Oh, the things you can learn!

Gwen came all the way from California to join us at Chateau Duffy – en route to another European adventure on the Camino:

This Easter at Chateau Duffy was a wonderful first experience! The mix of Americans and British folks was a beautiful thing. Oh, the things you can learn! Such as what “pants” means in the UK. But really…the space provided by this experience allowed everyone to be who they are and to be in the space they needed.

Gwen at work in the house

Gwen, hard at work in the house.

On this week long Easter adventure I expected to work hard and do some massage (and I did). I dug up some serious roots, and pick axed stones out of a 400yr old floor, built some scaffolding with two other ladies, and used a chisel to remove grout (pointing) around the rocks that the walls we built of, massaged some shoulders and backs and then spilled my life story in a way that shockingly quick with a few peeps….

The female scaffolding team

The all-female scaffolding team.

As a result I wanted to run and hide. The combination of the physical labor and relational stuff was a real healing mix. It was the perfect place and people for me. As the week progressed my heart opened the sharing was reciprocated and Chateau Duffy continued to provide a little piece of freedom.

The adventure did not stop. I jumped onto the Camino de Santiago not without incident… However, Chateau Duffy was still the perfect jump start the Camino process.

Thank you guys for being so transparent and giving me the space to do the same. That week was a great mix of people and could not have been better timing.

Gwen, Duffy & Sarah Gwen, Duffy & Sarah on the newly finished Mezzanine.


The Ballad of Trip Five

Full-time plumber and part-time poet Mike’s tribute to Chateau Duffy #5:

And so to France! The time had come!
C’est ça and look alive!
Et oui, “Mon Dieu” in ancient barns
On Visit Number Five!

To Chateau Duffy everyone!
And none of us were late,
in picking up the pieces of
Our Hero’s real estate.

Our days were fired by frambled eggs
and all our diets binned,
on Cathers-wielded nights we’re fed
and three gîtes to the wind.

DIscussion pirouetted on
the Chateauneuf-du-Pape
and if we drank enough of it,
we talked a load of….

…really interesting theological issues.

The Texan task force turned and said:
“Let’s clear away these brambles.”
And everybody made to grab
the only pickaxe handle.

The scaffolding goes up and down
and pointing all raked back.
The willing team all dig and scrape
and generally attack.

Rachel Jordan dug her hole
with coffee spoons in truth
she dug so far, so deep and fast
she finished on the roof.

The plumber was exhausted then.
Every day he flinches
turning French and millimetres
into Feet and Inches.

The roof and floor were done before
So structure could go in
As concentration takes a hold
with patience wearing thin.

No-one’s really sure of why
it’s come to doing this:
taking all Matryoshka Haus
and pointing it at Chris.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter why.
The fact is that we do,
where bonds are formed, emotions had
and prayers hang over crew.

The earth of dirty process goes
to making old things new
the metaphor’s a hackneyed one
most cliches prove they’re true.

The final night’s a Bay Bay Qway.
We show them how it’s done.
And fête the village with our food
and serve it in a bun.

We’re filmed and fed and fired now
and so are French and Dutch,
Our courage in inviting them
the final crowning touch.

Then finally we separate
by planes and trains and cars
returning back to other lives
and once again Lone Stars.


Chateau Duffy was more than just a project…

Jo, a first-timer at Chateau Duffy, reflects on her experience:

A holiday..?
Well, kind of, and a great big melting pot of building, sharing, crying, hoping, eating, drinking, laughing, giving, receiving, learning.

Jo ready for anything

Jo was ready for anything on site!

Chateau Duffy was more than just a project, driven by American vision and British compliance. (Ha.) It was an exhausting and exhilarating experience, things shared and gained in the context of community chaos.It was unique, leaving you with a feeling that impossible things can be achieved. Shannon steered it all with attention to people and encouragement. There was a great sense of being in something together, sharing the good, bad, ugly and which in general people embraced with a good sense of humour, even after the odd accident! The spiritual dynamic was a complex pattern, people with many different views and experiences, but times to reflect and encouragement to be open and responsive to God were all a part of it.

The church at St Denis

The church at St Denis des Murs.

Personally, I was blessed to find a church, right next to our gite, on Easter Sunday, open, empty, with a single candle lit, nestled within the setting of rural, meadow swept, silent France. I felt communion in this place and was blessed to be able to have my guitar and sing. Such a massive contrast to my London life!

Also there was the community aspect, where evenings were filled with delicious food, good wines, and cross culture mixing, chatting. Complimented by Gwen and her magic hands, offering massages.

Meeting a group of Dutch guys (also building and renovating in the area) started an interesting dialogue, and they came to our final night BBQ celebration, where one of them said to me how totally amazed he was that we were all doing this. They also got involved in our camp fire prayers..

I faced fears, embraced new challenges, met some incredible people, and saw life through a new lens…

No regrets. Chateau Duffy, is recommended.

We’re back

Just checking in to let you know that the Chateau Duffy crew is back from their latest trip and pretty much in one piece. (There were a couple of injuries, but not hugely serious!) Well, the Brits are back – the Americans are still in transit – but the trip is over.

There’s a huge amount to say about it, not just about the construction that took place, but also the community building and relationships made – especially amongst residents of St Denis des Murs itself. This trip was something of a landmark in terms of our relationships with local residents – culminating in a great party on the site on Friday night, complete with a Chateau Duffy movie screening! (More on that later…)

Chateau Duffy April 2013This is how it looked a year ago. 

Chateau Duffy, Monday April trip

 Hard work during our first proper day on site last week. 

Chateau Duffy Thursday, April 2014Thursday morning, after the concrete flooring had gone into the house.

Chateau Duffy, Friday night, April 2014The site getting ready to party on Friday night. 

Several regulars commented that they felt it was one of the best trips we’ve had and we’ve certainly returned very keen to return this summer. Finally, it looks like the dream of making Chateau Duffy habitable might actually be realised!

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll share with you some of the stories and highlights from the trip, so stay tuned…

Gathering at Chateau Duffy again

It’s been a year since our last trip, but tomorrow sees the start of Chateau Duffy #5! In fact, a few of the crew are there already, but most arrive on Saturday for a week of hard work and good fun.

Chateau Duffy April 2013Chateau Duffy the day we left it last year, complete with new, concrete floor.

This trip has been so highly anticipated that it was fully booked last autumn. (Although, in true Matryoshka Haus fashion, some have dropped out and others have seized their places.)

What’s brilliant about Chateau Duffy is the way in which the team reflects the way in which the community has changed and grown since the last trip. So this year we have people who have only been part of the community for a few months; new partners; a Texan from the Learning Lab (lovely Brendan); and Californians met during Matryoshka Haus’ trips there last year.

The Texan crewEric, Carl & Regina en route from Texas to Paris.

While we’re there, we’ll be celebrating Easter together, which is always a very special experience – it’s up there with Thanksgiving as an important occasion to be together as a community.

There is a plan – there will be more pointing (much more pointing) and work may begin on the house next to the barn – and we’ll let you know how we get on.

In the mean time, if this makes you keen to join in the fun, you can register your interest for the summer trip here.