Saturday, 21 March 2015

A Space To Create

It was only a small space, but then it is only a little house, and I am only a pocket-sized person! The loft space in La Petite Maison is not very high, and there was no obvious place for a staircase, so there was no point even contemplating converting it to a usable room.

That's what they told me - the architect and those "who know these things," (all men naturally)! I smiled politely, murmured something non-committal and sallied forth to instruct my men-folk to proceed with my plans.

My first inspection of the loft had been a painful one, as I ascended from the precarious slingsby ladder onto the loft floor and instantly cracked my head open on an inconveniently placed wooden truss traversing the area almost directly above the hatch. The impact threw me backwards, and I half fell back through the hatch and down the ladder, badly bruising and scraping my side and leg.

The incident only made me more determined that a loft conversion was in order, and so we began what was to be a very, very long project. The wonderful William was well equipped to know what was required, and capably made the first steps to transforming an unsafe and unwelcome area into a safer place were I could at least ascend without injury.

With the loft cleared and new flooring insitu, it was easier to see what space there really was. Running the full length of the house, an area was partitioned off at one end for a small storage room. At the other end a hole was cut in the floor for a staircase.

The tediously laborious job of insulating was next on the list, and hours were spent sweltering in the dim artificial light as Mr Long-Suffering and I painstakingly measured, cut and fitted the huge sheets of foil backed insulation. Somehow we endured this, although it seemed to take an eternity to complete the whole roof; the entire summer appeared to slip by as we remained closeted in the roof space, but the new roof windows gave us a lift and flooded the area with a hitherto unseen natural light. 

Fixing the plasterboard in place took another lifetime,

but the installation of a sweet little staircase transformed the whole area. (The task of painting it fell to me of course, and is currently still a work in progress!)

I already had a plan in mind for the flooring. A Pinterest friend (thanks Laura G!) had pinned a very interesting Pin with instructions on how to create a floor using plywood. So upon the arrival of several huge sheets of plywood, we set about slicing them into strips and sanding the edges. Oh yes, it was another time-consuming task, but nothing compared to the insulating and plaster-boarding!

Mr Long-Suffering then carefully positioned the boards, nailing and glueing them into place. Once William had fixed the skirting and architraves in place, the new room was ready for me to begin painting. Emulsioning, priming, undercoating and topcoating completed, only the floor remained. 

Two further days spent applying floor paint and what was once a dark, dangerous, cold and wasted space has now been transformed into a light, bright, warm and safe environment.

A space created for me to create! 


A lampshade waiting to be covered in lace is one of my first projects, while an old sewing machine table frame has been dismantled and the legs painted, to which I shall attach a table top, (that I have yet to construct) and this will then be my workbench. 

But first I really must finish painting that staircase!


Monday, 2 March 2015

Letting Go!

It is said that you cannot start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. With this in mind it is finally time for me to let go of the little place that I have called home for the past chapter of my life. It is neither time nor cost effective for me to be living between two properties and this transient state of flux is not conducive to an inner peace or healthy wellbeing.

February has been spent cleaning out clutter and cupboards. My vast array of books containing stories to stir the imagination, knowledge to enlighten and ideas to inspire, have been aired and packed into boxes.

As the last remnants of my possessions are gathered together to make the trip to La Petite Maison, where the next chapter of my life begins for real, I look around the rooms now forlorn without their adornment. Although by no means palatial, they were rooms where family and friends gathered and that have witnessed love, sadness, laughter and tears; romance and more tears when the romance ended.

Where once a little black and white cat lived and curled up in her favourite spot on the big sofa and her gentle giant of a son lay on the rug in front of the fire. But even the ghosts of the cats seem to have deserted this now bare alien space.

The back room with the French windows and Juliet Balcony 

looking out upon the laburnum tree and down into the garden below;

where I would sit bathed in sunlight listening to the blackbird singing as I sewed the very curtains that now grace the windows of La Petite Maison. 

The faded patches on the walls the only sign of the pictures that once hung there.

My light filled little bathroom with the Tuscan marble tiles and terracotta jars filled with dried hydrangeas,

empty now of the items that made it personal - a bar of my handmade soap on the wash-hand basin the only clue that I was there.

The kitchen without the armoire,

bunches of dried herbs

and the Emma Bridgewater pottery to add a splash of colour, 

is bland and purely functional. 

No smells of freshly baked cake or homemade soups, and no indication left of the hours spent stirring pots of soap mixture to make my handmade soaps

(like a Hedgewitch concocting herbal potions in her cauldron).

The view from the window is the same as it always has been - with the mature trees at the end of the garden, that I would watch change with the rhythm of the seasons. 

Leaves turning red and gold in autumn, falling to the ground below 

to leave the skeletal branches coated with an icing of sparkly winter frost  

and silhouetted against a blue black sky in the light of a full moon.

Then the first joyous signs of spring as buds form; bursting into leaf at the arrival of summer. Although they have grown in all the years I have been there, there are fewer trees now than when I arrived - the cycle of life and death claiming several as they have succumbed in defeat to the powerful winds that tore them apart. I grieved over their loss and mourned the now empty space where once they stood proud and majestic. I will miss those trees!

As I stand there looking I feel as though part of my soul has been lost. This little place was my sanctuary where I could pull up the drawbridge and retreat away from the world.

I make my way down to the garden.

Without the little table and chairs it does not seem as inviting. The ivy where once the blackbird nested has gone - pulled free from the bricks it clung to. The wall seems naked without its green covering.

The rose arch is bare, but there are tiny green buds on the woody stems of the honeysuckle.

In my mind's eye I can see the honeysuckle entwined amongst the roses swathing the arch.

Rosa Mdm Gregoire Staechelin was the first rose that I ever planted and remains a firm favourite.

Spring has yet to awaken the garden from its winter slumber and last years detritus of dead growth is slimy and dank. However I know that if I peer closely I will see the promise of new growth - just below the surface, peonies waiting to unfurl their tall stems. As I pull aside the dead leaves of the daylily, I can just make out the tiny spikes of green protruding upwards.

It is fitting that I leave the garden as it still sleeps, but I have the happy knowledge that a part of almost every plant from this garden, (apart from the horribly invasive bamboo, which if left unchecked will in a few years have consumed a large part of the garden) is already waiting to form a new garden - Le Jardin de La Petite Maison.

The emotions, energies and personal touches of what made this dwelling my home, will be transplanted too just like the plants and although I will always retain fond memories of this little place, I will view my home now as La Petite Maison - no longer a building site, but a fresh location to stamp my character and call my abode. Where batches of soap will be concocted upon the new kitchen range and the smell of baking and herbs will fill the air and where I hope that friends and family will gather once more.

A new chapter has begun.