Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reflections in an Old House . . .

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Somewhere toward the far western end of France, where Britanny juts out into the north Atlantic, in a small village by the sea stands an old house, which has been in an old family for generations. I got married in that village, our wedding night was spent in this house. For the past 18 years we've been coming here for summer and other vacations. It has a good feel about it. Everything is old and weathered. Were it to leave the family, it would break quite a few hearts. But we fear that may well be what will happen one day, due to nightmarish inheritance laws in France. No one among the children concerned has the wherewithal to buy out the others, and no one is going to be able to maintain the place and pay the annual taxes. So it will go on the auction block. Some rich Parisian or Versaillais or British family will buy it, and for us it will become a memory, rather than a reality. Unless a miracle happens. And I don't bet much on miracles happening.
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With James Reflections Weekend in mind, I did this short study in reflections in our floating home, hovering on a bridge between dreams and disappearances.
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48 comments:

English Rider said...

I hope a solution can be found, some kind of collaboration must be possible. Although I know the laws are ridiculous.

Genie said...

Owen, the reflection photos are wonderful, but the story is disturbing. I do hope that a solution will be found to save this special place for the family. I imagine that its setting by the sea is quite amazing as well.

Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind comments.

Owen said...

Hi ER,
I guess time will tell; it's not easy observing the situation as an in-law, there've been quite a few conversations already, and no one seems very optimistic... it's complicated...

Owen said...

Hi Genie, you are very welcome. And it is in a beautiful setting, which is another reason we love the place...

Art said...

Oh, have you seen that lovely film Summer Hours with Juliette Binoche where a French family eventually gives up a house they all grew up in?

At any rate, the pictures are beautiful. A well-lived-in house is a true treasure.

the fly in the web said...

Always the problem with French inheritance laws.
I saw a house I liked twenty years ago, which was not for sale because the family could not agree....
Still for sale, but now the roof has caved in...

Nadege said...

I thought parents could give every year a certain amount of money (or house), tax free, to their children. I must ask again my family.

Stickup Artist said...

I have heard of these impossible laws from Ms. Pliers. Sounds terrible to lose a family home in such a manner. Money, money, money. It's so distressing. Everything seems to come down to money.

mythopolis said...

This is hard to think about. My mom's farm of some 300 acres, cows, orchards...a dream....went on the block, and there was nothing I could do. It still haunts me.

James said...

It's a shame that such a beautiful place that holds so many memories should come to this. This is just one of the reasons why I'm not a fan of big governments that have lots of sticky twisted tentacles. It really does seem like a wonderful old house.

English Rider said...

Back for another go. Is it not possible for multiple family members to create an association with partners who own this house? (I know the likelihood of French family members in harmony is outside the norm).

...louciao... said...

Letting go, letting go, what is life but letting go. Acquiring, accumulating, holding on, then letting go. Not easy. But in the end...we have to let it all go.

Who does all the dusting and polishing in that house? Looks like a full time job to keep it neat and tidy and shiny.

What a special place it must be for the family, and hard to relinquish. Sad. I know some of this feeling.

Steve said...

Speaking as someone who knows what it is to lose a family home I really hope that doesn't happen, Owen. In the meantime make the most of it while you can is my advice; you'll never regret it.

Sar@h said...

La troisième me fait penser à la maison Victor Hugo de Guernesey, par un subtil agencement, il savait tout ce qui se passait dans la maison.
Sur la quatrième … je découvre que j'ai une horloge similaire, la mienne ne fonctionne plus.

D'ailleurs double reflets miroir & samovar (?) sur cette quatrième.
Bonne semaine Owen …

Bretagne bien grise, un temps de rentrée

Mahon said...

pour certaines personnes, le souvenir que l'on attache au materiel est plus intense que l'on pense ! malheureusement, on ne peut tout sauver... Je vous comprends bien, personellement, j'aimerai beaucoup sauver le maison de mes parents, la ou j'ai grandi, cela me ferai mal au coeur de la voir partir ou transformée... sinon vos photos sont très belles ! Bon courage ! A Bientot !

pRiyA said...

Hmmm...reminds me of an old house I once loved which I had to let go once things changed. I guess that's when one realizes how precious memories are.

Peter said...

Well, if the laws are the obstacle to keep this house in the family they are really stupid! I don't know too much about these laws (but know that quite important donations are possible every six years... and that in Sweden you don't pay any taxes on heritages or donations). I sincerely trust that a solution will be found, especially if there is no disagreement between family members, which often is the major obstacle to a good solution.

The interior of the house looks really attractive, with such a lot of nice things all over, well kept...!

'Tsuki said...

Des reflets qui fleurent bon la cire d'abeille, le cocon familial, la douceur de vivre... Merci pour ce partage.

TechnoBabe said...

For me, I am glad for you that you have been privileged to spend loving time in this wonderful home. Indeed, the home may be older but it looks like a charming place. And of course there is much sentimental value for all your family. Thanks for sharing the reflection photos and letting us also share in your sorrow at the possibility of losing this home.

Sar@h said...

" Some rich Parisian or Versaillais or British family will buy it"

Je n'avais pas lu cette phrase ce matin … Oui, ce ne sera pas à la portée des bretons ! Dommage. Ce sera encore une maison close à la morte saison.

Comme je n'ai pas le sens des affaires, je ne m'endetterais pas pour en faire un gîte … Je ne serai pas capable de faire payer les visiteurs !!! Désolée.

Nevine said...

And now you will have these photos forever, Owen... these photos of a place that left a magic inside your heart... and the heart of your wife. Things might die and perish physically or just disappear from our lives in their own way, but in our hearts they always remain. I hope there is a good resolution for keeping this place where it belongs... so you and your wife will ever have your magical place to return to... and to remember... and to smile.

Nevine

Roxana said...

this story and these pictures tear through me, i find now words to describe what i feel (especially as i have also been struggling with pondering about houses and what makes a 'home' recently, you know that) - i so hope a miracle can happen and the house remains where it belongs...

warmest hugs for you, dear friend...

The Sagittarian said...

You had me hooked the moment I saw the blue and white china...I adore the stuff! Maybe our cyber family can club together to keep the house and its memories alive for you? If i could I would, Bro.

Owen said...

Hi Art,
I haven't seen Summer Hours, but I love Juliette Binoche (who doesn't? :-) Will have to try to track it down... thanks for the tip. And yes, this house has been well lived in, for about 200 years now...

Owen said...

Dear Fly in Web,
Indeed, apparently for some, the solution is to let the property go to ruin, as once in a state of ruin, the law is not the same, if I understand correctly...

Owen said...

Hi Nadege, indeed, there are provisions for making donations, or gifts, but limited, and in this case, there are nine children involved, it gets complicated very fast...

Owen said...

Stickup,
For sure, it comes back to money, money, money. We need a stickup artist to do a heist for us, perhaps your services could be obtained ??? The root of all evil... ?

Owen said...

Myth, that does sound hard to deal with... 300 acres gone. Nothing easy about the passage of time, time, the greatest reaper of them all...

Owen said...

Hi James, hear you loud and clear. It is governments that put us in such positions. In the past the eldest male would have inherited. Now it is a democracy, and all must have their part..., but when all cannot agree, then none will have it. Sigh...

Owen said...

Dear English, that's just it, family members who all agree would be an exceptional situation. And in this case, with nine siblings involved, plus two cousins who were raised with the other nine, and some of them hardly speak to the others, it is not looking good... time will tell...

Owen said...

Hi Lynne,
Yeah, in the end we have to let go, too true, too true. I guess the pangs come because we are not at the end yet, with a little luck some of us could survive for a few more years yet, and would be that much sadder if this place was no longer a possible destination for getting away from the madding crowds. You are right, just the housekeeping is a large set of chores, a housekeeper comes through once a week and cleans from top to bottom. But family members take turns polishing the silver and brass... There are a couple of beds with big brass frames... just like in that Dylan tune...
:-)

Owen said...

Steve, definitely. And I remember too well your fairly recent pieces about your grandparents house... never easy to let go of places we are familiar with...

Owen said...

Bonjour Sarah, effectivement, il y a des reflets dans tous les sens, entre glaces et surfaces polies... et oui, une petite souris ma parlé du mauvais temps là lundi... en fait, le mois d'août était moyennement beau.

Par contre, connais-tu la creperie de l'enclos à Pleyben ? On vient de découvrir ce petit bijoux l'autre jour... délicieux...

Jo said...

As soon as I clicked onto the pictures, I heard a voice saying, "Ohhhhhh......" and I realized it was me.

You mustn't let that house leave the family. I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

Beautiful...!

The Pliers said...

I hear ya...

If all else fails, you will always have the images that you have collected over the years and that is saying a lot.

Owen said...

Bonsoir Mahon,
Merci bcp, effectivement, les émotions sont déjà intenses autour de ce sujet, de l'angoisse surtout. On verra bien.

J'espère de ton coté tu trouveras une solution pour la maison de tes parents... c'est important de garder des racines...

Owen said...

Hi Priya, our memories are a large part of what makes us who we are... to cut off memories would be sort of like amputating a limb. I can't imagine what people go through when they lose everything, fire burning down a home, or floodwaters washing it away. It must leave a terrible empty place in one's heart...

Owen said...

Hi Peter, the part about no disagreements between family members is going to be the difficult part here I'm afraid... for there are nine siblings involved... try to get nine people to agree about anything !?! In any case, we've been fortunate over the years to be able to go there, time will tell if that can continue or not...

Owen said...

Hi 'Tsuki, un plaisir de partager ces choses ici, ces visions refletées dans les glaces qui sont là depuis belle lurette. Et oui, le cire d'abeille, on le sent bien dans cette maison...

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB.,
We've been very lucky indeed, so no regrets. One day at a time, the future will bring what the future will bring...

Owen said...

Hi Sarah,
Oui, effectivement, qui sait, peut-être il y a un bréton ou une brétonne qui a un oeil dessus depuis un moment... ce n'est pas à exclure... j'ai parlé de Versaillais, car il y a tellement de voitures immatriculées dans le 78 l'été, on s'y croirait presque, si ce n'était pas pour la vue sur la baie. On verra bien...

Owen said...

Indeed Nevine, indeed, we have what we hold in our hearts, and as long as those hearts beat, nothing can ever diminish that. As for the rest, the pile of stones, the wood frames and floorboards, glass panes and doors, ghosts and paintings on the walls, all of that is dust in the end, nothing lasts forever, empires come and go... thank you for stepping in through the door and looking around... you are welcome to come and stay a while. There is a lovely hotel nearby, with an excellent restaurant, views on the bay which you might like... alot... The Hotel de Carantec. The restaurant has two Michelin stars, well deserved, if I understand correctly.

Owen said...

Ah Roxana, in the warmth of your reflections and hugs, all shadows fall away. We must face the future with serenity and courage. For we know not what it will bring.

And I sincerely hope that your changes are happening with a minimum of pain and a maximum of joy, will look forward to hearing all about the new nest you are building... take good care...

Owen said...

Hey Saj,
Now there's an idea... if we all pool our resources maybe, just maybe we can save it... Perhaps I should start one of those donation buttons on the blog page, where people can click, and donate. Minimum donation should start at about 50k dollars, don't you think ??? OK, who is going first ???
:-)

Maybe I could start a new religion, and require all adherents to donate their life savings... sort of like Scien.... errrr, best not to mention some names, they don't like it...
;-)

Owen said...

Hi Jo !
I promise, we'll be trying to find a solution... but it's not going to be easy...

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Dear Pliers,
I'm thinking you know exactly what I mean, I know you've done some serious digging into such matters... if you turn up any loopholes or strategies, well, let me know. Hope all is well in White City... best to both of you...
:-)

Le Journal de Chrys said...

Ma préférence va vers l'avant-dernière photographie qui est fort bien réussie!!!! Bravo

Owen said...

Merci Chrys... !

Nathalie said...

Les maisons de famille c'est quelque chose de si puissant en France ! J'ai été frappé de voir qu'il y a rarement ce genre d'attachement aux maisons dans le nouveau monde, où on change de maison selon les besoins - plus grande quand les enfants naissent, downsized quand ils s'en vont...

Celle-ci a tous les ingrédients voulus : la destination (complètement craquante), le placement surplombant la plage, les souvenirs accumulés....

Garder en indivision ? Probablement non viable. Vendre ? Ca brise le coeur.

Reste pour l'instant ce que vous faites : y vivre des moments forts, puissants, avec l'acuité et l'intensité de ce que l'on sait fragile et prêt à disparaitre.