24 April 2014


Having joined my local Clandestine Cake Club branch in Derbyshire last year, it occurred to me one day that it might be fun to create a club in France.


Yesterday we had our very first meeting and I am thrilled to say that it was a huge success.

Considering our actual membership is very small, we had sixteen people turn up and thirteen cakes – a baker’s dozen !!


The theme was “favourite cakes”.  In other words, the cake that each person liked best to eat or to bake.  Everyone embraced the spirit of the theme and a truly magnificent collection of cakes appeared on our table.


There were lots of lovely old fashioned cakes such as ginger, date and walnut, coffee and walnut, banana and walnut, chocolate sponge and strawberry sponge.  There were several gluten free cakes, delicious adaptations of favourite old recipes, plus a variation of carrot cake and an upside down cake.


Out of the thirteen cakes, four of them were made by men -  and for two of them it was their very first time – this was the first cake they had ever made.  Now that’s what I call real and brave enthusiasm !!

Several people had made a cake for the first time in their French oven – people who had come to France for the holidays and wouldn’t normally bake a cake on holiday.


It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and I hope that that everyone is looking forward to the next meeting! 

9 April 2014


Step one of our house moving is under way and hopefully proceeding according to plan.  Just to remind you (and me, as I still can hardly believe we’re actually doing it), we have a buyer for our current UK home and have arranged to buy a much smaller one here.  It will take a few more weeks before the legal processes are all in place and we physically move from one to the other.

Step two is to find a larger house in France than the little cottage we already have, with a good sized garden and either a garage or outbuildings, and so far we have not seen anything like that for sale in the village.  We decided to take a break from the packing and sorting and make a flying visit to Le Grand-Pressigny so we could see a house that our friend had spotted on the internet.

It was a 1970’s build and although the exterior was nice and the position lovely, inside it seemed just too modern and not for us.

The one good thing that came out of it was that we both realised that what we really like is old houses.  The one we have now is probably at least 250 years old and we would really like something of a similar age.

We contacted our favourite, rather lovable agent, Antony, and he took us to see this:

drop dead gorgeous

The property consisted of a small house, nicely renovated to a good standard, about the same size as the one we already have.

drop dead gorgeous2

The really interesting part was that it also included this beautiful house plus barn conversion.  It was drop dead gorgeous both inside and out, and was much more like what we were looking for.

drop dead gorgeous3

The property also included the ruins of yet another house where just the walls had been left standing and were used as a screen for a leisure area.

drop dead gorgeous4 drop dead gorgeous5 drop dead gorgeous6

There was a good amount of land which would be easy to look after, cultivating part of it as a garden, part as a vegetable plot and leaving the rest as orchard or just grass.  It was situated next to a horse breeding business, had fabulous views over open country and sat beautifully in its own plot.

drop dead gorgeous7

On the fourth side of the plot was yet another little building which had lovely original features such as a bread oven and was currently used as a little office.

drop dead gorgeous8

We didn’t buy it.

The main problem is that although the renovations were to a good standard, the main building wasn’t finished.  We didn’t need the little house, which was finished, although having somewhere to put visitors or even rent out was a nice idea. 

The inside of the main, large house was full of lovely old features which had been tastefully retained and there was little or no bodging of the type we encountered the last time we were house hunting.  But the upper floor was half missing, there was no kitchen, staircase or bathroom.  All of which would be quite costly to put in. 

The current owners had done a quality job so far and had fabulous ideas about the restoration, such as a custom made glass staircase linking the two floors, but they ran out of money before they could finish it.

drop dead gorgeous9

If we were ten years younger and had twice our budget we would have bought it.  It was beautiful and in many ways exactly what we wanted.  But what we don’t need is a huge and expensive project.  It’s easy to get really excited about how much of a truly gorgeous house and land you can get for your money in rural France but we are wary of ending up with something that will sap our energy and use up all our money before it’s finished.  The so-called “money pit”.

It was with great sadness that I walked away from it as it ticked so many of our boxes and was almost perfect.  I also felt sorry for the owners who were having to sell their dream house before it was finished.  We are at the stage in our lives where the adventure of moving to France is the right thing to do but we can’t afford to be reckless.

So we drove a few kilometres further down the road where Antony showed us another one………..