Hello and welcome to our very first newsletter, I am so excited to be writing this and thank you so so much to all of you who have subscribed to it. It was really quite overwhelming how many of you have written lovely messages and emails of encouragement and support. So thank you so much, I'm so happy to finally bring you this new format.
I can't believe that somehow we’ve quietly slipped into September. I have no idea where the months went, it was a strange summer weatherwise here, we had incredibly chilly days with far more rain than normal interspersed with heatwaves. But the days at the beach were few and far between and it's hard to believe that those summer days and long warm evenings (and despite the far from perfect weather there were plenty) are now coming to an end. Obviously when anyone moves house and there is work to be done time seems to fly by. As you know we moved from just a few kilometres away in March and we’ve certainly been kept out of mischief with everything we’ve had to do! Spring is always such an energising season because everything is coming to life with new growth all around and we were certainly kept enormously busy. But now I’m hoping things will start to slow down a little as we approach autumn, a time that I always think feels calm and gentle. It’s a season that promotes a slower pace of life and perhaps a little reflection.
The village and surrounding areas were thriving this summer, with restaurants and cafés finally open again, and many French preferring to holiday at home in their own country rather than travelling abroad it was a busy time and buzzing with activity. But it was lovely to see so many happy smiling faces wherever we went, people happy to have their summer, their freedom once more and for life to have returned to some new sort of normal.
Of course September in France means la rentrée, back to school for the start of the new school year. But actually la rentrée is used generally as far more than just back to school. August is the big holiday month when a lot of businesses and many smaller shops close their doors for a minimum of two weeks maybe even the whole month. It is almost impossible to get things done in August and often if you ring somebody to try and make an appointment, there’ll be a message saying sorry we're closed for the month. That’s just the way it is. My clothes dryer has needed a minor spare part for six weeks now and still the shop supplying it is closed, they reopen on Monday. Fortunately I rarely use it at all in the summer preferring to dry clothes on the line in the fresh air so it’s not a big deal. Similarly we’ve been waiting to have our chimney swept and a new log burner fitted in our sitting room all month and again the company we are using have been closed for weeks on end and are not back at work until Monday. C’est la vie, that’s life here and actually it really does make it more special, the French truly do work to live rather than living to work. And then in September everybody goes back to work, kids go back to school after their long summer break, businesses re-open and it's very much like the start of a new year. There’s a new energy helped greatly by a month of sunshine spent enjoying beaches on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines or even further afield, suddenly everybody's back in professional mode and things start to happen again. So you see la rentrée means so much more than just the start of the new school year and it’s why I chose this month to start the new newsletter.
So anyway, I hope you enjoy having a read and please if you have any suggestions, anything you’d love to know more about just send me an email email@example.com because I love this community that we have built and I want to keep on making it very much a place for everyone.
Happy reading Susan xx
Who doesn't love scanning a few property ideas and dreaming?
The real estate market has been explosive here. Properties are selling at alarming speed with many houses sold before they even get onto the open market which I have never seen before in this country where normally it's four, six, twelve months or maybe even years before a house sells and when prices were in the past extremely negotiable. Now there are far fewer deals to be had. Obviously this is being driven by Covid, a lot of French are on the move for the first time in a long time leaving the big cities. More and more people want the country way of life, they want that feeling of space and greenery around them after months of lockdowns. I think everybody has started to re-evaluate and change how they live their lives a little. At the same time we’ve been kept enormously busy with foreigners looking for houses and wanting to move to France on a permanent basis. People who before have hesitated have suddenly thought, you know what this is my dream and I'm just going to go with it because we just don't know what's going to be around the next corner. None of us have experienced anything like this before and I think it has persuaded many to take opportunities when they see them rather than hesitating. For us running a property search and relocation business isn't just a job it’s an absolute passion. It's so exciting finding the right home for people and making their dreams become a reality. We've looked at so many houses and one often has to be able to look way beyond what is there in plain view in front of us and have a rather vivid imagination, especially when character features have been partially hidden or covered up.
But there is the right property out there for everybody and it is so special to help people achieve their dream. And not only that but it's wonderful then to go back and see them a few months later and to see all of the changes. Of course we don’t just help find the property we're here to help people after they've moved to help them settle in, find tradesmen and point them in the right direction for all manner of things. It’s a big deal moving to a new country and our job is to take away the stress and let our clients focus on the enjoyment. This is what we love doing, finding the houses, but the interesting stories are from those that have moved here, learning how they have coped, the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, for it is never all plain sailing. Next month I have a fabulous interview lined up with a couple who have moved here, and I’m sure you’ll love hearing their story.
Heading into the future but firmly embracing the past
Also keeping me busy is my little online shop selling vintage and antique French finds. I absolutely love it. Over the years I’ve learnt a great deal and l’ve become incredibly fussy and selective. There are a great many people selling the same things online and so I try to only sell the absolute best, and only those things that truly speak to me. I’ve learnt to specialise in order to be exclusive and so I choose only those things that really are either unique or special, that doesn’t mean they have to be super expensive but it means they have to be good quality and absolutely genuine. I only choose things that I really really want in my own home and that are honestly a struggle to part with, things that I keep on display in our house so that I too can appreciate them for a little while before they are sold and things that are quite tough to part with! Perhaps it’s just a pretty plate on the table, some antique flatware or maybe something much bigger. Everything has a story to tell if only they could speak. More and more people are turning to vintage when they want to replace something, channeling our inner granny is a great way of looking at it because let’s face it she would be appalled at this throw away society we’ve created. Those were the days of make do and mend, when things were made to stand the test of time, and slowly the tide is turning, people are appreciating the craftsmanship and skill in antique furniture, and understanding that ceramics that have graced a table for over one hundred years will god willing be here in another hundred, handed down to new generations. They’re originals, they’re not mass produced and so they create individuality in our homes. With everything I buy I ask as many questions as I can. I go to a lot of private house sales from big manor houses and chateaux to tiny farm cottages and I ask away. I want to know the history behind things and then I pass on whatever information I can so that the piece has a background when it becomes a favourite in its new home.
And to share my love of brocante I’m offering a special 20% off everything in the shop using the code NEWSLETTER21 for the month of September as a thank you for signing up and joining us with the new newsletter format.
An aubergine cake is a bit unexpected and rather unusual which is why it's this month's recipe
This summer we were completely overrun and still are with aubergines, eggplants to many of you. We came up with many inventive ways to use them, as pizza bases, of course we made plenty of ratatouille for the freezer and we’ve eaten a great deal sliced on the barbecue. But it was Hetty, our 16 year old daughter who made an aubergine cake. It is incredibly moist and delicious. At first I was a little skeptical but honestly it is utterly divine. We decorated it with edible flowers, nasturtium, borage and rose petals, you can use anything you like so long as you have not used any pesticides. There’s a wealth of information on which are edible on the internet, but just remember to only use those that are chemical free, another reason to support organic gardening.
She followed the link below and substituted the courgette with aubergine.
She followed the link below and substituted the courgette with aubergine.
I couldn't possibly have a newsletter without saying something about the garden!
The vegetable garden this summer has been a bit up-and-down with the weather and the unseasonably wet June and July. We were as always overrun with tomatoes until with all the rain blight struck and they were almost wiped out overnight. We struggled on for a few weeks but in the end pulled them all out as we were not winning the battle at all. But the saviour was my little 'ugly’ greenhouse, it is my ugly duckling and I have been told that it is far from pretty but nonetheless it is my ugly duckling that I absolutely love because it so much fun. We inherited it with the house and this summer I have grown all of our chilli peppers in here. Some are extremely hot and some slightly milder but even those supposedly harmless ones have quite a kick. We’ve had much fun sampling them all and the really fierce ones, the Tabasco Fort, have brought tears to all of our eyes without exception and that includes Roddy’s!
I also had an excess of tomato plants and so as an experiement I planted eight in the greenhouse. I planted six in grow bags, basically bags of compost bought from the garden centre, and two directly into the ground. The two in the ground are doing much better than the six in bags and I think next year I will dig a trench, add some good compost and grow them all directly in the soil. But this little experiment has proved to be worth its weight in gold, we have tomatoes even after the others have been pulled out. They have not been touched by blight because they have had a constant steady watering every other day and their leaves have stayed completely dry of course. It will be fun to see how long they go on producing fruit, as I said they were planted as an experiment to see if we could prolong the season until November or even December. The greenhouse is quite shady on one side as it is covered by the leaves and branches of a beautiful white lilac. This winter when this has died back I need to get up there and scrub the roof clean. Something that doesn’t look as if it has ever been one and its two decades old at least! But the lilac tree has acted as a giant sun parasol and has meant it hasn’t got too terribly hot inside and when more heat is needed in the coming months it should be readily available from the sun as the leaves fall and the roof becomes fully exposed. Once again doing things organically and using the helping hand of nature.
The garden has been so much nicer than we have imagined it's been fun to see what was dormant for the winter and watch as surprises suddenly start appearing. One of the best has been the dahlias, quite a few of them, some small ones and some giants over three feet tall, great big clumps producing endless flowers. Next year we’re going to grow a lot more dahlias as I can see why people love them so much. They’ve become a staple for weeks now in a vase on the kitchen table, we’re really taken with them and so is Hetty, my wonderful garden helper.
The other big success have been the very small wildflower meadow areas. We made five or six tiny spaces into these fabulous mini havens for wildlife and insects. It is something I have tried to do for seven years and always failed miserably because the grass has just been too dominant. Sometimes seeds would germinate but they were suffocated by grass in no time at all and died. This year, with a new home and garden it was time to try again. We chose areas that were already virtually grass free, we cleared it of weeds and sowed freely. We also watered in dry spells, but most importantly I was absolutely fastidious about keeping on top of any grass that appeared, pulling it out straight away and also any weeds that were unwelcome. Some weeds we were grateful to see but those that would become too dominant came out and as a result we had enormous success. We grew a mixture suited to this area, so that everything was in its natural habitat which is I believe what makes the most successful wild flower planting scheme.