This is my desk as it was last night.

Eek. Not impressive.

Actually, it was rather worse than usual since I had to quickly dump a load of stuff on it in a hurry.  And it’s not a desk. It’s an écritoire that Chris bought me out of the blue one day after visiting Troc, a secondhand furniture and goods shop in Montluçon. It’s quite old and has mother of pearl set into it, not very skilfully, but obviously lovingly. And I love it too.

However, I got up early and sorted out this cluttered working area out. I’ve discovered an excellent organising website, that sets you challenges. One is to clear a space so that’s what I’ve done with my desk. Much better now. (Another challenge is to plan menus for a week, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that level of organisation yet. Especially when gifts of food seem to be so common here. In recent weeks I’ve been given a chunk of wild boar, a chunk of venison, peanut butter and chocolate spread, and a fantastic plum tart.) Pas mal.

It took ingenuity to declutter my desk. And it also takes ingenuity to decipher rebus puzzles. Here is one from the 3rdDecember 1876 issue of La Mode Illustrée.

A rebus is a word puzzle that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. I’m pretty sure you must have done them as a child. The pictogram that you use represents a certain sound, regardless of its meaning. For example, a picture of an ear with ‘h’ in front of it can be ‘here’ and not necessarily ‘hear’. And ‘I love you’ can be shown by ‘eye – love – ewe’. Quite cunning really!

Anyway, many of the old magazines we found here at Les Fragnes have rebus puzzles in them. They were the in thing between a hundred and a hundred and fifty years ago.

How did you get on with the one above? Probably not too well. It’s very French and obscure. The answer was, in fact: Pour demander, il faut savoir attrendre, et pour donner, se hâter. (If you want to ask for something, you should learn how to wait, but to give, you should learn to hurry.) Very improving advice!

I’ll be talking more about the old magazines tomorrow with lots of photos, so do check back!