Well it's hard to believe Christmas is nearly here again. This will be our sixth Christmas in France and when I think back to the first one, well things have progressed.
That first Christmas we were living in a barn. My sister and brother in law were staying with us as they had sold in England and decided to come and live in France. They stayed here while buying their property. Not luxury living I have to say. Our property consists of a barn, a little old typically french house, 2 rooms up and 2 rooms down and a ruined cottage. They lived in one room in the little house, where the fireplace was with an old woodburner which a neighbour had given us and my other half put in so they wouldn't be too cold. While we lived in the barn. It really was still a barn, apart from a small 'apartment' my other half had made on first floor level. This consisted of a bedroom for us with a woodburner, one for the children and a bathroom. We had decided to do this rather than buying a caravan to live in whilst we did the work. Downstairs was still all earth floor, and when you looked up it was the roof timbers and the tiles and plenty of cobwebs, no insulation or plasterboard or anything so glamorous. The original old barn doors were still in place (not draught proof by any stretch of the imagination) and when they were closed it was very dark inside.
It was so oooo cold. I had a makeshift kitchen downstairs on the earth floor, with a garden table with washing up bowl and old gas bottle cooker and our fridge/freezer. Have you ever tried peeling potatoes with woolly gloves on, trust me it's not that easy.
We had brought 10kg of organic beef from our french neighbour and put it in the freezer. I got up one morning and the freezer wasn't working - shock, horror, panic. What was I going to do with all this meat. The old gas cooker was not great, the oven had no thermostat and only one temperature - very hot. Brilliant for warming coissants quickly but didn't leave you much scope for anything else. Our other means of cooking was a slow cooker. We decided the only thing to do was go and buy a new one, well we had had the old one for some years and brought it over with us in the move. So off we go and buy a lovely new fridge/freezer. Panic over you many think. No. We got it home, plugged it in and it still didn't work. After finally deciphering the instructions we discover the reason. The ambiant temperature in the barn was so cold that the freezer was not kicking in. At one point that winter it actually got down to -10 and we had to defrost the washing machine on more than one occasion.
Christmas day itself passed well though, with 2 organic ducks (again from a neighbour - payment to my other half for helping to kill them - very sweet couple, she was Australian and had been vegetarian until coming to live in France. He was German and a journalist. She wanted my other half to show her other half how to kill them in the kindest possible way as, in her words, 'I don't want any ducks in wheelchairs'). They cooked beautifully in the slow cooker and we had them with potatoes and all the usual veg. The Christmas pud we had steamed on top of the old stove and was delicious. We cooked down in the barn and ate up in the little house where we had put our dining table in front of the woodburner. My sister and I made Christmas trees from branches which we sprayed white and decorated with baubles and fairy lights. We put one in the childrens' bedroom and another up in the little house, for that festive feel.
This year is far more comfortable, gone are the old doors, the roof has insulation and we have a woodburner.
What more could a girl want - pure luxury!!