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!
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
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.
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.