Want to see more pics?

So in real time I am currently in France. At my French house, so it rather makes sense for me to blog. I am in theory on holiday with time to relax and do things like blog. But somehow, while I am here, I have no time at all. By the time we’ve got here, opened up the house, tidied up a bit and panicked at the sheer amount still to do just to stand still, it’s all we can do to sit down and relax.
So rather than write elaborate blog posts of an episodic nature, I think I may just take loads of pics. So first up, guest bedroom.





Elephants breath vs mouses back


Not quite Babington yet…

We may have had our fair share of guests by now but we’ve relied on their pioneer spirit to see them through. That and a supply of flip flops for crossing unfinished floors. The house was slowly taking shape and with each holiday that passed we became more confident that one day we would have one of those holiday homes you could imagine on a website of ‘baby friendly boltholes’. We had a few finished rooms and had started to collect some bits of furniture.

Until now we had vacated our master bedroom and bunked into a little room next to the boys room when people came to stay. You have to walk through it to get to the boys room which curtails any chance of privacy and means that Arthur wakes us up with his 5am rises which he has done since birth and even now age 10 doesn’t show any signs of changing. I am hoping that one day he will be one of those teenagers that you have to drag out of bed with threats of cold water. And the room itself is fin. Cute even. I found the granny quilt on ebay (you actually search for just that – granny quilt) and we have no problem moving in while guests come to stay.


Our room when guests come to stay. Cozy.

But as another Christmas loomed large, and this time my parents were feeling brave enough to make the trip (the prospect of heating and not peeing in a bucket had increased their levels of interest in another holiday) we wanted to get a proper guest room ready. The room pictured at the top was the one we had earmarked. It was downstairs and next to the one finished bathroom (see below). Image

So together they would make a really nice guest suite. I could possibly start sidelining as a B&B landlady. But as usual there was a lot of work to be done before getting Alistair Sawday round to give us a five star rating.


The loo/rats nest was in the far corner. Like Nimh. Then it was gone.

By this stage we were old hands at doing up our rooms. And this room did not phase us. Oh no. Despite originally having a loo in the corner with a rats nest underneath it (we tend NOT to share this info with guests before they’ve slept in it) The most horrible peeling ceiling. A funny coat rack thingy (technical term) which I actually kept and put in another room later on and broken windows.

We got to work with a vat of decorators caulk to fill gaps in the wooden ceilings. A gallon of white undercoat and gloss for ceilings and woodwork. Another gallon of white emulsion for the walls and a lot of patience to apply all of the above. Ourselves. And finally hours of pouring over Farrow and Ball paintcharts to choose the colour for the walls, about six changes of mind over which particular shade of beige or grey to go for (Elephants Breath vs Mouses Back – #firstworldproblems) We settled on Old White

Old White

Beige by any other name. Old White if you want to pay lots more for it

And we painted. And painted. And I got the children to help and they painted. And then Peter filled the holes in the ceiling and I painted that too. And this was probably some sort of school holiday/half term or other and my friends were facebooking about their sunshine breaks to Morocco/Dubai/Majorca (I even had pangs of jealousy as people fessed up to being at Centreparcs – not for long admittedly)

And it was finished. Although it didnt yet have a floor – just some mucky cold concrete but I bought a rug at Marks and Spencer and that would do for now. We bought a Leirvik bed from Ikea and carted it back from Toulouse. Along with yet more Hemnes drawers (I will be calling my next born Hemnes FYI)

Thanks IKEA

And finally we added a great glass chandelier we’d found at a Vide Grenier. And i made some curtains out of my favourite hessian fabric bought on ebay – with black out lining for extra warmth. Voila. And the rather splendid 1970s pic of the fallen madonna with the big boobies was found in a Vide Grenier for ten euros. A bedroom fit for parents and anyone else who descends from now on. Want to come and stay yet?




When kids decorate


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!


Arthur discovered the best way to cut onions…..


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


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

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.


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.


walls the colour of ketchup


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


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


Cath Kidston cowboy paper – yeeee ha


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