Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France


Start the week here

Day 21, Sunday 21st March 2004

Well, its Sunday. As I'm not writing a sequel to A Year in Provence and I'm only interested in building a renting a house in France, I won't bore you with the details. However, no work today. So much for the psychology of needing to see progress each day!

On to week 4

Day 20, Saturday 20th March 2004

As its Saturday, a later start. The aches miraculously seemed to have vanished overnight. I really fancy shovelling another metric ton of sand, but instead, go out early and buy what are probably the best croissants in the world.

rent this beautiful traditional houseThe supermarkets don't normally have a fast checkout, and Yvonne doesn't like waiting in a long queue to get a loaf of bread and two litres of milk. But she thinks she has it cracked. Arrive at 2:30 just as the supermarket reopens after lunch and there is no one there. She duly arrives at 2:29 to find that on Saturday, the store doesn't close at lunch time. So at 2:30, everyone who has been doing their weekly shop is standing at the checkout in front of her.

Proud mum hatches another tree


It drizzling so only inside work today, apart from planting the final tree, with only one hundred-weight of rocks removed for this one. We spend much of the afternoon removing loose mortar and re-pointing the stone walls that are going to be left exposed. We hope a great feature for the rent market. In the light of a grey day, we are pleased with our own handiwork. The next sunny day (or the arrival of electricity) will tell the final tale.

And in the evening, what we would call a few jars at the (not so local) local.

And tomorrow, schools out for Sunday (apologies Alice Cooper)

Day 19, Friday March 19th 2004

Today we meet the architect for the barn. Lots of hums and "problems". Maybe architects are  just like that. During his sales pitch, I can see him building up the budget and our rents going up. However, not quite positive enough for my taste but we'll see some examples of his work before deciding.

Courtesy of France Telecom and a friend with good French, we have a French telephone number. No phone yet, but Wednesday will be the big day. A phone line, but no electricity, water or drainage. Oh well, at least we've got the key to the post-box.  And we're now told the water will arrive but not for another four or five weeks.

Its turned cold (relatively, as its snowing in England) and it's overcast. So to warm up, after 580kgs of sand yesterday, today we get 820kgs of sand; shovelled in and then shovelled out again. And in the afternoon, with the help of Richard, exactly one metric ton in addition to the mornings load. Also shovelled in and shovelled out. Cold; what cold?

And now the floor in the lounge-to-be, is just waiting for the damp proofing, and then at last the concrete. And then there's the insulation, heating and tiles. After that, we start the floor of the kitchen, which is the same size.

Some local excitement when the farmer has his new combine harvester delivered in a "convoi exceptionnell" with warning vehicle leading the way. This really is the ultimate big boys toy. And he's planting sunflowers, so the field of stones will soon become the field of gold.

One more tree planted, but this one was in the spot where the rocks are born. For every shovel of soil dug out, there were three or four large rocks to be removed. We've called this tree Richard as he helped to dig the hole and he at least now understands why we do only one a day. Also, one well bucketful of water per tree per day adds to the workout. Light work really compared to shovelling sand.

I've decided the aches do not actually get less. What happens is ones pain threshold goes up instead. Because when I now sit down, I can't get back up.

But it will be alright tomorrow

Day 18, Thursday March 18th 2004

I decided that being nice was not getting the septic tank installed and I am getting a bit fed up of the occasional 6km dash when caught short. So I sent the Boss to see the septic tank man. "Definitely Monday", and I hope for his sake it is, as he won't like her when she's angry.

More of "The Spook Effect" comes along to interfere with renting a house in France. On the way back from seeing the man, Yvonne passes a sign to "les Combes" and then one for "la Tannery". Our friends will know that we had lived in Combs in England for 16 years and our business worked for some years from The Tannery, on Tannery Road.




Chain gang - remove the rocks, level the ground, put the rocks back!

Then, after lunch, off to collect the sand. Once you know how things are done, its easy! We arrive to buy the sand. No problem but its not in bags, so back to town to buy some plastic sheet for the floor of the van. Then, we arrive to buy the sand, again. However we have to load it ourselves and I did not bring a shovel. So they lend us shovels. Tomorrow we'll be organised; promise.

Now, we weigh the van, shovel sand into the back covered with plastic sheeting, weigh ourselves again, 580kgs heavier (those croissants are really taking their toll), and then go back across the road to pay. And now we've shovelled all that sand into the van, once at the house, we have to shovel it all out again. Well, at least we can see progress with one quarter of the lounge floor ready for the next stage! Only another three loads of 580kgs to shovel. And then we're on to the kitchen!

As of today if you'd like to rent the house now, the lovely yellow shutters each now have two hinges, which means the rain can only get through the roof, or the upstairs windows; or of course, through the gaps around the shutters.

But the aches are less and the tan is improving

Day 17, Wednesday March 17th 2004

A nice easy day today. In the morning, Yvonne goes to see an apartment for accommodating the many friends who have offered to help with the grunt work (didn't I tell you the skilled work comes later?). While I use the opportunity to access the web on a borrowed telephone line, using my free (apart from the telephone call) French Internet access. Then we go to find out about sand, for the floors, and then back for lunch. A really hard morning.

If you read "The Spook Effect" you'll know that last year Yvonne looked after chickens and ducks. Well one of the ducks has just hatched 10 ducklings. Perhaps she's found a new career.

About to plant our fourth tree when the farmer arrives for the beer I promised. Well, we had both been working in the sun! He tells us the mayor is very strict on tree height unless they are more than two meters from the road boundary. So a rethink, means we end up not planting a tree today.

We continue collecting rocks from the field which breeds them, for hardcore. Well, with the sun shining, like this, we'll have to start earlier and take a longer midday break. The boss likes the latter bit but not the start earlier part.

Générale des Eaux, the water company arrived today, at 1:00, while everyone else was at lunch, sprayed some fluorescent marks on the road and left. Well, I suppose we have to get used to progress at local pace. Perhaps the septic tank man will arrive tomorrow.

It's St Patrick's day today and an Irish friend suggests a quick snifter in the evening, which means we knock of early.

If St Patrick has his way, a later start tomorrow

Day 16, Tuesday March 16th 2004

Again, we wake up to mist over the river, and a clear blue sky. We find the sawmill, load up the wood we need and get back to the site. As its now 10:30, its time for tea, on our new canvas chairs in the sun. The local farmer passes on his tractor and is probably thinking something like, "Those English really know how to take it easy. Every time I see them they're having a drink and sitting down."

We plant another tree. Funny how the holes gets shallower every day.

Having cleared the living room floor of all rubble and levelled it, we now get all the rubble back again, as hardcore. Its time for another tea in the sun and the farmer is "levelling" his ploughed field. With a promise of beer at lunchtime tomorrow, he does ours as well. Not that levelling will do much good in a field of rocks.

"Big boys like Tonka toys"

With an investment in some nylon rope and a heavy plastic bucket, we retrieve our first water from one of the wells. It seems a lot easier than bringing a carrier bag full of plastic bottles to water the trees.




I get sent to collect the water for tea

The well creaks and the handle leaves a little to be desired, but the water is clear, and about seven meters down (that's nearly 23 feet to you).

We leave at 6:45 in the evening and I drive with the window open, again in a T-shirt. Oh how we miss England.

And the aches are still there

Day 15, Monday March 15th 2004

It's Monday and back to work. At 7:30, the mist hangs over the river Dronne, while the sky is blue and bright. First to the market, to buy some chairs from the French equivalent of Argos. Except this one is a large articulated lorry that parks at the market for one day and then moves on. But they are well organised and we got some more folding chairs to use for the regular tea breaks on the building site. They will also come in handy once the rental business gets underway.

We also collect our French MasterCard's. All I need now is a beret; and perhaps a slightly improved vocabulary and then ....

We need wood to prepare the floors for concrete, so we go looking for the local sawmill, without success. I get frustrated as we seem to have lost another half day.

In the afternoon, we completely level the floor in what will be the lounge, and have piled all the rubble and rocks in the fireplace. Of course tomorrow, when we get the wood, we'll be putting all the rocks back again. A bit like working on the chain gang, except the taskmaster is a little more fierce.


Now we've cleared the rocks, we can put them all back again

The second tree gets planted, and it was no easier than the first. One a day is definitely the maximum planting pace. The fact that I'm in the picture has nothing to do with time lapse photography. Yvonne has learned how to use the digital camera and life will never be as simple again. 



An oasis in the field of rocks

A phone call from a friend tells us they had some snow in England, while I am still wearing just a T-shirt at six in the evening. Mind you, walking round the market in a T-shirt makes you stand out, when all the locals still have their hats and coats on.

And despite the aches, the weather news serves only to convince me further, that this was the right move.

Tomorrow is Tuesday