HOW I BOUGHT A CHATEAU IN FRANCE Profonde.
ONE DAY I woke up and contemplated suicide. Really? Or was this just another chronic bout of self-pity. Get a grip, I thought. Still, one thing was painfully obvious: whatever I’d thought I was going to achieve some twenty or even thirty years ago, was never going to happen now. I was in my late fifties. Finished. Waves of panic swept over me. All I wanted to do was escape.
But from what exactly? Nothing made sense. I had privileged life in Los Angeles, a perfectly good marriage. Did I really want a divorce from the man who who’d saved me from the shitty depths? Did I want to be one of those aging single women taking late night spinning classes or going on a scary sex date from Match Heaven? The anonymous fuck––that longed for non-emotional thrill. God help me. I tried to imagine it: standing next to some stranger in the elevator with the bad overhead lighting. Then the undressing, the naked part. The old skin. What one great writer – referring to a woman of a certain age – once described as “washed but not ironed.” Funny, tragic, and oh so true.
No. What I had to do, I realized, was reinvent myself. Create a new adventure. Stop obsessing about getting old – or obsess less (more on that later) – and find a new passion.
And there it was, the old passion. Something that for decades had been floating at the back of my mind like a warm fog. A house in France.
Of course, it had never occurred to me that I could afford one. Provence, St Tropez? Out of the question. Then, coincidentally, I was invited to stay with a friend of mine, the decorator Kathryn Ireland, who had a place in the Southwest. Decades ago (when I first fell in love with France) my childhood summers had been spent on the Riviera. This was different. It was still the south, but inland, in the heart of the countryside–– what is called France Profonde. No Mediterranean here, no stretch of soothing blue, but still magical with old farmhouses, ancient villages and rolling hills of sunflowers.
On the second day Kathryn took me to see a house for sale. In fact, it was a maison de maître, a manor house built on the remains of a chateau that had been burnt to the ground during the French revolution. On a weed-strewn hill, falling to pieces, with water running down the walls, this "chateau" had no plumbing and no electricity to speak off.
And I wanted it immediately.
It was cheap. Even so, I only had half the money and when I got home I asked my husband to loan me the rest. “I want to buy a summer house in France, “ I said, grinning like a waiter. He looked at me dumbfounded – a man who for most of his life had been perfectly happy to stay in his room. I might just as well have announced a burning desire to move to Kansas.
I showed him this photo of the exterior. He tried not to look shocked. “How many bathrooms?” he asked. "None so far," I replied. "None? What about a kitchen, then? I remained silent.
This is the story of coming to terms with my life, looking back – London in the 60's, Hollywood in the 70's – while I rebuild the ruin: Me, and the house. About battling a band of unruly French workmen (yes, the stories are all true – and worse), while in the process I try to save my marriage and my sanity.
The Book “MISTAKES WERE MADE –Some in French” will be out next Spring from Regan Arts.