Tag Archives: Farrow and Ball

A Year to Remember

There’s always an ending and a beginning as the twinkly lights of Christmas are packed away once more.  Lists of things left undone, things achieved and dreams and hopes for the year to come.  Then January sets in and I’ve forgotten all about what it was I wanted to do, what I’m supposed to be doing and the things I should have done by now……including writing this message to you, dear Reader.  You know what they say though.  Better late than never.

2017 was a year of beginnings for us.  We met and fell in love with a farmhouse, decided to undertake the biggest project we’d ever tackled, turned a tired lavender field back into production and generally everyone we knew thought that we had finally lost all our marbles.  Move to a derelict farmhouse you say?  Why ever not?  Now our first Christmas here has been and gone, it’s hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago the farmhouse was still rather more of a shell than a home.  No clean drinking water, no heating, no functioning plumbing….the list is endless.  There wasn’t much of a kitchen either as it had been stripped bare before building work could start.  The steel skeleton was still firmly in place around us and our view of fields also included a few builders’ bottoms.  Not forgetting a bloody great Bake Off tent in the back garden that served as our makeshift kitchen for three months when the mouldy old kitchen was removed and the oak flooring went down.  Disappointingly, it was minus a chirpy Mel and Sue or even Sandi and Noel and it was completely devoid of showstoppers.  Well of the baking kind at any rate.  I’ve never been on safari, dear Reader but I am pretty sure tents in the bush are distinctly more glamourous and less functional.

As the weather closed in and the list of disasters from crumbling chimneys to water pouring through the kitchen ceiling (not once but twice) grew, Jerry and I lost faith in our ability to tackle everything that the old girl needed to bring her back to life.  I can’t tell you the waves of tears wept and a long list of expletives grew as for the millionth time I forgot to shut the curtains before venturing to the loo and remembered that I was visible to all on the scaffolding.  Nothing seemed to be going right.  My poor Pa who is in charge of all our electrics almost had kittens at how unsafe the wiring was (and in some parts still is) in the house.  Then there was the time we had been using the open fire to keep warm whilst we were without any form of central heating and the lovely chap who came to check the chimneys told me that I had been effectively poisoning us all as smoke and fumes were being channelled into Primrose’s bedroom.  Every day became a diary entry of disasters.  Working from home has some serious disadvantages when renovating a house.  Each little detail becomes a mountain to climb so that by the time you reach decisions about door handles or paint colours or whether or not you need a Hobnob biscuit or a Jaffa cake to get through the next hour, you are beyond being given any form of choice.  None of these things are the end of the world but after months of effectively camping in your own home, there’s nothing like a deadline to force you towards getting things done.  What better deadline is there than hosting Christmas and Boxing Day, dear Reader?!

All good things come to those who wait, dear Reader.  There is drinking water coming from the tap once more, there is heating, there is an Everhot, the builders have moved out and we can finally say goodbye to the Bake Off tent in the garden.  Getting the kitchen finished has meant no more cooking on a camping stove (a massive thank you to Alresford Interiors for all their hard work, beautiful carpentry and coping with a complete redesign at the last minute – for all the little extras and more we couldn’t be more grateful) and life at the farmhouse is becoming more and more ordinary again.  Whilst upstairs, bedrooms and bathrooms remain wholly untouched, downstairs is beginning to look complete.  Distressed oak floors in the hallway, kitchen and boot room sit alongside the original parquet flooring everywhere else.  Arts and Crafts colours reign supreme as you might expect – olive walls in the dining room, library red in the study.  The only room that has escaped something darker is the kitchen and that’s because limewash was needed it for its light reflective qualities.

Thank you to Quirky Interiors for our beautiful bespoke brass splashback too – the pictures don’t do it justice.

We haven’t finished by any stretch of the imagination.  The kitchen walls are still a bit bare.  Bathrooms will have to wait so washing hair with the aid of Tupperware boxes remains de rigueur for 2018.  The hallway still has its 1968 Laura Ashley wallpaper and I can’t wait to rip off the carpet on the stairs but perhaps not just yet, Jerry tells me.  We’ve already had more than one disastrous afternoon where we lost a cat under the upstairs’ floorboards.  Window panes in our leaded light windows have been replaced and new guttering and replacement roof tiles have seen us finally dry inside the house.  A shiny new boiler now heats the house after almost a decade without heating and cosy woodburners have ensured that even on the coldest days of winter, our little farmhouse has stayed toasty and warm.  I’ve also realised that I am far more resourceful than I ever thought I was.  Being able to bake bread and make pizza in a gas barbecue is a skill I may one day need in an emergency.  I’m not sure what sort of emergency….but you never know, dear Reader.  I think that Jerry is breathing a sigh of relief that my Ebay and salvage yard addiction is having a little break too.

Our clutter is at home here.  It belongs.  The furniture fits and as I wander through each room switching on lamps in the early evening, I feel as though at long last that I belong too.  Something which makes me very happy indeed, dear Reader.  We needed this house as much as it needed us.

A lot of amazing things wouldn’t have been possible without the help of lovely friends and our amazing farming neighbours who have given up time to help with fencing and much more besides.  They have rescued me from drowning under the weight of many a practical catastrophe and made us feel extremely welcome.  There is no doubt in my mind that they think me completely mad almost every day of the week and that they may well regret inviting me into their WhatsApp group dear Reader, but I’m ever so glad that they live on the doorstep and hope they don’t mind too much when they get a distress call from the mad lady at the bottom of the lane.  I’m glad too that in my own small way, I’ve been able to help them with their some of their plans for the future too.  Their festive farmers’ market before Christmas was one of most marvellous things I’ve been involved in organising in a long time – a huge thank you to all the lovely producers, suppliers and farmers I called on to come and make the day so special.  I can’t wait to see what new ventures are afoot for all of us.

So what does 2018 hold for us you might ask, dear Reader?  Well I think that we may have already hit the ground running….  We’ve started to resurrect the old pond which silted up years ago.  It will be given a new lease of life with our latest arrivals at the farmhouse.  It’s amazing how quickly the monsoon weather of late has helped it fill up again and although it looks more like the Somme than idyllic wildlife pool now, we have hopes that it will soon be rather more picture perfect.  However, I digress.  The mention of new arrivals will not have escaped you.  Well, you know how things always seem to happen to us by accident, dear Reader.  I promise they really do.  I’ll prove it.

One minute I am talking to our local log man commenting on his lovely geese and the next, I am receiving texts not about our log delivery but about ducks that need rehoming.  To cut a long story short, we are now the proud owners of 2 Runner duck drakes (Ferdie and Francis) and 4 Khaki Campbell ladies (names still being debated).  See what did I tell you?  A complete accident.  We won’t even mention the fact that I may have discussed goslings as well but mercifully, it isn’t spring yet and Jerry has a little more time to get used to the idea of those.  To be honest, he really didn’t take a lot of convincing when it came to the ducks and they have proven to be the best farmhouse addition yet as far as we’re all concerned.  They are definitely Jerry’s favourite.  Walking wine bottles – what could be more apt for our household?  The four of us can be found pressed up against the kitchen window most mornings just watching their ridiculous duck antics.  The perfect antidote to anyone’s January blues I can assure you.  So with ducks on the pond, some news ideas involving the lavender field, the gentle baa of some sheep on the horizon, a kitchen garden to plant up and a finish line to cross at the writing desk, it would seem that 2018 is shaping up to be a busy one already.  Oh it’s a quacking start, one might say……  I just hope you’ll still enjoy following us on our country living journey.  I hate to say it, dear Reader, but it seems that these days Jerry and I are much more Tom and Barbara that we ever imagined we’d be.  A belated Happy New Year to you all.




Out with the old….


Enough books to start our own library!

What a week it has been, dear Reader.  There has been so much to do in the cottage.  Estate agents are descending on us for valuations and Jerry and I have been frantically trying to tidy and declutter so that the agents value the dear old building at more than 5p for lock, stock and barrel.  6 years we have lived here.  Moving from the hustle, bustle and gritty urban life of an SE London post code to the serenity and predictably middle class suburbia on the edge of Richmond Park.  In that time, the cottage has weathered many storms: Jerry’s beginner DIY skills, my obsession with green paint and not least the arrival of our fluffy prince Bertie, followed by our two little darlings, Primrose and Poppy.  Its four walls have been the source of both great joy and terrible woe as one thing after another ceased to function as it was supposed to.  Yet through all of that, it has remained one of my greatest loves.  Indeed, it was love in the first place, Dear Reader, that caused me to purchase the ramshackle bricks and mortar we now call home.  In a fit of impetuousness, I decided on first viewing to buy it.  Jerry was on a stag weekend at the time and was ‘delighted’ when he received a phonecall from his wife saying that she had purchased a house!  I saw the cottage, fell in love and made a foolish decision that left Jerry and I to pay the asking price even though the house was in need of considerable modernisation.  When asked by the estate agent (and the vendor) whether I wanted to wait until my husband returned to make a formal offer, I glibly said “No, Jerry won’t mind!”  Jerry has never let me forget that moment of rashness in the entire 6 years we have lived here!  I have lived and breathed the house ever since from sourcing Victorian wallpapers to underpinning chimneys, converting the attic into a third bedroom, ripping out the 70s decor, installing a new kitchen (with a newborn Primrose in tow) and weeping every time the roof leaked and water poured through the ceiling and down the walls in the middle of the night.  One can only say that the cottage has been a true labour of love.  Jerry has, on numerous occasions, told me (through gritted teeth) that I would not be allowed to look at or buy houses alone in the future and that the only house he would consider living in now, would be a modern box.  Interesting…as only a few days ago, I caught him trawling through properties on Rightmove which boasted period features and oak beams.  However, I do feel an immense responsibility to prove to Jerry that all the time and effort spent on the cottage has been worth it and that someone as mad as Margot will fall in love with it, want to move straight in and make us a ludicrous offer!

Wondering if I could ever be parted from my beloved cottage, Jerry rather glibly imparted, “Buyers might not love your wallpaper as much as you do.”  What a simply ridiculous notion!  Well if they don’t love the wonders of Lewis&Wood wallpaper then they clearly do not have an eye for vintage beauty and I won’t be selling the house to them!  Hmm.  With all the tidying I missed the whooping excitement of a crisp clean blanket of snow.  I felt a perfect winter Grinch as I watched others sledging down hills in the park, whilst I gave myself white blindness of a slightly different sort, painting the bay window.  DIY capers continued into the weekend when Jerry and I used some tester pots to retouch areas in the kitchen and bathroom.  Sadly for us (we saw the funny side only much later on) it turned out that the Farrow and Ball paint we thought we had used in the first place, did not match the little pots.  Too late to do anything about it when one has painted a great big patch and could only tell the difference in pantones when newly painted area is bone dry…..  Jerry and I spent a few hours mixing different F&B pots together until we finally reached the desired shade and then had to repaint the section all over again!  More grumbling ensued.

Margot's Lewis&Wood joy!

Margot’s Lewis&Wood joy!

Onwards to the decluttering…… I have to confess to liking a little clutter so I knew that this part of the operation was going to be a challenge.  Clean lines have never appealed and I hoard books as if I shall never see another again.  Advice from the lovely Kirstie Allsop’s friend, Phil, on selling a property says that the key to a sale is to ‘declutter’ and ‘de-personalise’.  Buyers want to imagine themselves in your house.  Oh dear, I thought.  Might have to box up most of our things in that case!  “Don’t you like any of your things anymore, Mummy?”, asked a rather outraged Primrose, our resident magpie and lover of shiny pretty things, as she watched me taking things out of cupboards and ramming once loved items into black bin bags ready for the charity shop.  Halfway through, even Jerry was concerned that I seemed to have cleared out half of my wardrobe and had decimated my herculean handbag collection.  (I have always maintained that one needs a good handbag for every possible occasion!  At last count, I had managed to collect in the region of fifty something…).  Nevertheless, I was an unstoppable machine and in one weekend, 6 years of cottage life was streamlined and decluttered.  Poppy did her very best to prevent the proceedings by throwing Primrose’s Mister Maker box onto the floor.  Sequins, googly eyes and heaps of glitter spilled out onto the floor just as the vacuum cleaner had been returned to the under-stairs dungeon.  I can’t repeat the language used but I am sure you can imagine, dear Reader!

For sale: One cottage covered in sequins and googly eyes.  Toddler thrown in with purhcase.

For sale: One cottage covered in sequins and googly eyes. Toddler to be thrown in with purchase.

Hours of cleaning duty later and Jerry and I were more than ready for Gin o’clock!  The realisation that we are selling up has set in.  Surveying our handiwork, Jerry and I felt like our dear little cottage had been stripped bare.   I wondered how on earth I was going to be able to keep the clutter at bay.  Not least because in a fit of impatience, Jerry stuffed the last of the unhomed items (precariously balanced no doubt) behind a few cupboard doors!  Let’s hope any potential buyers don’t feel the need to check out the storage…..

Snow now melted away, a new week dawns and for now, dear Reader, the sun is shining.  The cottage is looking pristine.  You will be pleased to hear that amidst all the clearing out, I did manage to find room for ONE new little purchase.  A country hat.  Well…..it was winking at me from its lonely spot in a shop window and I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.  It was clearly a sign.  Out with the old, in with the new as they say!


No19 on the list : Procure a stylish country hat. DONE!