As I’d been buying pieces…..

As I had been buying pieces, I’d been decanting them into the old barn at the Preuilly house. The morning of our drive up to Cherbourg became a focused exercise: How To Get Everything Back into Moe. Another realisation: two people packing a van will probably have very different ideas of how everything will go in! Graham suggested an obligatory short training with a removal company. Over time, I’m relieved to report, packing has become easier – understanding what nests into what; thinking about the roof space just as much as the floor space; what is better upside down or on its side, and so on. A 20 cubic metre van is often mentioned in conversation as a good size and, as Moe is less than half this, space and choosing exactly what to fill it with are both critical.

We had booked a last night in France at a chambre d’hote about half an hour’s drive from Cherbourg, near Valognes. It was a fine manorial house that had been divided into two dwellings after the Revolution. A farming family had lived in one half for three generations, and latterly acquired the other half for guest accommodation. The ceilings were extremely high with enormous beams; the stone fireplaces had massive limestone thigh-height hearths with mantels you could just about reach up to; wide, worn stone stairs; a tower; cobbles leading to the front door with tiny purple and yellow violas peeping up between the stones. This was a place I would be returning to many times, and come to love.

A short drive of trees leads up to the house. In the summer frogs croak loudly in the small boggy lake. The fields around the house hold a few browsing sheep, two donkeys, a kid and chickens. Madame is a diminutive, welcoming woman of a certain age, who has furnished her house with handsome Normandy armoires, buffets and tables made from glowing cherry, walnut and oak woods. On this visit she told me of the man she made her furniture purchases from, and of an interesting depot vente that had recently opened nearby. I promised that I would be back the following year.