Thursday, October 27, 2011


Hi friends, I'm back from my blogging break in theory but not particularly in practice, as you'll note from the lack of posts. I'm enjoying an occasional browse through some of your blogs but am doing what the French love to call 'cocooning', I suppose. It's a year since my mother's death and just hanging around with the family, teaching a little and pottering about the house and local area seem right at the moment. I will be back in time to plan some Advent fun, though!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pavement Freecycle

A few years ago I was explaining the concept of Freecycle to my father, and he said (rather smugly), 'So it's a bit like the pavement outside my gate, is it?'. He'd recently had an enjoyable time sorting through his cellar and had found a few metal buckets and a vintage counting machine, which had disappeared to (presumably) grateful new owners shortly after being left outside his gate.At the time, I didn't know another pavement like it! We have our Ramassage des Encombrants, when the council gives a date for the collection of bulky rubbish, and I knew I wasn't the only one to scout through the 'rubbish' outside of gates to pick up the interesting stuff, but that was only four times a year... Now, and I think it must be to do with the changing economic times, pavement freecycle has come to our own little French town.

I think it all started about eight months ago, the night before the Ramassage. I was out walking the dog with Son 1, and we spotted a most exciting selection of bookcases (modern, slightly battered, but useful) outside one house. While I was wondering to myself if I could dash home for the estate car and fit a bookcase in the boot, the problem was taken out of my hands. A large white van drove up and a couple of men put the biggest bookcase inside it.That night the white vans were active, and we found our own encombrants (a very rusty bike frame and a few things even we didn't have any more use for) had disappeared. We guessed that the van drivers were gipsies, and hoped that they could recycle/reuse the stuff properly, rather than dumping some of it outside of the proper council sorting tips.

The next Ramassage was very different. One house round the corner from us set up a whole table of little knicknacks, as if it was a Vide Grenier stall, and people from all round came and helped themselves. I had a good look but didn't take anything - I've regretted the blue china tankards since! I think I saw some travelling people selling some of the metal plates at a Vide Grenier that weekend. I liked the way that the householders had set everything out so beautifully for us all.

And now, a house out in the other direction has an almost weekly deposit of something interesting, and lots of us stop for a browse. Ben picked up a lovely big piece of tempered glass to make a cold frame the other day, and he brought me three hand-painted saucers from outside the same gate yesterday! The heap of stuff is kept very tidy and there's no sense that it's a public nuisance - it seems a rather neighbourly and entertaining way of keeping stuff in use, instead of binning it.

Are you seeing any increase in this kind of thing? And would you take something from a 'heap of stuff' if you liked it?

A quick PS - I'm off for a week's blogging break now! I won't be visiting your blog or mine until next Tuesday. Have a lovely week, friends!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

February - October

I've just checked in my gratitude journal - we had our first outdoor Sunday lunch of 2011 on February 6th. We had another one today, with the table out in full sun on the lawn - in summer we hide in the shade, but of course it's back to sunshine now!

We don't think we've ever had a year where more than eight of the months were fit for eating full meals outdoors. It's really something to be grateful for...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Think big!

This is a photo from last month - the current flowers in the pitcher on the piano are even taller!I've been a terrible one for picking a few flowers and making a tiny posy. Buying one little whatever because I couldn't afford the big one, or more than one. But in church last month I noticed that someone had picked a whole cosmos plant and stuck it into the flower arrangement, very effectively.

It worked.

I tried it and it's been working at home ever since.

I wonder why I never THOUGHT BIG before?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Shadow Writing

Ladies and (possibly) gentleman, I have done it again. I have written a poem that I'd quite like to share. This is somewhat nerve-wracking and I am begining to think it would be interesting to take part in a poetry workshop, as I can see plenty of room for improvement in my poems, but can't find the way forward myself. Have any of you done anything like that?

Shadow Writing

Here in the early morning sun,
Writing in prayer journals and morning pages,

My shadow follows my pencil, meeting the paper just where my pencil leaves its mark.

Who is leaving the mark,

My shadow or me?

Who is directing, and who is following,

My shadow, or me?

Is my shadow the anxious, thoughtless, must-get-on, must-cope, mustn’t-think-about-it self
Who tumbled through this life in the sunshine,
Spreading little streaks of darkness
Where before there had been light?

If it is, I want to be the writer,
Conscious and aware of all the good,
Soaking in the light and beauty of this day,
This place,
These people,
This life.

I want to be the leader, and my shadow the follower.

I want to turn to the sun and leave my shadow to follow behind.

My life is with the sun, not in the shadow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"They can sing, they can dance...

... after all, Miss, this is France!" Yes, indeedy, the silver items I was cleaning in yesterday's post were, in fact two silver(ish) candelabra, which got me singing along with Lumiere here:

The smell of eggs confused a few of you - you don't actually use eggs to clean the silver, but the reaction causes a sulferous smell - that's how you can tell it's working, actually! If you don't know how I cleaned up these candlesticks, here's a post I did when I first discovered the technique.

Last week I cleaned up our silver napkin rings, and this week it was the turn of my mother's candlesticks - I put them all together in this photo so you could see Son 1's new napkin ring, which belonged to my dad. He had it engraved with all the ships he was on (Royal Navy) up until around the time I was born. When Son 1 started taking an interest, my dad got the napkin ring updated and gave it to him - now it's back in daily use, and even kept fairly clean! (Thanks to bicarb of soda...)

Here's an unstaged shot of the table area - scary heaps of school-type plastic pockets sticking out of the bookshelf.
The 'true crown of King Dagobert' has been unrolled (it's actually some vintage shelf edging) and I threaded it with a bit of vintage ribbon to fit in with the red theme around the table. PS That England flag has been taken down now. Nuf said.

And in line with the 'thrill of what I already have' I was delighted to find the hurricane candle that Ben made years back in the UK. He used a mould which allows you to set things into a hollow candle-shape. Here he used shells we'd collected with our teeny-tiny boys on a Brittany beach.

You put a candle inside it and everything glows in a beautifully candle-lit way, without actually destroying your hard work.

The shells I put around it on the wooden stand were from our most recent beach holiday in the Basque Country. I think everyone in the family is pretty chuffed with this combination of warm light for autumn with summery shells for remembrance of holidays old and new. It's been a real talking point with the boys. Clever dad!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The thrill of what you already have, Part 2

It's been great reading your comments on my post about loving what you already own, instead of buying more. Thanks so much for making my own thoughts clearer, and confirming that this is something that's on other people's minds, too.I was delighted but not too surprised to read this very relevant passage in Simple Abundance on Saturday night:

"Don't feel you have to deny or ignore your feelings when you want something beautiful but can't afford it. The desire offers clues to satisfy this holy hunger. Explore why you behold something as beautiful; use your impressions to jump-start your imagination."
So, for the new year I'll organise some kind of no-obligations monthly 'jump-start for our imaginations'! For now, can you see what I've been doing to perk up something I already own? Clue: the kitchen now smells faintly of rotten eggs.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The autumn has arrived...

... we've reached the point where roasted garden veg seems like a warming treatinstead of a waste of garden-fresh veg!

Friday, October 7, 2011

We have failed the Cricket Test...

The scarf comes down tonight."Allez Angleterre!" as we heard Son 2 shouting the other Saturday...

(Cricket Test: 'The cricket test or Tebbit test was a controversial phrase coined in April 1990 by the Conservative politician Norman Tebbit in referring to the 'loyalty' or 'lack of loyalty' of immigrants and their children from certain parts of Asia and the Caribbean to the England cricket team. Tebbit suggested that those immigrants who root for their native countries rather than Great Britain in sports might not be sufficiently loyal to their new country.' From Wiki.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The thrill of what you already have

Serenata made a good point when she mentioned the other day that blogging had encouraged her to go out and shop more, for things she didn't really need. In many ways, any of you who are reading this post are probably part of the thrifty living side of blogging - there is a 'must have...' type of blogging, but surely we're not part of that?Well, mainly, we're not. The thrill of getting new suff is still there for us, though - even if it is second hand, hand made and vintage stuff. And we kind of encourage each other in this, although not in a bad way, I think.Forming a collection is lovely, and is probably some kind of ancestral memory thingy, from our nuts-and berries-gathering-ancestresses, as Emma pointed out a while ago, on Silverpebble.

But there is a time to gather and a time to gloat over what you've already gathered, to paraphrase a good book.

When I stop buying and start rearranging what I already have, I find that even more exciting than the shopping (I think...)

This little pause from shopping to gloat (the pause is of necessity, by the way) reminds me that the pleasure of what we already have can be forgotten. I wondered if I could organise a no-obligations blogging event next year, where once a month people can appreciate what they already have, on a given theme.

It would be a bit like my monthly calendar arrangements - just to give the inspiration needed to look at what you already own, and to delight in it by arranging it in a new way.

Feel free to leave a comment even if you're not interested in getting involved, but if you are interested, let me know.

Here's a gloat over what I already have, as displayed above:

Vibrant George VI pincushion - from my mother's collection

Faded plastic birds pincushion - bought by Son 2 on a 2€ Challenge

Felt strawberry pincushion - possibly made by my sister? in the 1980s

French and British vintage fabric boxes - bought by me over the last 3 years. I probably need to slow down now... Priced between 50c and 10 pounds - average price 2€

Red basket of 'stuff to go downstairs' - Vide Grenier

Red embroideries - Vide Grenier

Leather fire fan (Afghan?) - from a Charity Shop in the 1980s

Four vintage tins on the theme of French regional dances - Vide Grenier

Framed picture of a waterfall - from my mother's collection

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On a different road

I took a drive today, without my camera! Grr. I was going to assess a pupil and I have to tell you I was really excited to learn where he lived, because of the road there! I'm not even sure that photographs would capture it for you anyway, so I've taken the liberty (and possibly leave of my senses) to write you a poem about it instead:

On a different road

On a different road, today,
The High Road, the Top Road, she called it.

The memory of an earlier journey:
A landscape that dropped away from the car towards a jewel-bright reservoir and then reared up again into tumbling hills.
A chateau.
Houses, old and new, perched high on the ridge on my right, to drink in the view.

I wanted to take that road again.

Anticipation, knowing the view is coming,
as I drive along the High Road, the Top Road.
Something has already changed – here the trees are thicker, the colours older and richer.

The view is coming.

Past the hedge and the landscape drops. The reservoir is an azure-green patch in the hills.
The fields are hazy with grey-blue stalks of straw, remains of the harvest.
The sky is another stroke of grey-blue.
If an artist painted it, she’d have to dilute inks until they were homeopathic drops in the water.
If an artist painted it I wouldn’t believe her – ‘too wish-washy,’ I’d say.
But I’d be wrong.
Here, on a different road, everything is hazy,
Everything is watered, everything is intense.

Back on my own road, the colours return to their normal strength.
The soil is a strong red-brown, the sky is cerulean blue.
But I turn and, there, on the horizon, just a streak of hazy grey-blue.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Buttons for October

I'm so happy to have found exactly what I wanted to display a few of my buttons... and just in time for October, when Niki's calendar features a most enviable button tin:

This box was my own personal 1€ buy at the school Vide Grenier yesterday. I'm limiting myself to 1€ at each VG or troc shop visit now, due to low funds. Any other spending has to be on presents or things actually needed by the family. And it's possible that a clock-maker's sandalwood box doesn't fall into the need category.

But it was certainly on my list of wants!

You'll see Niki and I both have some colourful mid-century buttons -I've had fun buying a few of those this year!

I also decided to put in some of my favourite hand painted/hand stitched flower buttons.And maybe just a few mother of pearl...There have been some fantastic blog posts on button boxes over the last few years. I'm struggling to find them all for you now, so if if any reader has done a button box post, it would be lovely if you could put a link to it here among the comments, please. And if you haven't done one yet, do you have a button box you could share? I'm always ready to see more...