Spent the afternoon browsing cheap house porn in France and came across an interesting property in the Charente.
It has blue shutters and it seemed like a good omen. Our house in the Deux-Sevres had blue shutters.
Rewind to a hot summers day in 1996 when we first sat on the terrace at La Croix Haute and drank kir royales made with cheap fizz (“only a euro a bottle at the Intermarche!”) and decided that this big old maison de maitre would be the family home, my dad’s dream home. The tiled floor in the huge living room was way too busy and there were stencils everywhere but it was big and solid and cheap (cheap is usually good) and, of course, it had those blue shutters.
My parents moved in on Valentin’e Day the following year and lived with those cheerful, gauche blue shutters through a wonderful almost year of discovery – the 5 euro restaurants, the local bars, the markets – proud to show off their new life to friends and family who came to visit. They lived with the seasidey, holiday home blue shutters until that Christmas Eve when my dad, having completed the last bookshelf for his longed for library, went to bed and stopped breathing.
He was cremated locally under a sky full of storm and hail and sun and twin rainbows as his body turned to spirit and fire. We took his ashes back to the UK on the TGV – the only time he ever rode it though he’d wanted to in life – and returned with them a few weeks later to the huge old solid house with its gaudy blue shutters.
I painted them that spring – plain white against the newly painted buff coloured walls – listening to Test Match Special on long wave. Not sad to see the back of the blue, the white looked clean and fresh and smarter, somehow. The house seemed to open its eyes and present a new, grown up face to the world.
But whenever I see gaudy, jaunty blue shutters on a building I feel a jolt of nostalgia. And then start planning how I’ll paint them white.