The one-time Happy Mondays bassist Paul Ryder, whose hell-raising days with brother Shaun were one of the features of the 1980s "Madchester" scene, never did go in for the quiet life. After he and his wife Angela settled on a house in Normandy three years ago, they quickly earned a reputation as the Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne of northern France, with their rock 'n' roll lifestyle and ostentatious tastes.
Now the "crazy Anglais" - as the locals call them - have provided their most quintessential Osbourne moment to date. After the empty Château de la Vallée had been rebuilt to the couple's tastes, the Manchester press was invited to feast its eyes on their handiwork, only to find flames licking up the mansion walls on arrival. A spark from a chimney is thought to have started a blaze in the roof which spread to the rest of the house. The couple, who were about to start renting out part of the property to holidaymakers, must now start again.
Mrs Ryder, head of a Manchester-based TV production company, said her husband had spotted the flames first. "He ran outside and saw flames coming from the roof," she said. "I rushed back from town and saw orange flames raging and fully expected that we would lose everything." A week before the blaze, Mr Ryder had just finished recording his debut solo album, Radiator, at the chateau. Some of the recording equipment was lost in the blaze, but the master tapes survived.
The Ryders' work at the chateau has raised eyebrows among residents of the hamlet in the Seine-Maritime region. As well as a living room with mezzanine gallery, they have maintained the attic bedroom they describe as the "James Bond Suite", by virtue of its floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and huge sunken bath with dragon's mouth tap.
Since forming the Mondays with brother Shaun in Salford 22 years ago, Paul Ryder has always been a dramatic soul. He had been using drugs long before Tony Wilson signed the band to his Factory Records label in the mid-1980s and he eventually became a heroin addict. After top 10 hits including "Step On" and "Kinky Afro", the band disbanded twice - first in 1992 and again in 2000. The Ryder brothers still do not speak but have corresponded through solicitors.
The Ryders are insured for the estimated £200,000 worth of damage to the property but the fire has brought huge disappointment. "I fully expected that we would be left with just a pile of cinders and everything in the west wing was [destroyed]," said Mrs Ryder. "But when we walked into the east wing the next day it still smelt of lemon freshener. When a crisis like this happens it does make you realise you're alive."Reuse content