Les poissons en France

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Everybody and their Uncle

As well as the builder lads, Thierry the plumber arrived this morning, with his uncle. Once they'd started to fit the underfloor heating it became obvious that fitting the water pipes into the underfloor insulation was a 2 man job.

It didn't begin to rain till lunchtime, so the lads had time to make a start on the roof. The 'suspended' scaffolding looks very stable.

However, as soon as it started to rain everything was covered up again.

During the course of the afternoon it became sunshine and showers, so the builders were filling in time. So work began on cementing under the patio windows and more work on the steps down to the 'Breakfast' patio.

All of this activity cramped my style a bit, but I kept out of the way, working on the joints in the plasterboard in the kitchen.

The plumber says that he will finish the first section of the under floor heating on Friday and then Cyrille will cover it with a screed on Monday. So, by this time next week, I can start working in the bedroom, bathroom etc. in order for us to get out of John and Lesley's house before they come out here at the end of May.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Where do we Begin?

A dry day and everything seems to have been happening. We were late up as we were playing cards with some new friends till 1 am. So, when we got up we found that JP was up in the bucket of the Manitou, jointing the wall up to the chimney.

We were amazed at how quickly JP put the mortar on. He had finished it by mid-afternoon.
After the men had left for the day, I went to investigate what had happened in the house. I had heard a lot of drilling and, when I went in to the salon, I saw why. Cyrille and Patrick had been preparing to put up the 'scaffolding' at the back of the house. It isn't normal scaffolding but is suspended and held in place by huge bolts through the wall.

But, guess what. It's forecast for rain tomorrow.

In my tour of inspection, I went up into the loft above the salon, and looked into the pigeonnier.

As you'll remember, the door from the loft into the pigeonnier is only about 1.5 metres high. However, the door is half open with guano spilling out.

I went into the pigeonnier and climbed up the small, home-made ladder to look into the next, top level. On one wall were the original 'pigeon-holes' where we presume the farmer raised pigeons for food and eggs.

The pigeon-holes are next to the window which our owl uses.

All of a sudden there was some fluttering and the owl made a quick exit out of the window! I decided to try to minimise the disturbance to our owl and block off this top level, so that we can clear out the pigeonnier on the level of the proposed bedroom. So, I quickly found a 'trap-door' to fit over the openning and went back to close off the 'owl area'. As I looked around, I saw a small depression in the corner, with 5 white eggs lying there.

We're hoping that the owl returns, but we're also concerned that she doesn't get disturbed by all of the work that will be done on the outside of the Pigeonnier, not that there's much that we can do about it.
Whilst we're discussing wild life, our Magpies are still showing sporadic interest in their nest, although things haven't got serious yet. The Nightingale has returned and is furiously singing day and night. We have lots of Black Redstarts, some Great Tits and Blue Tits, Jays and Sparrows. When we do get the sun, it brings the small lizards out, and today, I disturbed a snake which had come out of one of our dry stone walls in the garden. The Pyramid Orchids are in full swing and all of the trees on the hillsides are now out in leaf. The wet Spring means that everything is griowing profusely, including our lawns!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rain...but no Stoppage of Play

Bad news last night. The plumber phoned to say that he wouldn't be coming till Wednesday.

Thunderstorm in the night and rain to greet the workmen this morning. So Cyrille directed his men onto 'inside' jobs. JP and the apprentice Alexi finished blocking up the old doorway next to the fireplace.

Then they put a coat of render on the chimney breast up in the loft to secure the old stonework.

Meanwhile, Patrick cleared out the loft which will be our bedroom, and began to prepare for fitting the insulation and plasterboard. Even though he's only just begun, and all you can see are strings attached to the beams, we know that it is going to look great!

That just left Mickel. He was up in the bucket of the Manitou, cleaning the old mortar out of the joints of the wall above the 'lower' roof. Fortunately, it had eased off to just drizzle by then.

That just left Cyrille, supervising, organising and planning.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Something for the Weekend

On Friday afternoon Cyrille told me that they would be working on Saturday. He is obviously anxious to press on, especially as the weather forecast remains unsettled with spells of rain. So, we had a full complement of men here at 8.30 and they have fitted the 'roofing felt' and batons to the front face of the 'second' house.

They won't be putting the tiles on until last because the weight of the roof with the tiles could push the beams on the 'back' face whilst the men are working on that side.

On Friday John saw an advert for a concert by the Brive Symphony Orchestra. It was to be held in a chateau in the next village. We've lived here nearly two years and we've never seen a chateau . So we asked directions from the local shop keeper and set off to do a reckie. It was hardly surprising that we hadn't seen it. As usual it was in the back of beyond, although the plus was fantastic wild flowers and views along the way. Well we decided that we would go for it on Saturday night. John is always worried about parking and on this occasion it was justified. The parking was in the hamlet which was about a kilometre below the chateau. A minibus had been laid on to ferry people to the summit. However the bus only took eight people at a time and as we were "younger" than a lot of those waiting we chivalrously decided to walk up/climb. On entering the courtyard we soon realised that the hike was worth every weary step. The chateau was magnificently restored and the architect had managed to incorporate the ruins without physically restoring them.

It would seem that the French are inately nosey and therefore when in Rome... We poked about peering over terraces at magnificent views and looked into some rooms that were visible from outside. Doing likewise was a lady who we talk to most days when she walks her dogs past our house. It soon became obvious that she had no idea who we were. She's never seen us in anything but work clothes so it was reassuring that we must "scrub up well", even if it is on very rare occasions. Eventually we were ushered down into the cave for the concert. What a venue! We estimated that it was a bit bigger than our barn, with a vaulted ceiling and beautifully lit. The capacity audience of all ages eventually took their seats about an hour later than the scheduled start time, but of course that is "de rigeur" in France. We thoroughly enjoyed the pieces of music by lots of different composers. However the highlight was returning to the courtyard , by a route which was lit with candles and emerging into a wonderland with the chateau and battlements stategically lit. You know I've got a thing about lighting. We said our thank you to Madam the owner and picked our way back to the car in absolute darkness. One street light, run by a generator, had been rigged up at the car park. What a magical balmy evening it turned out to be and all for 6 euros (including the night cap of a glass of wine served at the village hall afterwards). Sorry no photos, well you wouldn't expect all this when you were just going to a concert.

Today, Sunday, I was clearing up in the house because our plumber is supposed to be starting to fit the underfloor heating in the ground floor bedroom, bathroom, and the stairs passage.

Sue was planting in the veg patch; tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes and lettuce. At about 5 o'clock our neighbour Michel arrived with some trout for us. He'd spent the day fishing and he happily detoured on his way home to stop by and give us some of his catch.

We can't get over how generous our neighbours are! We try to rack our brains for what we can do in return but it is very difficult.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nice Men

The sun shone today and what a different perspective it puts on life.

We went to the market this morning to get a "Box" from Bernard. Whilst we were there we met the mayor and had a chat and mentioned that the only street light in our hamlet was not working. By 2.30pm a huge lorry had arrived with a hoist and the light was operational. I suggested to the mayor that it was part of his duties to climb a ladder and replace the bulb - but obviously not.

Michel, our neighbour, has been working very hard all week clearing the area around his barn. It looks much better and all these improvements really make a difference to the hamlet.

With no rain today the builders have got on very well. The roof on the older part of the house seems to have been much more of a challenge than the first part of the roof was. As there is rain forecast for next week Cyrille says that they are going to work tomorrow (Saturday).

Just after the builders had gone home the window fitters arrived. Their boss had agreed that he would have the frames fitted in the stairwell passage by the end of this week so that the plumber can start fitting the underfloor heating on Monday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Finally the Sun came out

Gradually the waters have gone down, and the builders have been able to carry on. Yesterday (Wednesday) only JP and the apprentice Alexi turned up, and they began levelling the top of the front wall. We hadn't realised that it sloped so much!

Cyrille thinks that this part of the house that they're working on now originally was two seperate houses, hence the differences in levels, wall heights and beam construction.

Today the sun finally shone and we had a full complement of men working on the roof. Things were obviously complicated because I saw men standing watching Cyrille calculating, on a number of occasions. Cyrille has had to replace some of the joists and he is doing his best to level it all up but he says that he thinks that there will have to be two different parts of the roof because the differences are two big to lose.

I took advantage of the good weather to stack all of the good tiles that had come off of the roof. I want to use them to retile the barn ..... whenever I have the time!

Monday, April 21, 2008


That's French for flood and believe me that's what we've got. It seems to have been raining for about a month. It must be driving the builders mad. They seem to be spending most of their time covering the roof with sheets and endeavouring to stem the tempest. Apparently on Friday afternoon there was a terrible storm (we were in Carcassonne and the weather was good). Saturday was dry and pleasant, however Sunday the deluge continued day and night. Despite copious barricades the water was flooding into the kitchen from underneath the new kitchen stairs and I couldn't sweep it out as quick as it was coming in. Cyrille was very concerned when he arrived this morning and soon set Patrick to work to dig trenches out around the house and across the courtyard to redirect the water.

However Cyrille had to do a lot of praying because he was not entirely sure that this was the solution. He did not have to wait long because there was soon the heaviest rain storm I have ever seen. Water was pouring out of the unconnected pipes as though it was being pumped out by the firebrigade.However, it was dry beneath the kitchen steps, much to everyone's relief.

When the rain eventually eased John and I realised that the surrounding fields were flooded. The river Ceou which runs through our valley had already burst it banks when we got up this morning. So we set off with our cameras to record this monumental event.

Goodness knows what the position will be tomorrow as it is still raining.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Rain!

Whilst we've been out and about with our visitors, the men have been labouring under difficult conditions. Two days of dry weather has allowed them to basically finish the first portion of roof. All that remains to be done is to fit the ridge tiles on the small part of the roof facing the hill.

However on Thursday it threw it down. We were out for the day and when we returned and Sue carried out her inspection, we saw another kind of storm! In an attempt to keep the men working, Cyrille had told them to start closing the 'doorway' which is our only means of access to the first floor level. Sue got Cyrille to return at about 7pm and he agreed to rig up a temporary set of stairs through the new doorway. Sue was duly mollified.

It rained heavily again on Friday but they have managed to remove most of the tiles on the roof above the 'old' front door. Unfortunately, the rain looks set to continue till Tuesday.

Now that the builders have removed all of the old insulation out of the loft, it was possible for us to get up there to have a good look.....and revise our plans....yet again!

We can see that there is a lot of work to do up in the loft, but we have a major problem with the en-suite that we were going to put into the pigeonnier. It isn't obvious from the photo but the door is only about 4 foot high.

It's a good job that we have lots of space to play with; the en-suite facilities will have to be at the end of the bedroom instead of in the pigeonnier. So, back to redrawing the plans.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day's End

Another busy day up on the roof! It's amazing how quickly the tiles can be fitted and how quickly the roof is covered.

By the end of the day (Tuesday), the majority of the roof was done, and the scaffolding was down, ready to be put up again arround the corner of the house so as to finish off the first roof.

At least now, even if it does rain, the men can work inside in the loft, putting up insulation and then plasterboarding.

Dry at Last

Monday morning and the workmen arrived in force and began on the roof.

As you can see, the weather looked threatening, but luckily the day stayed dry. So. by the end of the day, the roof was covered with roofing 'felt' and was battened ready for the tiles.

The weather outlook remains unsettled but it should stay dry for a couple of days so that the roof hopefully will be finished without further problems.

We're actually on a week's holiday now as we have Anne and Eric here from England for a week. They arrived just after the men had left for the day and we're looking forward to recharging our batteries.