Recently over the dinner table, a very good friend (who we've known since college days) asked 'What ever happened to your original French dream?'... I'm not sure if I've ever told this story before; but if I have, please forgive me.
I moved to France in 1972, aged 25, with the express idea of starting a 'holiday centre' for painters (my French dream). Not a 'How to paint landscapes' type of holiday, but a centre where competent painters could come, do their own thing, and maybe have a simple critique over a glass of wine in the evening.
The idea was to offer a comfortable bed, a simple breakfast, plenty of studio space, a good evening meal, and maybe some pedagogical evening assistance if required; all at a reasonable cost.
All I needed was to buy myself the right sort of biggish southern French property.
Over the years I'd managed to amass enough to fulfil my dream. I'd had a short but successful career on the London Stock Exchange, I'd managed a West End Art Gallery, I'd run my own Chelsea based Antique business, obtained a 1st Class Hons degree, done a few years teaching, and had made an immoral profit on a house restoration and sale.
French property in those days was relatively 'cheap', and even after buying my big old farmhouse (with a range of extensive stone built buildings) I still had plenty in reserve to see me through the first ten years, or so.
Having done the required work on the house, we had our brochures printed, advertised in The Times of London, and before long enquiries started to arrive. We called ourselves 'Atelier Pagot
'; it all seemed to be going along OK.
Then.... I'm not sure who exactly was replying to my ad's, but I suspect they were mostly weary Psychiatrists. It was as if they were looking for Summer activities for their most difficult patients, and we ended up hosting a stream of very bizarre and unpredictable characters.
One in particular made us feel extremely uneasy. He was a gay religious maniac, who kept asking Lady Magnon if she would like to pray with him. He also had a very large SWORD on the back seat of his VW. With two small children in the house I really worried for our safety. I didn't sleep too well whilst he was with us.
In fact it was this particular 'nutter' who finalised my decision to bring the dream to a halt. I would have loved to have carried on, but it just didn't seem worth all the hard work, trouble, and angst; and we weren't even making much money. Instead, I set about stone cutting with a friend who lived nearby. Dream dashed.
Moral: Don't dream whilst wearing rose tinted glasses; or if you do, always be prepared for a shock.
Fascinating glimpse into your background. Interesting how much you managed to squeeze into the first few years of your adult life. Forgetting that French charm hasn't exactly rubbed off on Mia More herself, she does make a good point: Namely what does a painter do at the stock market? Other than earning money, obviously. To, maybe and why not, finance his "dream"? LSF (longest standing friend), an artist of some standing, swore he'd never sell his soul by, say, doing something as harmless as graphic design, in order to make ends meet. And he didn't need to. That, Cro, was just an aside, not a dig. By way of comforting you: There is little money in the hospitality industry. Profit margins tight.ReplyDelete
As to the "gay religious maniac" (what a combo - though why 'gay' comes into it I don't know; wait till John picks you up on this one). One of my life's experiences that you don't need to fear the ones who openly display their weapons of potential destruction. It's the silent types who'll tiptoe into your bedroom and axe you in the black of the night. (I hope none of your grandchildren are reading comments. If they do, please do refer them straight back to Grimm and Andersen; they'll be even more frightened - in a good way).
Fact is, Cro, and maybe it's just my illusion, you seem to live a dream - and have been able to support that dream financially. That, in my book, is success.
Rest on your laurels greetings,
I worked on the Stock Exchange when I left school. In fact para 5 is in the correct order of things.Delete
The Gay Religious Maniac was very open about being gay. It turned out that he'd had an affair with someone I was at school with; the son of a very prominent Newmarket racing family. Gayness was his big thing; it wasn't meant to be a criticism.
Yes, life's pretty good out here. We live a very simple and quiet life, and have some wonderful friends. The dream came and went, but it didn't bother me unduly.
I've taken out Ms More's comments; she's obviously having one of her black days (yet again).Delete
But you fulfilled the dream, it just turned to ashes.ReplyDelete
Better a head full of memories than unfulfilled dreams?
I don't really consider it fulfilled; but in many ways I'm not unhappy that it ended. We were very tied to the whims of others, and relished our freedom when it ended.Delete
Youthful dreams change and evolve, so do we.ReplyDelete
(Some people seem to read blogworld through green/yellow specs, which is a shame.)
I can't imagine myself having continued through the years. I think it was more of a pipe-dream than anything. At least I tried!Delete
Fascinating life story, love it! But like your first commentator I think you're living the dream now and truly are a success. That is, you only have yourselves and family to think about, and are not having to cater for the various nutters of the world. Reminds me a bit of those 'Escape to the Country' type programs on tv, where they 'want more time for the family' so what do they do? Go and buy a B & B or a country pub. And end up working even more hours than they did before, what's the point of that? I think it's all about giving it a go and then finding that it's not for you after all. No, you carry on enjoying your peaceful life, at least you have the time to knock up the odd painting here and there, and go picking fresh veggies in your garden or entertain the grandchildren. I have to admit I don't entertain dreams any more (like running an alpaca farm in Scotland!)... I now see all the hard work and lack of flexibility that would have been involved. I'm quite content with my simple life, pottering about and just enjoying the freedom of it all. As long as I've got a roof over my head and enough to eat and keep warm I'm happy.ReplyDelete
I'm afraid we are very critical of those people who wish to move to the country, and take loads of extra tourists with them. I suppose that's exactly what I wanted to do, so I'm a tad hypocritical. I agree totally about your final sentence, and those of us who are lucky enough to have those benefits should feel blessed.Delete
Lots of those dreams we have prove to be just hard work in reality and while it sounds idyllic the reality of running a B&B/ guesthouse is that you are tied to the place, cooking, changing sheets, checking people in and out. Never any time to yourself. Early mornings and late nights. If you could just swan around with employees doing all the work ...but then you'd never make any money ! And then there's the difficulty of dealing with the public !!!!! Sounds like you have found a lovely balance to me.ReplyDelete
I think you've hit the nail on the head. Add into the equation the bunch of weirdos we accommodated, and you have the picture exactly.Delete
As you said, at least you tried. More than most people do. All part of your life experience. You sound happy with you've got right now.ReplyDelete
Yup, we amble along.Delete
And during it all you brought up, what has always sounded like, a well balanced and happy family. Good life well done and may it continue.ReplyDelete
Yes, we're lucky to have three well-balanced and intelligent children; each with children of their own. We've been very lucky in that respect.Delete
Interesting story Cro - and with a moral tool. I have always believed in going with the flow and just letting things happen and have never been one for dreaming. I have had a successful career and enjoyed every minute of it. Now enjoying the fruits in a thoroughly relaxed way.ReplyDelete
My mother's philosophy was that 'Everything happens for the better'.Delete
I have always viewed your particular dream of a rural artistic community as a bloody nightmare!ReplyDelete
It turned out to be just that.Delete
Your life now as i know it from your blog looks to me like a dream.ReplyDelete
Well, I'm not sure about that. We live very simply in a lovely part of the world. It wouldn't suit everyone.Delete
I am impressed that you went ahead and tried to make your dream come true -- even if it turned out that the dream you now have is not the one you dreamed for yourself and no doubt even better.ReplyDelete
The dream came and went, since when we have just taken opportunities as they arrived.Delete
My elderly art teacher friend has been orgainising art holidays abroad for many years. I often go along to give her moral support. The attendees can often only be described as mental or perhaps a little more politely, eccentric. Good intentions of demonstrations and critiques usually fall by the way side after the first day.ReplyDelete
One elderly Scottish gentleman, wearing a sports jacket, arrived at the airport with no luggage apart from expensive oils and brushes. This was my first holiday accompanying my friend. When I expressed surprise she said this was quite normal. He disappeared into a bar at Stansted and we thought he had missed the plane. However he reappeared in Venice and spent the next 7 days pissed and never touched the paint brushes. On return he thanked my friend for a splendid holiday and disappeared.
It sounds as if you understand my predicament perfectly. However, these people were in our own home which only helped exaggerate the problems.Delete
I can barely cope with friends and family staying! Sounds like the reality of your dream turned out to be a bit too real.ReplyDelete
Invasion of privacy, I would call it. Our home no longer felt like ours.Delete
I think dreams, ie when one is asleep, never repeat themselves entirely nor can be rustled up to order, so maybe life dreams are the same - they vary from day to day!ReplyDelete
Mine certainly do. Certain things I dreamt of when I was younger, now give me the creeps.Delete
Cro, I'm late in seeing this post, but hope I am not too late to comment.ReplyDelete
Sometimes, when we dream, we wake up and wonder what the dream was about. And then fall into another dream continues even after we awake.
When I began to read your posts, I admit that your life did seem to be quite dreamy, but after having continued checking in here regularly, my initial impression has changed. Like your garden, I have been able to see some seasons change, and to realize that your reality is well earned. And that those of us who are lucky to view it via your blog are very fortunate.
I rather liked your moral: Don't dream whilst wearing rose tinted glasses. Rather like the old adage that one should always be careful for what one wishes.ReplyDelete