Fact or Fiction?

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Sometimes, after an afternoon in the garden, within the safety of our guilded cage,  the light starts to fade away, the sun dips and the breeze flutters into silence. I stop what I am doing, and in the quiet I can hear a dog bark at the far end of the village, and a child playing at the other. The world grows large about me, spirits uncoil and gather me in their embrace, I’m tempted to take a walk in the empty streets. One can only imagine the tall stories the old walls would tell. I sometimes let my imagination run wild …

Was the church tower really built in only six years, some time after the church itself back in the 1200’s?  I can only imagine the village must have waited a while until they could afford the next stage of construction. Sometimes as I pass I wonder if it is the ghosts of the masons I can hear, clinking mallets and chisels on stone as they struggle to finish the roof before summer’s end.IMG_5295

Here, a grey cat lives. I pretend he is the ghost of a labourer who built this wall in the summer of 1867. Perhaps he fell in love with a farmer’s daughter, only to find their attachment to each other was not welcomed by the farmer’s family, and later that year he was press-ganged into the French navy after a night’s revelry on Rochefort’s waterfront ended in a cell…could it have happened?IMG_5296

Was this fence put in place by the present day baker’s grandfather? To stop village boys in the 1950’s from stealing his raspberries? I’d like to think so. Today, a raft of artichoke heads, gone to seed for too long, nod away the days just inside the doorway…IMG_5279

And perhaps this is the door to the family Dupont’s kitchen. Was it once a winter barn for cattle? Converted into a dwelling place in 1920 when the father of the family came back from the Great War? Maybe to this day the smell of cows can still be recognised on a wet day inside the neatly tiled room, seeping up through the old hardened earth floor.IMG_5297

I like to think that for many years an old man called Blanchard worked this allotment. And that much of the earth he transported here came by mule and wagon from the Marais, since the natural soil is alkaline and replete with shards of sandstone. Now the old couple who work it grow food all year round, with great lines of leaks and onions in winter stretching all the way to the church wall. IMG_5278

The side passage by the church is sometimes filled with soft chanting and the rustle of cassocks in my mind. When there is no breeze at all a faint smell of incense lingers about the shadows, and I think I can hear a hum of Latin…..the door to the crypt always seems to beckon to me with a wizened white bony finger. I’m intrigued and nervous at the same time and never hang around for too long.IMG_5298

Could this be Madame Bouchary’s old sewing shop? Her era of couture might have taken place in the 1760’s. If the light is right and the door is open, the sun reaches into the dark inside of the room. Can I see her working by candlelight at the low table, mending a rip in the trousers of the ironsmith’s apprentice?

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I love to think that the valerian growing along this wall is a chance of fate, perhaps a dynasty of pink that might have been here for 42 years. Each flower a descendant of a single seed deposited in a crack by a sparrow in the autumn of 1978. Each year the village council clears out the dead plants in winter, but there is always a seed or two lodged beyond their probing brush.IMG_5300

And this farmhouse. Did it once stand proudly in its own land, paying a tythe to the church each year as its cows and grain blossomed with each summer’s passing?IMG_5301

This barn might have been built before the battle of Waterloo, but who lives here now?Who lives behind the upstairs window that once saw hay bales swing through its narrow casement?IMG_5312

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Here is a hole in the wall surrounding the old lands of the ancient Priory. Was it created by a young man as he came home late one night from a harvest dance in his brother’s Renault, or is it a matter of theft, where people have taken the stone to use elsewhere? In all the years we’ve been here it has never changed.IMG_3287

This small building tucked in to one side of the Priory, is a workshop, reputed to date from the time of the building of the church which is later than the Priory itself. Today, its gates never open, are the ghosts of my masons still at work inside?IMG_3279

Next door is the window into the workshop, with a pair of shutters made before the Second World War. Now it would cost more to repaint them than it did to actually make them, some 70 odd years ago. IMG_3275

Is this an old wash house under the ivy? In times past would steam have bellowed out on wash day, the cobbled floor afloat with sheets?IMG_5024

As I turn for home, with the echoes of voices whispering secrets at me, the sun sets for bed in a hole in the sky, winking at me and my imagination in huge amusement.

If only walls really could tell tales…….IMG_5428

And finally a little fact, NOT fiction! We’re really really excited to give you a hint of what we’ve been working on non-stop for the past few weeks. We’re just about ready to launch our e-book of short stories, to help support us and our family during this time. Bringing you something digital that will hopefully make your days happier in these terribly worrying weeks. It will be full paperback novel size, around 290 pages, comprising 8 stories. We would love to know how you would prefer to read it; via ebook, PDF, Kindle with a Kindle App? We’ll keep you updated here on the blog and via Instagram and Facebook. Our daughter, Millie, is putting the final touches to the cover she has designed. Jack, our son, is adding sketches for each story. Izzi is helping us with the formatting. In our usual style, it’s a real family affair and I am so proud of our children.

40 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction?

  • You have taken me on a wonderful journey – the kind I have enjoyed making up during our various meanderings around this country. I agree: if walls could talk, how rich our knowledge would be as each stone jostled to tell its tale!

  • Loved this post so much! Thanks for sharing your thoughtful and beautiful musings with us. I can’t wait for your book and would like to buy it to read on my Kindle please. How exciting!!

  • So interesting! I love the pictures & the “stories”! I cannot imagine how people then built churches etc. with not many tools & the hard work involved. Such a beautiful area! Thanks so much!

  • Looking forward to your book. I just finished reading another book about living in France. I read on Kindle–either on my phone or my laptop. Stay healthy.

  • I would love to read you and your family’s book…I have a Kindle app.
    Just loved your Fact or Fiction… took me on a wonderful daydream. Well worth the ride. Thanks❣️

  • Loved walking along with you but seriously, aren’t you tempted to open gates & doors to see what’s behind them? I too would love to read your book. As not everyone has a Kindle perhaps offer 2 options, 1 for Kindle and the other in eBook or PDF format. Thanks!

    • I would love to open doors and gates and look inside but I know that these properties belong to someone and are not simply abandoned so I cannot. If they were totally in the middle of nowhere and abandoned then maybe, but in a village impossible!! xx

  • This is true art, m’Dear! You never cease to delight me with your wanderings, –of feet, of thought. It’s fascinating, your certainty about the possibility of ghosts, your fearlessness, up to a point… Thank you for taking us with you to other eras, other possibilities. I just did something like this on NJWILDBEAUTY, about Chatham, Massachusetts – a town of other eras and other priorities which still thrives on Cape Cod. I’m there in spirit, surprised to find out that Chatham is where I WISH I were quarantined, for its quaint lasting beauty — and yes, I wrote about shutters and I cherish every shutter picture you ever share with us! And for the infinity of the sea — confinement is getting to me because at my age, I am not supposed to be out and about. Daunting for a Sagittarian to be ordered to stay anywhere! So I go to France with you – and mentioned your/our France (Mt. St. Michel) in my own explorations. And I go to the Cape ‘with my fingers’ – and so we endure another week of house arrest… This POST is a book, each stop a chapter! Thank you so much! Blessings, Carolyn Edelmann of Lawrenceville NJ

  • Susan, what can I say? I wonder how I could manage without your wonderful postings each week. They lift my spirits tremendously. You have the soul of a romantic poet, and have the heart to share it all with us. All that talent and the strong back to work hard and to raise a lovely family. You are blessed and so are we because you share it with us. I am 82 yrs old and I regret that I never got to France and to meet you and your family. But…..I can still dream and I’m there each time I read your words and see your photos. Thank you seems so inadequate but I do thank you so very much!

  • OH Susan, so beautiful, I was with you every step of the way and I too could think those thoughts and wonder what tales could be told by the walls, doors and windows. I don’t have a Kindle so a PDF format would suit me better and I can’t wait to read your family story book.

  • I was ‘only’ going to tell you how very, very much I loved your post on your ‘day dreamings’ and the photos, to tell you how VERY much I love that old, sturdy wall, the crumbling details and maybe even talk to you about the most amazing recorded series of ‘Restoration Home’ on YTube where people with a boundless energy and goodwill (and often with far too small purses….) try to give very old, tired, often listed buildings back another lease of life….. I wanted to say how much my heart aches thinking of the struggle so many of our friends face, the uncertainty of being able to survive financially this pandemic, and, and, and –
    And THEN you spring this surprise on us! A book, a book, a book!!!! Having no Kindle (I was going to buy one while on hols in UK which – quelle surprise – had to be cancelled and left us with a lot of money spent for nothing, but also leaving me w/o my Kindle (which would allow me to buy cheap UK E-books which is NOT an option if I buy a Kindle in France or now in Switzerland, hence that plan….), so no Kindle for me, a PDF I also could only read on the computer screen, an e-book, well….. So, I’m going to buy a version of your book, come what will, but could you, for your guests, those who WILL COME AGAIN TO YOUR PLACE IN A SHORT WHILE, as you know and we all know and wish for, also consider a print-version? Just a thought.
    Bless you dear friends, dear family, for all your efforts and the love you pour into every day and into our hearts – you will get through this and you will come out stronger than ever. We all will!

  • Hi Susan,

    What a lovely story as always and wonderful pictures. Make us discover some hidden (un)inhabited pathways. :-).

    For us e-book (Kobo/Rakuten style) or kindle will be fine. Hoping to visit you soon and have some life sharing.

    Here in Belgium confinement is going till 03/05 or even later and they are speaking of the possibility of no school till june 30. We will see.
    Warm virtual embrace from us all to all of you kids and hubby too.

    Dominique and the girls

  • I am so glad that you are going to write a book. I love your stories. The first story that I read was your Halloween ghost story, which I enjoyed tremendously. I will use my kindle or my iPad to read the book. Can’t wait for it to come out.

  • Hello Susan,
    I do not know if walls will tell a story but, you sure can! So well at that… creative writing is definately one of your gifts. I would like my copy of stories in a PDF form, since I do not own a Kindle.

    Be well and till soon.
    Susanne aka susasusa, an American in Bavaria

  • Lovely post! I enjoyed your imaginings and felt I was there with you. I would prefer reading a Kindle version of your book.

  • So looking forward to your book, I do most of my reading on a kindle. I love your wanderings and descriptions. I used to take my grandchildren out and we’d make stories of what we were looking at.

  • I’m in! Loved this post. Wish you could have quietly tapped a door open and taken a picture! but then that might have ruined the story! I will read your book on my I-Pad which I think takes both ebooks and kindle. Thank you for your lovely stories and pictures.

  • Beautiful post! I felt like I was right there with you. I love seeing photos of your beautiful village. Can’t wait for your book. I mostly read on my Kindle.

  • From the fourth week of lockdown in our New Zealand paradise, I felt uplifted by this blog. Your imagery and empathy with your landscape, takes me out of the four walls and into the history you have so sensitively created. Thank you.

  • Lovely idea. If only the walls could talk. We all at some point have said that. I am wondering what the walls in our old farmhouse might reveal. Thank you for the delightful tour. Fingers crossed for the book🤞

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