Saturday, 20 May 2017

Just around the corner - there's a fork in the road.

"…..sometimes, when you take a great risk, life rewards you ten-fold" Heather Robinson

Champagne-Ardenne, France

Have you ever been at a fork in the road on life's journey and not known which path to take? One seems comfortable or familiar, the other foreign - perhaps challenging or fraught with difficulties; real or perceived. Which path do you tend to take? Which path is the better option? Dale Carnegie would emphatically state that "it's the road less travelled". But maybe the answer is "it depends": it depends on your "age or stage" in life, especially when  health issues are involved. 

Despite the path chosen, there should be no regrets. Continue to dream big, ask the seemingly unanswerable questions, add to your bucket list, and review the course you've taken. There is no escaping the fact that life is risky and will present us all with challenges. It is the degree of these challenges and risks and how we respond to them that sets us apart. 
As for me, I'm standing at the fork in my road..................procrastinating!

Linking with Black and White Weekends.

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Vintage French in B and W


Apologies – some of the details of the image have been reduced for the sake of its uploading speed.
Is this just me?

French + vintage  = bliss


The radiator cap of this vintage French automobile was designed to be sitting proud on top of the car's bonnet.

Linking up with Black and White Weekend

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Lavoirs - a snippet of social history for visitors of France


The village in which this washhouse (lavoir) is located, is devoid of a bakery and any shops, but it boasts a castle and a charming lavoir. The domed roof covering the spring, is particularly attractive.

It was a recent post from Fabously French that had me scouring my poorly archived photos for some images of lavoirs* – sign posts of a now fragile heritage.

Adjacent to the 13th century church that sits at the bottom of a steep incline in our village, is this colourfully decorated lavoir. The flowers are voluntarily grown and nurtured by the surrounding neighbours.

The quaintness and charm of surviving lavoirs, that can still be seen in many French villages today, usually belie the often gruelling demands of laundering in bygone eras. More than just a place of work, a lavoir also provided a place where women could meet and chat while attending to an extremely time consuming, and often arduous domestic chore. 

A quaint washhouse can just be seen to the right of this stream that runs through Beaune. 

Household laundry consisted mainly  of rags, cloths and the inner garments worn close to one’s skin. Bed linen and outer garments were washed sparingly.

This lavoir is located under the private home, shown below, and is constantly fed by a spring just a few metres uphill. There was no available information about the history the building. 



Scrubbing, thrashing and wringing out the sodden fabrics involved physical strength, mental stamina and having one’s hands constantly wet - despite the ambient temperature.

Adjacent to notre maison, is a set of stone stairs that descends to the foot of our village, where there is a wash house that would have served the past inhabitants of My French Folly.  The garden is the result of the generosity of the lady who lives opposite the perennial spring on which this washhouse is built.
This stray cat can usually be seen basking in the sun on the leaver walls.

Of course there was also the task of carting the laundry to and from the lavoir on roads that were often unpaved and not necessarily flat. The 3 lavoirs in our French village are located at the bottom of the hills - on which most houses are perched - where water continuously flows from underground springs.


*Lavoirs were communal spaces - often roofed -  in which the public could wash clothes. They were commonly used throughout Europe for hundreds of years before the advent of household laundries.  

Stepping into the cool dampness of this washhouse provided a welcomed relief from the heat outside.
A private washing "sink" located in an isolated hamlet in eastern France.

There is a school of carp of varying sizes that inhabits the waters under this roof.

The 2 images above are of a washhouse in an un named hamlet nestled in the hills around Louhans. 

Each time I descend this set of steps that winds downhill from My French Folly, and pass the lavoir that sits at its feet, my mind drifts to the past inhabitants of our French home. Water and sanitation had never been connected to our house when we purchased it.  The installation of these modern amenities was a costly exercise, fraught with unforeseen complications.



Twilight as we walked past the nearest lavoir to commence our climb  home, after a delightful
apero with some local friends.

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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Joyeuses Pâques




The  familiar, rich tones of church bells,blanketing our village and scattering into the surrounding fields and forests, are absent today. It's disorientating as their recurring presence signposts every quarter hour of my life in France. However, come Easter Sunday, their comforting chimes will be restored once more.  


People respond when you tell them there is a great future in front of you, you can leave your past behind. Joel Osteen

The significance and traditions of this time of year very greatly around the world, but what cobbles them together, is an atmosphere of gratitude and renewal.



For me personally, it is a time to give thanks as well as a time of love, hope, and rebirth. The traditions that I observe at this time of year, both religious and non religious, help to anchor my life. 


Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being. Morris Joseph

Joyeuses Pâques

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Monday, 3 April 2017

A New Chapter Begins

A new chapter in our family history has just begun with the recent marriage of our daughter.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage
Lao Tzu 

May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortunes and rich in blessings. 
May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.
An Irish Blessing

Sunday, 25 September 2016

French bulldog with Attitude

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak Rachel Zoe
I don't do fashion. I am fashion. Coco Chanel
The best thing about a man is his dog. 
French proverb 

Life is an attitude ………….
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Friday, 16 September 2016

Autumn in France - a new experience


1 September. North-east France
From my bed, the morning sky is noticeably different – nature has removed the familiar, saturated hues from the sky. Dull, white and grey clouds fuse together to obliterate the insipid blue backdrop.  There’s a "nip in the air": a different coldness to that of a cool summer’s day. It appears that while I was sleeping, a deity has flicked the weather-switch from “l'été”  to “l'automne”. 
The hollow sounds of my foot steps on the stairs linger a little longer than usual as I descend the wooden 
spiral to commence my daily routine: open shutters; a cup of tea; bathroom rituals; boulangerie; a croissant and coffee on the terrace. 

But today I falter as the tatty, internal shutters of the sitting room are flung aside: familiar village roof tops are revealed, but strikingly with unfamiliar thin wisps of smoke hanging above their chimney stacks. No movement - just perfectly still. 
Something else is awry – the feathered acrobats that keep us entertained each morning and evening are missing. Squinting, I can just make out their motionless silhouettes across the valley – a row of small dots along the spine of the church roof. 
Opening the terrace door I investigate further: no familiar morning kiss from a timid dawn breeze.  The air is paralysed - devoid of any movement or sound; its chill has mingled with the herbaceous scents of damp foliage, proclaiming “summer’s over”.  I stand transfixed by the canvas before me. Such a dramatic change. So sudden. So unfamiliar. The motionless smoke continues to play statues. I stare, “perhaps I’ll catch it out?” I stare further.  No. 
Time stops. I feel at one with the world; utterly content; incredibly grateful.
..................my first autumn in France.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Melbourne’s Autumn brings Back a French Summer



The start of autumn this week has seen the return of summer heat to Melbourne, with skies and light reminiscent of our summers in north-east France. A recent discussion during dinner had us recalling the first July we spent at our house in France - an unforgettable event.

Late July: our first French Summer

Plaster dust, spider webs – old and new, airborne grime generated by decades of neglect, and reconstituted glue from soggy pieces of wallpaper, manage to amalgamate with perspiration generated by the summer heat, to form a sticky coating on our skin.

Empty glasses and water bottles litter the deep, buckled windowsill. Actions are laboured, but spurred on by the limited time available to renovate this minuscule room – a task that appeared to be straight forward and quick, but is now proving otherwise.

There is no movement in the village. Lunchtime has extended into a siesta as patches of bitumen on the road start to resemble tacky molasses. Charlie and Kenzo, our neighbour’s cats, lie splayed in the cool under the lone conifer that stands like a sentinel to the cluster of houses in our ancient ruelle (lane).

Unexpectedly the faint sounds of plodding hooves pierce the silence, echoing as they rise from the street that sits in the valley below. Inquisitively I poke my head out of the second storey window while straddling its sill – a precarious move.  Nothing new in the landscape to report.

As the sounds grow louder, the shouting of children becomes faintly audible. Peering left through the breaks in the tree-tops, I get a brief glimpse of the scene below just before a parade of tired, hot bodies becomes fully visible.

A young boy, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, leads a pony on a slackened reign. Like his 2 friends trailing him, he’s abandoned his saddle. A fourth pony, head drooping and strapped into a cart harness, slowly edges into the picture.
The poor animal is pulling a tatty canvas covered wagon, reminiscent of those of the Wild West, albeit smaller and in proportion to the creature’s size. 

My pity for this equine slave soon gives way to warm amusement as the rear of the cart and source of the high pitched voices, come into view. Pushing the wooden structure up the road’s steep incline, and almost parallel to the ground themselves, are 2 small lads, shirtless and gasping for breath amidst their encouraging shouts to their hoofed companion up front..........The doors to my childhood memories are prised gently open.

My husband now joins me at the window.  “How stupid to be riding in this heat, but what a great adventure” I mutter. “Oh to be young again.” “ But we are young, and a touch foolish – look what we’re doing!” he chortles as he deposits a sticky kiss on my damp, grime-encrusted face......
Life alters quickly when one’s perspective changes!

One clean and painted room - small, but mighty significant
for us.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Hidden Secretes: Weekend Reflections


Reflections appear as ghostly figures in the Majorca windows. This building is an art deco treasure found in Centre Place - one of the City's iconic laneways.

Beneath wall to wall awnings and umbrellas, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, buzz of chatter and tinkling of table utensils embrace you like an old friend  as you turn into petite Degraves Street. Welcome to Mebourne's laneway and arcade culture.

Designer apparel, homewares, distinctive gifts, cobblers, dress makers, vintage whatever, fabulous coffee  and food, artisinal chocolate, pastries and cakes street art and  performers - whatever your fancy, it can be found in one of Melbourne's iconic lanes or arcades.
Graffiti takes many forms.
There is always a queue down the arcade waiting patiently for a table in the renown Hopetoun Tea Rooms - the meeting place for generations of Melbourne women in the Block Arcade.
























The city's CBD consists of a rectangular grid of wide streets - the most well known to visitors being Swanson, Flinders , Collins and Bourke Streets. Parallel to these is a series of narrow streets, aptly named Little Collins Street, Little Bourke Street and so on. Interconnecting theses thoroughfares, broad and narrow, are  laneways and arcades with their own distinctive architecture and culture - often referred to as Melbourne's hidden secretes. One can take a formal tour with a specific focus  or just amble along on their own voyage of discovery.

Royal Arcade
The mythical figures of Gog and Magog stand guard over the clock in Royal Arcade. 


The roof of Melbourne Central


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Paris Shopping - Rue du Bac

Streetscape reflections in the Deyrolle window.
Mention spending time in the city of light and most peoples’ hearts give a little flutter. I'm no different.  Despite the changing list of places to visit that is always packed into my luggage, I've found one of the greatest joys of staying in Paris is aimlessly strolling its streets to discovery the Paris that speaks to me. Rue du Bac is one such place.  If you are not familiar with this narrow street and its neighbourhood, I commend you to undertake your own voyage of discovery.

Sylvie Thiriez, the distinctively unique Deyrolle and the original La Pâtisserie des Rêves are 3 places to which I always return. Endless hours have also been spent perusing, the specialist antique stores that are clustered in the surrounding streets.

Climbing the stairs at Deyrolle for the first time is like walking through the wardrobe and finding Narnia. Established in 1831, a visit here can be is an education in itself – and a wonderful place to purchase a distinctive gift. Don't be fooled by the appearance of the ground floor - the magic of "the strangest shop in all of Paris" lies above. 
Courtesy of  La Pâtisserie des Rêves 
La Pâtisserie des Rêves is the creative amalgamation of culinary art and theatre: no place for those who can't resist temptation.

When "high quality" is synomous with creativity, precision, superb materials and techniques steeped in tradition, then the textiles of SylvieThiriez are of the highest quality.  I never leave Paris without making a Sylvie Thiriez purchase - a one stop gift shop for family presents as well as the occasional present for myself.
Stroll down Rue du Bac with Ines de la Fressange while she shops for gifts.....

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Year's Resolutions & Bad Habits

The promise of a new year is accompanied by self-reflection and much optimism.

In attempt to avoid letting myself down, I make only a few  simple resolutions. For me, success is a better motivator than failure.


Regrettably, the last 2 years have seen every resolution I've made fail – not healthy for one’s self-esteem. Consequently, my new year's resolution list has grown, out of necessity.  It involves both forming new habits and ridding myself of some recently acquired bad habits, and unfortunately I've developed quite a few of these over the last 18 months. ........ sleep deprivation, indulging in too much chocolate and French pastries, neglecting to exercise, allowing clutter to invade my study, abandoning the pursuits that make my heart sing ........the list goes on. 

One week of the New Year has now passed and I’m happy to report that I’m on track with my resolutions for 2015 ……….. just 51 weeks to go!

Wishing you every success in fulfilling your New Year's resolutions.

Can't help myself , bad habits
Well I'm running wild, lost control
And it's a shame to see
That a girl like me
Has got so many, bad habits
Well I'm off the rails
My resistence fails, tempations got
A hold on me
And I can't refuse
Because I always lose
Can't help myself
Bad habits
Well it just ain't right
That it's something I can't fight
I can't stop going out and having spending fun.......(Christmas sales can be a curse)
Well I tried to be good,
But I knew I never could
Cause i've got more bad habits than anyone
When I get the urge
I just got to splurge ....... (France, books, gardening and technology - if only I could master it)
I'm a slave to all my desires
Well I'm in a mess
Because i can't repress all of these
Bad habits
Can't help myself
Bad Habits
Well I'm running wild ....... (relatively speaking, for a Capricorn who likes being in control)
Lost control
And it's a shame to see
That a girl like me
Has so many bad habits
Well it just ain't right
It's something I can't fight
I can't stop going out being distracted and having fun
Well I tried to be good

But I knew I never could
Cause i've got more bad habits
Than anyone
When I get the urge
I just got to splurge
I'm a slave to all my desires .......(cheese, chocolate and champagne is on the desires list during the festive season)
Well I'm in a mess
Because i can't repress all of these
Bad habits