Let’s go outside….(aka lazy blog post)

I’ve blogged before about how hard it is to blog while here in France. Not because of dodgy broadband access or writers block but simply because I have no down time. I’m either preparing food, playing board games with the kids or doing basic DIY. (My husband will scoff at this but I honestly do wield paint brushes from time to time – or I do faffing about moving vases from A to B which constitutes valuable DIY in my book – I’m a whizz with a sconce!)

So I decided to blog quickly with lots of pics I’ve taken around and about but not shown you before. Mainly of the exterior. We have lots of fields and even a wood – and there are several outbuildings but we tend to use hardly any of it. The fields and woods are overgrown though Peter spends hours driving his ride on lawn mower around them, like Forest Gump.


And partly as we still need to keep an eye on our, or visiting children, the main action all takes place in front of our house. Which is half gravel, half weed infested lawn with two big hammocks strung between the trees.


And in front of the house is a big table and chairs we use for meals – we even ate out here one Xmas Eve. Sometimes in summer it’s actually too hot to sit out here. And besides, Peter hates sunlight and prefers a darkened room. But for me, this is where the holiday cliches come alive. Sitting around our big garden table laden with stinky cheeses and home made quiche.


And then there are barns, and funny disused bits of ground, and gates and doors that lead to other areas. And we hardly use any of it. But it looks pretty. So here is a lazy blog post picturing my grounds…






How to build a treehouse!


A few months earlier, we’d all ventured as a family to a large house in Northumberland for two friends’ joint fortieth birthday. A stunning, enormous country home with tartan wallpaper, monks’ seats, priest’s holes and presumably some agnostic architectural features too. It was so far north that other party guests spoke of nosebleeds, needing passports etc etc but for me, it was about thirty minutes from my childhood home. I grew up in Northumberland but rarely go back, so despite my southern friends’ initial reluctance, I was quite proud to be able to show them the white sand beaches, fifty foot sand dunes and incredible ruined castles (Hogwarts included!)


So while celebrating Dan and Louisa’s 40th in Northumberland, or more precisely, at this amazing house called Ellingham Hall with roughly twenty adults and twenty kids, we discovered they had a treehouse. And it looked like this….


So excited about this was Peter that he took lots of pictures of nuts, bolts, rope attachments and stair formations. Was he planning a Christian Grey style ‘red room of pain’? Thankfully not, he was instead planning to recreate said treehouse, in our woods, in France, this summer. And the boys would be helping.

Now one of the things that has always mystified (and impressed) me about my husband is his ability to build things. He just knows where nails and screws and things need to go in order to erect structures. He knows how to put pipes into things to get water to go to it or poo to go away from it. He also knows how to cut things at angles. This is the cleverest thing of all – AND I’m the one with the maths A Level (I’ve also got economics A Level though and my bank manager would surely scoff at that one!). And so it was with project tree house. He trotted off to Bricot Depot for wood and then started sawing things at angles, convinced that he knew in his head how this was all going to look. And the boys helped by passing him screws.

Or by pretending to saw their legs off, or my head off. And Peter grew tired of our lack of commitment to wood cutting at certain angles and basic construction techniques. So eventually we all went in and watched a film, leaving him, like Charactacus Potts banging and sawing away in the woods.



Come and look! He finally shouted. And we dutifully trooped out to see the framework all done so that it looked like the pic above. We all ooed and ahhed about how fabulous it was – Arthur momentarily looked up from his Nintendo to declare it ‘Epic’ and Sebastian tried to climb up it without a ladder.
“Ah no, just wait a sec,” said Peter, “I need to make one crucial adjustment to this nail here,” he continued, wielding his electric drill.
And then with one unscrew, we watched as plank by plank, it toppled to the ground, like those dominoe topplers who used to be on Roy Castles Record Breakers. Not a scrap of wood was left standing. The treehouse lay at our feet.

At this point I would probably have burst into tears and given up on the whole thing, but Peter simply shrugged and said it would be easy to fix – after all, the hard bit had been cutting all those angles. So he started again and with a couple of design based ideas from me it looked like this.

Apparently this is phase 1 which will be added to with other houses joined by rope bridges. One day I’m told it will be just like the one at Ellingham Hall. Trouble is, by then out kids will be in their late teens. Oh well maybe one day we’ll have grand kids!!

Downstairs Bathroom ‘Get the Look’

Bathing beauty

Bathing beauty

The last time I did a ‘get the look’ post I got a lot of love for it. Like I said before, I AM a journalist so research is in my DNA. Its one of the things I love about renovating (and oddly one of the things that other people cite as the reason they don’t do it – “who has the time to look for tiles blah blah”)

Its where other blogs are invaluable too as blogging is a way for those of us who love searching down bargains and unique ways to decorate to share our wisdom. And I often wonder what would I choose for my homes if I could choose anything. Where would I start if money were no object. For me the starting point of any room is usually based around some money saving necessity and I take it from there usually via Ebay!

In the case of my downstairs bathroom the bath was the thing that had to stay. It was in the room when we moved in but had slime and quite possibly an ecosystem living in it. There were vines and creepers growing through the window of this room and it had a concrete floor and falling down walls.

A hot water tank. Which means - HOT water!

A hot water tank. Which means – HOT water!

This picture above was how it looked AFTER we’d cleaned it up a lot. But thanks to a lack of funds, Peter decided that the bath had to stay. And I rather liked its little metal feet so I said OK. And as you can see – the floor had been accessorised with a rather nice piece of cardboard that we had to step on so floor tiles were needed asap. So we visited B&Q near our house in London and found some slate tiles a bit like this that were on sale. So for only about £100 we had enough to cover our floor and do a skirting board in them too.

Colours Excellence Pack of 5 Black Slate Wall & Floor Tiles (L)300 x (W)300mm

B&Q slate floor tile

Most places do slate tiles like this. And I love the look. I could have spent more and got these ones from Topps Tiles

Or really blown the budget and gone to Fired Earth who do these brilliant rectangular tiles which I think give a lovely country feel. In fact am now wishing I’d pushed the budget a bit. Maybe when its time to re-renovate and I’ve turned this blog into a moneyspinning enterprise with my own TV show I can make Fired Earth rather than B&Q my home.

And on our walls we went for Cornforth White by Farrow and Ball – I can’t even remember how or why we got to this colour but it may have involved my friend and colleague Oonagh who knows every F&B colour by heart. I suspect some nights she dreams of Farrow and Ball. Her alltime fave BTW is Light Blue which isn’t really blue at all but grey. But maybe she suggested Cornforth to go with the slate – either way it works and I am really happy with it.

Cornforth White

Farrow and Ball Cornforth White

The bathroom suite itself (and I use the word suite loosely as the dodgy old iron bath was staying, all I needed was a loo and a sink) came from a local bathroom centre in Greenwich. Well, Charlton technically. Lets go for West Charlton. Its called Gem Discount Bathrooms and sells pretty much any type of bathroom you would want but the ones you can get for really knock down prices are the ‘traditional’ look ranges. Everyone does them and they are always on sale because no one likes them anymore. Or at least they don’t like them in their wipe clean, modern, limestone tiled London bathrooms. (And I don’t really either though I did just do up my bathroom at home and went for something in between)


My new London bathroom!


More London en suite bathroom


Savoy toilet from Bathstore.com

Anyway I digress…. Victorian style bathrooms feature on most people’s sites and are often on sale. Ones I love include this bathstore.com old school cistern at the top loo.

It is part of their Savoy range which looks like this. Perfect for French Country homes. Or English Country Homes I suppose. But maybe not in downtown Dalston!


Winchester Suite from Victoria Plumb

bathstoresavoyOr Victoria Plumb often have things on sale. This bathroom suite is currently only £168 for the loo and sink!

And after that I just added things found at Vide Greniers. A lovely vintage picture which remains one of my fave ever finds. A storage cupboard from a local brocante (which Peter had to tie to top of car and drive home).


Moustache mat from Primark

But my favourite recent addition is my moustache bathmat from Primark (who FYI do some great bits and pieces of homeware!) Ta da! And only £6 I think. Bargain.


New Farrow and Ball colours (omgeeee!!)


I HAD to blog v quickly about this….
So in my post bag today was a lovely black box from Farrow and Ball with the anticipation building title ‘New Colours’

Once I’d instagramed it (natch) I ripped it open to find this wrapped up in tissue paper along with a press release detailing the new shades.
Names of said new shades are;
dimpse, Wevet (named after a Dorset term for a spiders web) , Ammonite, Purbeck Stone, Mole’s Breath (less smelly than an elephant’s?), Yellowcake, St Giles Blue, Stiffkey Blue and Nancy’s Blushes

My fave is the Stiffkey Blue


This is literally up there in terms of sheer excitement level with the time I stood next to Downton’s Lady Edith in a bar in LA! I know, I really should get out more…..

Things to do in SW France (by Arthur and Sebastian)


Welcome to Pau!

So here they were, my boys, to meet me at the airport. My single summer was over and I had two weeks in the bosom of my family in France. Two whole weeks without deadlines, fashion crises (omg pink’s out, punk’s in!) or worrying about what to wear to work (all documented on .company.co.uk should you ever want to see). Instead, I faced two weeks of wearing shorts, stripey t shirts and a variety of flip flop type footwear.

I could at this point do nothing. Nada. Sit on a sun lounger or our beloved hammock and just chill. But I can’t. And as my boys had spent four weeks doing little more than playing in the pool, visiting vide greniers, eating pizza at Restotop our local restaurant, or visiting our friend’s camel farm, I decided that now Mummy was here – activities would commence. Wether anyone wanted to go or not. I scoured the Internet, visited the local tourist info office and it turned out there was plenty of stuff to do within an hour or so’s drive.
So should you ever be in SW France – here is the White Family guide to places of local interest as written by Arthur and Seb.

1) The Pic du Jer Funiculaire


A rare moment of affection (or is Seb trying to crush Arthur to death?)


Peter was a little underdressed for a day out on a mountain

Whilst we were waiting for the cable car thing that takes you up the mountain there was a huge beetle – we took a photo of it.
We took the train up the side of a mountain when we got to the top we walked to the very top it was exhausting and at the same time very fun. This is what it says on the internet about it….
The Pic du Jer, towering over the town, is recognizable by its large cross which is illuminated at night. You can get there by a hundred-year-old funicular railway which takes you to the summit at an altitude of 1000 metres in a few minutes; it’s a charming trip.
At the top, a gentle path takes you to the observatory, where you will discover a unique panoramic viewpoint offering a 360° view over Lourdes, Tarbes, Pau, the Argelès-Gazost valley and the summits of the Pyrenees. We had fun.

2)Crazy Golf in Plaisance


It’s pleasant in Plaisance

When we got to the crazy golf course at Plaisance we saw our friends Oliver and Elliot, they were at the swimming pool next door. At the crazy golf there are a total of 13 holes. I won by a point, it was Epic! The final hole you have to get the ball inside a well (Mummy came last). Seb and I both had a can of coke because it was so hot. After we finished playing our game, we had ice cream it was yummy. This is a good place to come to but it is closed a lot. In fact we have been here lots of times to try and play crazy golf but it is closed. I think maybe it only opens in the afternoons.

3) The Tour De Termes




Taking stocks

At the Tour which is not too far from our house – there was a cage where they used to put bad people, so Seb and I went in it. In every room in the castle there were some wax people in different scenes from the olden days. There is a really cool gift shop. I got a bow and arrow that Seb broke straight away – and he still owes me a bow. This is what I found on the internet about the Tour.
The Château de Thibault de Termes was a medieval castle in the French town of Termes-d’Armagnac, in the Gers département. The keep (La Tour de Termes-d’Armagnac) is the only vestige.

Construction of the castle dates from the end of the 13th century and start of the 14th century for Jean, Count of Armagnac. The keep is 36 m (~118 ft) high and includes six levels. Strategically built on a hill which dominates the valleys of the Adour and the Arros, it allowed the d’Armagnac family to keep watch over the frontiers of the province of Armagnac. Its most famous inhabitant was the founder’s son, Thibault d’Armagnac, companion of Joan of Arc. He gave evidence on her behalf at her trial. Cool huh?

4) The Rope Park at Aignan


Rope park!!!

We went to the rope park at Aignan we had to do like a little course to learn how to do it. There are four levels blue, yellow, red and a zip wire across a lake. Daddy was so heavy he got dipped in to the water when he did it – but I didn’t.

Although I got stuck on a red course because it was too hard. When you google Rope Park at Aignan Mummy’s blog comes up because she has already written a post about it. Cool. It is our favourite place to go and loads and loads of fun for kids. We would definitely recommend it.

Yeee haaaaa

Yeee haaaaa

5) The Chateau De Montaner

what Seb thought of medieval history

what Seb thought of medieval history

So I’m going to do this one myself as Arthur and Seb have apparently grown bored of doing blog post reviews. And besides, this was one of my favourite days out despite being a thousand degrees hot that day.
The Chateau plays host to medieval reenactment stuff but we had got there too late or too early to see people ride around on horseback in funny costumes.

What we did get to see were wild birds being trained – the owls were a big hit with the kids thanks to Harry Potter. There were more stocks…



But the best thing of all, was a calligraphy class they have running all day which brought out the Roy and Hayley Cropper in Peter and I. I absolutely loved it and despite being a completely unsentimental person usually who goes through the house throwing out kids early artwork, birthday cards etc, I’ve kept our calligraphy from this day.


If you would like to rent our lovely French home click here for details 

Summer being single


Another summer had rolled around. Now for many the concept of my husband and children living in a different country to me is hard to understand. And I admit it is a little odd. But in many respects it makes great sense. For up to four weeks a year, I get to go out, see friends, party,have lie-ins, go shopping without someone insisting we go via the Lego shop first. In short, I get to be single and childless again. And don’t let anyone tell you different – it’s GREAT!

Spontaneity is something there is little of when you have children. Just getting out of the house can take anything up to twenty minutes by the time you’ve located a missing shoe, or got half way down the road when someone decides actually they DO want to take their scooter. And as an only child, truth be told, I find this really hard. And the thing no one talks about when they have children is how unrelenting it is. We have no relatives nearby to help so we’re it. All the time. For Peter this seems less of a burden. Largely as life in general is less of a burden to Pete. He is one of those infuriating people who uses expressions like ‘hey don’t worry about it, it will all be wonderful’ or ‘vic, it’s ALL good’ (he’s actually stolen this from Gwyneth Paltrow as response to my ‘what would Gwyneth do? Life mantra) But for me, it’s actually quite tough.

On a more practical note, Peter is self employed so can take off to France for six weeks in the summer while I am a wage slave with only five weeks holiday a year. So all in all, it makes sense for him and the boys to go feral in France while I live it up in London. And this summer held prospects of a lot of fun. My friend Dawn was getting married so I had a hen weekend and a wedding weekend to fill my single time. The hen was vintage themed on an open top double decker bus and took us all over London for a day. And there were barman on the bus, and we stopped for lunch and we got shamrocks painted in our hair at Bleach in Dalston. And it was crazy amounts of fun. And I didn’t have to get home and explain to a ten year old and six year old why I was wearing a funny dress, have a shamrock on my head and reek of mojitos.



And it was Olympic year – so I tried and tried to get tickets to go and see something but in vain. Until, I managed to get one ticket to the women’s soccer final. And so I went up to Wembley, on my own to watch football. And it was a strange sensation watching other people in couples or big groups marching up Wembley Way. And as I struggled to take a ‘selfie’ just to prove I’d been there at all, a nice lady took pity on me and offered to take a pic of me. And suddenly being on my own was a little more sobering. And, watching women’s soccer on your own, Olympic or otherwise is rather a dull experience. And when the Mexican wave comes around you feel like a total idiot jumping out of your seat by yourself.


So towards the end of my four weeks of partying, not only was I exhausted and possibly malnourished from a diet of wine and pistachio nuts, I began to yearn for noise, mess and unreasonable demands. So, reader, i remembered why I had children in the first place – it’s really what life IS all about. So perhaps the real joy of being apart is that it makes you want to be together. And anyway, partying at weddings til 3am is a young woman’s game. It WAS fun tho!

A blog post about eating. Food. Yum.


I love it when a flan comes together!

It might be time to talk about food. In a list I often mentally compile of things I love the most, food would be well up there. The children and I like to play Sophie’s Choice for food – one food for the rest of your life and nothing else??? I’m torn between ice cream and pizza.

Anyway, suffice to say – I LOVE food. On that list it comes somewhere below my children, narrowly above clothes shopping and hovering around the same place as watching Take Me Out while wearing a onsie. In fact, watching Take Me Out, in a Onsie, with my children AND a giant bowl of salty popcorn is my Saturday night Nirvana (shhhh don’t tell anyone!)

And being in France equals an amazing opportunity to cook. I am time rich while there. I have a lovely big kitchen with massive work spaces. I have amazing produce given to me by various neighbours and friends. I even have an electric slicer with about ten different attachments for julienning vs grating! And for some reason, while in France my children adhere more closely to those Jamie Oliver ‘kids food’ guidelines (you know how he always does those recipes for minestrone soup etc that he claims his kids LOVE? Well, I’ve never met a kid yet who eats soup – mine look at it like the woman in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom looks at the plate when when they serve her monkey brains) BUT while they may not tuck into my home made Gazpacho – while in France the children will try all sorts of things that they never would at home. Some of their faves include confit duck, pate, chorizo and rare steak. Cous cous is still a swear word in their vocab though.

In our second summer in Gensac we were inundated with courgettes. We had courgettes from Serge. Courgettes from Sarah Bird at la Maison Des Chameaux and courgettes from Pete and Ness the only other english people in our village who like us to bring them Daddies sauce when we visit. They in return give us home made jam and fresh veg. I think we get the best deal!

Cooking in France has become my thing I do to relax. As I find it too boring to sit down and do nothing – chopping, frying, steaming and mixing are to me what lying on a sunlounger reading Fifty Shades of Grey is to others. So when I arrive I make oodles of Gazpacho (Jamie Olivers recipe and a load of salad dressings in old Bonne Maman jars. I make quiche with crab and shrimp, apricot tart, onion tart…. the year of the courgette glut I even pickled courgettes.

I make pain perdu, cherry compote, and at Christmas we feast on goose. And I have loads of great cookbooks full of french recipes which I try and ammend to suit our purpose. And my lovely nutrionist Petronella turns a blind eye when I go to her to get weighed on my return (you see people, its things like this that I drop in every now and then just to remind you that in real life I edit a fashion magazine – I HAVE A NUTRIONIST! She’s lovely helped me shift a stone many months ago but these days we meet up more for a chat than for any nutrional expertise but should you ever need one she’s here

Some times my husband tells me how happy it makes him to see me fully relaxed and chopping up shallots. And that’s nice. Cos I know that often at home I am like a banshee shouting and screaming and crying about how stressed I am or how messy our house is. Or I’m lying prostrate on the sofa watching Corrie on catch up with a glass of wine in hand too tired to speak. Or worst of all, I’m throwing myself on my bed surrounded by clothes that DON’T FIT and blaming everyone but myself for my lack of time to exercise *runs off attacks another packet of KP salted nuts…..

But in France – none of this matters. Its all fresh ingredients, home cooking and enough exercise for it not to matter really. And the satisfaction of seeing all my lovely creations on the table mean it doesn’t matter that my denim cutoffs and getting a bit snug! You should come for dinner. x


It is A TART!




Courgette rice and some easter eggs


courgette cake and courgette quiche


I’ve lost my bread!


More courgettes!!!