Usually I consider it to be a really good thing to be able to see things from another person’s point of view. It would really save an awful lot of trouble in the world if we could all see things through others’ eyes. But recently I realised that it isn’t always that simple.
A few weeks ago we dashed over to the mill for a quick weekend break – partly because we couldn’t bear to wait until Christmas to come back and partly because I had arranged with a number of window companies to come round and give us quotes to build and fit wooden shutters to all the downstairs windows. This wasn’t just because I wanted to add a traditional feature to our mill that was missing –actually it doesn’t look like the building ever had them, from all the old photos of the place that we have found online. Certainly, since the beginning of the twentieth century the fact that our home was a working ‘factory’ seems to have precluded the niceties of insulation and security. No, the reason was far more mundane. We can’t get the moulin insured against burglary unless we have them. Five point frame bolts on all the downstairs double-glazed locking windows – pah! Pas de volets, pas d’assurance. No shutters, no insurance.
Our long-time friends, Marianne and Jean-Paul popped round for a coffee on the Sunday morning, to see our new ‘love nest’, as they called it. They had been absolute rocks during the traumatic move and this was the first time that they had actually seen the place. We had described the lovely location, the character and history of the building and all the ideas we had for turning it into something really special. When they arrived I was touring the house with Monsieur Monnet, the joiner who had been recommended to us by Monsieur Lebrun, the roofer/chimney sweep. He was a lovely friendly, lanky bloke, totally un-phased by the half-finished state of the house, who accompanied everything he did with an Allez hop!
”Let’s just measure this bit – allez hop!”, and “ Can I go into this bedroom? Allez hop!” and “Okay, finished. Allez hop!”
He listened intently as I described what we would like to have, but what we probably could only afford to have – pointing out the preliminary building work à prévoir ,to anticipate, before the shutters could be fitted, with all the enthusiasm of an accomplice in a great adventure.
M. Monnet joined us all for coffee and cake around the table and we spent a lovely hour or so chatting – Colin and I doing our best to follow the in depth discussion the other three were having about the relative merits of aluminium v UPVC shutters. I was bursting to give Marianne the guided tour of our lovely mill, so once M. Monnet had departed, promising to email a devis, quote, with all the various permutations of our rather vague requirements, we took our friends round every room and out round the ‘garden’, our own personal island embraced by the two arms of the river.
Marianne’s face said it all. She was desperate to find something positive to say, but all she could come up with was “C’est très spacieux”, it’s very spacious. She was obviously really concerned at what we had taken on, and not a little puzzled about what on earth we had seen in this big, grubby, half-finished barn of a place with no heating. As she sat huddled in her coat (which she had declined to remove), I momentarily saw our project through her eyes and saw an ‘older’ couple, giving up the comforts of a lovely home they had built up over more than 10 years, to move into something of a tip that would undoubtedly be the money-pit that would eat up their pensions.
Jean-Paul, on the other hand, was full of suggestions for how we could tackle the tasks that faced us and ideas for remodelling the house. He looked like he couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
“Okay”, I thought, “I’m really touched by your concern and can see that we should be sensible about this, but…”
I really don’t think we’re viewing things through rose-coloured specs – we already feel life is so much rosier here. I’m with Jean-Paul, M. Monnet and, more importantly, with Colin in this. It’s such an adventure!!