Thursday, 27 February 2014

I am lately of the impression that I  may have been misnamed as a child, it isn’t that I do not like my name , I am quite fond of it actually, but I am beginning to think I should have been christened Canute.

What do you mean who is Canute?  You know Canute, of course you do, everybody knows Canute,  he was the 11th century English king who sat on the beach at Southampton ,on his throne,  surrounded by assembled courtiers and dignitaries, crown and sceptre and all and bade the sea to retreat. As an expression of self belief and confidence or even possibly incipient megalomania  you have to admit it is pretty impressive.  Of course it would have been more impressive had it worked.

 But I digress it isn’t his gasconade arrogance that melds us together, far from it, in fact I am more likely to be the one insisting "no no after you" and apologising to the little wavelets as they canter up the beach soaking  my slippers than trying to force them to return poste haste whither they came. No it is the endless tide of detritus in this house of ours the flood of which I fight a losing battle on a daily, nay, hourly basis. Of course with the weather we have had of late it may as well be the sea I have as my adversary, the floor is so muddy form dog, cat  and human traffic that it looks horribly as if the tide has been forcing its way through the french windows with each high tide. That high tide occurring  on a daily basis at  around 5.30 in the afternoon when my sons  return home from college.

I really can not understand how it happens. A week ago the place was pristine, well alright if not quite pristine at least very much cleaner and tidier than it is now. We had a guest for the week and in a mad frenzy of domestic madness I swept ,polished, washed ,scrubbed and generally did the job of an overworked underpaid skivvy in order to make the place look less like the aftermarth of a alcohol and drug fueled rave in a student share house and more like country living interiors on prozac, chilled  and inviting without giving the impression that if you move the skilfully scattered cushions on the well plumped sofa your hostess may tear your hand off with her bare teeth.

Other people manage it why can't I ? I know its possible, after all I have dropped in unexpectedly  on friends who have a pack of house hounds and found not a dog hair in sight. I have visited others whose windows glisten in the sun and not with dirty fingers and dog noise trails like mine do, friends who have wood burners yet whose floors do not resemble the forest floor and whose dinning room tables are not buried under so many layers of trash that it  takes an archaeological dig to find the  telephone  before it stops ringing. In Hampshire cobwebs are called sluts lace, if that were the case I could open up a wedding shop with the amount of them that festoon my beams.

I used to be really quite good at it, really  I was, I have been in my time quite house proud but things changed and now somehow I have lost  the will to be a maid of all work. I will not hoover on demand, have no desire to dust things whether with feathers or otherwise,  even  to artfully drape throws on the corners of sofas is beyond my yearnings. I would far prefer to  lounge here amidst the flotsam of family life, lazy Labradors at my side jostling for ownership of the sofa, bobbing along happily and  read a good book.  I have fallen out with housewifery and there may well be no going back. Like poor old Canute I may as well admit defeat and surrender myself to the sea of domestic disorder and be done with it.I know when I am beaten.

Today there is a pub on the site where King Canute is reputed to have tested the waters, as it were. Over the years the sea has been pushed further and further back by successive land reclamation projects so perhaps you could say he achieved what he set out to do in the end after all , but, just like my attempts at house cleaning and tidying, it took much much longer than he had anticipated.

 I would like to think that on a quiet foggy night on the edge of Southampton docks sits a  ghostly figure on his carved wooden throne smirking and muttering "I told you so"  under his breathe as he watches the waves languidly licking the edge of the concrete docks and his feet stay dry. Perhaps if I wait long enough the tide will subside and I will find myself high and dry with everything washed clean by the receding waters. Meanwhile I can but dream.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Window dressing

 Welcome to 2014. 

Wherever you are in Europe or New York the weather has been wet cold and very windy and here in Brittany the dogs have moved inside as their dog barn is having a new roof fitted and the bad weather has stopped work. It is going to be the most expensive  kennel/log barn in France by the time its done but it was either that or let it fall down and since it has managed to stay up for at least 300 years so far it seems  mean spirited to let it tumble now. Its a great big barn with an almost finished splendid new roof and beams which will hopefully stand for another few hundred years.

 I am not sure if the dogs will ever want to move back into again as they have made themselves so comfortable indoors. I am also not sure if my Salle  will ever recover from the dog hairs and muddy paw prints it has had inflicted upon it. I look at the state of the room and wonder what visitors must think, possibly that I have lost the plot, or as if  some sort of domestic disaster has struck, normally it is relatively tidy and sort of clean although I would never recommend eating off the floor here, what sort of a weirdo does that anyway  ? Especially when I have amassed such an assortment of wonderful plates over the years, some people have shoe fetishes, me ?  I am beguiled by good sturdy colourful plates, proof of which is that the weight of my everyday plates recently  caused the plate rack in the kitchen to try and make a break for freedom  so all my plates are piled up on the kitchen table  and we have had to clear space to eat at meal times. It looks like some massive closing down sale in a ceramics factory. Or as someone less charitable might see it possibly, the left overs from jumble sale.

Anyway I digress .Normally what people think of my house is of no concern to me but I have been passed the task of online house hunting for a friend who wants to move to France and is vaguely computer illiterate and so my days have been filled with interior shots of some interesting places of late which made me ponder upon how others see their homes and we ours. It has afforded me a great opportunity not to deal with the state of mine as well of course.

I am an expert in the field of international house hunting having had a mother in law who was for ever travelling the world and getting me to search out places for her to settle. It filled many a happy hour for me, even if she never actually bought anything in the end. She was a property voyeur and we formed a great bond oohing and gasping over houses that no matter how divine or perfect she thought they were she would always turn against at the last minute. She once almost bought an olive mill in Greece for us for Christmas but that idea lasted all of two days. So if anyone is looking for a retreat in France, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Egypt Portugal or Italy I am your woman!

One thing I can not help but notice is that there are  massive  differences in the way different estate agents  present their houses for sale , the Spanish ones usually look as if the person has popped out to get something and are very much lived in. Bags of shopping on the table, a meal laid, washing up in the sink and not very decorative underwear and assorted washing hanging like bunting in the bathrooms. The French houses look on the whole tidy but abandoned, apart from some very rural ones which just look on the verge of collapse . A  few years ago a Paris  apartment was  unlocked after 70 years of abandonment , goodness knows  how it survived the war untouched but it did and when you look at the images and read the article here  you will be amazed,  it isn’t unique though, some of the houses I have spied online this week may look less grand but there certainly have the same time warp quality about them. I saw one in France yesterday which had been unlived in for several years but still had a large multi pack of incontinence pads on the bed of the master bedroom not something to inspire when one considers it was sold fully furnished.  The English rural properties seem to look like sets from Country Living magazine and likewise  the English owned property  for sale in France is often easy to spot with its artfully placed cushions and fresh flowers, you can almost smell the fresh coffee brewing. Perhaps its to do with the price range in which I am searching but whatever the reason I think incontinent pads or not I prefer the natural state of the some of the agents photos which for me capture  the take me as I am feel about the European mainland to the window dressing of the English ones.

Oh dear I wonder if that is a reflection of  my state of mind! Well who cares, I certainly don't I am who I am dog hairs and all so happy new year to you and may it be a picture perfect one for everyone!