Les poissons en France

Monday, December 31, 2007

What a way to End a Year

New Year's Eve and we were up and off. We hitched up the trailer and set off in the cold , frosty mist for a garden centre at Martel on the Dordogne. Not many customers but we changed that when we bought 5 Silver Birch trees for the 'Copse'! Slight problem when we tried to load them onto the trailer, as the trees were about 18ft. tall. We put the root balls into the trailer but that left some 12 foot hanging out the back. So we tried to put the 'tree tops' above the roof of the car, but that would have scratched the paintwork of the roof, and possibly have broken off the aerial. So finally, we put the root balls in the car with the tops perched out over the trailer. Success, although it was a bit breezy with the boot tied up so that it was half open!

By the time we were home, the sun was shining in a clear blue sky, so, a bite to eat and off we went to the 'Copse'. By 5 pm all 5 trees were in and we only had to take one of them out and turn it through 180 degrees before replanting so that aesthectically it looked right.

What a lovely day to round off an amazing year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Top of the Hill

Well we finally made it! The mound is finished - thank goodness. As you will remember, I spent a few days moving earth and stones from our courtyard to create the mound. Unfortunately, the garden designer decided that she didn't like what was evolving, and so, having lost her cigarette packet which had the sketches, 'we' had to start removing a large number of the stones. Having built it up, we now had to knock it down. But it's great excercise!!!!

What didn't help was that we had a shower in the early hours and so everything was sticky and claggy. However, job accomplished. We now have an area which rises against the flow of the ground and which then finishes in a row of exposed stones, from which will come the dry river of stones.

We did so well, ahead of schedule , that Sue was out this afternoon, planting bulbs in the Birch Copse. That's the official name for the mound. We're off tomorrow to search for 3 Silver Birch trees to plant and then she can sow it with wildflower seeds. And then, I can get on with jobs in the house; the builders are now on holiday till the 10th January.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Kitchen Window

Our kitchen window was finished today and so all of the dirty jobs are now done on the ground floor. The builders are going to do some clearing up tomorrow (Friday) before they start a weeks holiday. We're planning on getting in to the house to do some preparation work.
In the meantime I'm struggling with moving stones and earth for Sue's mound, but it's like a skating rink in the courtyard and so is making it very difficult to drive the mower which I'm using to tow the trailer. We're hoping that it dries out a bit by the weekend. Those bulbs are getting desperate to be planted!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Eve (French Style)

Sue prepared me a mulled wine before she plated up the meal we had bought in Cahors Market. I had got cold whilst we were there, and I couldn't warm up. At least, that was my excuse.

The meal, as you can see, looked good, and by golly, it was good.

We are so knocked out by the quality of some of the prepared meals, although it depends where you buy them. Our meal could easily have been cooked by the stall-holder's wife. In fact, bizarre as this Christmas is/has been/will be, (the 2 of us and the cats in our friend's little house), already it has taken on the aura of one of those times you vividly remember!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve at Mas de Bouye

We are sitting here listening to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College Cambridge to get us into the Christmas spirit. Although we went to a candle lit Carol service on Wednesday in a village in the Dordorgne . It was in French and English so we sang carols in both languages and of course there was the usual nativity play (with the angels fidgeting and dancing as usual). Plus ca change!! We thoroughly enjoyed it and the mulled wine and stollen afterwards were most welcome as we could see our breath as we sang the carols. French churches are not reknown for being warm. We have also been imbibing the "spirit" with friends coming to dinner and going to others, so it seems like a "normal" Christmas Season.

We have been looking back at photos of Christmas Eve 2006. We woke up to a frost this morning and last year we had a haw frost on the trees. However this year it turned out to be a glorious day.

The other difference to last year is that we are lovely and warm when we are inside as well as out. Our stoic builders have been at it again today and we now have a window in the kitchen as well as a back door and Patrick has finished building the door to the salon. We are really excited and they are the best Christmas presents we could have. (We know we're sad).

I am just checking out my eventual bedroom.

This morning we went to the market at Cahors to buy our meal for tonight. They have the most fabulous goodies for Christmas. We are going to Bob and Veronica's (who live near Cognac) tomorrow so we are having a French Christmas; big Christmas Eve meal followed by pressies.

Our Menu

Opera au Poisson (sort of fishey patisserie)
Stuffed Quail with Mushroom Sauce with begnets de cepes (a sort of wild mushroom doughnut), sauted potato, chestnuts and mushrooms, and pureed carrot and celery.
Fromage (not sure I can manage it)
Quercy nut pastry and fig wrapped in marzipan
All washed down with 50p bottle of bubbly!!

Bonne Fete!!

Sorry if you have been slaving over a hot stove, I haven't been slaving over my two rings.

Got to go now to start eating, enjoy yours.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Mound - part 2

Saturday and no builders around! So, out with the digger and I began shifting the earth which they'd moved away from the house. Sue is concerned that we put enough soil onto the mound to allow for settling. I didn't count how many trailer-loads of soil I took down to the mound but it is certainly mounting up.

The idea was to carry on today but this morning it is raining and coming down like stair-rods! I'm not sure if we'll be able to do any more today, but at least the rain should start 'settling' the earth on the mound. In the meantime, Sue's second bag of bulbs sits in the Porcherie awaiting planting!

Friday, December 21, 2007

All Progressing Well

Cyrille is pushing things along! He has both of his men working on creating our new doorways, whilst he has now brought on site all of the dressed stone for the windows as well.

Jean-Pierre has just to finish the inside of the kitchen back door, which he will do today (Friday), and then he may start on the new kitchen window. Meanwhile, Patrick has started on the door from the stairs into the salon.

Our problem is that it's difficult to try to do anything in the house because we feel that we're a bit in the way whilst the men are beavering away. So, we've accepted that there really isn't much we can do until the ground floors are concreted, (except plan ahead!).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Excitement in the Air

Our builder Cyrille seems intent on pushing things along. We thought that they would be on Christmas holiday this coming Friday for 2 weeks, but he told us today that they will be carrying on from Boxing Day. He obviously wants to get things ready for the plumber, hence the sudden urgency. As we now understand it, they'll be off for 1 week after New Year's Day and then possibly have a second week sometime in February. That's fine by us as the sooner we can get into the downstairs bedroom (with a concrete floor) the sooner we can crack on.

The door from the stairway into the kitchen is virtually done; they're just finishing off connecting the lintel through to the concrete floor of the salon. But they are also preparing to open up the doorway into the salon, so they've cut a hole in the wooden floor above. I think they're doing the minimum to the flooring until they can liase with the stair man. (Wait for more news.)

So, whilst this is drying work resumed on the kitchen back door!

We also had the electrician here today. He's fixing wiring in all of those areas where concreting will be done.

We're finding it really exciting to see lots of things happening! No doubt there will be other times when there's a lull, but hopefully by then, we'll be able to be getting on inside.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Openings

After a late start due to the cold weather (-7 last night), young Jean-Pierre (JP) started to open the back door from the Kitchen out into the courtyard (imagination required here).

Then this afternoon, Cyrille arrived and set about removing the septic tank which, as you can see, was next to the opening. It helped that it was only a 1000 litres tank and the whole thing was done in about 5 minutes!

JP worked late (perhaps to make up for his late start) and, by the time he left at about 6 pm, he'd finished opening up the door and had cemented a foundation for building up the new door. Hope it sets OK with tonight's frost, although JP told me he's added some 'anti-freeze' which is supposed to work down to -23 degrees!

The Mound

Got my toys out today (Sunday) so that I could keep the boss happy. At present we have a very large pile of stones and earth behind the house which has come out of the caves. This mixture is going to be fine for making the mound which will be :- a) the Birch copse, b) the source of the dry river bed, c) the home for the second bag of bulbs, d) my punishment for being naughty.

Although we are having hard frosts every morning, this perhaps helped because there is a lot of clay in what I am moving and it is less sticky when it is big frozen lumps. I'm building up the soil Digger Dave left after he made the river.

I haven't been told how high the mound will be so, I don't know how many days it's going to take but there's rain forecast for next Friday and I won't be able to do anything with it if it is wet, sticky clay!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spread the Gospel

As you problably know music does not figure prominently on my radar but I do like gospel music. We saw a poster advertising a gospel music concert to be given by a local choir so we decided to go. First problem we had no idea where the venue was so we thought we would do a "reci" during the day. Ah hah we saw a postman and managed to gather from him that it was a school we were looking for and it was somewhere near the cemetery. There was a lot of arm waving and I hadn't got the nerve to tell him that I had no idea where the cemetery was. Better try someone else. We spied some people leaving a judo class so I stopped a lady (she was clad only in her judo suit and it was zero) and she told me that we were no where near the place and then went on to explain very complicated directions. John was observing the extensive arm waving from the warmth of the car and when I returned he was sure that it had been a waste of time as I would not have understood a word she had told me. But that was last year, now I understood 50% of what she said and miraculously we found it!

The concert was due to start at 8.30. We had found the venue in the morning but how did we get in. There were no directions and no lights on. We eventually found the hall and John then went off to find some other people who we had met in "the maze" as he said they would never find it. I don't think there are too many of us gospel fans in Gourdon as there were about 40 of us there.

As normal, things did not get under way for some time (John thought they might be awaiting the arrival of the mayor- but he was obviously not a gospel devotee). The accompanist, a very strange fellow, wandered up and down a lot and we decided he looked far more like a classical pianist than a hallaluha(?) stomping sort. I thought it was a good start when at one stage he walked into the lid of the grand piano. It all reminded me of one of Eric Sykes silent comedies. To continue, low and behold he was a classical pianist (performing just as Eric Sykes would, with dead pan exaggerated gestures). Well this was obviously not to the taste of the gospel lot in the back who proceeded to talk all the way through his performance. His bit eventually finished and with much set-moving he was moved to the stage to accompany the choir. On come the singers, one of whom was blind, so on came his dog as well. Fido lay down in the middle of the stage and slept throughout the lively proceedings (he was obviously confident that he would not get trodden on during "Swing Low Sweet Charriot"). The concert may not have been of the highest quality but we did enjoy it and it was in aid of "Telethon", the French equivalent of Children in Need.

Don't we live it up round here!!

A bonus was our tour of the Christmas lights. Last year I thought they were good in Gourdon but this year they are magnificent and I was like a kid ooh ahing. We are equally amazed that the small villages put on a lovely display.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Smashing Time

Being Saturday and no builders around, I took the opportunity to start knocking down the internal walls where our existing bedrooms are. As you can see in the photo, I'm clearing out the walls which are over what will be the staircase for all of the levels of the house. Sue says that, every time we do some of this 'clearing', it lets us visualise a bit better the final result. Having said that, the final result is still a long way off!

Sue completed planting the first of her 2 sacks of bulbs this afternoon. This morning we went to Cahors and it was freezing fog, and all of the trees were coated in frost; lovely but cold. However the afternoon warmed up enough for Sue to be able to make holes in the earth.

She's finished the planting in the bank along the trees by the 'cherry alley' (as it will be). The second sack of bulbs are destined for the Birch copse in the back field, but first I have to make a mound - you know, one of those 5 minute jobs ; 'can you just.....'. Oh well...............................

Friday, December 14, 2007

In the Merde

We've been asked by Cyrille to get our septic tank emptied as he has to dig out some of the soil to get to the correct level to open up the new back door out of the kitchen. This also means that he has to take the old septic tank out! Yesterday I booked a visit from the s..t-cart and it arrived at about 2pm today. How's that for service?

It only took them about 15 minutes to empty the tank; I don't know how much it has cost, the bill will come in the post!

The only slight problem came when it was time for the men to depart, and I had to shake their hands, especially the one who had had his head down in the tank!
Earlier, Sue and I had popped in to the Marie to query a bill and we laughed and joked with the Mayor and the girl who runs the office (and runs the mayor). It gives us a warm feeling to be accepted as part of the community.
So, back to the house and we had a meeting with Cyrille to explain exactly what is happening with the new door, the first floor level and exactly how it all fits together. Some details are changing 'on the hoof' as the plans become reality. Our builder is trying to solve the problems of the differing levels through out the house, from left to right and from front to back. There is also a problem with some of the measurements as used by the architect. However, once things are explained to us, we are able to assess and resolve these small queries.
In the meantime, Sue went out into the garden to start planting the 2 sacks of bulbs that she bought in Lincolnshire. We are having sharp frosts every morning but then lovely clear, bright days and the frost comes out of the ground after lunchtime.

Hopefully we should have a cheery display come Spring.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Taking Shape

We're starting to get a feeling that things are moving on. Our opening is now defined by some new dressed stones. It is really encouraging to see something concrete and not have to imagine what the plans actually mean.

As you can see, the opening on the next floor has aready been made, and Cyrille told me today that he will be opening the doorway for the top level sometime next week. I had thought that the ground-floor floors were going to be concreted before Christmas, but it now seems that the builders are going to make all of the new openings (door and window) first. The feeling that we are progressing (perhaps an illusion) has encouraged us both!

We also had the electrician doing some preparation work today and he wants to know (approximately) where we want light switches for the lights in the salon and the kitchen/dining room. We don't think that he realises just how long it will be before we get to work on some of the rooms!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Everything's Opening Up!

'Our' young builder Jean-Pierre started to open the first of the new doors this morning. As you can see, by the end of the day, the opening was there from the passage which will have the stairs, into the kitchen.

And also, a start had been made on the doorway above this, into the lounge.

Cyrille had already told me that he is waiting for the 'dressed' stones which will form the openings, so hopefully we will have 2 new doors before the builders break up for their Christmas holidays on the Friday before Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Welcome Back

Welcome back to all our Readers!
Virtually 4 weeks in England! And it made us realise that we are more than pleased with our new life in France. As you will have seen from the photos, the things we are doing on the house are fairly major, as is the bill! To ensure that we will have enough ready cash to pay the builders we decided to sell a house that we have been leasing out. We actually were pleased with our effort and the time it took to fit a new bathroom suite, new kitchen, tile throughout, decorate and have new carpets fitted. A good trial for the more major works to come in France.

We also had time to see a few friends, go to Paris on the way back, and tour round Paris centre to see the Christmas lights ( which were fantastic!).
So, it was with anticipation, and a little trepidation, that we arrived back home and went to inspect our house. Nothing too drastic changed from the outside.
However, we have a lounge floor again. It is still supported by a forest of props, but these are due to come down tomorrow.
We were slightly disappointed that no work had been started on the ground-floor floors, but that wasn't possible with the props in the way!

We went inside our new 'lounge' and we were pleased that it doesn't look too huge; big, yes, but not like a catherdal.

Cyrille is planning to concrete the ground floors over this weekend then we can start to organise ourselves for what we have to do inside the rooms; build internal walls, fit doors, insulation and ceilings etc. - minor matters!