Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Life in Houses

When I added My Life in Houses to my suitcase as holiday reading, I hadn't realised that one of Margaret Forster's houses was on the Algarve coast in Portugal, a few coral pink and lemon yellow towns along from the one I was staying in.



Just as she did, I missed my house, which is so much of a refuge to me that it always seems something of a betrayal to leave it, even in the chill fog of winter.  And it's not just me: I encountered Scottish Husband lounging on the sunny terrace last week, white wine by his side, browsing for a new copper saucepan, lidded, of suitable diameter, to be sent to the house in expiation for our absence.



Along the way, the book segues from being about My Life in Houses to My Life in Houses, a change of emphasis brought about by illness and a sense of retreat, accompanied by a conviction that a house is more than the sum of its parts.

Even the sum of the parts of my house is too much for me, let alone more, so now that I'm back, I'm doing a Kondo Clearout (inspired by Lucille), about which I will have much, much more to say.

42 comments:

  1. Hi, so there you are again, welcome in the new year! I mused today why you hadn't written for such a long time (discussed with husband the comes and goes of blogs and bloggers - and I even thought you vanished as a follower, but that I might have dreamed that?). Anyway: I'm glad to read you again!

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    1. I wouldn't stop following you, Britta; I like your spirited self and your spirited coffee machine.

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    2. Being reassured by you, my mind is free to think about your post.
      A beautiful book is "Shelter for the Spirit. Create Your Own Haven In A Hectic World" by Victoria Moran. (I wrote a very practical book on housekeeping too, over 60.000 copies sold, but recommend Victoria,: better for the soul :-)
      For decluttering books there is always the Kindle (and Oxfam) - though I have to confess: my very beloved books I prefer in paper - so much more sensuous... .

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  2. Ah, your happy home had a vacation - or to be cutesy fashionable, a staycation. I trust it enjoys the new saucepan, but doubt that it will prepare adequate meals without your guidance.
    Be cautious in clearing the mansion of the no-longer-useful. A little hoarding is exciting. Where would Antiques Roadshow or Time Team be without the judicious retention of trinkets and sideboards???

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    1. I had hoped to leave a comment on your blog, Louise, now that we have met here, but it won't let me without a Google plus account. I am dismayed and lonely.

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    2. Hello Mise,
      Google plus is doing the exact same thing to me on Jane's Small but Charming account. I see that you posted there so may I ask how you got around it? Trying again here and love your red tights!
      Diane in Denver

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    3. Interesting! I tried the exact same process here as on Jane's blog and here it worked; there, not. Why can't these software people just let things be? Regards from Western USA, Diane

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  3. The book sounds interesting, but I am totally intrigued by coral, pink and lemon towns. I've never been to Portugal, but think I'd love it. Sweet picture of you and your girl.

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    1. Thank you, Jen. You would find paintable colours there.

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  4. A Scottish Husband who is kind to houses sounds like a very good thing to have. As does a new copper saucepan. Your house is lucky to have you both. A light purge is being carried out here too, although I can feel that fizzing January energy starting to drain away. So disappointing. I must get more stuff out the door before it is gone completely. CJ xx

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    1. My own fizzing January energy has forsaken me too, CJ, but I am still up to sitting feebly up in bed, ordering everyone else to discard their unwanted things, even little Fluffy the stuffed rhino. Very good luck to you with your own light purge.

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  5. Darling Mise,

    Your holiday, lidded copper saucepan and book all sound like things that we should definitely wish for, if not actually find, in our Christmas stockings.

    We have never been to Portugal but, from stories told by friends who have visited, it sounds like our kind of place. A pace which is altogether gentler, a warmth when the icy chill hits our permanent homes and a richness of history, all combine to make it a very alluring destination. One day....

    But, how we identify with the sense of loss you write about here, when one is away from home for any length of time. There really is nothing like home for to be surrounded by the familiar and the comforting is so reassuring in these unstable times in which we seem to live. When all around is change just to have the feeling of permanence, a refuge, a place which has weathered many storms is so very important. Homelessness, we imagine to be a terribly sad existence.

    But, darling Mise, what is all this talk of 'Kondo Clearout'? It all sounds terribly American to us. Are you to become the all white minimalist? What will happen to the pink sofa? Will your cushions find their way to charity shops? Will there never be bunting again festooned in the Mise household? We cannot bear to think of it all stripped to its bare bones.

    Will there even be scones for tea?

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    1. Portugal would suit you, dear Jane and Lance; it shares your tolerance and matches your enthusiasm and pace. I can imagine you holding court on antique wrought iron benches in the dappled shade of a fig tree, the sea to your left, the handpainted mosaic of tiles somewhat obscured by cultured young men to your right. You would be in your element.

      Alas, it is all going: the scones, the bunting, the cushions, the sofa, the sizeable collection of life-size gilt-sprayed donkey lawn ornaments woven from hay. Half measures are not for me. Only the giveaway wins are sacred.

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  6. H.I. and me went on a holiday to the Algarve once, landing in Faro. In the hopes of finding a better place to stay, we drove the entire length of the coastline, stopping at each village on the way. Each village became a little worse than the last, and eventually we gave up on the Western end.

    The next day, after eggs and bacon in a cafe run by a fat and foul-mouthed man from Essex, ("Bong bloody Dias") we found an inexplicably empty stretch of beach, and settled down to 4 days of sunbathing for want of anything better to do. Each day, the beach remained empty.

    On the 5th day, bored, I did a bit of exploring by climbing over a small breakwater which we lay next to. Just on the other side was a 24 inch diameter pipe which was disgorging all the detritus you would expect from a sewer, in a strip which was about 100 feet long and ended about 50 feet from the sea. We have never returned.

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    1. To be fair, Tom, I have not told the whole story here. It was not as idyllic as could be, as only one supplier sold the organic lemon yoghurt I favoured, and people played golf.

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  7. It sounds like a lovely and moving book Mise. When I get away for a bit it is so good; however I am always so thrilled to be back in my own nest!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. And yours in particular, Karena, as you take such an interest in lovely interiors.

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  8. Mise, sampling the warmth and colors of Portugal seems an excellent January plan. Bravo to you for having carried it out. It's true that returning home can also give us a special glow, even without a new saucepan.

    Was there not a possible metal Christmas gift destined for your Scottish Husband?

    As January nears its end here in NYC, I am still progressing with my decluttering. A blizzard is forecast for day after tomorrow. I am not scheduled to work that day, and am already looking forward to focusing on additional closet and drawer clearance.

    Welcome back to you! xo

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    1. Good luck with the remainder of the closet and drawer clear-out, Frances; I'm sure yours are full of cultural and literary treasures that could do with labels and a full-time security guard, but don't let that deter you from creating space for presents from your many international well-wishers.

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  9. Diane in Denver, your comments reach my email but not my blog itself, very oddly. And Jane's comments worked ok for me earlier - clearly there is an intermittent Blogger glitch. And thank you!

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    1. Well Mise, it's all very mysterious to me. I will try again soon with Jane's Blog and thank you for the reply.
      Even farther West,
      Diane in Denver
      Colorado USA

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  10. We've cleared out the cupboard under the stairs Mise …. that will do for starters !!!!
    Completely ' off piste ' …… where did you get your lovely grey suede Mary Jane shoes from ? XXXX

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    1. They are El Naturalistas, Jacqueline, from Spain. http://www.elnaturalista.com

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  11. I eagerly await news of your Kondo Clearout, Mise. It sounds just my cup of tea.

    It's a joy to see such a lovely picture of you and now that I see how well you wear purple and red together, I think I like you even more than I did before. xx

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    1. You and I will surely meet one day in front of a clothes-rail in a shop, Heather, as we both like the same sort of thing. I try to keep up with your creative accomplishments by telling people I have knitted my own socks, but they look at me in utter disbelief. I'm sure your friends are more trusting.

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  12. If one did knit ones own sock it could be done in three. Then there would always be an extra to fill in for the one that got sucked into the lint trap of the dryer. Or so i imagine, i don't know where socks go.

    Bit off topic aren't I?

    Sorry, I was totally in the holiday mood until I read Tom's comment and now I'm all discombobulated.

    xo J

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    1. I know, Jane; his comment was quite non-Blogtopian.

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  13. I'm A Constant Declutterer, and yet somehow, there is always some decluttering to be done. And yet I don't buy much, really ~ it constantly mystifies me. Lovely piccie, dear Mise.

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    1. I suspect your clutter is different Shell. Better. More Parisian.

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  15. I have always harboured a suspicion that my house will have imploded or burnt to the ground in my absence so I am always surprised and relieved to see it still standing as I round the corner. Maybe a propitiatory Amazon delivery would free me from this worry. I have Kondo'ed toys and games today. Nobody needs three Monopoly sets (especially not the Chicago edition) and Snakes and Ladders never did spark joy. The soft toys under the bed have yet to be faced. Paddington Bear will certainly be spared but it is going to be very hard to send any of them out into the dark and stormy night.

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  16. Another mention of Ms. Kondo! I fear I am the only person who has not read her book...

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    1. No, I am another who hasn't. I was given a copy and have dipped into it, but it is far too prescriptive for me.

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    2. Interesting. Perhaps it is not for me. I'm not a big fan of rules.

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  17. Dear Mise
    Happy to see you enjoying the sunlight on an ochre stone wall in Portugal. "You can take a girl away from the stone wall but you cannot......".or I will forget it. I agree completely about missing your home and all the comforts.
    I agree with the Hattatts about not going all white and bland and God forbid you would ever move that AGA, the pink couch and the knitted egg warmers.
    Think patina!!!

    Helen xx

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  20. I dread leaving my home but once away from it I think of it fondly from a distance - once I return it is a little offhand till we get to know one another again. As for de-cluttering I am getting tired of reading about it and vote for a more cluttered life.

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  21. This memoir sounds delightful, one I'd pick up the second without hesitation. My Life in Houses is such a brilliant title.

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  22. Have you read The Forgotten Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster? Very good indeed. I listened to this on Radio Four's book of the week at the end of last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Leanne xx

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You're looking particularly well.

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