Friday, 26 February 2010

Gems in Carcassonne

I can't resist the viewing of a property which hints at an air of mystery and fascination and has probably lain untouched for many years.  In the next street is an unassuming front of a house quietly minding its own business.  The agent didn't bother to open any shutters so for the first few minutes we staggered around in the gloom till he found an electricity switch.  Fortunately His Lordship had the sense to bring a torch along too or else we wouldn't have seen quite a lot more including the cellar which the agent seemed quite surprised about. What is it with French Agents that they still imagine that a property will sell itself and they need know nothing about it nor bother to produce any half decent details ?

It was like walking into a film set or a museum.  Huge industrial washing machines lay abandoned as though the workers had simply downed tools yesterday.  Underneath was the space for the hot coal fire which kept the water boiling in the large drum which was turned by leather drive belts and antique electric motors.  Inside were an assortment of clothes, the owners long since dead.  Overhead this large open space was a glass canopy flooding it with light, it had obviously once been a courtyard before the laundry opened.  Sat slightly to the side was a heavy marble washing station where many women would have worked.  But most fascinating of all were the narrow steps which led up to an office where there lay a wonderful worn wooden desk overlooking the work scene below.  Tiny wooden shelves and corner cupboards for filing sat empty.  I closed the door and imagined the timid knock as a worker cautiously approached the boss, summoned perhaps, fearful of losing the pitiful wage in what must have been hot steamy working conditions.  Surrounded by all the large houses of Carcassonne this would have been a hive of industry once upon a time.

The rest of the house surprised us with unspoilt windows and doors, original tiling in excellent condition and a lovely tranquil courtyard which the house wrapped itself round completely hidden from the facade at the front.  We went up and down stairs, in and out of interconnecting rooms and found the cellar much to the Agents surprise.  The thrill was however just to have had the experience of walking and feeling a space that had obviously been untouched by time.

And we were both overwhelmed by the fact that this has no value insofar that no-one would dream of preserving such a slice of working history for the fascination of future generations too.  The agent gave us one parting shot.  He waved his hands expansively at the original wooden double doors leading into the inside ground courtyard.  'You could put double electric swing over doors here and fit at least four cars inside'.  He seemed pleased to have conveyed to us that this was probably the fate of this rare gem.  'I thought the entire Bastide was now preserved' I said.  'Not in the case of wanting to make room for a garage' he replied as though the building of a garage went way beyond any importance of interesting architecture

And I wanted to convey to him the need to show passion for hanging onto such small relics from the past and how rare they were becoming, how we should all fight to preserve every last brick of a vanishing way of life.

But I didn't.

I said nothing.

I went home and stroked the cat.


Frances said...

Oh Sally, how well you've conveyed (sorry that might be a real estate term) what you felt after this tour of the historic premises. Doesn't it make your heart break to feel that no one else has see what you did?

I do hope that your explorations of your own newly obtained and loved property are continuing to reveal much to set your imagination aloft.

Now. The wonderful Exmoorjane has tagged me with one of those virtual games. I have accepted her tag and sort of run with it.

I haven't formally tagged you in my post, but if you'd be interested in the game, the game would be enriched.

Best wishes to you, Sally. Every time I read one of your posts it sort of inspires me, and also makes me feel such a ... oh, you can fill in the blank.


Pondside said...

What a shame that relics of domestic life aren't thought worth preserving. Will anyone know what it took to launder household linen in the days before everyone had an electric washer and dryer? This whole building should be in a museum.

Elizabethd said...

Sad but true. The French seem to have little regard for local history. Some lovely old gems in our village...the old post office with slate letter boxes, a bread oven etc, have all been allowed to 'disappear'.

eleanor's byre said...

How sad. I am banned from house viewing in France because I see such possibilities none of which, as TF frequently observes, we can afford to do.
Hope progress with your new home is proving more rapid than my byre.

Frances said...

Hello again, Sally, and thanks for your comment. I think that your energy might have been inspiring to my new challenge. Answering youur question, I had no choice in the paint color; it's the same used in each apartment, bought in vast quantities by the management company. I think it's going to be blandly acceptable ... and pretty invisible once everything goes back into its usual place on the walls! xo

Ange said...

Hmm - are you sure you should be living in this country? How are renovations coming along. Our house in Provence sale is turning into a nightmare...Interesting nightmaren-, but nightmare never the less. Never will I buy an old house here again - but it was worth the experience!!