What colour should we paint our shutters? (part deux)

20140804-113627-41787089.jpgApologies for the prolonged exterior painting blog. Like those films that wend on and round and just when you think they’ve ended it turns out there’s still another whole section. Like The English Patient. Or Atonement. Or Legends of the Fall by the end of which I was shouting at the screen to anyone who came within of five mile radius of Brad Pitt “steer clear – they all die!!!”

And so it is with my exterior painting. I blogged about shutter colours vs wall colours way back here. And happily you all made suggestions, passed comment etc but as with all best laid plans I seem to have ended up nowhere near any of them.

My paint dramas taking my dreams of a dark cream wall with a white shutter from me – or HAVE they? Here’s how that looks so far…


All white?

And once the window frames have been painted white too – it might be calm, serene and sophisticated… So that plan is, to paint all the shutters white (and as they are all in such bad condition they probably need lots of base coating and TLC anyway – check out our Shutter A&E area


Always knew this bit of barn would come in handy for something?

And then – I can take a view. After a long chat with Serge we decided that it might be nice to do at least the doors in a silvery green to match the leaves on my burgeoning lavender plants. (Imagine that conversation in French?) But the truth is I really can’t decide. Anyone got any thoughts then do share. I’m a bit stuck!!


Our perfect pink – finally!


Eeny, meeny

So for those joining now -hi! *waves

Here is where we are at. I had painted our Grand Salon in France a hideous, girly, darkish pink. It looked like a nine year old’s bedroom – all it needed were some Lelli Kelli shoes scattered on the floor. And so I had begun a search to find a pink I DID like. I was open and broad minded in this quest – from lilac to nudes to peaches – no shade of pink was denied its chance. See above!

As it turned out I fell back on my old friends at Farrow and Ball (don’t ask why I didn’t just do that in first place) and went for Calamine.


Calamine by Farrow and Ball

but the wall above remains in our London dining room and produces an interesting talking point for guests.
“So, which one are you going for,”
“None of them.”

And we set to work, reprinting the entire room. And then we added a wooden floor which came from Bricot Depot and some tall skirting boards which Peter plans to add to the rest of the house one day but he ran out of steam doing the Salon.

And I added two hanging lights I bought in the Graham and Green sale. I got Peter to replace the hanging wires with vintage style fabric covered cord bought on eBay. And we are currently in the process of recovering all these old chairs we’ve found in Vide Greniers.

The coloured chandelier has been moved around every room in the house and will be replaced in here too but we can never get rid of it as it hung in Peter’s dining room in Los Angeles where we first met. When we left LA, we left the chandelier with my LA dwelling Aunt Moira and it lived in her garage for about ten years until I decided I’d carry it back while visiting for work. It came on the flight as hand luggage much to the annoyance of other passengers. And now it’s in France. And Peter keeps optimistically hanging it in every room until I point out it ruins the ‘mood’ I had planned….. Maybe it could go here (current utility room!)….


One day in the future this will ACTUALLY become a pig sty

And as a gift for us all and our newly repainted Salon, Serge brought us an enormous plant which we added to our ‘reading corner’ and we have a long list of other things we would like to go in it. Mirrors, chairs, tables, bookcases – pretty much everything but at least I have painted walls in a colour I love. Phew.


Farrow and Ball Calamine walls


The Chandelier of love!


Serge’s plant and some French mags!

A sad day for Serge



It is definitely time for another post about our French neighbour Serge. When I mentioned him in a previous post several people demanded he make another guest appearance – like Tom Selleck in Friends. Only without the tache. Or the good looks. Or previous existence as Magnum PI. But you wanted more of him anyhow!

We first met Serge on our second visit to La Maison Blanche. We had been shown around the day before by Patrick the estate agent after what we assumed had been a ‘big lunch’ for him. His face was shiny and the colour of red wine and his demeanour, suitably ‘relaxed’. But as the house was little more than a derelict shell, Oliver Reed could have shown us round and established that only a pair of idiots would buy it, so Patrick had little to do other than hand us the key and mumble ‘tres grande’ a lot.


Peter shows the estate agent around the property.. hic

The next day, we drove back for another look at the outside. To gaze wistfully through the gates and decide if we had the stomachs and the funds for such madness. Or so we thought. No sooner had we pulled up outside than Serge popped up with a ‘spare key’ which he’d been keeper of like Gandalf for probably twenty unoccupied years. He insisted we go in for another look and raved in French about the sheer majesty of e place. “C’est la Maison pour Le monarch de la village” he insisted which Pete rather liked the sound of. And once we finally moved in, we insisted that Serge keep a spare key and he has had that key ever since, as we never asked for it back.

In the years since he proved to be an absolute god send. He’s dealt with flood, famine and plagues of locusts for us. Well actually, flood famine and plague of mice which he called us at 5am English time to tell us about. “Les souris, les souris” he shouted down the phone. “Ou?” I replied “PARTOUT!!” He yelled back. Along with our friend Sarah Bird (who we were able to phone and have a slightly less hysterical conversation with, in English) he went in, laid poison and in a couple of days time they were all gone. In my head they all left to set up a new home somewhere else, like in Watership Down as opposed to them all staggering off to die in our barn, a slow, uncomfortable death by poison like a Poirot character! Or that episode of Midsommer where the murderer force fed his victim poisoned pasta!

Serge speaks no English whatsoever (why should he?) and because he is such a help to us, we have him for lunch or dinner at least once each visit at which I use my good, but not fluent French to discuss topics from Briitsh Royals (he is obsessed with Diana, William, Kate so we have that in common – we talked for hours one lunch a year and a half ago about fact Kate ‘pas enceinte’) to the French economy (to be honest I leave that to Peter and listen for when he gets back round to something like Prince Albert of Monacco and the bride qui courir!) I really must get Serge a subscription to Paris Match.

Serge lived with his mother who was so old that several times when we went there for lunch we suspected she had died at the table – turned out she’d just fallen asleep during the salad course. She was 89 years old and Serge had never left home. His brother and sister are both married with children but for Serge, the last twenty years had been taken up caring physically and emotionally for his mother. Even if he popped over to visit us, she would stand at his (and her) gates across the street and wave her walking stick shouting for him like that old woman in ‘allo ‘allo who used to see ‘ze flashing knobs’.

We entered his life at a time when caring for his sick, aged mother really had become his life. And each visit, as we arrived he would run over grinning as if the circus had come to town (in many ways it had!). Nowadays he always gets up early to make sure our fires are lit before our arrival and even restocks our woodpile which we have tried to offer him money for but he blanches in offence because we are ‘les Amis’…

And so, when the phone went in our London home around this time at 5am in the morning we assumed our house had encountered some sort of natural disaster. Instead it was a sobbing Serge calling with the news that his mother had died. He had wanted us to be some of the first people to know and Peter tried to say all the right things but at that time in the morning we didn’t even have the computer switched on to google translate ‘we’re so sorry for your loss’. Desole seemed the best answer…. But we hope that despite few intelligent words in our non mother tongue – Serge would know that we were genuinely sorry. And we knew what a momentous thing this was for him. A strange mix of sadness but also a freedom he had never known. No more staying home in case his mother needed to eat, bathe or even pay a visit to the toilet. The world was now his oyster – at the very least SW France was his oyster. But what do you do when you can do anything? It’s like some sort of Stockholm syndrome – as much as you hated being so confined – once you have unlimited freedom you’re almost afraid to take it. I wonder if Serge even has a passport.

And on our next visit he broke down in tears at our arrival and got out the order of service leaflets from the funeral and filled us in on how his brother and sister are not speaking to him because his mother had left him the house in return for all those years of sole care (and having spent a bit of time with her we have to say he’d earnt those bricks and gardens) and we asked what his plans were now. And he didn’t really know. So he seemed to just carry on as normal. Cutting down wood in his forest, tending to his amazing garden which provides us with loads of great fresh veg and pretty flowers.


Courgette quiche and courgette cake…..


Flowers from le jardin de Serge

He says that he has plans now – he may even travel to London. But I don’t think he will. I think he will stay in the house of his mother until he dies too. Tending to his garden and making us lovely cakes and les merveilles (french donut type things – delish) But maybe I’m wrong and when we go back this summer Serge will have dyed his hair black, started wearing cravats and announce he is going on a world tour. But then WHO would look after our keys?….