Friday, 26 February 2010
Gems in Carcassonne
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.