Caro's notes. May 2004
Old Houses Fetish
As a child I always thought old empty houses were fascinating, especially when the remainder of the curtains would be flapping through the broken windows. The old farm close to my home town always appealed to me. I never saw the inside of it because it was always fenced off and is now demolished to make way for a railway track extension.
I never thought that my fetish would be fulfilled. Most of the houses we are visiting these days are old, dilapidated and in different states of decay.
You can easily imagine how people lived in them. In the kitchen there are mostly traces of the stone bread oven, the open fire place with the huge beautiful wooden mantle piece and in one of walls a small sink hacked out of stone. A massive wooden door normally leads to the wine cellar, the pantry, the washroom and the sheds.
The hall way with the wooden staircase is often the place I imagine seeing the old owners, their hands on the well worn banisters. If you are lucky you'll find the first step is made of stone worn smooth by the years of use. The wood in the staircase along with that in the doorframes and beams have served as a food supply for the worms and other bugs over the generations. In the meantime I have learned that oak is so hard, that they only scratch the surface.
If you are really lucky you come across an Aladdin's cave in the cellars, barns and attics. Here you will find wine vats and presses, corn huskers, wooden carts with wooden wheels for carrying grapes and hay, complete with yoke for the oxen.
Sometimes we have seen beautiful old storage jars, still filled with vegetables and fruit, old clocks, old pictures frames complete with mottled photos of the house's previous inhabitants. And we even saw a Napoleonic cast iron bath.
The old monastery was also a very special experience. The mice and other creatures had set up home some years ago and made nests from the books in the library. The century old religious literature lay forlorn under a layer of dust and other rubbish. A small tome that I picked out randomly from the shelf was printed in 1816 in Bordeaux and contained a handwritten note stuck to page 58. Oooh, if only I knew who had written this note and what his life was like.
The ultimate house so far, for my fetish at least, was to be found in a rundown overgrown hamlet, which had been home to various members of one family. Max, a 50 year old real French character, took us to an abandoned house (it wasn't for sale, but with a little gentle persuasion on the back door we came in to the house) and told us about the doubled-up, little old lady that used to live here. As a younger woman, Max told us, she charmed the locals with her home made cakes and tarts and Max as a young kid used to be first in line.
She passed away just a few years ago. But it felt as if she had only been there yesterday. Her aprons were still hanging on the coat hook and here slippers neatly placed on the first step of the staircase. In the kitchen we saw conserve jars still filled with her beans and fruit and in the half open drawer a pack of playing cards. Everything of course under a thick layer of musty damp dust. The house itself was also slowly tumbling in, the beams giving way to gravity, because like so many houses here, it is left to rot as family members cling on to the past, but do nothing to maintain the houses for the future.
But one way or another the contents of these abandoned houses find their way to the "vide greniers" and "brocante" where I satisfy my fetish for just a few euros.
|© 2004 Perry Taylor and Two Can Productions, France.|