Les poissons en France

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Breathing Space.

We've had a chance to take breath in more ways than one. Clive and Mary came to stay with us for a couple of nights, and, even though they were insistent on doing some work for us, it still became a bit of a break . We had, however, been a bit concerned that we were going to have problems as John and Lesley were due back to their house (the one we've been staying in) on Friday. Unfortunately for them (but perhaps not for us) John had a bad cold and was in bed. So they'd cancelled their passage over to France and now aren't coming till next Wednesday. We were therefore able to enjoy our time with Clive and Mary without having to keep thinking about getting John and Lesley's house ready for them.

Luckily for everyone, the weather improved with the arrival of Clive and Mary. So, Cyrille has been able to carry on with the roof. He and JP even worked today, Saturday, until they got stopped by a thunderstorm this afternoon.

If the weather holds (which looks doubtful!) Cyrille says that the roof will be finished by Tuesday. However, we'll see.

With the arrival of Clive and Mary we've been sleeping in the downstairs bedroom in the house. Our plumber is struggling to get all of the parts for the boiler. He's now laid on the water to the downstairs bathroom and the kitchen but we won't have hot water till about next Wednesday. That is if we get a jerry can with some "fouil" in it . No sign of the oil tanks, he assures us that this jerry cans worth of oil will heat the water for a considerable time - Sue is not convinced!

Last Thursday, we all set to stacking the rest of the old roof tiles which the builders had dumped behind the barn.

It was nice to be able to see a job done and the area behind the barn looking a bit more tidy. That evening, just as Mary and Clive were leaving our house to go off to bed in John and Lesley's house, we looked up and saw the owl setting off to hunt for food. However we soon realised that it was more involved than that! We could hear the young chicks calling for food. We waited to watch the owl return but the next thing we knew, an owl flew out of the pigeonnier. We think that there is a pair of owls, hunting and feeding the chicks. I am so relieved that they haven't been scared off by all of the building work.

Friday saw more activity. The window men turned up and fitted the last two patio doors.

Although they've not finished, we can at last shut the rain and wind out of every room and secure the property. To my relief, Sue loves the doors in the stairs passage. She loves the feeling of being outside although you're actually still inside. However there is one small problem, a pair of Black Redstarts are raising a family in the wall just to the inside of our "front door". They work tirelessly from dawn to dusk, perching on the beams in the passage way with beaks full of grubs and squawking at us to get out of their way. We sincerely hope that their chicks fledge before the glass is put in over the patio doors or we will have to leave the doors open and be back to square one.

Finally, all of this water that is in the ground, plus the relative warmth, has meant that the vegetable patch is growing prolifically. The potatoes are nearly 60 cm tall although still no flowers! I think we'll be eating salads till November!!!!

Sorry that this posting has been so long, but so much is happening just at the moment. We'll actually be pleased when things slow down a bit!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ready with a Penny?

We finally have the luxury of cold running water! Our plumber, Thierry, connected us up to the mains water and we have water to the downstairs toilet, hand basin, and through to the temporary sink and the washing machine in the kitchen. Thierry still doesn't have all of the bits for the boiler, but he is trying to get us hot water sometime next week. It wouldn't be so bad if it was lovely and hot, but it's been another day of heavy rain.

Despite this, Cyrille and his men did some work on the last section of the roof, repairing the woodwork under the cover of a large tarpaulin. And, they finished the connections to the 'Fosse' so that we can happily flush the toilet.

What we really need is a long spell of dry, warm weather so that we can take stock, draw breath and then push on. I do get cheesed off when I get plastered in mud everytime I go to my workshop in the barn.

Monday, May 26, 2008

All Mod Cons

Monday arrived and, as usual, the forecast was rain. It did look very unsettled and so we were not totally surprised when we had no one turn up for work this morning. We went off to Cahors to shop for some friends coming for a couple of days on Wednesday, and when we returned, we found that JP and Mikel were here. They'd put more tiles on the roof, and were then ready to start connecting us up to the Septic Tank.

Our plumber phoned to say that he was chasing parts for the boiler, and so he'll now be with us tomorrow (Tuesday) to connect up the water. Hopefully we'll have a usable toilet then.

I ended up helping the lads work out how to connect up the drainage pipes. It does seem to be complicated!

And unnecessarily so!

One of the reasons for going shopping this morning was to buy something to cook on. We'd wired up the old cooker which we inherited with the house, but it is refusing to work; it keeps tripping the electric. We managed to find a cheap two plate electric 'hob' and so we now have a 'fully equipped' kitchen.

Still, it's better than camping.

Friday, May 23, 2008

So Near.

And there was me yesterday saying that we'd have another roof face done!

It was trying to rain all morning, and so Cyrille told his lads to spend the afternoon clearing up. That in itself is good, but we would have preferred more tiles on the roof. Because, inevitably, it didn't rain in the afternoon. Still, never mind!

So we wait for next Monday, when hopefully it all happens (again!)

JPs family grow strawberries , raspberries and asparagus commercially. He is always saying to me if you want any strawberries Soos just let me know. Well he wont accept any payment for them so I dont like to ask very often. We were having friends round for a meal last night so I asked for a punnet of strawberries. I was getting dressed when he arrived so I asked him to leave them on the doorstep. When I came to use them they weren't very good but I assumed it was because they were free. However when he saw me this morning he couldn't apologise enough for the strawberries. Apparently he'd forgotten to get them from home so he had stopped on the way and bought me some and was totally distraught about the quality. Being an old softee I thought that was really sweet and gave him a big hug.

The veg patch is starting to crop so salad leaves , spinach and chard are creeping into the menu again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What the Devil?

We started early this morning as we wanted to press on with setting up our 'temporary' kitchen. However, I thought that I would move some of the large stones which are lying abandoned around the house and barn. So I attempted to move a fairly large stone on our sack-barrow (or 'diable' in french). The stone was so heavy that it burst one of the inner tubes in one of the wheels of the Diable. I don't suppose that many people get punctures in their Sack Barrow!

The workmen obviously either didn't believe or couldn't understand how we would be setting up a temporary kitchen to allow us to start living in our house. As I got some of the men to help me carry fridges and washing machine etc., they began to realise that we are serious. They'd never seen English campers before!

Sue had to get stuck in with the cleaning. We have had a naughty mickey in the Porcherie, and he's left his mark all over the place.

We're pleased with our temporary set-up; not quite a Michelin starred kitchen, but.............

Outside, we've now got another roof face finished. Tomorrow should see the 4th one done.

As you can see, Cyrille is supervising the work to ensure everything is done correctly.

The lads even had time to move the 'suspended' scaffolding round to the wall between us and our neighbours. JP was able to drive the Manitou through the gap between our 2 houses (with about 3 inches to spare either side!) So, hopefully they'll be able to carry straight on over the next few days. We're very grateful that JJ and Nadine don't mind a big machine driving over their drive.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

At Last!

The tiles finally began to go on to the roof today. Yesterday was spent in lots of final levelling and preparation of the woodwork, and we see that they've cut the beams where the velux windows will go. I think that it was safer to do all of that before the weight of the tiles are bearing down on the beams.

The men have actually started to put the tiles on both sides of the roof; they've done the fiddley bits up against the wall of the higher part of the house which includes lead-work and a mortar skirt. So, tomorrow it should be plain sailing; just like dealing a pack of cards.

Whilst this is all going on, we've been trying to sort out our French taxes. We were sent the tax forms (2) at the beginning of the month, and we have to send them back by the end of May. We compiled a list of all of our wordly wealth and then went down to the Tax office in Gourdon. A very nice lady went through the form with us, showing where we had to fill in what, and gave us yet another form. We spent the rest of the evening filling the forms in (in pencil!), and back we went this afternoon. Bearing in mind that there is only just over a week before the forms have to be in, we were part of a throng of people at the Tax office, all trying to sort out problems. However, we didn't have to wait long before we saw a young chap (Sue says about 35). After we'd explained our circumstances and showed him what we'd done on the forms, he went off to check some details. 5 minutes later he was back and said that, as it was complicated we could have an appointment on 6th June to sort it out. He wasn't worried about the fact that this would be after the deadline; their approach is obviously to get the simple queries out of the way first, and then start to look at the difficult ones (like ours) later.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wildflowers Part 2

I spent today painting the concrete floor of the boiler room. I want to get it done before any oil arrives to get spilt and soaked in to it. I then continued to build the wardrobes in the downstairs bedroom. So, by knocking off time, I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other! Just then Sue said that I had to go for a walk in the garden. So, suitably fortified with a glass of red wine in one hand, and with camera in the other, I set off with my guide.

Everything in the vegetable garden is finally doing well. This unsettled weather has certainly held things back compared to last year. However that wasn't the reason for the garden walk. We went on to the wildflower meadow, and all of a sudden it's blooming. Having seen the profusion of wild flowers in the fields last night, we realised that our own 'meadow' is also experiencing a sudden flush of flowers.

Sue was delighted to see lots of Pyramid Orchids; these were the ones that she spent hours transplanting last year, and which she feared had died. As well as the pyramids, we have wild Salvias, wild Scabias, as well as the common meadow flowers.

However, the 'piece de resistance' was the discovery of 2 Bee orchids. We feel priviledged to be looking after this little part of Nature.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wildflower Bonanza

We went for a stroll after our evening meal tonight and we quickly realised how prolific are this year's crop of wild flowers. Within 500 metres we saw large patches of Euphorbia, large groupings of Pyramid Orchids, Salvias, Scabias, Campanula and then all the ones which we don't recognise, like the photo below.

We know that there are a lot more flowers in bloom than there were last year, and we feel sure that it's because of the wet Spring which we've had (and which is still lingering with us!)

As the date for our re-entry into the house approaches, Sue has begun to clear up. Not that she can do too much as the builders haven't finished. Whilst she was dusting down the beams in the 1st floor bedrooms she found more than she bargained for.

She found two nests, side by side, which must have been occupied whilst we had no windows in.

It was a shame to see that there were eggs in the nests, but we're sure that the birds will have started again!

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Little Bit of this, that.....

We were totally amazed to look up at the outside of the pigonnier this morning and see Cyrille doing some jointing. Not for long however as Alexi the apprentice finished it off. We thought that he made a pretty good job of it. They are trying to get everything ready for the tiles to go on on Monday. However, as normal, it threw it down this afternoon and everything is again behind schedule. During the downpour JP started to " crepi" (French plaster) around the arch in the kitchen. We were very pleased as we were not sure if that was one of our jobs or one of Cyrilles - quite a lot gets lost in translation.

It's funny how just getting a coat of plaster onto the walls changes the perspective. JP has only put the base coat on; he still has to put the top coat on, and then it will want painting. That's another small problem to be resolved, finding the right colour!!

For the last two days Thierry (the plumber) has been beavering away in the boiler room. When I eventually went to see what had been happening I couldn't believe my eyes. I am sure he is fitting a system powerful enough to drive the Titanic. I hope I'm not expected to be stoker!! The pipes and brass nuts and bolts are enormous and two more pumps have been fitted to the wall. Jean Jacque's cousin called in to black his nose last night and ooh ahed about the boiler. Lets hope he's right.

I would just like to put the record straight, as John's postings of the last few days may have left you with the wrong impression. I am the first to admit that I am a perfectionist so we are merely working towards that goal. This morning's inspection of my and John's efforts at applying lining paper to the plasterboard just proved that we had not yet achieved the required standard. After lunch we independently came to the conclusion that we should try this expensive French system of applying a thin sheet of fibreglass material to the plasterboard. We are now on plan "X" and fast running out of ideas, so fingers crossed.

John has continued to build the wardrobes in the bedroom and I am very pleased with them. Yes you did read right - he couldn't believe it either. Do you detect that the last few days have been a little bumpy!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dodging the Storm Clouds

Actually, we were lucky with the weather today. Although it was forecast for rain all day, it had just stopped raining when we got up and we did not see any more rain at all. In fact it was hot!

So, our workmen were able to chip off the old mortar from the stone joints, ready to re-do the joints tomorrow (subject to weather).

As you can see, Patrick had the best job, driving (sitting in) the Manitou. If all goes well (and it stays dry), Cyrille will have the roof all done in a week.

The storm clouds were hovering around indoors. I was carrying on with the lining paper in the bathroom, when the superintendant arrived. My work was condemned for quality and, after a brief discussion, we had the expert on the job.

Sue actually didn't seem to be able to obtain a much better result than I had been getting, however, the proof of the pudding will be when we paint the walls. We're not sure that the lining paper is going to cover the jointing of the plasterboards well enough.

So, whilst Sue was carrying on with the papering, I began to build the wardrobe in the bedroom.

We need the wardrobe done so that we can move our clothes out of John and Lesley's house.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Slow Progress

May in France is a month full of public holidays. Virtually every week, there's a day's holiday. This last weekend, the Thursday was a holiday, and the Monday was a holiday. We made the mistake of going shopping on the Friday and the shops were full of people who'd taken an extra day off ( un pont, or a bridge) to make a very long holiday weekend.

I've got the bathroom as far as I can without any tiles, so I've started to put lining paper on the walls and ceilings. This is all because Sue is neurotic about not seeing any marks, depressions or pinholes in the filling of the joints in the plasterboarding. Having put 4 pieces of lining paper on both wall and ceiling, Sue has applied some emulsion so that she can assess if my paper-hanging, and the joints between each length of paper, is good enough so that she won't be able to see any join in the finished effect! I think that the verdict is that, provided that I'm very carefull, the results of my paper-hanging will just about be OK.

We've had a couple of nice sunny days and the roof has advanced. We now have the majority of the roof ready for the tiles to be laid tomorrow (Thursday), but this evening it has started to rain again, and the forecast is for rain till about next Wednesday!!!!!!

Yesterday our 'stairs' man arrived to start fitting the first floor landing. He is a funny little man who always wears a fedora (or something like that) and who is always confusing me. Normally I can follow his french fairly well, but I still end up totally at a loss as to quite what he is going to do. I get the drift of what he'll do, but the details defeat me.

He spent all day yesterday fitting 3 beams into the walls either side of the stairs passage upon which the planks for the landing will sit. But, after he'd gone, and we did our tour of inspection, guess what? She was not happy. The landing was not how she'd imagined it from the architect's plans. Sue's problem is that she has no imaginative powers. Unless she can physically see something, then she can't visualise it.

So......this morning we ( Sue, plus me acting as translator where necessary) were ready when Monsieur Brugere arrived to explain our dilema/requirements/new plans. We explained that the landing was about twice as big as it needed to be, and we wanted to only have 2 beams giving a 'bridge' effect. He was very good about it all, and we think that he also thought that the landing was too big. So we now have two beams fitted and we can see how the landing will work, and our stairs man has fitted the 'redundant' third beam to act as a support for the first floor flooring.

We've got to be out of our friend's house by the end of the month, so the pressure is building. The plumber is due to be here tomorrow, so I'm hoping that he'll be able to lay on temporary supplies before we move!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bank Holiday Weekend

Last Thursday was a holiday celebrating the end of WWII and so I took the opportunity of no workmen to start work on the shower in the downstairs bedroom. I had to fill where the shower tray is going with cement to bring it up to a level with the 'chappe' that JP had laid. The Boss wants a 'walk-in' shower! So I mixed up some cement in a wheelbarrow and poured it into the recess for the shower tray, and it covered about half of the area! 5 more barrow loads and I'd got it about right.

Friday was spent shopping. I had to buy some special 'flexible' tile adhesive to fix the shower tray and we went with the trailer to start bringing home our tiles. The place where we've bought the tiles said that they would store our tiles on a pallet in their warehouse. However, when we rolled up yesterday, we found out that they'd sold them!!!!!!! The boss man obviously thought that he'd be able to get away with it because he's ordered more from the factory. BUT, unfortunately for him, but more importantly, for us, the factory won't make any more till the end of May. So, in the mean time, we're going to have to set up the bathroom and then take the sanitaryware out when we have the tiles. As you can imagine a certain lady was not happy.

Friday afternoon, I tried positioning the shower tray, and, as you'd expect, the back of it where I'd marked the height on the wall was fine, but at the front I was too high. This seemed to be a major problem, but, with some friendly advice from JP and Patrick, I was able to reduce the height of my cement, thanks to it being fresh and so not set, and thanks for the loan of a special tool from Patrick. So I was able to avoid a thunderbolt from her on high!

Today, Saturday, I got stuck in to the bathroom. I've fixed down the tray, erected the metal work for the shower cubicle walls and fitted the top for the vanity basin.

The plan is to fit plasterboard to everything tomorrow. It's just a shame that I won't be able to then crash on with the tiling!! However, 'tant pis', (never mind), as they say. I know that I'll be able to find something else to do.

I should just mention that, as it is warm at last, I put some summer work clothes on, but Sue was not impressed. I can't see why?!!!

Sue spent her day in the vegetable garden. Because there is so much moisture in the ground, and it is warm, everything is growing like mad, especially the weeds. So Sue weeded all 39 beds, mowed the veg patch and generally played in her garden. Aren't we a sad old couple!

But then this view makes it all worth while.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Let there be Light

The day started very cloudy, damp and threatening to rain. So, we only had JP and Patrick. JP finished off the 'chappe' and then was creating 'steps' under the patio doors in the kitchen/dining room. Patrick finished fitting the Velux windows in our bedroom.

We are very pleased with the appearance of the house. The velux windows look good in the new roof.

We're also pleased with the amount of light we're now getting in the bedroom.

During the course of the afternoon the weather began to improve so Sue was out in the garden again. I caught sight of her digging up a group of cowslips which she'd seen in the back lawn. I've been mowing round them for about the last month.

Having filled her barrow, she transplanted them into the Silver Birch bed.

Whilst we were at the Silver Birch copse, I looked back over the vegetable garden and on to St. Germain du Bel Air where the sun was shining through the clouds. Everywhere is very green now; lush with all the moisture in the ground and the warming temperatures.