A day of dramatic developments

We Brits love optimistic Americans, but often take their confident declarations with a pinch of salt. On Sunday night, Carl and Eric (the most qualified building people in the team) declared that the following day would see some construction taking place at Chateau Duffy. Given that there was still nearly half a roof of tiles to remove (and it had taken the best part of a week to remove the rest last summer), we were rather dubious.

But we were to be proved wrong. The combination of a bright and early start; a large team; more experience; and a day of no rain and plenty of enthusiasm, construction actually happened. By lunch time the first part of the replacement beam had gone in and Carl had got rather emotional that the last time someone had worked on the old one was a French man 400 years previously. By early afternoon, the final tiles had been removed – meaning that in 5 hours we had achieved what had probably taken 3 days last August. A few hours later, all the old rafters had disappeared and new ones were being put in their place. It really was quite incredible progress! And we Brits clearly ought to be more American in our optimism…

A lot of the progress is down to the skilled people we’ve got on board this year, and the fact that some of them were able to get on with roof building while another group removed tiles. Plus, those of us who were here last year have remembered the skills we’d acquired and the problems we overcame, so all of a sudden moving scaffolding takes 15 minutes instead of 90; a tile organisation system was already in place and could be continued by Queen of the Tiles Rachel N; and, as it’s spring, we have impetus to get as much as possible done while the sun shines!

– Liz

[Photos to follow when we have better internet!]

Celebrating a Matryoshka Haus Easter at Chateau Duffy

When the return trip to Chateau Duffy was planned, it was a joyous realisation that we’d be away over Easter. While working on a building site might not seem the most appropriate way in which to mark Holy Week, Sunday was kept special. The most recent arrivals (i.e. the professional builders) got to visit the site, while an Easter feast was prepared thanks to the skills of Richard our chef. [Yes, that’s the same Richard who cooked at Thanksgiving – we’re hoping to take him everywhere with us!]

On a brilliantly sunny evening, we sat down to eat French lamb together. For the first time the entire team of 14 was sat around the table eating together. The resurrection didn’t go uncelebrated – before we gave thanks for our food, the story of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus was remembered, highlighting the parallels of our own journeying to this place, Jesus’ presence with us, and the importance of sharing food with our loved ones.

The Easter fun didn’t end there. Lindsey had arrived from London the day before with all the ingredients needed for an egg hunt and had spent the entire afternoon composing clues and hiding eggs all over the gite. Turns out that no one is ever too old for an Easter egg hunt! Or perhaps the appeal of chocolate never wanes? There was much eggcitement when it was revealed that more eggs had been hidden than the clues suggested – in fact, there are probably still tiny Lindt eggs in the gite that haven’t been discovered yet.

Sitting around on a sun-drenched patio, eating chocolate and drinking wine with old and new friends seemed to be a perfect example of how life in the Matryoshka Haus community should be lived…

– Liz

[Photos to follow when we have better internet!]

The return to Chataeu Duffy…

One of the events that helped shaped Matryoshka Haus’ community in 2011 was a trip to France in the summer to work on a 400 year old building owned by Chris Duffy. [By the end of the week it had earned the name of ‘Chateau Duffy’, but it’s by no means a castle!] A group from London was infiltrated by some Texans – including Carl, who obviously liked what he saw, as he’s now in London – and we spent over a week working to restore the building to something approaching habitable.

We didn’t actually get very far. Many, many tiles were removed from the roof and a lot of new skills were acquired. (I’m now a 30 year old woman with a passion for scaffolding, who’d have thought?) But most importantly, many long-lasting friendships were forged.

As we approach Easter, we’re also approaching a return to Chateau Duffy. On Wednesday an advance party will travel to Paris and then on to the tiny village of St Denis de Murs on Thursday. More will join us on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, and by Easter Sunday we’ll all be together. We’ll celebrate Easter away from our home churches, but as a community – it should be a very special time.

More Americans will join us – from Texas and Alaska this time – and hopefully more friendships will be established. In August we’re hoping to go again – so if you’re interested in working hard (and playing hard in the evening), then let us know! In the mean time, we wish you a happy Easter.

– Liz Clutterbuck

Showing off London

No introduction to London could be complete without the obligatory viewing of the sights – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the London Eye… Personally, I don’t think your mind believes you’re in London until you’ve seen them!


This morning I had the pleasure of showing Carl & Regina my favourite city. My usual habit of avoiding tourist spots was pushed aside and we hit all of the above in little over an hour. Londoners take the beauty and history of this city for granted, so it’s always great to view it with fresh eyes and remember again just how lucky we are to live here!



From the South Bank we made our way to Wapping to visit the building the community is hoping to acquire. The excitement at crossing Tower Bridge and discovering the Tower of London was palpable and didn’t dwindle as we made our way towards Wellclose Square. British inculturation was completed by a trip to Waitrose to pick up groceries for a community meal tonight.
It’s fascinating watching people get to grips with this city and it’s so lovely getting to know them too!
– Liz Clutterbuck

Welcoming the Texans to London

Sitting together in the beautiful sunshine on Jesus Green, laughing off another threat of snow with Sangria and orange pasta, and waiting for the Texans to arrive. I can think of no more suitable an introduction to London than this. We don’t have a normal meeting place, day or time as a community, but food, coffee and the promise of new friends never fail to draw us together.

Carl and Regina arrive later than planned, their jet lag (along with our excitement) no doubt increased by a terrorist scare on the plane. We make them relive the tale several times as new people arrive, interrupted with questions about the Terrorism Act, and what inciteful words could have been written on the bathroom mirror?

As we settle into the picnic, sharing spoons and wine glasses, I observe them from across the checked blanket. This couple, just off the plane, new to London weather and ways, seem relaxed and happy to take life in their stride. As prospective inhabitants of this city they already seem at home. And I feel proud to be part of the welcoming committee.

– Helen Gilbert