Following a visit to my father’s at the weekend, it seems he has a property going spare that just might meet our requirements. It’s rural – only about ten houses in the hamlet – yet close to a town with a primary school and a couple of shops. It’s ten minutes from Mansle – our family’s adopted home.
I wonder, just how is it my father owns the exact property we want? And is this a good thing? He bought one house ten years ago. He’s only just put new windows in it and some stairs. Chances are, it’s been left to the animals. “Les Serpents!” that Martine warned us about are probably rampant there. If there’s not at least one wasps’ nest, I’ll be disappointed. If there aren’t a family of feral cats living in the barn, I’ll possibly think about not buying it altogether.
Anyway, it has good views across the valley. Fields for miles around. A bakery down a hill (Hmmm. Joyous long bike rides back up the hill… not perhaps idyllic….) a bar in the nearest little village, and a bit of a river for Steve to fish.
Most importantly, it’s huge. No… it’s vast. It has, according to my step-mother Brenda, a barn big enough for two dozen parked cars, a thing (unnamed) for cows to put their heads through and feed from whilst you milk them, a stable, a bread oven, a small house at the side and ten good sized rooms in the actual house. Small problem. The walls are falling apart, but my dad doesn’t think it’d be too big a deal to re-build the front house wall. Hmmm. It’s got almost an acre of land to boot. It sounds like a dream. A dream and a nightmare. It’s not going to be anywhere near habitable for months. It’ll be the proverbial money pit. It’ll cost the earth and be impossible to maintain. It’ll be a full time job for both of us, permanently. My French is great for Moliere, not so great for Bob Le Bricolage. Neither of us will really have a job as such. Jake could go out of his mind with the vastness and emptiness.
But despite all of this, Steve got all giddy about making his own solar panels to heat the water, and I was planning the vegetable patch, what chickens we’ll get and whether we could manage a natural swimming pool. But I can’t help thinking what happened to George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men when they wanted to live off the fat of the land, and where that’ll all go wrong. Maybe Steve will take me out into a field and shoot me?
On the plus side, it’s finally sunny. Only been waiting for it for three weeks. But, here it is. Manchester sun. However, I’m stuck inside going through the remnants of my former life, trying to work out what to keep and what to take. It’s all getting a little too much. Whilst I haven’t worn any of my work suits for three years or more, selling them on ebay is traumatic. I can’t part with them. My beautiful, beautiful suits. For the last ten years, I have had an immaculate wardrobe with an array of beautiful suits. Sugared-almond pinks ones. Toffee-brown ones. Cream ones. Red air-hostess-alike ones. Soft lime green ones. Hot pink ones. Smartie-orange ones. Burgundy ones. Charcoal-grey ones. And then there’s all the black ones. The black Jackie-O-alike one. The pinstripe-mafia one. The vampiric one. The svelte one. The trouser suit one. The dress suit one. The cute one. The killer one. The pink-pinstripe one. The red-pinstripe one. The Chanel one. The Dior one. The Japanese one. The French ones.
And I can’t do it.
I’ve not worn them for three years, but I still love them. They’re a shell of me, part of my skin. They aren’t just fabric, they say something about who I was. They’re my work-happiness and each one is a small marvel of modern dress-making and fabric design. So how do I shed these??!
Even with a deep breath, it’s still hurting me!
The trouble is, whilst we’ll have plenty of room for them, I don’t need them, and they won’t do anything for me out over there (except give me comfort when I’m a farm wife and I’ve been dressing like a peasant gypsy for the last year). Plus, they’ll raise much-needed revenue.
But I still can’t do it.
I manage to list one or two. To be honest, the toffee-coloured one is a little worse for wear, and the black dress suit is a little too formal even for me. But a little voice at the back of my mind says: “Wedding photography!” and I can imagine myself wearing my splendours as I photograph the newly-weds of the Poitou-Charentes. As Jane Austen said, we’re very quick to justify what we want.
So I move back to going through old work diaries and endless paperwork that once consumed me. It’s a lot easier to throw stuff away when you don’t have a little voice at the back of your mind telling you all kind of ways you could reuse any object in any manner of future careers, however unlikely. But if I can’t do it, I can’t encourage Steve to do it. And he’s way worse than me. Bar suits, cocktail spirits, shoes and false eyelashes, I’m not a hoarder. In fact, writing this, I wonder how I’m going to live at all as a rural woman, but I know I’ll relish it. To an outsider, maybe they don’t know how much I like having a dirty face and going without my Nars eyeshadow, but I do. Steve, however, hoards anything that stands still. If you can use it again, so much the better, but if you can’t, it doesn’t matter to him much. He picked up a fishing float on Saturday. It’s still in my car. I don’t know why.
Steve’s house is a little ‘Steptoe-and-son’ in that he’s got all manner of machine parts, engine bits and ancient metal wreckage he’s salvaged from God knows where. He has tyres from bikes he’s had, bike pumps galore, more spanners than B&Q, bits of lead sitting around waiting to be made into fishing weights, a whole cupboard of car bits from cars he once owned or thought about owning. How I’m going to get him to part with this, I don’t know. If he could transport it effortlessly to France and put it in the barn, I wouldn’t care. But it’s all got to go into one seven-ton truck. And we’ll be putting it in there. And if I think ‘what the hell will he need this for?’ once, I’ll think it a hundred times, and it’ll all end badly before it’s even begun. Possibly the best thing to do would be for him to clear my house and for me to clear his. But then all those sentimental little treasures will be thrown out. Our little comfort blankets will be destroyed. And heaven knows, we might need them. If it all goes wrong, at least I can go into my over-stocked wardrobe of relegated formal-wear and cry.