Friday, 12 May
“Is it finished?” ask some (genuinely wondering).
“It’s finished, right?” ask others (as in: after all this time, it’s gotta be…).
“It’s finished,” state still others (no inflection, since there’s no way it couldn’t be done by now).
My answers, depending on my mood and how much detail I feel like providing, have been equally modulated:
“Almost,” (the truth but begging further questions).
"Ye-es…” (Delphic, dodgy).
“Yes,” (a lie).
I am referring to Q&As about the state of our mega-renovation project in the Perche, the project I have been writing about since April 2020 and that I declared “officially done” in April 2022, when we signed off with the architects and artisans. Emphasis on the officially.
In fact, several parts of the plan to restore a 16th century seigneurie and re-unite house, garden and surrounding fields continued to languish. Next to the kitchen, there was the débotté, the boot room for coats, dirty footwear and dog towels. Outside there was the garden, at first delayed by missing terrace stones, then by the arid heat of summer, then by the cloddy mud of winter. Finally, there was the parking area, where the old letter box, held together by wire, teetered precariously and sometimes seemed a symbol for all our restoration limbo.
About six weeks ago, we consulted the architects Monsieur et Madame Jaussaud, then announced that regardless of the state of things, we would be hosting une fête de fin de chantier, a party to celebrate the real end of the works, on May 10th. The various enterprises – from the masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers and electricians to the roofers, terrassiers and the pool people (et j’en passe) – should let us know how many would attend.
Apparently, there’s nothing like the prospect of having your fellow artisans observe your unfinished work to spur you into action.
In a final burst of activity that briefly rivalled the human hive of a couple years ago, we had the masons, plumbers, carpenters and painters for the boot room.
Outside, Claire and her team, with us pitching in when we could, went into a frenzy of planting plants, pulling weeds and laying wood chips.
Claire also oversaw the building of the parking area that she had designed. In came more masons and the terrassiers.
It was here, in the future car park, where a full circle began to take shape. Two members of the original masonry team who had converted the barn into living space and had broken through the 500-year old wall to connect it to the house were back on the job: Christophe...
...and Brandon, a cute, shy 15-year old apprentice at the beginning of our project and now a confident, handsome 18-year old who wants to be an architect...
The terrassiers, who had already moved much earth to make our heaven, re-appeared.
And it all got done. The débotté, the parking area and the stone support for the new letter box.
The garden, after buckets of rain, was lush and inviting.
Phew, since we were expecting 52 people at our party. Even the Imperturbable One (aka David) was nervous. All those guests and, en plus, it was supposed to rain. But our biggest concern, really, was giving people a good time, letting the artisans know how grateful we are for their talent and hard work over the last three years.
It did rain, and we all squeezed into the house. David and I were too busy greeting new arrivals and filling glasses to accurately gauge guest satisfaction, but everyone ate and drank well; the noise level never flagged.
Near the end, when the rain stopped and those who were left moved outside, there were further signs of a good vibe...
...among the smiling sub-group...
In a poignant finale, the last to leave were the first to have contributed to the transformation of Deux Champs: the architects Monsieur et Madame Jaussaud and the masons Christophe, Brandon and Antoine.
The photo brings bittersweet tears to my eyes. Of course we are happy to regain the tranquility that drew us to this house at the end of the lane in the first place. But we will miss the people who have been a big part of our life here these last three years, the team who worked so hard and so well to create our new home.
Un grand merci to one and all.