It could be said that upping sticks in your late sixties and moving to a random stick-a-pin-in-the-map location in a foreign country is at best reckless and at worst an invitation to social services to come and assess you for the jacket with the very long sleeves. Not by me, naturally, since a) I don’t wish to be excised from the will and b) earning a pittance as a ski bum and living in a house with no central heating in a place where the winter temperature averages about -15°C isn’t what you’d call sober and sensible either. No throwing stones at the greenhouse from me.
So here we are in the depths of Burgundy to approve the new abode, which turns out to be a veritable mansion with a small estate attached. By my standards anyway, though since we live in what the surveyor described as a ‘rudimentary dwelling’ with two balconies and a parking space rather than a garden it could be argued that these are not high.
Plan A, on last autumn’s initial house-hunting foray was a traditional ferme Bressane, of which there seem to be dozens for sale in various states of repair or renovation. Nice to look at but rather more work than you plan to put in when you’ve retired and are looking at indulging in nothing more strenuous than writing, gardening and possibly a little light hen-keeping. Cheap farmhouses need renovation, and renovated ones aren’t cheap. So on to Plan B, involving something in need of not more than a lick of paint and a new kitchen, preferably not in the middle of nowhere and with mains drainage instead of a septic tank.
This particular mansion was at one time the abode of the local notaire, whose idea of an imposing room in which to do business involved an enormous ceiling feature with a plaster dove stuck to the middle of it. And if that wasn’t enough, a similar wall decoration above the fireplace, just to make the point.
JC remains unconvinced of the merits of ornate plasterwork (and I can’t say it would be the first thing I’d install either), but now that it’s in there it would be an act of sheer vandalism to have it removed.
Another (more tasteful) feature is the antique wood staircase going up three floors to the attic. But here again the old notaire has added his own special touch in the form of a cut glass ball shoved on top of the newell post. Maybe he did a bit of clandestine fortune telling on the side and stuck the crystal ball there on the grounds that the best place to hide a thing is right under everyone’s nose.
The rest of the place involves multiple bedrooms, garage, cave, and large kitchen which needs a complete refurb. I am rabidly jealous of this – separate kitchen, easily big enough for proper dining table, and with the chance to design it yourself from scratch. Though if you dug the house up and replanted it here in the Alps it would cost three times as much and none of us could afford it, so I can forget that.
Next challenge is scheduled for early July, and involves actually moving the contents of existing house the 1500 kilometres from Scotland to the middle of France without losing any of it. Watch this space.