I had a fabulous week in France, and was really just getting into the swing of things when it was time to come home again! I’ve threatened Ian I’ll come out for two weeks next time!!
The journey over there this time took me 13 hours door to door! Bus to Edinburgh, then out to the airport; some hanging around there before the plane left for Paris; a short time there before catching the TGV (high speed train) down through Poitiers to Angoulême. It was very comfortable but it was dark by then and I couldn’t see the countryside or appreciate the speed we were doing!
Ian was at Angoulême station to meet me and we had a 45 minute drive back to his village, where a reviving cup of tea was very welcome! Purdee, the little black and white cat, a stray who adopted Ian last year, had come out to meet us, but I was upset to hear that CC the other cat went missing a few months ago. I only hope she found a new home with nice folk to look after her. As for Purdee, I have never met a cat with so much lick! He could lick layers of skin off your hands, face and neck!!! He’s a fluffy and needless to say, very affectionate cat, and very pretty too, so you really want to think of him as SHE, but I eventually got into the way of referring to him as HE!
Anyway, after much catching up, we finally gave in to tiredness and went to bed. My room had changed a bit since last year, with new built- in wardrobes making it necessary to change the position of furniture. The room is a quirky shape and the new cupboards improve the proportions without losing the quirkiness. I love his house!
but this time we had an outside tour of “the estate”!
Ian has bought some of the derelict cottages behind his own place and is full of ideas for them! At first they were going to be holiday lets, but while one is well on its way to being just that, now he has the
idea of turning the others into an Arts Centre, with Gallery, workshop and studios, perhaps even a cafe, while an old barn around the corner that he could rent, if not buy, could be turned into a small theatre and cinema, once the building is made weatherproof! It’s all a bit tumbledown at the moment – needs a new roof for starters.
There was an old building on Ian’s property that was beyond saving which has now been knocked down and the plan is to turn that area into a garden with a pergola, tables and chairs, that could also be used for an outdoor music venue. We explored some more of the buildings and looked at the others Ian would like to buy to complete his gallery plans, then headed off “round the block” to see more land that belongs to him (accompanied by Purdee most of the way, until about 3/4 0f the way round when some neighbours’ dogs began to bark at us, and he took off, returning home presumably along the route we had come!) Although it sounds like Ian must have spent a fortune in the village, prices have been very reasonable and all he owns now, cost considerably less than the house he left in England a couple of years ago!
So, it all sounds tremendously exciting! Ideas are flowing thick and fast, and he has already used one of the cottages for a photography project, which turned out extremely well. One of his friends modelled for him and though she had never done that sort of thing before, she was a natural (in my humble opinion!). I am really looking forward to hearing how the whole thing progresses.
In Civray, a village we visited in the afternoon we visited another Gallery that has inspired Ian. It too is run by Brits but, I am glad to say, is frequented by French as well as British visitors. The gallery area there is divided into small areas where artists, sculptors, photographers, and various craft workers can display and sell their work, and there’s a large studio where workshops can be held, as well as a cafe serving light snacks, hot drinks and cakes. Ian says it has developed from just a coffee machine and home-baking. It’s all he would need at his place!
A new gallery run by a French couple in Charroux was also inspirational with a range of rather unusual crafts, and we each bought something there. I loved, but had to leave, the paintings by Thierry Landon, a Charente-born painter living and working just south of Poitiers. They are more abstract than the type of pictures I used to prefer, but not so abstract that one struggles to see how the picture relates to its title! Though Thierry generally uses a lot of reds and blues in his paintings my favourite was one with no red or blue in it at all. It was mostly yellows, of a gorgeous little cat! (Surprise, surprise!) What a shame it isn’t on his website.
Ian’s idea is to link up with other galleries to provide a tour-guide for interested visitors, and it would certainly put his village on the map! In itself it is a small village with no real reason for visitors to take notice of it, but music, theatre and all the other ideas would really make it worth more than a cursory glance!
He also has friends in Confolens, Nick and Mary, who have renovated a couple of old buildings near the old bridge, and who also plan to open an Arts Centre to work alongside their Chambres d’hôte (Bed and Breakfast). I saw the building last year as they were working on it and I think it must be fabulous now.
One day we visited Stess’s house – a lovely old Charentais farmhouse with lots of animals milling around outside – including a chicken called Shakespeare - to talk about a project some of the group are planning for next year. They are putting on a play next summer, to be performed by 30 to 40 French youngsters,
at a nearby ruined castle. It was fun to have to converse in French as Florence - she’s the blonde girl in the photo above - doesn’t speak much English – but then, why should she? It’s her country after all! Stess is a fluent French speaker but Ian and I acquitted ourselves pretty well, I thought! The play , being written by Stess, sounds rather intriguing, bringing in various historical French characters as well as some present day ones! I would love to go back over for that! We’ll see!
Anyway, more about France soon. I just must say now that it snowed quite a bit today! Not that it was the first time this winter as it snowed enough to cover the Green a couple of days ago - see my Peebles blog here - but today I looked out the window, and realised that the snow was melting quite quickly. Hmm! I went up the street to do some shopping and next thing there’s these huge great flakes of snow swirling about again. In about twenty minutes we had about an inch of the stuff! The temperature dropped again this evening so it will have frozen now!
The town’s Christmas tree looks pretty nice under snow though. A white Christmas this year? I’ll let you know!
Talk again soon.