Enter the Camels!

IMG_0481

My BFF had the hump

Its amazing the cast of characters that weave in and out of your life at various times offering support,fun, mischief or simple friendship. Over the years, I’ve collected some AMAZING friends via school, uni, work, randoms I’ve met and can’t even remember how I met them. No story of our french house would be complete if I didn’t around this time bring in some eccentric and wonderful new friends – ‘The Birds’ (people whose surname is Bird but they own a CAMEL farm! Yes I know – I will explain all as we go along…)

I desperately wanted to avoid being one of ‘those’ english people in france. The ones who seek out fellow Brits to chat about marmite and hellmans mayonnaise or lack thereof. In my early twenties I lived in Australia and made the fatal error of only befriending english people. As a result, we sat around bars in Paddington, moaning a lot about how rubbish Australia was (yeah all that year round sunshine and those endless sandy beaches are a REAL downer!) It was only around the time I was leaving that I made an Australian friend (hi Kelly if you’re reading this) and got to see Syndey through some optomistic Aussie eyes and it was WAAAY more fun. But then I had to leave – I had a new job in LA and Kelly and I moved to Melbourne for a month (I don’t even remember why) and had a ball. And I’m facebook friends with Kelly fifteen years on. She has two boys too. And she’s had a nose job (hi again Kelly – don’t mind me telling everyone -it IS a great story). And the point of all of this is that you should seek to make friends with people from the country you’re living in not just jaded ex pats. however…

IMG_0459

Alice was embarassed to hear she had a camel toe!

Back to The Birds and their camels. You probably want to know why there are english people living in rural france running a camel farm. You need answers right? Well sorry to disappoint but to explain away the Birds and their wonderful existence in Castlenau Rivier Basse would be far too simplistic. Suffice to say – WHY NOT?

I had heard of an animal park La Maison Des Chamaux only about 15 minutes drive away from our house and decided to take the kids there while Peter messed about with the septic tank or some such. I had no idea it was run by english people and expected nothing more than killing a few hours looking at some camels and encouraging my children to take an interest in animals beyond Patrick the starfish in Sponge Bob.

The park is tucked away off the main road and has jolly signs showing you where to park and which way to go. We arrived a little late for the demo which involved a lady wearing an ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ style hat and waving a stick at some llamas while children could lead them around the park and feed them. There were dozens of kids there transfixed and Sebastian couldnt wait to have a go at ‘training’ the llama. Arthur had already established that he ‘didn’t like animals’ and wandered off into the wood to do a nature trail. There were goats, pigs, sheep, llamas and the jewels in the Camel farm crown – three enormous camels wandering arms reach away in a field and river as if it were perfectly normal for them to be living in rural france not in a desert with Lawrence of Arabia on their backs.

IMG_0742

I’m on a Camel Farm – get me out of here!


And as my kids learnt how to spin wool, make a goat jump over a fence and what the French for camel is, I got chatting to a nice Englishman called Paul. It turned out, he was Mr Maison des chamaux and the lady with enthusiasm you could bag and sell, leading the llamas around in the IACGMOOH hat was his wife Sarah. He mentioned that he was an electrician (as well as running a camel farm – camels need lights right?) and as I currently had two sockets servicing my entire house, my ears pricked up. He ended up coming over to help Peter with our wiring, inviting us back to sample the joys of the local ‘cubivin’ and to properly meet Sarah when she wasn’t knee deep in llama poo and we loved them right away. They have pet pigs who sometimes live in their house, a plentiful supply of red for the grown up guests accompanying the kids we bring over for animal feeding, and a cheery voice at the end of a phone every time we arrive in France. The Maison des Chamaux has become somewhere we visit early on during each trip to our french house. the kids are desperate to see JAh JAh the goat, who they fed from a bottle when he was born and who now is a large goat with horns, whose main aim in life is to eat all the food he can. Like goat vs food with JAh JAh in the Adam Richmond role. They love the Bird boys, Elliot and Oliver who are two of the most polite boys I’ve ever met – proving that its not just ‘French children who don’t throw food’ but also ‘English children brought up in France who don’t throw food’ though, they do love to play on an x box.

20130226-224947.jpg
And the Birds are totally immersed in local French life. Their kids go to local schools, their animal park is famous in the local area (terry Wogan has a house nearby and goes about his Intermarche shopping without anyone noticing but Sarah is ‘la femme de la Maison des Chamaux’) and they’ve built a fabulously unusual life for their family in this rural part of SW France with the camels they rescued from slaughter somewhere in Russia. So they’re not ‘those type’ of English people either but I’m glad they made an expat-ception for us!
br />
20130226-230315.jpg

20130226-230403.jpg

20130226-230517.jpg

20130226-230621.jpg

When kids decorate

20130222-085315.jpg

The kids were so little when we moved in, the house looked even bigger!

I hope by now I’ve made it clear that this is a family project. One of our main reasons for buying the house was to give our kids a wealth of new experiences in a different country. Of course they will probably grow up hating France, French food, us, broken old houses and DIY. They’ll most likely rebel by moving into a new build Barratt bungalow one day full of wipe clean leather furniture and surround sound like Patrick Bateman in American Pyscho. But until then, we hope, this is to be an enriching time, learning how to order mint ice cream in restaurants, eating steak tartare and spending their time building rope swings and dens (well for the forty minutes a day they can be dragged off their nintendos). One of our greatest frustrations with this project is the distinct lack of excitement shown by the children towards it. ‘House in France? Yeah whatevs’ seems to be the general mood. Perhaps all children are like this about things of which they know no different. Maybe the Beckham kids say things like ‘houses in LA, bucks, France, London, whatevs.’ Suri Cruise probably doesn’t say ‘oh goody another pair of red patent tap shoes – you are so kind to me Daddy’ and so it is that mine think owning a wood, two fields and having chickens on your land has the excitement factor one would normally associate with getting an extra piece of broccoli for your tea.
Things they do love about France though – vide greniers and the cheap plastic tat they can amass there, eating out, cooking in, mint ice cream and Madeleines. Add to that, a stripey hammock, rope swings, orangina and our local pizza place called Restotop and its not all bad!

20130222-085413.jpg

Arthur discovered the best way to cut onions…..

20130222-085450.jpg

Even the hammock had a breton theme

But there was the issue of their bedroom. Not used to sharing, the boys were bunked in one room here in France. Not due to lack of space but moreover as the house feels so big it would be weird to have them too far away from us. Oh and the fact that as most rooms were uninhabitable it was easier to focus on doing up one room rather than two. The room we’d earmarked for them looked like this

20130222-085852.jpg

The worst thing about this room? It’s pink!

20130222-085936.jpg
And this is AFTER our friend James had been over with Peter and stripped off the old, peeling, dirty wallpaper declaring it ‘unfit for purpose’! The boys didn’t seem to care. They loved being given free reign to make a mess, not make their beds and draw on the walls.
We suggested that perhaps they choose a colour for the walls (as at home I insist upon subtle shades of non child friendly grey or khaki for their rooms – they dream of Ben 10 duvet covers and Disney related bedroom stuff). They chose – RED! A bright, fire engine red. Ketchup colour in fact. I persuaded them into the idea of combining this with Cath Kidston cowboy wallpaper and bedding and we struck a deal! A giant wooden cupboard was bought at Emmaus a kind of permanent car boot sale near Pau. This could house all the rubbish they’d bought at vide greniers and the various toys they brought over the years from home. These toys serve to remind us how quickly they grow up as there are Charlie and Lola books now deemed ‘lame’ still stored inside the Emmaus cupboard. A moshi monster treehouse that neither boy wants to play with any more but we save for when baby Mabel comes to visit. And a wooden toy railway that looks great in photos but truthfully I’m not sure anyone ever played with it! Now they have iPods. They FaceTime their friends. They watch films on their laptops. But in those early months when we had no wifi or broadband we all survived.

20130223-210441.jpg

A cupboard full of plastic tat

We played endless games of monopoly, blackjack or took a trip back to the 70s with Mastermind – a game my grandparents used to own and which I bought again at a vide grenier and my kids love.
And their room is a brilliant combination of old and new. A cornucopia of funny old toys and games and when I snuggle them up there in the evenings, when they shout ‘wrap us up like sausages in our blankets’ it’s like being in the 1970s only without the bad sitcoms and green cross code man.
And their room is so lovely, they’ve forgotten to complain about sharing. And I rather like their ketchup coloured wall. It’s no farrow and ball but I rather like it.

20130223-211108.jpg

walls the colour of ketchup

20130223-211135.jpg

Is that another IKEA HEmnes drawer unit? Why yes it IS!

20130223-211203.jpg

Spidey ‘sensed’ someone’s wife had made them throw that trophy away. Somehow WE ended up buying it!

20130223-211232.jpg

Cath Kidston cowboy paper – yeeee ha

20130223-211307.jpg

We ran out of wallpaper!!!! We have enough now to finish it but haven’t got round to it yet….

a separate summer

‘And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation’ Khalil Gibran.

Image

Good morning barn

It was the summer of 2010. Before Kate and Wills got married. Before One Direction and when I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my husband. It was the summer we separated.
The school holidays yawned ahead of us like an eternity. Weeks of telling Arthur, who was now 6 nearly 7, to turn off electricals and go outside and kick a ball about. Then remembering that we live on a relatively busy London street and have a postage stamp sized garden, and its not the 1950s. As Peter was to be sole carer of the children over the summer while I went clipping off to work each morning in inappropriate footwear, he began to hatch a plan.

“What do you think about me taking Arthur to France for the whole summer and you staying here with Sebastian?” he mooted one morning over breakfast. Six whole weeks apart? The longest we would have been apart in over ten years. I wasn’t sure. I’d miss him. I’d miss Arthur. I’d be looking after Sebastian ON MY OWN (you may not have met him, but let me tell you he makes the kid in Home Alone look under-resourceful). Id have no one to work the sky plus if it broke! And most of all, isn’t it weird to think its OK to spend that long apart. Does it mean our relationship is somehow flawed if we are able to live comfortably with only Skype to communicate. We’d been married for 11 years at this point and while there were elements of resigned comfort in our relationship – we get quite excited when there is a BRAND NEW episode of Midsommer Murders – I like to think we are also more in love now than when we met drunkenly at a party fifteen years earlier. (He has no recollection of our meeting – in fact the only thing he claims to remember about said party is that a transvestite porn star was there – he’s right but it was LA in the 90s, there was a transvestite porn star at most parties.)

But it made sense. We had all that space in France, a wood, fields and about ten broken bikes leaning up against one another in a barn. In London, we had a Victorian terrace with an urban decked area complete with olive tree and seating area that we had done pre-kids.

20130215-071600.jpg

The deck factor

And so it was agreed. Seb and I would stay home with Yvonne our amazing neighbour agreeing to look after him until I got home from work in the evenings. Peter and Arthur would spend one feral summer, wearing the same pants for days, existing on bread with Nutella and making plans for an enormous treehouse they would one day build in the forest.

20130215-072135.jpg

Now that’s a back garden!

20130217-124037.jpg

a rooftop pool you say???

Seb was really too young to care where Arthur and daddy had gone, and besides I took him to shoreditch most weekends with uncle Richard and he got sole attention, ice cream and swimming in a rooftop pool, what’s not to love? Our Shoreditch summer was really so enjoyable that we forgot to miss our nuclear family. Our new alternative, child free family who drink cocktails at midday, spend hours shopping for fresh flowers and hang out in private members bars DID have a certain allure….and besides, my boys overseas were happy. Eating their body weight and gaining around 6lbs each, their skin the colour of stewed tea (could have been tan, could have been lack of hygiene) and their smiley faces over Skype telling me of trips to Bricot Depot and the time Arthur found a salt n vinegar crisp the size of a saucer!

20130217-124109.jpg

Its all gone a bit Dalston….

But on the day we landed at Pau airport, reunited for a two week holiday, the sight of their (dirty) faces through passport control made me realise the best thing about being separated for the summer. The realisation that you can’t wait to be reunited.

20130217-182740.jpg

My husband and a glass of rose! Back together again (husband – obvs we HAVE rose in London too)

Its not really a holiday though. Is it?

So who wants another room makeover? Thought so. Enough with the mushy emoting, tales of friendship and the like – what you really want is to see photos of a semi derelict bedroom and then further pics of how it looked once we’d painted, plastered and bought bijou extras from quaint little french markets – right?

To be honest, I think I’m going to have to add an element of jeopardy to this blog because right now its all going a bit too well. Surely we need to run out of cash, have a roof cave in, discover bats that are part of a conservation order in the barn. Like those bits in Restoration Man when he goes off into his round study and ponders ‘how its all going’ and wether ‘they’ll ever get this project finished’. At the very least one of us needs to have an affair or lose our job otherwise its just two smug, happily married people who own a house in the south of France and no one wants to read about THAT!

Well just to move the plot along a bit, I’m going to sleep with Roman the sexy french builder. Sadly not, I’m afraid. But I am going to start getting a bit disillusioned. We’re almost at our first summer and the house is taking some shape but maybe not as much as I’d hoped. The boys are still sharing a room that could be a film set but its that bit of The English Patient where Ralph Fiennes is bandaged up in an old bed rather than ‘Amelie’. And our bedroom is little more than a mattress on the floor. And this does not please me. As I’ve mentioned, I work in fashion and although I don’t mind a bit of roughing it, I do have to hear constant tales about colleagues travels to villas in Mustique, Riads in Marrakech or even just boutique hotels in the Cotswolds and they all sound rather nice. And I, by contrast, am sleeping here……..

Its just like a boutique hotel really

Its just like a boutique hotel really

It was around this time, I began to wonder….. was this really what I wanted from a holiday home? Did I even want a holiday home? Was this all Peter’s dream and not mine? I married a man who hates sunshine, swimming and relaxing. His idea of a holiday is to smash down a dividing wall with a sledgehammer. He likes reading books and collecting old junk. I by contrast dream of a Heidi Klein bikini, a white sand beach, a mojito and ideally someone else to do the washing up. My job is pretty stressful and was it madness to think that I would then want to spend my holidays, painting, cooking, lighting fires and all of the above in a run down, dirty house.

I think I may have shouted that at him several times around this period as I tripped over wires that snaked all around the house as we had only about two working sockets and a million extension cables. Or when I trudged through the dark, dingy back rooms of the house to get to the bathroom in my flip flops because the floors were too disgusting to walk on without footwear. Oh and dont get me started on the days spent entertaining the children on my own while Peter was up a ladder painting, plastering or mending. ‘WHY CAN”T WE JUST GO ON HOLIDAY LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE?” I would shout. Loudly and often. And it was this kind of disillusioned moaning that prompted him to start work on project master bedroom. (And not just so he could be on a different floor to me wallpapering quietly on his own – though I am sure this also had a bearing on his decision).

Peter was clearly wise to the fact that the bits I DO like about owning a french holiday home are the shopping opportunities and the interior planning and so it was with project bedroom. As I think I’ve explained – this is a budget operation. In fact the budget is, there is no budget. So I searched ebay and discovered a range of Laura Ashley Josette wallpaper that someone was selling off for only Β£5 a roll. In many ways having no budget makes all your decisions for you and so it was with this wallpaper. Would I have chosen it if I could pick anything in the world? Probably not. But I love it and I suppose it kind of chose me.

images

The glass light that was already hanging in the bedroom was cleaned up and I love the fact its been there all along and we’re simply adding to the stories it could tell. The floor just needed a polish and we bought simple white curtains from IKEA. A mirror was sourced on ebay and came cheap because it had some bits missing from it which Peter simply glued back on (it’s amazing how people sell ‘broken’ stuff on ebay that isn’t even really broken, it just needs a bit of tlc) And then we bought a bed. A giant four poster one from IKEA that I’d always like the look of – EDLAND which crazily they have now discontinued -there are entire forums devoted to this online!

And from separate Vide Greniers we found bedside tables that don’t match. Some lights were bought in Marks and Spencer and driven over one trip. And finally a set of HEMNES drawers again from IKEA. I suspect for a more authentic french feel, it could do with some more stuff in it that isn’t from IKEA but you know what – we have the rest of our lives to buy stuff. And Claire Danes’ character in Homeland has IKEA drawers in her bedroom so it’s OK right? (although she is a bit of a looney and in love with a known terrorist and I’m only on season one so please don’t post and tell me it turns out he’s not a terrorist or whatever because I HAVEN’T SEEN THOSE EPISODES YET!)

And so, despite my moaning, I actually rather like going to our French holiday home every holiday. Having jumpers and jeans already there in my HEMNES drawers so I never have to pack to go away. And one day those snaking wires will be gone and we’ll be able to plug stuff into the socket in the same room as the appliance (I know this reader because in real life I’m way ahead of you!) And best of all, I have a bedroom that looks like a boutique hotel. Its a little known place in SW France don’t you know? Mustique – PAH!

Logging on

Logging on

bedtime

bedtimeImage

IMG_0409

20130223-205946.jpg

20130223-210021.jpg

Uncle Ricard

20130205-220819.jpg

There are five of us in this French House

So there is someone else you need to meet. Someone who has been our most frequent guest over the last few years at La Maison Blanche. My BFF. My children’s godfather. Karen to my Valene (Knots Landing ref – youtube it) for the best part of twenty years now – Uncle Richard. He’s obv not my Uncle Richard – though he is the older of our twosome – but as my children always refer to him as such it has stuck – or it did until he came to France where he gained a new moniker. But more on that later.

Richard and I met twenty years ago in the kitchen of an unassuming publishing house – well, I say publishing house – it was two magazines housed in a garage down a back alley of an unfashionable bit of central London. But to us it was the publishing house of dreams. It really was. This, despite the fact we had to dodge junkies to get into work each morning and, once, when a pigeon died in our water tank our boss told us just to walk to Habitat to use the loo or wash our hands. And we were fine with this because we were JOURNALISTS! Journalists who ended up buying one of those paper lampshades every time we needed a pee, but journalists nevertheless.

It was our first job in and Richard and I were respectively, features writer and features assistant on Inside Soap magazine. This meant that he got to write about EastEnders and Corrie and I got to do Emmerdale and Brookie! Partly this was some sort of soap hierarchy, but moreover, it was because as the youngest of the two, I had a young person’s railcard and it was cheaper to send me on the train up north. Glossy media London it was not, but as we both came from spiritually and physically miles away from London – to us it was like we’d landed a part in Press Gang – only it was real. And Dexter Fletcher wasn’t in it. But nevertheless, STUFF. OF. DREAMS. We worked hard, we went to every free party going, we got inappropriately drunk with the cast of Soldier Soldier and we made amazing friendships with our colleagues on our sister mag – TV Hits.

We dreamed of working at ‘proper’ grown up magazines with staff canteens and payrises. And somehow, over the years, the entire team of people from Inside Soap, TV Hits and a short lived one off mag called ‘Supermodel’ managed to land ourselves a series of ever improving jobs. Richard in TV and me in women’s magazines. And this meant we could no longer share a desk, the walk to work and our lunchtime trips to Cafe Mania – the local sandwich shop where we once spotted Prince Edward grabbing a lunchtime baked potatoe. But we talked in some form or other, and still do, almost every day. And when I moved to Australia to edit a magazine, he came to visit. And when I moved to LA, he came to visit. And we laughed all the time. Usually over things that no one else could understand – our first boss used to say we were like Dolphins with a language like a series of sonos squeaks decipherable only by us.

Now my children love him as much as I do. And he loves them as much as I do. And these days, he and Arthur send each other text messages every day that make each other laugh or LOL cos its all electric now. And I can’t imagine any part of my life without him in it. So if we go to France – he comes too as often as he can. And as we see the house take shape through his hugely positive eyes it keeps us going even when sometimes we may want to throw in the towel and go on a Mark Warner holiday instead.

And when Uncle Ricard arrives at Maison Blanche, he settles himself in and pours himself a Ricard (he usually arrives in the afternoon – we’re not talking 9am Ricard drinking here!) And he sits down in front of the fire checking his emails and says ‘This really is what life’s all about love.’ And so he became known as Uncle ‘Ricard’ and we amassed a huge amount of Ricard related paraphenelia which the children insist on buying each time they see some at a Vide Grenier. So even when Uncle Ricard isn’t with us – we can recreate a familiar scene using Picachu.

20130205-221039.jpg

Pikachu loved a Ricard after a hard day of evolving

On, this, his first visit though, Uncle Ricard arrived in a Renault Twingo having flown into Toulouse. I’d never seen Uncle Ricard actually drive having based our relationship for the last twenty years in urban London locations! But as he pulled into the driveway and announced ‘Oh My GOD It’s Chateau Vallon’ (short lived ancient French soap opera – again – youtube it) I knew this was to be a match made in heaven.

20130206-131618.jpg

Oui oui – c’est un velo!

And we cycled into the village together on rickety old bikes that Peter had bought in a vide grenier. And we shouted Bonjour loudly at everyone else as they cycled past. And we bought baguettes and when they asked if I needed a carrier bag, I said ‘non j’ai un panier’ and we looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear. In fact, we wanted to videotape the moment because we were living a big french life. Right up there with the time we went into the shop on Rodeo that Julia Roberts gets turned away from in Pretty Woman with armfuls of carrier bags and said ‘big mistake. Huge!’ (Cos those assistants must NEVER have heard that before!) Essentially, we were in one of those scenes that if someone had shown us a flash forward while we were blagging our way into parties just to eat the canapes and drink the free drink, we’d never have believed them. C’est pas bloody possible! We’d have said and then died laughing. But we were. And we had the boys there too and Uncle Ricard would take them to the Tabac and buy them french Pokemon cards and a ten centime mix up. And then come home and have a little Ricard. Well it IS a holiday and all that cycling really works up a thirst!

Meet the parents

p&g

Peter looks v pleased to have some help!

IMG_4859

creepy!

IMG_0150

And I got to do this!!!!

peter thebricky

getting plastered

Our first guests – sort of. My parents. Strangers to roughing it, they arrived fully warned as to just how basic our french home still was. I’m not entirely sure they believed us though (my mum had optimistically packed white linen trousers!) but they were kind enough to make the right kind of comments about potential, one day, blah, so much space, blah… In the end, despite the completion of the bathroom we decided it might be best to house them in a nearby B&B so they could retire at the end of the day to a bedroom with en suite and fluffy towels. They stayed with a fabulous Danish woman in a lovely village nearby called Marciac. I wished i ws staying there too for the breakfast buffet alone! Plus, Marciac is a picture postcard french village based around a square that looks how you imagine a French rural village to look. Think ‘Chocolat’ or those ‘Petit Filou’ ads and you get an idea. As a result, it is swarming with English people. On one of our first visits there i spied an entire english family of curly blonde haired children of varying ages, all in matching breton tops plus a dad in white linen shirt and straw trilby – pete had to restrain me from chasing them down and introducing myself. ‘But they would love me. We could be friends, i wailed.’ They probably live in one of those chateaus i online stalk! So, thats Marciac. There is even a french restaurant run by an english chef called Le Monde A L’envers – an amazing place but only open about twice a week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Le Monde A L’envers (the world upside down)

Marciac is also home to posh shops that sell shabby chic french home accessories and stripey tablecloths! (Bought largely by english people) Its also home to our favourite restaurant (frquented almost entirely by french people just to prove am not one of those ex pats who track down jars of marmite and mother’s pride) Its called La Peniche and was once a boat but is now a restaurant on the lake complete with resident parrot. They serve a a four course meal with wine for around €15 and the kids get duck and chips./p>

Unknown

La Peniche – floating food

So, each day, during the parental visit – Mum and Dad would drive over and my dad would help Peter to get rid of the climbing vines that were blocking out all our light. Dad then took up the task of white glossing all windows – to put into context, we’ve now had the house for three years and still have about 80% of them still to do as it takes forever! But we were very grateful for his input. My mum kept an eye on the kids so I even managed to steal some time to read books and bake. And the kids played in a wheelbarrow. It was boiling hot and we could eat outside. And we could begin to see the future. a big table in the sun, laden with cheese, bread and tomatoes so big and juicy they look and taste more like nectarines. The boys in stripey tees and Pete in a linen shirt. What more could you possibly want from a holiday?

20130203-092252.jpg

Chateau inspo

Chateau rigaud somewhere near Bordeaux – inspo indeed

Quick post to highlight some places I go to when I need inspiration for my own French home – property porn basically. The first is www.chateaurigaud.co.uk a truly gorgeous house you can rent in its entirety or by the room. Click on the link and I promise you will spend at least twenty minutes flicking through all their rooms.

If only they said on the site WHICH colour this is?

I love the way they’ve used bold dark colours in the bedrooms. One of the joys of having a large house is being able to really make a statement with colour. I want our house to have this same feeling of rich colour throughout. We’ve discovered a paint firm called Earthborn paints which are not only more environmentally sound than normal paints but they also let our ancient old walls breathe (like Geox shoes – my kids always question their ‘shoes that breathe’ claims – “how? How can shoes breathe mummy’)

chateau lartigolle – some nights I dream of this place

My second favourite room inspo site is a chateau not too far from us called Chateau De Lartigolle. So obsessed am I with this building that I’ve been tempted to pop over and say hello. But I fear it’s a little stalkerish! How would they react when I tell them I have studied every inch of the Cole and Son wallpaper in their ‘Brook’ bedroom. Or that sometimes in the evenings I sit down with a glass of wine and idly flick through pics of their children’s sitting room?

Maybe they’d be thrilled. Flattered. Or it might end up being like the time I interviewed Olivia Newton John and quoted the first ten minutes of Grease to her ‘I’m going back to Australia, I might never see you again. Don’t talk that way Sandy… But it’s true I’ve just had the best summer of my life and now I have to go away. It isn’t fair…..’ She kept looking at her agent in a slightly scared way. Its why I can never meet George Michael. They’d have to restrain me to stop me singing all of Careless Whisper to him ver-batim!

Would Jimi fit in my handbag?

Anyway, Lartigolle is my go-to site for wallpaper ideas. From rooms totally covered in heavy patterned wallpaper, to feature walls and panels, I love what the owners of this chateau have done with pattern. I also love their sitting rooms. In fact, I love all of it. I am OBSESSED. That’s it I’m driving over there right now to steal their Jimi Hendrix print.