Baked red tiles on the ground floor – tomettes – stamped with incident, finger and animal prints, like fossils, told a possible tale of the playful farm dog who would not obey and came running across the earthy work while it was still wet.
From The Lantern
Throughout the ground floor of the main house, in traditional Provençal style, terracotta tiles have been used. As a floor-covering, they are practical and hard-wearing – and each tile is slightly different which gives that sense of charming imperfection that is so redolent of relaxed country-living, wherever that may be.
In the kitchen there are stains on some of the squares that might have been there for generations. When I first got to grips with the scale of the cleaning operation – and mindful that Rob, rather typically, had invited the first wave of summer visitors on the basis that things always worked out somehow - I rubbed and scrubbed and sanded, but the evidence of bygone carelessness remained indelible.
After a while I began to relax into it, to accept that the place would never be completely, surgically clean; that was impossible. Everyone was in and out of the house constantly, traipsing from pool through garden and courtyard to the fridge and back, that it was a losing battle. And the tiles in the kitchen have even more mottled variations of colour, so are eminently forgiving. So I learned to live with the dust, and think of it as a light dusting of magic.
All the time, though, I continued to wonder about the previous lives of the house, and to wonder what messages I could read. Some of the tiles seem to tell their own stories, and a few hold an obvious clue.
This particular tomette is in the downstairs hallway. How many years ago did the dog scamper over the still-pliant tile? Did someone place the tile here deliberately, as a welcoming talisman? It might even be a kind of commemoration of a well-loved animal who once skittered around the property, a hunting dog rather than a pet, in these parts.
Fernand nodded sagely. All these tiles were hand-made, he said, some were perhaps a hundred years old. “Chaque tuile a son secret…cherchez-le!” he said. Each tile has its secret – look for it!