Browsing Posts published in 2010
Wreckgate 2010 continues. The deadline for financing has come and gone and the answer from the bank was “mais oui we’ll finance your lovely Wreck with just a few conditions”. A few conditions they say.
Get French life insurance because we don’t accept that silly Canadian insurance that you’ve had for 10 years. We don’t feel like financing your kitchen because your range, fridge and cheap but clever Ikea cabinets and countertops are ‘portable’. Oh and if any unexpected costs crop up during the renovation, you’re on your own with that. Bon courage and we appreciate your business.
What the $#@!* am I supposed to do with that now? One, I’m old and decrepit, literally falling apart at the seams and Neil takes a medication that costs more a year than a Mercedes so applying for new life insurance is not an optimistic undertaking (no pun intended). Continue reading “Decisions, Decisions” »
Christmas ornaments and artwork aside France is all about food and wine. Of course there are big grocery stores, several in our town, but one of my favourite things here is the épicerie, a small boutique grocery store. When I visited Paris I fell in love with one in Montmartre not only for the food but for the unmistakable Frenchiness of the store itself.
So when we found Serge’s place here in Semur is was like a gift from the gods.
Hey Canada, I found your winter here in France. Come get it. Now. It’s so cold Brigitte Bardot is wearing a sealskin coat.
Ice and snow has brought most of the UK and France to a slow crawl. Flights cancelled, trucks (the lifeline of Europe) stranded overnight which means that every delay in France now has an excuse, the weather. Right. Next the bank will be telling me that the mortgage approval is still not ready because of the weather. My head might actually explode.
Here In Semur it’s been a bit difficult as the sun has not been seen for over a month now. I’m just waiting for the rickets to set in. Maybe I thought France would be warmer and sunnier but I’m not complaining because other parts of France have really been dumped on.
Of course I come from the land of professional winter survivors. We really know how to deal with it, plows and salt and such. Here they just look frightened and descend into panic mode. I am stunned by the amount of snow that creates havoc over here. 15 centimeters?? Sure that’s nothing, a mere dusting, nothing that can’t be managed with a slight eye roll and the latest fancy scraper thingy from Canadian Tire.
See, I’m not buying this whole ‘surprised by winter’ business. News flash: scientists around the world have confirmed that winter comes every year and at about the same time. But I have to go a little easy on the French as apparently this kind of weather almost never occurs before January.
It’s hard not to read too much into this one. Everywhere we go I can see the villagers looking at us putting deux and deux together. Wacky early super winter coincides with the arrival of two Canadians who appear to have multiple down coats and several wooly hats apiece. Hmm. I will admit it does look a bit suspicious.
At least I know how to dress for winter. The other day I was walking in the village wearing my full length shearling coat, a trapper hat and of course my non slip Timberland boots, cool winter chic right? Why I could have just slipped unnoticed into the crowd at the Sundance film festival.
Then I saw her coming out of a shop. Lovely little grey beret, trendy cinched waist mock down filled coat, fancy scarf and high heeled boots (on ice!!). Ah yes, of course. Me, Nanook of the North. Her, Ice Queen of Europe. God love her. At least she’ll look gorgeous as she’s going down. Me, I’m sticking to my long johns, wool socks and fleece slippers. Stone cottages are quaint but warm they ain’t.
So I’m settling in for the long haul here. At least for now the wine will flow, the bakeries will keep pumping out the croissants and the grocery stores have entire aisles devoted to chocolates for Christmas. Like every year I’ll tough it out until spring. Someone wake me when it’s April.
Yes, this is my new name. Oh I’m just kidding. I thought today would be a good day to do a little shopping over in the East Village. I’m taking you to the Galerie Spiralinthe which sells all sorts of funky stuff. It is one of the most beautiful shops I’ve ever seen. Since they have put out their Christmas baubles I thought it was the perfect time to order Neil, I mean politely request, to take some fancy pics. Hope you enjoy…
I have been hearing this phrase all my life. Bedhead, hung over, sick, whatever, if you were in any kind of damaged state you always heard “jesus girl you’re like the wreck of the hesperus” and like all our other lovely family traditions (crippling self consciousness, bad spelling, co-dependency) I have carried it on to the best of my ability. Even Neil has been known to break out the wreck comment a time or two at the first sight of me emerging from the lair at the crack of noon on a Sunday.
I never actually read the poem until today. Holy mother of god what a depressing mess that is, frozen children lashed to ship masts floating in the cold sea and everything. That’s my heritage for you in a nutshell, death and mayhem on the high seas transformed into a turn of phrase that is apparently appropriate for commenting on your appearance. Continue reading “The Wreck Of The Hesperus” »
Wreck-O-Rama has become Wreck-O-Drama I’m afraid. We had our big meeting to review all the work estimates and as usual we have created a plan that only a Trump could love. Honest to god, what the hell is wrong with us? Are we fundamentally incapable of doing anything on a small scale?
We started out with a very modest plan: open living room, kitchen, eating area with 2 small rooms upstairs, one for us to sleep in and the other for Neil’s office. This has ballooned into an addition out the back for a long galley kitchen that juts out on to an enormous wall of rock and has the world’s most complicated roof design, 2 full bathrooms (to prevent divorce) as well as a toilet on the main floor because apparently I am too lazy to go upstairs every 20 minutes (my bladder and a tea bag, same size) and a full revamping of of the exterior. Continue reading “Champagne Taste, Beer Budget” »
The Wreck-O-Rama has begun. Real estate in a foreign country is not for the faint of heart. We are now smack in the middle of making our lives complicated again. For about 3 months I was blissfully light, few possessions but most importantly mortgage free. This is about to change. We are at the application stage for a French mortgage which takes, you guessed it, time. About 45 days. In Canada we would have finances arranged in about 45 minutes. Again, just rolling with it.
It’s pretty loosey goosey here. We have yet to lay out a cent for this house, no deposit, no nothing but onward ho. We met with a bunch of artisans and had our first project meeting about a week ago. Excel spread sheets of estimates called devis have been created and are neatly tucked away in the Big Binder with our name on it.
Now these devis are apparently incredibly detailed down to the last dollar for each and every piece of work that will be carried out. This is quite a difference from my experience with Canadian contractors who come, take a look, offer you a 3 line description of a whole house renovation and the ever annoying phrase “we’ll look after you”. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one, well I’d have enough money to pay for the Wreck outright. It drove me bananas. Continue reading “Made In France” »
I knew it was going to happen sometime. Public humiliation. My French remains a vast wasteland dotted with the occasional noun, verb and adjective. To make matters worse I finally met with my French teacher here in the village only to find out that her daughter has just given birth in Sweden and my lessons will have to wait until the end of the month. Honestly, the nerve of some people! How can this baby, who probably already speaks perfect Swedish, take priority over me?
Anyway, today I had the lovely experience of needing to go to the pharmacy to get something desperately needed for a ‘lady’ problem. I had 2 options. One, take Neil the translator with me and have him regale the pharmacist with my feminine woes or two, go it alone. I chose the latter as having my husband in on this debacle seemed far more terrifying than the former. I believe the success of any marriage depends on judicious disclosure. Continue reading “Oh The Humanity…” »
So I’m all set up here in the new digs. Another splendid house brought to me by the miracle of discounted winter rental rates. This little cottage has been lovingly restored by a man from Paris and his American wife who writes children’s books right at the table where I now sit.
Everywhere I look there is something so Frenchy cool that it boggles my mind as to how long it took to put this place together. Antique art nouveau armoires with secret compartments, period light fixtures, reclaimed painted floor tiles, on and on. There’s no way to do this house justice with pictures (taken by the better half) but here are just a few things in my gaze these days…
I stole my title today from one of my favourite Damien Rice songs that I’m listening to top volume for a number of reasons. One, there’s lots of swearing in the song so that suits me just fine right now. B, I am soothed very much by music so that’s right on the money and three, I am as tall as a tree and I can’t find any roots to speak of. See, I’m moving. Again.
Boxes, tape, hockey bags, big white van, somebody stop me before I pull all my spiky hair out. While I am happy enough to move on to our more permanent residence (and I use the word permanent very loosely), I am not digging this whole uprooting business. Etrochey has been so very kind to us and I’m kind of settled here with my cows and chickens. I’m even making peace with the unknown creature (I’ve never been brave enough to go see what it is) that makes huge splashes in the river late at night. Continue reading “Rootless Tree” »
Well it’s official. I own a wreck in France. The papers have been signed, the key has been handed over which is quite amusing as the house has no back door. And so begins the seven day period during which a mad scramble must ensue to determine if we can make it work within the very tight budget. After the seven days is up then there’s no turning back.
Where the hell am I getting the strength for this one? I’m still not recovered from the last one. I think my house in Canada was finished in the middle of July so that’s about three months right? For some reason it feels like a fair bit has gone on since then. Oh yes. All that relocating to a foreign country stuff. I knew there was a reason why I feel as decrepit as this house. I swore up and down, literally, that there was no way I was getting into another mess for at least a year or two and (stamping of feet now) maybe never again. So I’m a homeowner and a liar. Continue reading “Wrecking Ovaries” »
Okay here’s my deal today. I know that when living in another culture one must rise to the occasion and embrace, adopt or at least respect the way things are done. For the most part I’m going along with everything, dinner at 8 pm, 2 weeks to get a car registration, not batting an eye when the entire nation goes on strike and 4000 gas stations go dry (check out the BBC website for coverage in English). The French are all about revolution and the closer Sarkozy gets to his pension reform the wackier things get. We are rationing gas as I write and by the end of the week Mad Max will rule the highways of France but I digress.
What I’m on about today is all this kissing you have to do every time you see someone. I love it and I don’t. At first it’s charming and you feel like super chic European woman. It’s very romantic in a sense and good for the ego to think that everyone you see wants a kiss from you.
After a while it becomes a bit of work as it’s not as easy as it looks. First it varies from place to place. Some areas do single air kisses on each side, some three and the other day I noticed women in the town going in for the quadruple. Who has the time for that? Imagine going out for a night with the girls? Sure it’d be time to go home as soon as you finished saying hello. Continue reading “French Kissing” »
It seems that every post lately involves me in a grocery store but hey I like to eat and it’s not like there are many discos out here in the country. Also it’s one of the few things I can do without an interpreter. I did try to mail a letter by myself which didn’t go well and is a story for another day.
So there I am, fashionable as ever, sweatpants (wide leg so not totally disastrous), knobby pilled fleece, bedhead, a sight to behold. I’m trying to get in and out quickly as I suspect that I might possibly smell worse than I look. There is a woman ahead of me clearly in some sort of panic, whipping items along the belt at breakneck speed, talking a mile a minute, obviously late for something (at least I hope so). She was stressing me out a bit so I turned my attention behind me. Continue reading “A Life In 15 Items Or Less” »
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Go big or go home. Of course the last time I said this it was about cutting off my hair, relatively minor compared to what I’ve gone and done now.
The wise thing to do would be to live a while in France, see how I like it, ease into the culture, blah, blah, blah. Instead, why not buy a roof and four walls from a Parisian artist and then embark on a full scale renovation without even knowing how to say the word hammer?
Those who know me are not surprised, I can actually hear the rolling of eyes and the sighs of the wise, those who know full well that 2 months into this I’ll be pulling out what’s left of my hair. My real concern is that my unconscious motivation to buy this house was that the reno would offer months of fantastic blog material.
The good news is that the house is about 950 square feet so it fits with the plan of trying to live with less (space, heat, cleaning, etc.) and will be quite the challenge both in terms of small space design and a small budget. Anyway, the offer has been accepted but the papers are still not signed so who knows? I know you’ll be as amazed as I was by how cozy yet luxurious this house is. All one needs to do is open the wine and relax…
This may be the day that all the marbles have actually been lost.