.

However if it were not for our friends Jane and John, we would still be squatting in a building site! We would have no bedroom floor if they and their children had not spent one summer throwing the old one out of the window, (crying “timber” as they did so) and then replacing it. The staircase would still be a jigsaw puzzle of perilous boards, the pink room would neither be a room nor pink . . . the list is endless.

Recently they spent a week with us on their way back from Italy and after a few days John was clearly getting restless. He and Markus went and had a serious look at the barn. We need more storage space and the beams and floor above the rear stable were definitely looking ropey. Serious discussion followed the inspection. Something had to be done.

Two days later the old boards were out, the rotten beams replaced and we took a trip to the sawmill to order new timber. Sadly the boards would only be ready after John had left and although he seemed tempted to change his train ticket, wiser counsels prevailed.

Nothing daunted he and Markus attacked another project which, as you can see was very necessary, but rather far down our to-do list.


Et voilà! By the next day he had constructed a new stable door for us which is not only beautiful and functional but, in a very satisfactory manner, is made out of planks salvaged from the barn floor.


John is used to massive undertakings, having restored his property Treowen which he now manages (click here to get an idea). His advice and expertise have contributed enormously to our own restoration project. Merci infiniment!

%d bloggers like this: