A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


When I went to France in January to help my friend Didier in his search for a French home, we viewed a dozen or so potential properties.

One was a renovated castle owned by a couple of Irishmen in their sixties. The place was immaculate inside and out with many rooms that looked like film sets.

Another was a half renovated house put up for sale by its English owners unable to finish it after running out of money.

Each of the houses we visited, from the quaint to the grandiose had its own charm, its own story to tell.

One had a sad look about it.

It was located in a small village in the Lot.

The owner, a retired solicitor who now lived in Paris, used it as his summer home. The accompanying estate agent explained that the old man, now in his nineties had been born and grown up in that house.

After boarding school he spent his military service in Africa. When he returned he practiced law, first in the village and then later, having married a Parisian woman, in the French capital.

He insisted on spending the summers in his native village. His butler always came a few days ahead, opened up the house and prepared it for his master's arrival. Everything had to be exactly where it had been left at the end of the previous August.

As we walked from room to room we marvelled at the exquisite antiques furnishing them. Some of the ornate wallpaper peeled off the walls in many of the rooms.

One room, the lawyer’s childhood bedroom oozed sorrow.

It had remained untouched for over sixty years, set exactly as it was when he left for boarding school.

Dusty books, toys, African artefacts…
An old wooden high chair…
A single bed with a greying wrought iron headboard.
A marble hand basin.
A room with so much history it transported me back to my own childhood and the farmhouse we left for the town.

It stirred up forgotten memories. Happy and sad. A wave of nostalgia enveloped me.

The whole house exuded sadness, longing, emptiness.

Memories past.

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Blogger Mary said...

I must say I hate when I get in nostalgic moods. There is nothing to do about it. You can't go back and if you do it's never the same. People, things, times, change.

5/5/07 11:45 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

I would die of sadness in a house so melancholy.

When I bought my current house it was filled with arguments, bickering and despair. The walls were a nasty pinky-browny-beige, and the curtains were dark and heavy, they reeked of discount bins; the rooms were small and cramped.

I ripped out a wall and painted everything white. I bought lots of fabric at a design center that turns its stock completely in huge sales twice a year - cut and pinned and taped and hung new drapes. (I don't sew, LOL).

It was no longer a house filled with the memories of arguments, but fresh again, hopeful. A blank slate.

Nostalgic homes are tolerable only when the memories are sweet, and still living.

6/5/07 12:29 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

This was a thoughtful post. I love to peek at times past but can't imagine actually leaving soemthing exactly the same as it was for over 60 years...!

Did your friend buy it? :)

6/5/07 12:45 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

Mary, you're right you cannot go back but when I'm feeling down I often take a trip down memory lane to a time when I really felt good and try and draw some happiness from it. This has the same effect as dusting old furniture.

Hayden, one needs to refresh a new house and put one's own imprint on it.
I used to hoard all sorts of stuff for what it reminded me of, but nowadays I don't. I often go through drawers, and if I do not need something, however nostalgic it may be, it goes in the bin. Life is too short to burden oneself with physical nostalgia. I'd rather carry it in a locked box inside my head.

Andrea, we cannot help reminiscing good times and even sad times because they are an integral part of our life and we cannot erase them unless we have some brain surgery but you are right, it is insane to try and recreate the past or keep it still.
No, Didier didn't buy that house. I wouldn't have bought because of the memories attached to it! Shaking them off would have cost an arm and a leg!
He has since shelved the idea of a house in France for now.

6/5/07 8:17 AM  
Blogger cave renovator said...

Nice post, I would find it fascinating, like going back in time, accompanied with a factual history makes it all the more interesting.


6/5/07 11:34 AM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

How strange. I have just been looking through some old photographs of when I was a child because I was feeling nostalgic - and then I came here!

I enjoyed reading your post Cream.

6/5/07 12:44 PM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

Prev blog: Sounds like you had a great time as a youngster. I don't think the kids of today get such a good time. Maybe they would not appreciate the dorms and simple food?

This blog: Did Didier buy the place? It looks like you could do quite a bit with it. Amazing what a bit of cleaning and paint can do. I can image it with roses growing up all the walls and table and chairs in the courtyard. oh, and the sun shining.

Call me a romantic....

6/5/07 5:55 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

CR, I thought you'd love a challenge like this.

Akelamalu, it is nice to reflect on past times and have a smile.

No, Didier did not buy that place. I am sure that that house would have been brought to a modern age with a lot of TLC.

6/5/07 6:56 PM  
Blogger SpanishGoth said...

Cream -> I am curious, why 'gay' people? What difference does it make?

The 'agent immoblier' is not to be believed, purveyor of lies methinks.

The overall look is one that could benefit from the colour that you bring to life mon ami, with your painting, your food et pour moi, ta joie de vivre

6/5/07 10:56 PM  
Blogger la bellina mammina said...

The story is a bit sad - it may be that he's holding on to a part of his youth.

I love old houses - did your friend find anything in the end?

7/5/07 2:07 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

Goth, nothing sinister. A simple description. No bias whatsoever. And no, it would not make any difference if I ommited that.
Of course estate agents all over have a bad reputation.
I'd love to have an old house in the South of France. The sun alone would give me joie de vivre!

No, Bella, my friend changed his plans and took over a hotel restaurant in our town. He may look at it again in the future.

7/5/07 8:36 AM  
Blogger muddy red shoes said...

I always "smudge" a house before I move in, in case of nasty vibes, but I love the kind of sadness that passing time brings, a life well lived is often full of bitter sweet memories and maybe that old guy had been happy to return and wallow a bit in his childhood memories. Dont you find old photographs the same, almost unbearably sad sometimes but it is an addictive sadness, for me anyway.

7/5/07 12:47 PM  
Blogger bookbabie said...

Nicely written. How strange to leave a room the same for so long. I have a good friend whose children are in their thirties and she refuses to change their bedrooms in an office or a den. If they come home for holidays she wants them to be able to stay in their old rooms.

7/5/07 2:24 PM  
Blogger homo escapeons said...

Looks like a prime candidate for the ghostbusters on Most Haunted!
I would hire a team of Exorcist/Painters to redo the entire place in bright, happy colours!
I can't imagine how archaic the plumbing and electrical would be?
Are all of the lines exposed?

7/5/07 4:34 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

lovely post, cream...i am at that stage where i pass things along, too, either the bin or to the children...it is so much easier to just carry the memories.

btw, we were looking at a place in france and then decided we needed the city, not the countryside...

7/5/07 7:00 PM  
Blogger Alina Chau said...

WOW!! what a charming place!!

7/5/07 7:04 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Great post, cream. I hope someone who has a lot of time on their hands transforms it into something lovely.

I can see the roses too, Dizzy! :)

7/5/07 10:52 PM  
Blogger SpanishGoth said...

And thus spoke Goth. Now, as I have answered it is my duty (cackles in an evil way) to tag FIVE peeps. Therefore, I condemn the following 5 to reveal their "7 random Things About Me".........

Joliet jake - teach you not to make THAT curry you twat
Zoe - because her boyfriend is a twat
Kimmy - because she's lovely and anyone who says otherwise is going to get a ruddy good punch on the bottom
Mr X - as I am positive that WE will come up with one bizarre list
Cream - as his views make me curious about going back to the yUK just to eat in his restaurant

8/5/07 4:13 AM  
Blogger Queenie said...

I found that so sad, sniff....

8/5/07 11:15 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

I have got the sniffles but it is with hayfever...

9/5/07 10:28 AM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

WOW! Thank You for this post Krimo, beautiful and touching! You write so beautifully and tell the story so well. I would love to see these houses and especially this forgotten home. I would try to revive it and love it and bring it back to remind of it's former life but in a new happy way!

11/5/07 8:12 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

You're very generous, Val.
I can just about imagine what you could do to a place like this with your vibrant colours.

12/5/07 11:10 AM  

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