Saturday, 31 May 2008

Down in the Deep Dark woods I dwell...


Deep amidst a green pool of leafery, where the air is clear and tinged with the colour of oak, birch and beech , where the light filters down through an abundance of ancient trees, the branches covered with lichen, long ago, when France still had Kings and Brittany was a “Foreign Provence” , not truly part of France at all, someone built a stone longère from local granite, with a vast fire place either end. The first house to be recorded in this commune. A place of stature, solid as the rock from which it was hued.


Hidden in a small valley in a place by itself, someone built their stone house, there to raise children and to plough the land and plant. Here then, in “Kreizh Breizh “the secretive heart of Brittany,we live now, deep in the Argoat ('Land of the Woods'). Over the centuries that intervened families were raised in the house and the farm grew as did the trees and sons went off to fight for France a country not their own where the other soldiers spoke another language they did not understand and now it is our home.


The original house, the old longere was abandoned, the great slabs of granite that hooded the fire smashed in two, by whom? I do not know, Napoleon's soldiers , so they say, broke them to punish the Bretons so that their fires smoked and they were forced to abandon their homes. Perhaps it was Napoleon's men then and the longere stood abandoned for centuries until the new house was built? I can not say. After the Great War a new house was added to the barn, a sign of hope for a family to thrive here once more? Perhaps the longere was lived in even then with its orchard planted with apple trees and plums , whilst the returning soldier brought his young wife home to the new house next to his parents home and tilled the land with his father.


Perhaps after the second war there were no more sons left and the old people lived on in poverty n their family farm and the daughters moved away. No one is alive who remembers, no one is left to tell. Much later though I know the barn became part of the now not so new house, the home of a potter and his family . It was his art gallery and the longère his studio and it was from them we bought it. One potter to another, just as we had sold my pottery studio in England to a potter too. Beads on the necklace of life making pretty coincidences.



Now we live here, wrapped in centuries of peace, in a house built of granite under a long slate roof with the kitchen walls covered with huge slabs of granite and slate larger than a man and doors one must stoop to walk through.


We sleep above the old barn and every spring the swifts return and fly through the open window to do a lap of the nesting sites of their ancestors. Carpets cover the floors where the cows were tethered and book shelves line the walls where once sacks of feed were stored. The great rusty pot used for cooking pig swill stands filled with flowers and spring bulbs and the heart in the longere lies cold.


We hear little in our tranquility but bird song and the distance call of cows to one another. We eat the apples from the trees that those other lost generations planted , and our children run wild, their shrill voices yelling in French and English from high in the branches. I wonder what the house thinks when it hears them? I hope it feels our happiness and is glad.

19 comments:

Inthemud said...

What a wonderfully idyllic place you live in. You describe it so beautifully, the history sounds amazing.
Living surrounded by those huge granite stones and slates.
Lovely to have swifts nesting .

Sally's Chateau said...

What should I pack ? hmmmmm sounds an idyllic spot for a little holiday if you ask me. Sensitively written and enticing.

Elizabethd said...

What a lovely piece of writing...and a wonderfully hidden but welcoming place in which to live.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

On my way .....

lampworkbeader said...

I hear your happinessa and I'm glad.
(Any room for a tent in that orchard?)

Blossomcottage said...

Everyone should be able to experience such beauty and peace in their lives, the world would be a better place for it, I too live in an idylic place, the birds sing, the hills twinkle in the sunlight and the sky changes colour almost every moment of the day, how lucky we are UPL and how lucky we all are to have you to tell us about you lovely home, your great tales of Mdme G and to see your beautiful pottery.
Thanks a million UPL.
Blossomxx

Grouse said...

I have often marvelled that the weather there has so mirrored the weather here, so many miles apart, but looking at that photo it seems our homes have greater similarities...it so looks like home! Beautifully written, UP- the big difference in our homes is of course that we built ours ourselevs: it enchants me to think that one day someone might write about Mistlehall in the same affectionate and evocotive way you have written about your own home.

Frances said...

Oh, that was lovely. I would think that old house is very fortunate that your family has chosen it.

All that you have shared with us so clearly shows how inspiring it can be to live in such an atmosphere. How wonderful for your children to have the opportunity to have their young days in that free space.

As always, best wishes to you. xo

bradan said...

It was worth waiting for! Beautifully told, your home looks and sounds idyllic, UPL. xx

Faith said...

Enchanting! and your children just think of it as home and won't realise how lucky they are til they are older, bless them. That was so beautiful UPL - quite took me there.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Beautifully written. 'Beads on the necklace of life making pretty coincidences' - love it. Thank you.

kissa said...

I have just happened upon your blog and found it a delightful read. What a delightful place to live. I love Brittany and your lttle corner is special. I'll come back.

annakarenin said...

Tantelizing picture would love to see mopre but I am nosey about houses. It sounds as I imagined and a ownderful family home.

ChrisH said...

Damn! And you write beautifully too.

Milla said...

gorgeous un peu. But before I too descend for a 6 week holiday, what is the spider situation?

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

It is of course Milla ,being an ancient building, riddled and racked by spiders of all shapes and sizes which is such a shame as we have two great big stupid yellow labradors which I am sure you would love to come and paly with!

Pondside said...

I loved this one, UPL. The mystery of the generations that were there before - the 'otherness' of Brittany and the endurance of the stone house. How lucky that you found it and have brought it to life.

CC Devine said...

Lovely post!

Exmoorjane said...

"wrapped in centuries of peace" - what a beautiful phrase and, indeed, a beautiful post and picture. Lovely to know you abide in such a tranquil, embracing home.