Les poissons en France

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Floor at Last!

Today we had everybody here; Cyrille and his 2 men, the plumber and the electrician. So I had lots of decisions to make. I've no idea what would happen if we weren't here; the men would have to arbitrarily decide where to put things. And, as most of you must know, 'Madame La Patron' would usually think that the result was total crap!

However, by the close of play tonight, we have our first floor!!!

We are now awaiting the electrician and the plumber to finish running their service pipes for the rest of the ground floor.

As you can see there's going to be a lot of pipes in the concrete! They're putting down (and up the walls) plastic to counter the damp which appears when it rains. The house is built on rock and so the rainwater can't sink in, but flows down the hill and through our kitchen!

I think that, by the weekend, the stairs passage and the downstairs bedroom/shower-room and boiler room will have a floor, and then they can order the cement lorry to come for the kitchen/dining room at the beginning of next week. So, hopefully, by the end of next week, we'll (Sue and me) be ready to start plasterboarding.

Being English, Sue offers the workmen a cup of coffee, so she had a trayful today.

Whilst all of this was happening, Sue was 'plodding on' washing her stones to add to the advancing Dry River. Even though we've bought a pressure washer, it was too much of an effort to get it all out; a hose-pipe was sufficient.

Monday, January 28, 2008

And then the Sun came out.

Sunday night was another cold and frosty night, and, although it was a clear sky this morning, it takes till nearly lunchtime before it warms up. Still, isn't it amazing how much better things seems when the sun shines!

We're back to having 2 men working again and we're sure that they get more work done than they would do individually. Cyrille (the boss) was also here and he was in a good mood as well. So work pressed on with the preparation of the downstairs bedroom/shower room.

The workmen also moved their 'rest-room' and so this afternoon I was able to demolish some more of the bedroom walls on the first floor.

We've also had the electrician here today fitting 'trunking' for his wires.

Tomorrow we're supposed to be having our builders, the electrician, the plumber and also a visit from the 'Stairs' man, so it should be another busy day!

The weather has been that Spring-like that we're seeing the birds looking for partners, the daffodils and snowdrops have started to bloom and the gardener has been seen out pruning the roses!

Just wait till it really is Spring.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Not as Bad as Things Seem

Thought that I'd better reasure those of you who thought that we were about to slash our wrists. I (in particular) have been a bit tetchy with the delays in arriving at a position where we can start doing things in the house.

The offending water pipe has been 'rescued' until such time as the men from the 'Water' can come out to replace the stop tap which seems to be rusted solid. As you can see the flood has dried up.
Also we are now in a dry spell and fortunately the road is drying up also.

Today, we had the plumber here working putting the pipes in where the ground floor is going to be concreted. Whilst we were talking to him it came out that he can't fit the under-floor heating until the walls where we will be putting insulation and plasterboard are all finished. We were stunned. This means that he can't fit the heating in the kitchen/dining room and the ground floor bedroom and shower room until we've at least done the walls. The same thing applies to the lounge on the first floor. Looks like we've got to go turbo-charged!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not 'appy!!

"Him in doors" has been in Victor mode for the last two days. (For our American readers Victor Meldrew is a "grumpy old man" who features in a British sitcom").

John spent all weekend taking down the ceiling in what was our bedroom. I couldn't understand why he was taking down the framework which levelled the ceiling but unfortunately I didn't say anything until he had taken it all down.He assumed that I wanted the beams exposed - Why? We are trying to improve communications in our household.

Our neighbours, Michel and Michele came to see us on Sunday to see how the project was going. They were not impressed with the rate of progress and said that we should make it clear to the builder that this was not acceptable. Well we had a word with him yesterday (not too confrontational) and he assured us that he was trying to recruit more labour and gave us a verbal schedule that didn't sound too bad.

However all went pear shaped this morning. Cyrille - the boss - smashed the water pipe from the mains to our house. John had told them numerous times about the water pipe and even drew a plan yesterday to highlight the problem. Fortunately we had an appointment with the kitchen company this afternoon so I could get him away. We left with water pouring everywhere and John "chontering" so much that you must have heard him in the UK. He is frustrated that he cann't move things along and get cracking himself. Coupled with this the road is a total mud bath which is driving him mad. The builder made a token attempt to clear the road yesterday and dumped the earth on my irises, the ultimate crime.

I hope I can report that things are progressing more satisfactorily next time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Trying to Press on

Even though it's Sunday today I'm spending the day working in the house. I try to make the most of the weekend when the builders aren't here. So I've been taking the insulation and associated woodwork down from ceiling of our old bedroom and I've managed to work myself to a stop.

I didn't get it finished as I couldn't face moving everything I'd brought down, so that I could get to the last few pieces of wood. Still I'm getting on and I should get it finished tomorrow.

It didn't help that we spent most of the morning chalking the layout of the bathrooms on the floors so that we are happy with what we want, and we know what to tell the plumber and electrician. I'm sure that they must see us and think, 'oh no, what have they changed now?'

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Been Here Before

For those of you who've known us a long time, you'll remember that we had a few horror stories when we renovated 'The Old Vicarage' back in the 80's. So, I was taken back all of those years when I started to take down the ceiling of our old bedroom. As I took down the first panel I was showered with what looked remarkably like old, dried rat droppings!

I had expected the ceiling to be plasterboard but I was surprised to find that it was large sheets of chipboard. I've got all of the boards down, but I couldn't face pulling down the insulation with whatever else may be there until I'm properly protected (face mask, goggles, etc.)

At the moment, I'm pulling things down as fast as the builders are building things up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Busy Day

Seemed to have achieved a lot today, despite the rain. I set to this morning and demolished more of the wall of what used to be our bedroom. This means that the area where the stairs will come through the first floor is now cleared and ready.

Then this afternoon, our builder said that he could use the rubble I had created on a drive in his yard. So I set to and threw it all out of the window into his lorry!
Then, just when I thought that it was time for a cup of tea, I got involved with JP (the young mason), and ended up acting as his labourer so that he could finish making the arch in the kitchen solid and secure.

Never a dull day, and I must admit that I do like it when things are happening!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Building Bricks

It's always cheering to suddenly see things move forward. The young 'macon', JP, started to build up the arch between the kitchen and the dining room today. We're very excited when we can finally 'see' a room rather than imagining it from a plan.

Meanwhile, Sue has started to put out the stones in the dry river bed. It's only going to take her the whole of the summer, but each stone has to be individually picked, washed and placed!

Hope the boar doesn't try to swim in it!

Whilst it can't be avoided, the builders have been churning up the front garden, and the weather forecast for this week is rain, and a lot of it, right up till next week-end. Our poor lawn!!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Omnibus Edition

On Thursday we went to Toulouse, ostensibly to look for tiles but the sales are on and we did a bit of "other" shopping. We had seen a site on the internet that looked as though it might do "good deals". We have been searching the "net" as we need upwards of 200 square metres of tiles and we thought that there just might be some one out there prepared to give them to us cheap. Unfortunately it wasn't the shop in Toulouse. The builder has pointed out that we need to choose tiles which have compatible tiles for the steps, as we have a lot of different levels in the house. We are rapidly coming round to the view that we will have to buy them locally and pay the proper rate. (For those of you familiar with Wisbech, we sorely miss Elses).

We had seen that the kitchen we like is half price in the sale so we went to make enquiries and obtain a quote. You dont just walk into a shop here and they say "sit down madam and we will plan your kitchen". We had to make an appointment and go back four days later! The shop is an hour from us but I guess when in Rome...... In the meantime we had second thoughts, storage would be a problem and it may be cheaper (although a lot of hassle ) to get it in the UK. We rang to cancel the appointment but they said that they would store it until we wanted it. So having nothing to lose we drove another hour back to Montauban and came away having bought the kitchen.

You may think that all this looking for tiles and kitchens means that the builder is moving on a pace. Wrong, its just to keep us going. The builder returned on Thursday and we have gravel down in the kitchen so that the plumber and electrician can lay their pipes before it is concreted.

However, we can increasingly see the rooms developing as more and more work is done.

Bad News! All good things come to an end, "the Caff" has surreptitiously put it's prices up. Wine is no longer included in the price. So visits will have to be curtailed (just a little).

You will recall that we were very proud of the Birch Copse and I was delighted with the progress of the bulbs which I had planted in it. We had a lot of rain on Friday night and the boar obviously found the birch copse the perfect feeding ground. He rooted his way across the field and then dug all over the copse uprooting a tree and the bulbs as he went. Did I say I liked being close to nature??

Today being Sunday was a day of rest. We had a lovely day with all the friends we have met through the book club. Lots of intellectual stimulation before we return to the mundane manual labour tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back to Real Work

I've been doing bits and pieces in the house, and realised that we have a problem with some of the old cement and plaster on the walls. I had a go at removing some of it with a hammer and chisel, but in places the concrete is about 4 inches deep. So, a pneumatic drill! But even Sue had to admit that I would have difficulty holding it above my head.

Yesterday we went off to Montauban to our favorite DIY/Builders merchant, Brico-Depot. I'd seen smaller versions of pneumatic drills in their catalogue, so we needed to see them and I needed to hold one above my head. After looking at all of the branded models, (Bosch etc.) we saw the Brico-Depot cheapy for only 27 euros. (slightly more attractive than 150 euros for the Bosch). So today it went into action. Brilliant as you can see by the rubble at my feet!!!

I need to digress a while here, because, before I could get at the wall, I had to do some street cleaning. We had a lorry-load of gravel arrive during the morning and he drove off leaving a trail of mud along the road. I began to clear it when, blow me down but he returned with a second delivery. So I had to start again.

Just to keep you Nature Watchers informed, I found an owl pellet on our steps this morning. It was encouraging to think that our owl(s) is/are still around.

The only slight problem could be that this owl is obviously sitting in the open window that will eventually be in our bedroom. We don't want him to think tht he is going to claim squatter's rights!
PS I hope you don't get the impression that we have a thing about poo!

Another Trip to the Lycee Hotelier

Sorry if we are boring you with tales of what we put in our mouths but you've got it again. Last night we made another visit to the local catering college. Alison, our French teacher originally told us about the meals so we planned to take her with us . Unfortunately she had food poisoning at the weekend so had to pull out. Her loss.

We really enjoy these experiences as it is like going to a super dooper restaurant at a fraction of the cost. We had :-

Cocktail of the Day (sorry dont know what it was but it was pink and lovely)

John told me his orange juice was nice - we're trying to take this " drink and driving" a bit more seriously. We had half a bottle of wine and I had to drink 3 glasses!!

Nibbles or as the French call it "amuse the mouth", duck liver with savoury
straws and a gorgious dressing.

Rustic Tart filled with wild mushrooms and topped with fried Foie Gras.

Normandy Fruit de Mer - a bowl of fabulous fish and cider sauce with pieces of
sole, mussels, langoustine and the surprise, balls of apple.

Hawian Duck. Small (or large) problem the duck came up whole and the
students had to carve it at your table. Result duck not as hot as I would like!!

Chocolate tear drop filled with orange mousse and served with banana
ice cream.

Coffee served with seasonal delicacy "Tart of the Kings".

I have been trying to lose weight since the New Year and doing quite well, until this mornings weigh in that is, when I had put on 2lbs. However I think regular visits to the college will win over the diet.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Old Crocks

I've been suffering from a cold (I dare not say Flu!) since New Year's Eve and today Sue started to succumb to it. However, we've been plodding on with clearing all the brush from our tree-thinning.

We have now got the tree alley cleared although there is just as much to clear from the field on the other side! We've been pushing on as the weather forecast kept saying Rain, but we just got finished as it started to pour down at about 3 pm.

Still, if it stays wet, there lots we can do inside!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Start of a New Year

You may recall that last year I spent several months in the winter clearing the scrub from beneath the alley of trees in the back garden. By the time I'd finished it was spring and our energy and enthusiasm had run out. We promised ourselves that in the following winter we would cut down the saplings, leaving the big mature trees. The idea was to let more light into the bed which will eventually run along parallel to the trees. However we now have a more pressing problem; that enormous pile of rock and earth which the builder has dug out of the caves. He is anxious to lose it in our garden somewhere. We have reluctantly agreed that it should be deposited in the banks of the alley. So, spurred on with the spirit of the New Year, John set off with his chainsaw. At the end of the day we surveyed our handy work (and the enormous pile of "brush" we have to get rid of) and decided we needed to do the same to the other side of the alley. Work schedule for 2nd January sorted.!! Gluttens for punishment, we agreed that we should do the same thing again next year as there are still too many small trees left.

For several weeks we have woken up to white frosts and temperatures well below freezing but by about 11 o'clock it is warm and really pleasant to work outside. After the lumberjacks had finished their work for the day I went for a walk round the garden and discovered daffodils in bud (not the ones I planted last week) .
Such sights give us a sense of well being and we ended the 1st January with our spirits as high and optimistic as we started. Sorry about the waxing lyrical!