Autumn is an enchanting time of year. Its colour, variegated and sometimes hidden in the mist, then revealed like a firework of contrast between light and dark.
Leaves fall from the sky on a magic carpet ride dancing downwards until they lay rested and still on the ground. The Earth lightly blanketed in a tapestry of colour tinged yellow and red.
It is also our reminder that a year has passed since we submitted the dossier to the Monuments Historic (MH), in hope of receiving the green light to commence the next stage of the restoration. The Château and its land are Level 1 Listed and as such, we require full permission before proceeding with any work.
Four seasons have passed waiting for a decision. The dossier was prepared by two architects, and several engineers, all necessary engagements in order to meet the application criteria.
Now, a year later, we have finally received a registered letter in the post. Tearing it open, the word refusal is felt like the sting of stepping on chilled bare concrete in the early hours of a frosty morning.
The letter stated simply, in one small paragraph, two reasons for the refusal:
1. The use of a non-approved architect,
2. The need for a definitive and meticulously precise plan for every single room in the Château.
Subsequent meetings, to shed some light on this decision, with the MH directors in Toulouse, and their Paris based Chief Architect, achieved very little... except to add in another condition - 'the roof must be fully replaced before any work can commence, and it will need to be done in slate'!
As I'm sure you can imagine, this is completely left field! We believed that the MH had trust in our approach. During a site visit in May they complimented the work which had already been completed by our Catalonian builders and sincerely embraced our future vision.
Then, how could they possibly mention the roof? At the time of purchasing the Château, we were assured by the real estate agent, previous owner, and the notaire that the zinc roof was good for the term of its natural life!
To give some background, in 2011 the MH stepped in to assist the previous owners to install a new roof, and prevent the Château from completely falling in after suffering severe internal damage caused by four large holes in the broken slate. During our first visit to the Château, work on the roof had just begun. Shortly afterwards in the initial negotiation we offered to pay the difference for the roof to be installed back to slate to keep the integrity and beauty of the Château. We were told this wasn't necessary - a zinc roof was everlasting!
So, this new roofing demand has come as a complete surprise.
Having said this, we certainly agree the roof isn't ideal.
Ironically though, when the MH stepped in and installed the zinc roof, they showed no interest in supervising the work or in inspecting the final finish. In the wake of getting the job done quickly, dormer attic windows were erased, as well as many of the chimneys.
The roof is now leaking in several places, and the roofing company isn't returning our calls.
Napoleon once said "in victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it". Does defeat apply to the champagne bucket that now sits downstairs catching water?
Moving back the refusal, to clarify, we did use the correct architect for the dossier. Somehow it has been overlooked that we employed the services of the Chief Architect from the Monuments Historic! I'm not really sure what else to say about that...
Then, there is the 94-room dilemma. To go forward, we need to have a final definitive plan for the entire Château - right down to the very last nail.
This poses two Château sized problems.
First, we will have to pay our current architect (for good measure we employed two), plus the Chief Architect from the MH, based on a percentage of the total work (yes, that's right) required to complete the full restoration of the Château. The payment of two architects upfront for the total work immediately jeopardises any chance of moving forward.
Then there is also the issue of all the twists and turns in the project itself along the way. It is impossible to decide on the future plan of every inch of the property all at once! We have only scraped the surface. The Château doesn't fit neatly into a stack of files on a perfectly, polished office desk waiting to be processed on mass production.
To give an example, in summer, Messors hosted an Arts Decorative workshop at the Château. In the process of scraping and filling, decorative painted detail was discovered within the layers of the walls.
Then, in the gold Salon de Musique the decorative detail was gently cleansed, in places that perhaps hadn't been touched for hundreds of years.
A reminder that beauty is often found in hidden places!
So now we are officially at a point where two roads diverge: the MH on its clinical, almost modernist path, and our path, where the edges are soft and irregular and the imperfection is embraced. To follow the MH rules would commit the Château to being controlled to fit into a rational world, crushing the chance we so rarely have, to experience the richer opportunity to adapt to a one-of-a-kind experience. To fit in to something unique, almost travelling back in time rather than the other way around.
The Château almost floats shifting its world in the balance of nature: earthy and variegated, the lines of the exterior blending with those of the interior, like the unconscious change of seasons.
Defiant and determined, and although living in different hemispheres, Craig and I simultaneously shared mutual little dog thoughts on Skype and decided to take matters into our own hands and to go forward boldly - to follow intuitively what gives the best chance for the Château to endure with beauty and integrity.
To not let bureaucratic lampoonery, where we feel cast aside in the decision making process, triumph, and the taking of this enormous financial and the impact on our family, hand-balled and thrown around by those who take none of the risk.
So as autumn arrived, so did the building team.
The first step has been to prepare for winter. Somehow, I feel a storm is coming, for sure, but at least the 18th Century drainage system is now working and waiting to take away all that rain soon - which will hopefully fall onto the zinc roof and not into it!
With a renewed sense of courage ( and sense of humour) it somehow feels like that very moment when we saw the Château for the first time, and believed everything was possible. To be led by our dreams rather than be pushed by problems.
To everything there is a season.
Nothing is everlasting, except the simple believe in tomorrow.
Château de Gudanes.