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.