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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Burgundy's blue tartan

In the Charolais
The Scots and the French have been on close terms for centuries, thanks in part to Queen Mary, who married Francois II of France. When he died she returned home with French servants and customs and a vocabulary that was salted with French words. There is a special warm spot in the hearts of French people for "les ecossais", who are not lumped together with the rest of the British (a notion encouraged by the Scots). The Scots, for their part, continue to eat gigot instead of leg of lamb and to use serviettes instead of napkins.

A Scottish country home in France has a flavor all its own, where British burgundian blue develops into a French tartan.

Evelyn and David bought their home nearly 15 years ago, and Evelyn began creating a line of pottery about the same time, dominated by blue tones. Dishes were followed by lamps and other objects for the country home.

David carried on developing the cooking skills he had learned in Paris, where they lived for many years. The home is in Charolais country, north of Macon and the fine vineyards of Pouilly Fuissé. Forays into the outside world include Evelyn's brocante (antique dealers or junk shops, depending on who you ask to translate) visits, but more routinely, stops at the preferred butcher shop in Charolles, the bakery for bread, another bakery for croissants, and the patissier for chocolates.
The kitchen, not surprisingly became the soul of the home.

The kitchen, during a rare pause

Evelyn's blue stoneware dishes fill every nook and cranny

When Evelyn. on a whim, began to make white Charolais ceramic cow clocks last year, they began to turn up in every room. The house became a home with a sense of timeliness, but where time was omnipresent.

Time will tell. . .the story of Burgundian tartan?

Outside, it is November and a piercing white fog hovers until late morning. White cows in a white landscape will stay out there as long as there is food for them, says Henri. He is a farmer, in his eighties, who keeps an eye on things and who feeds Jean-Claude, the black cat, during the week.

Jean-Claude's attempts at city living, with David and Evelyn, were not happy experiences: he plucked at his fur in distress. He prefers to stay at the country house, with responsibility for maintaining a stable mouse population. The moment the sun cuts through the fog, he takes up one of his surveillance positions. If they are gone and dinner time arrives, he visits Henri and insists on being fed. Meal time is by the clock some days and according to cow time (not the clocks) other days - if Henri is feeding the cows Jean-Claude is insistent that he, too, be looked after.

There are no mouse-cat dramas during our stay, but there are several cat-cat dramas, howling and miaoling territorial battles in the wee hours. The neighborhood has recently become populated with not quite stray cats. These are cats who are testing out the options for new homes and everyone is invited to try for a place as an owner. Henri says an old woman down the road had 15 cats and when she died, the cats, used to being well loved and fed well, began to tap on nearby doors.

Jean-Claude is 15 and recovering from pneumonia, but he manages to defend his domaine from Bernard, the flashy newcomer. They hiss at each other from time to time, but more in a testing manner than with intention to do battle. Bernard eventually bows to Jean-Claude's seniority and right to enter the house, which he himself has not yet earned.

Winston, part Siamese with sky-blue eyes, would like to be part of a menage à trois, but his success is limited. If he walks slowly and carefully across the garden, looking over his shoulder every three steps at Bernard, he will be allowed to sit just outside in peace.

Life here is a parade of meals and animals and chatter about old friends and family, the burgundy threads in the blue tartan that is an integral part of a Scottish home in the Charolais region of France. For all around us is a visual feast of shades of blue in textures that range from shimmery glass to matt candles and rough blue-freckled stoneware. Evelyn has a genius for finding small bits at the brocante fairs and dealer's - "Nothing here cost more than 3 Euros!" and, with David, mending and polishing and adding bits so that the house looks like a treasure trove.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful evocative essay. Wish you could bring my house and home to life in the same way.

4:13 PM  

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