segunda-feira, 21 de abril de 2008

Exploring France and the New Monarchy

There are now more than 600,000 English settlers in France and I guess that must be more than at any time when England ruled over france or shared its monarchy. I beleive that over 60% of the vinyards are also British with 25% being owned by other European nations, can it be that the collapse of this French tradition as lead to the rise in the number of English middle class that seem to now live all over France. When I remarked to Michael that it would be difficult for me to learn French quickly, he simply said that it was almost unecessary as the place was over run by the English, it is the over 50's who have money and want to relive their childhood dreams in a location that matches their memories of Britain in the early 1950's. I guess I have taken the process back to the middle ages with my move to brazil and the William Morris dream of life without guarantied electricity or water, socialism exsists here for the masses but only as excuse to rob each other and claim that it is redistribution of wealth and land. The other day Graca asked me why I had reacted so strongly to the ideas of a commune in Scotland especially when I did not know the people or their beleifs, yet for me the whole concept of life in a commune in Europe is not for support but rather for the blinding of peripheral vision. Why do folks need to have exactly the same opinion as others in order to live a peaceful life?

I have seen many friends over the years gone by try to start a new life in France and sadly fail. I guess that the main reason as been their lack of total intergration, it is like you live a permanent holiday exsistance and the locals sense it. The language and a desire to communicate with your neighbours is the very minimum needed to intergrate, stops misunderstandings and creates friendships.
Michael and Zoe have now started the move to France and I have with them now got one short cut to Europe. Toulouse will be just two flights and not my usual three or four, to Edinburgh, also the time flying will be dramatically cut and the countryside near St Puy, Gers is not so unlike the landscape of Northumberland. Just under two years ago Michael and I travelled to see the La Bergerie before work was to start on its conversion, Michael wished me to have some influence over the plans and Zoe too had given me her wish list, we were to meet up with Messieur Pettit, the builder and Tam the architect, English but living and working in France.
Michael booked and paid for the ferry boat from Rosyth to Zeebrugge which we caught on the Saturday evening, had a nice meal with wine and relaxed as the boat made its over night crossing.
The following morning we chatted over a huge breakfast and started to make our plans for the drive to St Puy, a certain 11 hours drive with us swapping but stopping as little as possible. I never did learn a language at school and only have an idea of French because of frequent visits there when I lived in London, then it was always left up to Jacky as she was taught O level French in school.
Michael and I had an eventful time in France and part of the attraction for Michael was that after 30 years of married life he had not evidently ventured off for more than a couple of days, this was going to be his first all boys trip away. The drive there and back was interesting but not the sort of trip that can be easily portrayed in words and for me the interest lay in St Puy and in the meeting of Michael's friend, Michael Darreau. The photos above show the back of Gisele's hotel/ guest house in St Puy and the church, Michael and I stayed the first two nights there before getting the keys to Michael's council flat above the office of the Maire in st Puy, as seen above.
I have yet to meet Michael's near neighbours, English artists who clearly have very little idea of converting property or have no money to do it properly, Michael Darreau I met whilst I was in France and was impressed greatly by his daughters and a story that he related to us in front of his family as we sat down in the evening for some supper.
Michael Darreau is part French and had for many years lived in Edinburgh, ran a business there selling antiques and specialising in clocks, he sold up his business a few years ago and moved his wife and two daughters to France. I think it may well have been the desire of his daughters and not Michael Darreau to move to France since the girls wished to run a riding school and stables. Michael at taken the opertunity to collect objects before he moved and seems to have some hidden collectables as a pension plan. He is very knowledgeable and as a calm manner that must give reassurance to customers but not possibly to friends. Some years ago before leaving Edinburgh, about 2002, I was asked by a dealer to reconstruct a case for a grandfather clock, the trouble was that he had only a few pieces of what had been an Edinburgh long case from about 1780 and he wished the case to match the clock that he had already in his possesion. The idea of constructing a case for a clock is normal, the origion clock maker never made the case, Edinburgh would have had wheel makers and guilders side by side cabinet makers and glaziers( if you read all my blogs you will come across my comments about the Edinburgh City Council and its motives for ridding the city of artists and artisans) each trade made different parts of a clock and it would have relied on the customers aesthetics, which this day and age as largely been lost, to produce a nice result. I always try to make my customers have involvement in the design but not always want to follow the path they wish to take. Any way the case that I made for Kenny Bruce used old timber and nails of the correct period to eventually give a very good impression of a clock that had been made in the 1780's and he was clearly pleased, although typical Kenny he always moaned about payment. I had forgotten about the clock and never gave it another thought, Michael Bennett-Levy was aware of the clock because I had mentioned Kenny's reluctance to pay something like £600 for the work I had done, the moment that Michael Darreau started to relate a story over one long case clock that had been sold at auction in Edinburgh i could tell that Michael BL and I knew the story from the other side of the fence. This clock left my workshop and Kenny Bruce sold it to another dealer as origional, it then went to auction and in the process lept in value, for some reason the new owner wanted a value and he asked Michael D to give his opinion. Michael D saw the signs of what he reckoned were three old cases put together to make one good case, reallity was that there had been just part of the top. I cannot agree with Kenny Bruce falsifing an antique but it is one hell of a good personel recomendation for my work to know that the best dealers have problems knowing when and what I have repaired.

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