Legends from our own lunchtimes

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Really Old

The Harbour Master lives in what perhaps is already but certainly one day will be a very special house in a village not terribly far from Nancy.

A few years ago when we came through the port we swapped notes about our leaks.  At that time I suspect we were winning in the "who gets the wettest when it rains" stakes, but last year the tide began to turn ever so slightly in his favour.      

This morning, prompted no doubt by our continued interest in his progress and perhaps to a lesser degree his fascination with his falconry we were invited home for lunch with his family, to inspect their labour of love.

There is nothing in the architectural vocabulary of his house that is familiar to anyone who has been raised in a country which was not seriously settled until the twentieth century.    It was built, apparently, in the seventeenth century, mostly from stones appropriated from the ruins of a nearby chateau as indeed was the tower in the neighbouring property albeit built at least a hundred years before.  On close inspection ventilation openings in what was once the basement have been fashioned from slots which were once very clearly intended for the despatch of arrows, door and window heads have carved tracery which clearly emanated from a property of more salubrious lineage.   On a wall of what will be the dining room, there is a patch of plaster which remains carefully conserved on which a soldier of several wars gone by has left a souvenir of his presence in careful graphite script.

Under the eaves there is a row of small square openings, which centuries ago served as a pigeonierre but he says there haven't been any pigeons there since the falcons moved in, a fact which is unsurprising to any of us.

He explains that rescuing baby falcons is not quite exactly in strict compliance with the law about these things, but what is one to do, and shows us photographs of their last foundling swooping at the kittens in the kitchen.

"We are renovating an old house too", we offer over coffee and he asks as many have done before, when it was built.

"1982" we offer, and his expression tells us he doesn't know if we are joking.

We never joke we tell him with a smile, and then he's sure we are.

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