Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 5

Start the week here

Day 35, Sunday 4th April

Lie in late, then the weeks chores. You know, cleaning, dusting, put the washing away. Loads of letters to write, which can't be avoided. People like the Inland Revenue, pension fund managers, and all the final UK bills. We were going to go out for lunch on a Sunday, but having a late breakfast means that 1:00 is too early for lunch and if you're any later, they've stopped serving. So its left-overs for lunch.

Studying the earth and three-phase requirements in French is a real test for the brain, which I think has taken a day off as well. But I finally manage it.

The day is not cold, but damp and grey. A quick walk in the afternoon and the day is almost over. Finally we work on our budget. The Boss has a heart attack when we add up what we've spent already. But then, I convince us both, that many of the big bills come at the start.

So next week, no treats

Day 34, Saturday 3rd April

As is the tradition now, Saturday is croissant day, for some a holiday in south west France. Heavy rain overnight has washed some stones into the lovely neat sand bottomed trench, ready for water electricity and telephones. I hope that does not add to the bill.

The septic tank is still in the ground. The water table is not yet high enough to lift it out, but the forecast is worrying. However there are about six inches; sorry 15 centimetres of water in the tank. How it got there, we don't know.

A mysterious trailer with some pipes and road signs has arrived on site. And there is a mini digger parked there as well. Now if I could find the keys, it would make gardening a lot more fun. Could this be the water men preparing for Monday?

My hole under the wall is too wet for me to try and finish, so I get collared into gardening again. One could easily make the mistake of thinking with all that rain, digging will be easy. Well, from the voice of experience, the rocks don't shrink or get any softer after the rain.

By the end of the day, its almost 7:00, but the Boss has got her first flower bed. Not quite where we wanted it, but not likely to be run over by JCB's or cement trucks. It means the plants we brought with us, can now have a proper home. And we have added another pile to the rockery!



"What a lousy picture. You can't even see my flower bed and who'd want to holiday in south west France seeing that".

"I know Boss, but I'll take a better one tomorrow".

I should be weary and aching. I think the endorphins (or delayed croissant effect) must have got to me as I feel great. Maybe its because tomorrow is rest day. The Boss says a steamroller has run over her. It must have been when my back was turned.

Tomorrow, time to study electrical regulations in French

Day 33, Friday 2nd April

Grey day today, so its gardening. A bit too damp to finish my work as a mole going under the wall. I always thought gardening was for old people. Well one can change ones mind, can't one?

By midday the rain sets in so its home for lunch and a quick siesta. Then off to buy a cement mixer and change my cable order. Changing the order is not too challenging. The cement mixers are, as the word is not in our dictionary. When we find them, they are for the pros, large, expensive and with all the gadgets.

Just before setting off for home, I see a trade electrical supplier. Guess what? They have the right cable in stock, in aluminium (which gives more scope for additional power in the future) and, its about €100 cheaper than the stuff I've got on order. I also realise that the stuff I had on order was not the right stuff.

On the way home, after the customary coffee, we leave a note under the door of Mr Septic's office in South West France asking if his men can finish on Monday as we have the cable. Let's see if they can get through stone walls any faster than me.

Electric day is getting nearer

Day 32, Thursday 1st April

Early start for the Boss and that's the only joke for April fools day, no holiday here. Meeting the architect at 9:00, so we can see a sample of his work. He's working part-time converting his own barn and we go to see this. Still not sure about him, but we have a formal quote coming.

Home for an early lunch and then back to real work. I am digging a hole under the wall for the sewage waste pipe. I can't believe that so many stones would come out of such a small ditch. As the walls are 2 feet thick and stone all the way through, it's a little slow going.



I'm telling you; all those stones came form that little ditch and hole in the wall

The Boss continues pointing the stone walls upstairs that we are leaving exposed. Then she gets on to gardening with a little help from her friends.

EDF arrive! I know; you thought they'd been. So did I. Actually the ones that came, put the box in, and the pipe under the road, and these guys actually connect the supply from the overhead lines to the box. I use the opportunity to question them about cable to the house. He confirms I've got the correct specification, but not enough wires! Oh well, tomorrow I practise French again, trying to change my order for cable.

However, he does explain the procedure for the inspection before I actually get connected, which helps. I now know from a knowledgeable source, what is necessary, by whom and in what order. I also understand what they look for before you get the certificate of conformity; i.e. switch on.

And then its home time. But lying in a ditch, hammering at stones under a wall, have left me stiff and sore.

Of course if you're not suffering, it can't be doing you any good!

Day 30 and 31,  Tuesday and Wednesday 30th to 31st March

As I'm behind with writing the diary, and I can't remember anything too significant happening, so I've decided to combine two of the last three days.

Tuesday, had to take visitors to the airport at Bordeaux. Left at what seemed like the middle of the night at 7:00am. As the clocks went forward here as well last weekend, its almost still dark. Bordeaux at rush hour was the first real traffic we've seen in over four weeks. I'd almost forgotten the fun of parking on the M25. Of course had to have a coffee and croissant at the airport and then I get bullied into visiting the Bordeaux IKEA.

And guess what. Its almost like IKEA in England. The only compensation is the lunch. Have you noticed how I talk more about food than about building. By the time we've had lunch, drive back, and have a siesta, it's cold. So we do a little work, and then we knock off early!

On Wednesday, we have to find the cable to connect us to the EDF box on the corner. Without this, we can continue to enjoy candle-lit dinners. Not in stock in the length I need anywhere. On order for next Wednesday. But we managed to buy the sinks. Now all we need is water!

And still no water in the fosse septique, which is no problem as long as its doesn't rain a lot. If it does, the rise in the level of the water table could, so I am told, lift the septic tank out of the ground. Trees or no trees, we are not doing a rain-dance.

We travel to the ready-mixed concrete supplier to get pricing, delivery times and do they just dump it, or pump it into the corners? The price shocks me a little and I get a bit down thinking about mixing and shovelling five cubic meters of concrete. And that is most of Wednesday gone, except we buy a French SIM card and the Boss now has her own French mobile number.

Once home, as the weather has improved, we go to the local for a swift half.

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun

Day 29, Monday 29th March 2004

We start the day as we mean to go on. Three layers of clothing, down to two within half an hour of starting work, and down to T-shirts by 11. Those rocks help get rid of the Monday morning blues, caused by watching the England France rugby on tape until well past midnight. And sand that's been keeping warm all weekend in the van is now on the "kitchen" floor. The so called "kitchen" and "lounge" will graduate to actual kitchen and lounge when the concrete is down. Now its time for sun-cream.

After something other than bread and pate for lunch, more sand to be collected, and delivered. And then back for one more load. As we are out again tonight, we have to leave early, so this load of sand stays in the van. However, we must water the trees, therefore a few struggles with the well and then home. But not before a complex discussion with the Mr Septic's men who are going to dig the trench for electricity, water and telephone line.

The discussion is about the depth needed. I would like 1 meter, they say for electricity it only needs to be 60cm. However EDF's requirements (as I understand them) are a minimum of 60cm, with 1 meter where the cables go below a road. This is too much for my French and we finally agree on something, but I'm not sure what. And if EDF say its not deep enough, they will have to come back and dig a little more.

My sister and her husband are out here on a flying visit so a quick tour of the house and barn takes place, conducted by the Boss. Meanwhile I apologise to the neighbour for the trench which will cut through his children's sandpit. It's actually on our land, but that's not the point. Once that's sorted, its out to eat; yes, again. This time it's a bit posh, so I have to polish my boots before we go. And tomorrow, its an early start to get the family to Bordeaux airport. Who knows, maybe we'll do a full days work soon.

Bon soiree