Thursday, October 23, 2014

My rather unfortunate armoire (part 2)

In our house we watch a lot of documentaries and docudramas about WWII in Europe…or perhaps I should say that these shows are on because someone else is watching them and I am not paying much attention to them because I am cooking, knitting, or doing something more interesting.

These shows often feature the requisite scene of Nazi officers in the occupied chateau or manor, sitting around the dinner table drinking the owner’s grand crus and smoking his cigars. Less often they show noncommissioned officer and barrack scenes, but in quest of authenticity, these scenes do sometimes appear; after all, the Wehrmacht was not solely composed of high-ranking officers wearing Hugo Boss.

Recently, while watching these barrack scenes; I began to have doubts about my beloved armoire. Fleeting glimpses of furniture in the background looked suspiciously like the corner of my bedroom.

Not having a French version of the Antiques Roadshow to which I could drag my armoire I did the next best thing: I went online and began searching…and searching…and searching.

 I typed any number of combinations of “ww2 armoiremilitaire allemand” and found pictures, lots of pictures. My formerly so-cute-full-of-history armoire had become a Wehrmachts Spind…yikes!

This armoire for sale has been fitted out with carved butterfly panels, much like the carved ships on my armoire, to hide the vents on the doors.

Back of the armoire with the butterfly panels. Note the military mark just below the vents

Back of my military mark but same vents...

Interior of the armoire for sale, note the piano hinge on the door.

 Interior of my armoire, same piano hinge on the door.

Latch detail on the armoire for sale.

Detail of my armoire where the original latch has been replaced with a decorative key lock. (which, according to the placement of the holes left behind, looks to have been similar to the latch on the armoire for sale)

After the German defeat, the French appropriated the things left behind by the Wehrmacht. I've seen blockhouses of the Atlantic Wall turned into museums, garages, living spaces. Why not?

Now I know that my armoire has a history, it is just isn't the history I originally imagined.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My rather unfortunate armoire (part 1)

One day, shortly before moving into our apartment in the Villa Parisienne in September 2009, I decide we need an armoire. The apartment has no closets, I grouse, how about driving up to the Braderie de Lille after we move in? The Braderie de Lille, held the first weekend of September, is reputed to be the largest citywide flea market in Europe; surely I can find an armoire there. But then I broke my foot and the thought of walking for hours on crutches to find the perfect armoire is not very appealing.

So by a warm, end-of-August Sunday we drive to the Puces de Vanves, a flea market I far prefer to the Puces de Clignancourt. Its rather friendly size is certainly easier to do with crutches. But after hobbling the length of its two streets and not finding the armoire of my dreams I am ready to head back to the car. We pass a dealer who is taking things out of a van parked on the corner.

Then I see it. It is reasonably sized, it is quite battered and it calls out to me. It is MY armoire.

I casually sidle up as best as I can on my crutches; no need to seem anxious, it can drive up the price. The armoire is stained dark brown. The doors are decorated with carvings of ships.

Deep scratches run down the front of the right door.

 I imagine the armoire belonging to a sailor, the scratches from his parrot as he clambers to perch on top of it. On the back of the armoire a faded card is thumbtacked: “Mle Cailleux, 44 rue de Belleville, Paris 20e.”

The dealer sees me examining it and mentions that the scratches can be easily covered with “brou de noix” (walnut stain). No, I say to myself, the scratches, the stains, the imperfections, these are what make it unique. This armoire has a history…little do I know what kind.


Cent cinquante euros.

I look it over one more time and offer a hundred. He counters with one twenty-five but only if I pay cash. The armoire doesn’t fit in the car but he offers to hold it for a couple of days, until we pick up the van we’re going to rent to move our things to the apartment.

So for three years, in the Villa Parisienne, the armoire holds our clothes. When we move to La Luna, the armoire first holds sheets and towels. We now have the luxury of real, albeit small, closets for our clothes. I buy other armoires for our linens and decide to fit this one out for accessories and sweaters. I wonder if I should refinish it, I wonder if I should paint it, I wonder if I should put new fittings in the interior. After all, the bar for hanging the clothes is rather oddly placed and not very practical…

(to be continued)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Scallop season

Every year, starting in October, it is again scallop time. Unlike previous seasons, this year I've learned to shuck my own. Although I am far from an expert shucker, it is an activity both challenging and oddly satisfying. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The view from my window

Today this is the view from my window. The day is warm and the Channel is calm. The woman with the spitz in the stroller is chatting with a man with a cocker spaniel in his arms. The cries of the seagulls make for a marine soundtrack. Tourists photograph the seaside villas with their ornately carved and painted woodwork.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scallop season

Scallops are in season. Yesterday we went for lunch at Mon P'tit Bar and instead of the usual sole I ordered the scallop menu: scallops à la nage (i.e., in cream sauce) as an appetizer (entrée in Fench) and a brochette of grilled scallops and shrimp as the main course. The only thing that was missing was scallops for dessert; the dessert was an apple tart with a scoop of caramel ice cream. Again, we accompanied this with a nice bottle of entre deux mers; I have always been a fan of white Bordeaux wines.

The apartment is coming along quite nicely. Most of of the boxes are unpacked. When we are here we really feel as if we're in our home...The well-known negative ion effect that occurs at the seashore is tangible here. Here we are quite relaxed and sleep very well. The North Sea air is supposedly among the most heavily charged in negative ions that produce positive results.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moving In (Part II)

By the end of the afternoon the truck was only about half unloaded but the big and heavy stuff was out of it. What was left were boxes, boxes and more boxes: lots and lots of boxes of books, boxes of DVDs and other, smaller, miscellaneous boxes. Colman took off and drove back to his apartment on the wrinkles of the map, surprising us by insisting that it only took him an hour an a half. Jacky had had enough and stopped for the evening shortly thereafter, saying he would finish the next day.

I hobbled around the piles of boxes looking for the bag with the clean sheets that we had packed that morning in the trunk of Jacky's car...only to discover that they were still in the trunk of Jacky's car in Dieppe! Luckily the bed did have sheets on it (if not the cleanest) and we had the old ratty conforter as a cover. After all, we were none too clean ourselves after all that moving.

The kitchen stuff not having been unpacked yet, we had to go eat at the only restaurant within reasonable walking with crutches and small dogs on leash distance: a bar, café, brasserie, pizzeria, créperie, ice cream parlor, something for everyone restaurant on the esplanade by the improbable name of Octopussy. Vaguely I looked for the James Bond theme but could not find it. When we got there around 9:45 pm it was hopping; most of the tables were occupied and people were still arriving. I had a "galette" (it's the savory version of the "crépe") with ham, egg and cheese. Jacky got a pizza. It was after 11:00 pm when we got home and we had no problem falling asleep.

The next morning, we were up early and Jacky got back to work unloading the truck and I got back to work unpacking the boxes. A box marked "Winter clothes" was one of the boxes that appeared to have been nibbled at by some rodent and the impression was confirmed when I opened it: many of the clothes had been chewed at and had holes in them. Then when I opened the box holding my leather handbags and shoes and I had another surprise...most of them were seriously mildewed...I felt like crying! But one of the worst surprises were the boxes with the family photos: the photos were seriously affected by the humidity and the boxes were crushed, with dirt and leaves inside them...what a mess!

To console myself, turned to unpacking the dishes and kitchen equipment and at least everything was there and in perfect condition, ouf!

By the end of Sunday there were still a few boxes to unload but Jacky had had enough. This time, when we showed up at Octopussy at 9:45 pm, the kitchen was starting to close and all we could get were pizzas. I was getting a little tired of eating like that...

Monday morning, Jacky got up very early, finished emptying the truck, took it back to Dieppe and came back with his car. Finally I was able to change the sheets. That, along with the kitchen stuff unpacked, made me feel we were really setting up housekeeping.