Today, three years ago we completed the purchase of our French property in Libaros. A tiny village dead center in a long valley nestled in the foothills of the stunningly beautiful Haute-Pyrénées. After much debate, we tentatively named our French home La Douceur Folly (The Sweet Folly – and yes the name intentionally includes French and English**) due to the vast array of fruit trees and other plants within the gardens and orchards. But often we affectionately, and sometimes with exasperation, just call our French home, The Folly. Or simply, The Money Pit!
I’m rather at a loss as to how to feel on this anniversary. Elation or trauma? Both maybe. Three years of ongoing renovation / building works with a wide variety of builders (and cowboys) has taken a toll on our nerves and stress levels. Not to mention our bank balances. And, also our health.
The main house is nearly renovated with minor decorations left remaining. The attic conversion nears completion – en fin! The Caretaker’s Suite progresses after resolving some plumbing nightmares, yet needs much decoration.
The grounds and landscaping at present are an utter nightmare! Literally! On the plus side, it seems we finally have a working septic system. And, central heating! Whoo hoo! We will never, ever, take central heating for granted. Never again!
As humans, we tend to live in the present, dwell somewhat on the past, yet dream of the future. Dreaming and planning for that future is what I think keeps Steve and I going each day. The ups and downs of the renovation / building process plagues and batters us daily – mentally and physically like a Cat 5 hurricane. Many folks have told us that they would have given up long ago, if encountered with all our trials and tribulations. Believe me! Steve and I have often thought about doing just that, longing for an end to it.
Yet, we carry on. Perhaps more powerful than our dreams, it is the peace and serenity here at The Folly (when no builders are on-site) which inspires us to carry on during the worst of times. That, and the unimaginably lushness of the land – the orchards and gardens. Perhaps, too, it’s the brilliant starry skies that enchant us on clear nights, and makes us feel a sense of awe and wonder when gazing up into the Milky Way, Mars, Venus and the stars. Sights not even possible within the night skies of England or much of the USA.
Then waking each morning to crystal clear quiet, broken only by bird songs renews a sense of being and belonging. Some guests have told us that they find the quiet eery and disturbing. But Steve and I find the quiet calming.
Then, of course, we have the kindness of new-found friends and neighbours that keeps us on course. Also guests – family and friends – who have visited The Folly on and off over the past 3 years to thank for their continued encouragement to carry on. It is they who remind us just how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved over these fleeting three years.
In particular, a few of our family members have helped and sustained more than they can know. Maggie Ma has been our star and heroine, providing support, advice, furnishings, and during each visit even DIY muscle and know-how in the house and gardens. Steve’s parents have done their bit with Stuart helping greatly with installing wainscoting and teaching us how to putty windows. Penny planted some veggies this past spring. Even my niece, Kristin, took a turn at painting skirting boards during her recent visit.
With no children of our own, The Folly, along with our cats, Lucca, Sienna and Pau-Boy and our surviving hen, Gloria (think Gloria Gaynor and her song, I Will Survive) are our babies. Having family and friends involved certainly brings the sense of belonging here full circle.
One of the key reasons we bought The Folly was so that we’d have a place large enough to entertain loved ones and good friends. Horsham, West Sussex will always be our home in many ways, but as my younger brother, Steve, likes to say, “England is the land of small“. Of course, he’s comparing the UK with the USA. But, the analogy applies equally well for France, Europe’s largest country. Here in the Southwest French countryside, we have air to breath, peace and quiet, nature just outside our doorstep, gorgeous scenery and room for all.
So despite our disappointments and anxieties regarding the builders and renovations over these three years, it is the The Folly’s attributes that have really proven most important and most lasting in our memories. Moreover, key to our decision-making and even our dreams of the future.
Thank you to all who have been there and helped us through these first three years. Your support has sustained and given us more strength than we can ever express adequately. Just know… Steve and I look forward to welcoming you here at The Folly in the coming years.
**Note: Based on some great language and history below in the comments from Phil, Steve and I are re-considering La Douce Folly as the official name. It was one of the original favorites last year when we polled friends, family and readers, and what Phil says resonates nicely.