September 2022 – it’s been a jam-packed roller coaster of a year so far!
My sister Sasha got married; I turned 60 and caught Covid; Oscar turned one and was Christened and and on the same day (June 5th) we lost Joe’s much-loved Dad, Dave. So the year has involved quite a few trips to England for me – first a hen night, then the wedding (sadly without Joe as he was working in Provence), and then a huge family gathering of my sisters and families (postponed from last year) followed directly by Dave’s funeral in York.
Professionally with 43 Media we’ve had a great year so far – we had another food shoot in the studio; I went to Paris again to do the media training with the Alain Ducasse student chefs; Joe returned to Provence for series two of the Michel Roux TV show (kitchen build and installation plus 2 drone shoots) followed directly by the build and installation of a stunning stand for the Techtextil exhibition in Frankfurt.
In fact Joe has returned to Provence for series three of Michel Roux’s Country Cooking and is there as I write this blog installment – Luke and I will be joining him at the weekend for another drone shoot !
I really love working with Joe – we are so lucky to spend so much time together on all these interesting and different projects.
Preparation for summer
Here on the home front, we had the most magical ‘Solifest’ in July, with Beth and Jacob; Harry and Armel; Luke, Marie and Oscar; and Arty and Cass – the original idea was to celebrate my 60th, but there was so much else to celebrate – Arty has his law degree; Luke and Marie have bought a house; Harry and Armel are moving to Philadelphia for a year as Armel has a post there having finished her PHD, and Beth now has a full time job as an editor and has set up the first Novella Film Festival (take a look at the beautiful website she and Harry created for the festival).
Summer 2022 proved to be the most beautiful consistently sunny summer since we moved to France! It became clear a week of so before everyone arrived that a pool was going to be a necessity… so we installed our best yet, and created a fairytale festival garden of summer magic! It was a marathon to get everything done before the fam arrived – Joe and I were already in a state of exhaustion emotionally and physically, but the total joy of ‘Solifest’ made all the effort more than worth it.
We were anxious for Harry and Armel to have a proper base for their stay, as Harry is often the nomad on his visits, moving around from bed to floor depending on whose room is free! So Joe and I decided to give them our room and to increase our summer accommodation by investing in another Bell tent! We had such glorious memories from our travels, (and indeed from the film) of that magical tent light. Sadly we lost our old bell tent to mold, not realising until too late that it must have been stored a bit damp. So our new tent arrived and we put it up – Joe built a bed! We bought a mattress and chairs and rugs from our newly discovered recyclerie in St Agreve … and we slept in there for a few glorious weeks.
A moment of loving reflection
The family celebrations included a small, private memorial for Joe’s dad. We wanted to have a family celebration of his life, to share memories and take time to reflect on our loss. The run-up to the funeral had been so intense work-wise… Joe and I literally drove away from the get-out in Frankfurt directly to the ferry to drive first to Cornwall for the big family glamping weekend with my sisters and then two days later up to York for the funeral. The simple ceremony we had here in Solignac in the dappled afternoon sun was very special. We were able to share it with Jan, Joe’s mum, by Zoom, which was really lovely.
We lit a candle (which we then kept burning for a good few days after); listened to some chosen tracks; Joe gave the most beautiful eulogy to his Dad; Beth created this exquisite collage to express what her Granddad meant to her… which she shared with us as she talked us through her inspirations. Then we all gently shared memories and stories. It was very relaxed and unforced, and felt very important to do. I’m very glad we made it happen.
After our afternoon of reflection we moved gently into party mode, with cocktails and a board game (like you do!) Beth had transformed a Cluedo set into a Solignac Cluedo game – it was ingenious and such fun to play. Then following a wonderful Plancha feast we got singing – Joe had set up speakers and equipment outside… and everybody sang, it was such an amazing atmosphere – I’ll never forget it!
I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate my 60th birthday !
Bucket list …
Along with the birthday treat of having all of our beautiful children and their beautiful partners and babe together for the weekend, I was also treated to an adventure I have wanted to do all my adult life… a hot air balloon ride. Joe and I set off before dawn to watch the sunrise over Annonay, with Captain Ludo – it was everything I’d hoped and more – so beautiful; so peaceful and quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life ! I feel very lucky indeed !
We’ve finally managed to re-connect our source to our beautiful water trough – it was quite an emotional moment! We are lucky enough to have a source on the edge of our field, but it has been years since it was connected to the house… well now it is again! La Source was the inspiration for the name of our gîte, and it is truly a dream come true to have the sound of running water flowing over the old stone basin we picked up in a brocante and then overflowing down into an old underground well.
La Source Gîte
We have been astounded by the success of our little gîte ! We have had so many lovely guests, often with dogs, and everyone seems to really appreciate their time here – we added some more plants and a garland of outside lights and laid a gravel base in the little courtyard as the grass was difficult to maintain because of the foot traffic from steps to front door – it always looked a bit patchy. The gravel looks stunning and gives such a summery vibe.
A new woodstore…
With so much fab work for Joe and I this year it was hard to advance with the house projects – but things really got moving again during the summer – Outside we built a big proper wood store and moved the remaining elm and beams which have been sitting outside of the workshop under a tarp for years now. Joe put this up single handed in a matter of days using the wall of our neighbour’s garage (with his blessing!) as the back support ! I couldn’t believe the speed of it – then Luke and Arty helped re-stack all the wood in it’s new dry home.
The Living Fence
We’ve been wanting to tackle our view of the rather chaotic extension, fence and hedge which divides us from our wonderful neighbours. Joe came up with an absolutely genius solution. When we hired the digger to level the ground for the pool we also dug a series of holes to put fence posts in along the hedge – we then constructed a simple very natural fence using the incredibly cheap, but aesthetically pleasing live tree edges from our local sawmill (basically the bits they can’t use!). The result is just wonderful, and the plan now is to fill it with plants and rustic decorations and watch it come to life over the years.
The new kitchen
Early this year we created a huge Dexter plastic lined space to get started on cleaning and re-jointing the stonework on the South and East walls in the house. Then so much set construction work came in (for the Michel Roux TV series and the Techtextil Exhibition) that the space became a brilliantly useful paint room where we could spray all the large items of furniture. When all the shows were done, and after the house emptied, Joe and I were really excited to finally tackle the new kitchen project in earnest. Lots of discussion, and research and drawings have resulted in the most fabulous kitchen design, which you will see unfold over the coming months.
The first thing we needed to do, before we could finally take all the plastic sheeting down was attack the stone walls! With Arty’s help jack-hammering the old lime joints out, and our neighbour and good friend Marlene’s help to get us started on the lime jointing (having just done a bunch of it in their house and in exchange for Joe helping them put a couple of Velux windows in) we are almost at the end… man there were a lot of stones !
The result is so transformative – as Joe has so much to think about with all the plumbing; electricity and the actual build of the kitchen, I took on responsibility for the jointing. I’ve become quite obsessed with it to be honest and every spare minute is currently spent filling those gaps!
I’m actually really proud of my progress!
Up with the kitchen floor
So the floor needed to come up, on the one hand to get all the electrics and plumbing sorted, but also to get it level before a new subfloor goes down. This is an incredibly tricky and detailed job involving lasers and shims and a whole lot of patience, all while balancing precariously on the beams as our bedroom ceiling plasterboard is now exposed!
Joe and I took a little much needed 4 day break in a beautiful Airbnb in Cassis with Nairobi at the beginning of September. It was dreamy !
So I think you’re all up-to-date – thank you so much for reading !