How can you tell if your life is in danger of becoming a parody of a Gothic tale?
When it’s set in a castle with north-facing rooms you’d rather not enter? Is it when you turn a shade paler listening to the soundtrack of the forbidding woods? Thinking it’s the Hound of the Baskervilles looking for its prey rather than wild boar having a good old wallow in the mud? Or is it the moment when you find yourself in conversation with a local builder, considering the pros and cons of a ghostly presence in one’s home? His farm, not Lescure, but nonetheless. As a voracious reader of the Romantics and Victorians I’m hardly immune to the clichés of the genre, so I’m grateful for the intervention of down-to-earth Dutch friends like Conny and Willem.
Ever mindful of the dark arts, I’d been carefully avoiding the gloomy servants’ hall with its boarded up door until Willem announced there would be light, even in the midst of a cold and snowy winter. Looking like your typical burglar he liberated the servants’ entrance from its wooden imprisonment, casually busting ghosts hidden in its shadows. The door was in a sad state, frames rotting and glass missing, and with a blizzard twirling around the house we had to board it up again quickly. Still, the hallway had seen daylight for the first time in decades. And with this I discovered its surprising potential: the beauty of calm, muted tones of pale blue and cool grey, a Nordic colour scheme in the South of France.
Last summer, after Conny had scraped metal and oiled wood for days in a row, we finally came around to replacing the glass panels and fixing the locks. As a finishing touch, I hung an old Venetian lamp from the cracked ceiling, the delicate transparency of the handblown glass in beautiful contrast with the blackened wood. A soft pool of light now also reveals the nocturnal beauty of the north side of the house. Who knew gloom could be so captivating?