Like a lot of people, winter is not one of my favourite seasons. Especially in the countryside where the normally leafy, green fields are now bordered with black, leafless trees and hedges and not a bird to is to be heard. We rush in and out of the house – putting wood in the fire, slipping on the muddy courtyard , closing the doors , waiting for a glimpse of blue sky through the fog.
However, work still goes on and in the vineyard it’s a busy time pruning and pulling out the canes. It’s also a time when projects that I’ve had in mind over the summer get a bit of attention and when I can be shamelessly creative and messy without having to clean up for guests or cook a meal for 12!
This winter I decided to attack my main project before Xmas. Our upstairs hallway, which measures 17.5 metres in length has been on my ‘to redecorate list’ for years now.
The first mission was to strip all the wallpaper and while the first layer ripped off easily the second was firmly glued to the wall (perhaps we’d omitted to size them the last time – beginners error!) Anyway, even my wallpaper steamer found it daunting and after 2 hours I’d managed to strip 2 metres. I did what we all do in moments of despair – I googled the solution and found a fabulous posting which involved mixing 5 caps of fabric softener with 5 litres of water and spraying the walls with my rose sprayer. I only had lavender softener on hand so the whole experience was very perfumed and very nice on the hands.
I sourced some polystyrene cornicing from a company in Germany and had 56 metres delivered (4 days later). A few years ago I put up some cornicing in a bathroom (with interior and exterior angles galore) and this time made sure that I had the right mitre box to do the job. However, (just my luck) my 22cm cornice was a bit big and after bothering all my carpenter friends ( who frankly weren’t that interested) I managed to cut all my angles with the help a very dear Belgian friend Gaby who is as determined as I when it comes to finding a solution. The answer was to cut with blade from under the cornice. That way it remained in the slots and the angle was prefect. Probably only my father will find this sort of detail interesting – he still can’t believe I get up to this sort of manual stuff! Gluing the cornice to the ceiling was challenging and kind people don’t make a mention of the visible joins – neither the walls nor the ceiling were straight – but the effect is fabulous.
However, the best part was the wallpapering. Quite by chance Wilfrid mentioned to our worker Dominique that he wouldn’t be pruning the next day as I needed his help hanging the wallpaper. Dominique then told him that his apprenticeship and first job had been as a painter/decorator and quickly Wilfrid carried on with the pruning and I had an expert on the job.
My next project was for Xmas. For a month or so we’ve had about 40 barrels stacked in the courtyard waiting to be sold and reconditioned and it seemed a good opportunity to take one to bits and make candle holders I’d seen in many wineries on a visit to South Africa in 2009. Pierre took one to pieces and together we made several versions, big and small using a hand drill and sander and a bit of clear varnish. The idea is to make them for sale in our wine shop this year.
We’re never short of things to do around here. Next week I’m working in the vines – will keep you posted!