Thursday, February 21, 2013

Three Bathrooms and a Wedding Dress

The two most used words when texting on my phone this week are ‘On way.’ Yes, it’s the school holidays and I have turned into Karen’s Kabs as I get random messages from the teens about where and what time they need to be dropped off/picked up on any given day. Sometimes this doesn’t even involve a conversation, I will just receive a text from one of them from the depths of their bedroom to give me my orders. And woe betide if I am so much as one minute late on a pick up, I get a brief blunt ‘Where are u?’ flashing up on my phone as I hurtle to the bus stop. It’s all part of the joy of school holidays….not getting up before 11am, staying in a onesie all day long, making a den on the bed surrounded by copious supplies of drinks, snacks, screens (an iPad, phone and PC all being used at once to max out connections) and only surfacing to ask what is for breakfast/lunch/dinner. That’s enough about me though. I’m sure I’ll miss it when they have both headed off to uni. At least, I think I will. While the girls relax on their much needed break from academia, Handyman and I are busy trying to keep pace with work and the endless list of household and garden jobs that need to be done. I mean, who knew you had to prune a palm tree? I didn’t, but it turns out that if you don’t take off the lower fronds and remove the berries, you end up with a top heavy tree blocking out light and a pool full of hard round marble like fruits. The palm has been done and now the olive trees beckon, as they also need a hard prune back to the barest minimum every two years. My day today started with a visit to my favourite DIY store Leroy Merlin to haemorrhage even more cash on our third bathroom, while picking up the furniture for our second soon to be completed one. I am facing the prospect of a Saturday where instead of skiing or lazing in bed reading the papers on my iPad, I will be rubbing down and painting before the final fix goes in, transforming it from a bombsite to a haven of minimalistic beauty (well, until the girls move all their stuff in there.) The best news is they won’t need to barge into my lovely new bathroom at all hours of the day and night as they currently do, leaving used make up wipes, mascara and wet towels in their wake. I didn’t feel guilty about taking a day off work this week to take Issy snowboarding. It was her first time, and it might as well have been mine, as the last time I tried it was 11 years ago in Banff. However, we exceeded our low expectations, as you can see above, not only managing to stand up on the board but mastering turns and the horrors of the drag lift (one spectacular wipe out from me nothwithstanding) but I would be lying if I didn’t own up to a fair few falls. Luckily we have had record amounts of snow this season at regular intervals so the landings weren’t quite as hard as they could have been. Watching small children gracefully whizz by as we meandered down the nursery slopes was a reality check, but it’s the closest you can get to surfing on dry land so I think my skis will be swapped for a board once I’ve had a bit more practise. Being upright on the board and swooshing down the slopes was the most amazing, liberating and addictive feeling. After four hours, we retired, comparing bruises (I won, my butt and knees are attractive shades of green and purple) and high fiving our efforts as we drove home (thank goodness Issy doesn’t read this as she would be cringing at the use of ‘high five’.) I haven’t had so much fun since I went to Cannes with Milly to try on wedding dresses (her, not me.) She is getting married in October and is looking for something a bit special. We exhausted the high end and indie stores and decided to go to a meringue speciality store in le Cannet boasting rail after rail of very expensive looking net curtains. We should have got the message that we weren’t welcome when we were told not to touch any of the dresses. How do you know what to try on if you can’t even touch the fabric? Easy, according to the bossy and bad tempered assistant, who frogmarched Milly into a changing room and delivered one after another hideous monstrosity for her to try on. ‘Mais il faut essayer,’ she kept repeating like a mantra every time Milly shook her head. There was no discussion on what style Milly might like to try, Wedding Monster’s word was law. I wanted to take photos but of course, that was forbidden too. So I had to try and keep my smirk buried while Milly was poured into several frou frou confections that would not have looked out of place on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. As WM disappeared to fetch yet another horrific tulle and nylon extravaganza with matching diamante tiara and veil, Milly poked her head out through the curtains and silently mouthed: ‘Help me!’ We decided the best course of action was to say that one of them was just perfect but that as Milly’s mum was paying, she needed to come back to the store with her and see it for herself. (She lives in New Zealand reader, so we were safe with this plan.) But WM must have smelled a rat and did not want us to leave without putting down a €200 deposit, telling us: ‘This is the last one, you will be so disappointed if it gets sold before you return.’ We beat a hasty retreat, unable to curb the giggles any longer. Thankfully, that last pit stop was purely for entertainment but it’s horrifying how badly we were treated considering they were looking at taking €2 to €3,000 euros from her. We weren’t seriously looking for a good wedding dress experience from that store but we had to admit that it would have made a great Cutting Edge style documentary.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Morning Blues

Monday morning and I should be in productive spirits. The sun is shining and I’m about to organise my accreditation for the Cannes Film Festival and Monte-Carlo TV Festival (so expect celebrity snippets on both soon.) I have had a restful and chilled weekend, gardening all day on Saturday (for gardening, read pulling up my own bodyweight in weeds from the stone walls around the pool and the side terrace…my fingers are still stained from the soil.) A long soak in the bath was followed by a delicious Champagne supper at Neil and Helen’s, where we laughed and swapped salacious gossip (all of which has already disappeared from my rubbish memory, meaning it is no longer a threat to anyone.) It was too cold yesterday to spend too much time outside so I took the dogs for a stroll on the plateau above Magagnosc, which was still covered in snow and ice. I have just discovered this walk, a 10 minute drive from the house, with its spectacular views across Grasse and down to the coast as far as Theoule and the dogs love it too although the freezing sleet that started to soak us meant that we had to cut short our ramble and leg it back to the car. The afternoon was spent listening to Edith Piaf, which the girls bought me for Mother’s Day last year, while cooking a roast in front of a roaring log fire. Followed by Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, in which Bette Davis was at her mad, bad best. Can a weekend get any better? Possibly only on the ski slopes, which were forsaken this weekend, although I couldn't resist taking the picture above of a rather exhausted tot in mum's sunnies last week. It was back down to earth with a bump this morning, however, when, waiting for some work calls and emails, I decided to make a list of the materials we need to finish off the top floor. Inexplicably, our builders threw away the empty pot of paint for the doors, and I have no idea what colour or brand it was. With a further four doors still to paint, I have spent the last half hour going through all the receipts we have collected since work restarted five months ago, in the vain hope of stumbling across a serial number next to a pot of paint. What is horrifying is the realisation that we have spent the equivalent of the GDP of a small country in Leroy Merlin, Castorama and Briconautes since the latest phase started. Flicking through a mountain of crumpled receipts with €1400 here and €3,000 there is a sure fire Monday morning mood dampener and begs the question why did we decide to keep them in the first place? And it’s not like we are anywhere near finished. The only slight consolation is that the novelty of lying in a hot scented bath with my Neom and Anthropologie perfumed candles burning and being able to see all the way across the valley from the newly finished master bathroom (of which I am mistress) has still not worn off, nor will it for many months to come I suspect. It is especially comforting after lugging one third of a tonne (yes, you read that right) of tiles, tile cement and grout single-handedly from the bottom terrace up to the top floor so that on the ground at least, I can pretend that I live in a desirable, comfortable non-building site of a home. And joy, I have just found the correct receipt for the paint, so the mental torment of seeing thousands of euros worth of bills has been somewhat alleviated. In other good news, I have just heard that I have secured a spread in Hello and a feature in the FT for two of my PR clients, so am feeling rather chuffed about that. Maybe Monday won’t be so bad after all.