France lockdown travelogue: The Kitchen

More than two centuries ago, Xavier de Maistre was placed under house arrest for 42 days - and wrote Voyage autour de ma chambre, a six-week 'voyage of discovery' around his room. Some 230 years later, we challenged our coronavirus confined readers to write their own Voyage round my Room. Here is one of the three winners...

29 April 2020
By Janice Campbell

The kitchen – the heart of any house, arriving everyday to cook and clean, a place taken for granted. If we pause and look more deeply what do we see? The story of our lives, memories good and bad, happy and sad, long forgotten things.

When I first looked today I was reminded how far we had come.

When we arrived 11 years ago, the previous owner had not only removed the cupboard and the sink, but the tap as well! A nifty piece of wood with a hole attached to the wall and a well-placed bucket, along with a hurriedly bought tap served us for a couple of days!

Now looking at our cupboards, stainless steel sink and mixer tap, I realise what luxury we now live in.

In the corner of our kitchen there is a set of bookshelves and my laptop desk, a mantle shelf and replacing the old fireplace, sealed up long ago, a set of shelves made by my husband.

The book shelves display family photos, all smiles, some now gone, some not long arrived, each telling their own story.

Further along, the illustrations drawn by my daughter and sent for birthdays and mother’s days.

A wooden frog brought all the way from a little workshop in our Scottish village, one of those bittersweet memories, with the owner having died so suddenly and unexpectedly; but the little frog always raises a smile.

An address book: still with all the good luck cards from friends and family. The history of house moves, births, deaths and marriages and a story in itself.

A series of photographs from my husband’s career at sea, his boat ploughing through and under the waves!

The books on the bottom shelf are an eclectic mix, large tomes on gardening, cooking and hygiene regulations (quite pertinent today!)

Next to this my laptop desk and on the wall, The Connexion’s calendar of France, a gift from my mum every Christmas,

she buys one for us and one for herself; counting the places we have seen and those yet to visit. Marked this year by the cancelled reservations, meetings and visits caused by our ‘confinement’.

The mantle shelf is no less void.

Two little Welsh dragons, the metal one I bought when I was a child on one of many family camping holidays on Anglesey, now reminds me also of my daughter and her welsh husband in Llanelli.

Three large bronze Maasai figures, a family group, stand imposingly, Christmas gifts from my husband.

The hearth shelves show another mixture of bits and pieces, cookery books, ancient, modern and well thumbed, recipes for family gatherings, surprise parties and morale boosting cakes and delights.

An empty bottle from our French village, the only thing stamped on the bottom the numbers 25 & 26 respectively and embossed with the names Charles Lecuyer; his family live in the village still.

Another empty bottle painted with a design from ‘Magny Cours’ racing circuit, which we found in the cellar when we moved in.

A pottery jug and a set of copper chafing pans from my mother-in-laws house, one small glass vase with gold sand and a silk rose on top, bought by a colleague from my 60th birthday. Various knick-knacks from vide greniers, which caught the eye and cost little.

Having arrived eventually at the sink, I survey the usual detritus! Cloths, liquids and herb plants all very recent and necessary but decorated with a couple of slate piquets from our local florist, wishing us joyeux Noel and joyeux anniversaire.

To the right of the sink, one large poster from the old and now defunct Clyde Theatre (previously the Singer Sewing Machine factory), for the production of the Greedy Giant Panto, by the Wilcat Theatre Company, dated November 1988. Hilarious and amusing festive nights out.
To the right of the poster is the door to the utility room and cellar but that’s an adventure for another day.

It’s true that when we make the time, or stop and think we see what matters. It’s the memories, the families, the personal touches that make a house a home.

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