And before you know it, it was Christmas again – this time with partial heating AND my parents. In less than two years we had managed to take a house with no water, heating, walls or heart and turn it into a family home. A warm, bustling, family home for the first time in twenty years. With noisy meals, heated games of table football and plenty of rowing about what time bedtime is. Regular, family stuff.
We had learnt by now via neighbours a little about the enormous french family who once lived in what we, the White family now refer to as La Maison Blanche (see what we did there?) It was once home to a family called Mouledous. The Mouledous had eighteen children and they all lived in our house in Gensac. Like the old woman who lived in a shoe. There are now dozens of Mouledous scattered around the local area. There’s Dr Mouledous in Maubourguet who we took Seb to once for scurvy or some such Victorian illness for which Seb is a magnet.
Then, there is the genteel and elegant Francoise who is no longer a Mouledous by name as she married. She is a retired paediatrician and lives in a beautiful old windmill on the edge of our village and invites us over for aperitifs and speaks such posh French we can understand every word (unlike Serge our other neighbour, with whom a conversation is probably the French equivalent of a chat with Gazza). Francoise’ daughter is married to an English Dr and they live in Ealing with their three ‘English by birth but French by manners’ children.
Finally, the best Mouledous of all is Frank Mouledous. Frank recently returned to his family home in Maubourguet with his Hawaain wife to open up rural France’s, one and only California surf shack, burger bar. Called The California Kitchen it’s the kids fave place to eat in France – go figure – but it’s not just the enourmous burgers which are made from scratch and delicious. Or the american style cheesecake which Mrs Frank makes from scratch and is delicious. Its not even the fact there is no loo at the California Kitchen so you have to run across the street to the Town Hall if you need a pee which the kids think is way cool. the big draw of the California Kitchen is the fact that Frank is a big bear of a man in a chef’s outfit who talks to the kids in a French/American accent. He might have stepped out of one of those dreadful shows they watch on the Disney channel where the Dads are always overweight and bufoony, and the Mum’s naggy and in charge. And Frank always offers up free desert for which my children would happily follow the child catcher, never mind a man who could be Selena Gomez’s onscreen Dad!
So this Christmas we would have a family Christmas the like of which our still a bit shabby house had not seen for about twenty years or more. A Christmas to make the Mouledous memory proud.
Peter and the boys bought a huge tree that filled one ‘kings speech’ style corner of our salon. And because we now had a concrete floor in the salon, we moved all Christmas operations into it. The table we normally use in the garden with a white linen tablecloth to disguise the fact it’s an outdoor table. And mistletoe found in abundance in our woods.
And we could begin to see how our holiday home could actually be a real home. With a sofa, (ikea natch) and lots of rooms that we could spread out into. We may not be a family of 18 but when all our new Mouledous friends pop round for a glass of wine and some cashews we hope they’ll be impressed. And perhaps explain where they all used to sleep! Because readers, next Xmas we’ve got our friends the Candys coming to stay and they are the closest thing to Mouledous we know as there are six of them! We may need a bigger goose!