Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 6

Start the week here

Day 42, Sunday 11th April

Not much happens on Sunday, however the annual brocante which is an upmarket car boot sale takes place in the local village. And, as you know, the Boss "hasn't seen a real shop for weeks" so we have to buy something.

There are a lot of bits of ancient metal work on sale. Things like old door hinges and some really old carpenters tools. It's the sort of stuff I've been throwing away for the past four weeks! I buy some new tools I need at ridiculously low prices and haggle for the Boss's shelves. There is also a collection of vintage cars. Not Bentley's and Bristol's, but Simca's and Peugeot's.

Then in the afternoon, back to Bergerac airport via the roads works and diversion. On the way there, we go through a village named after the guys in North Stand, who ate all the pies.

the lardie village

I must remember, that when in a place like an airport surrounded by English speakers, not to talk about other people too loudly. Whoops.

Week 7 is here and it seems we haven't done anything yet!

Day 41, Saturday 10th April

Saturday, as I'm sure you know by now is croissant day. The weather is still devoid of sun, but warmer and the wind has dropped. With four people working, I need to make several trips to the DIY shops, to get assorted things, including a long hosepipe. As we have running water, no sense in continuing to struggle with the well.

I need to connect the water main to the pipe running to the house. I looked at the connection, but am not sure what to buy. My French is making very slow progress, but everyday I understand more, where I know the context of the conversation. By asking the expert using pigeon French, I get the right stuff, because I can understand the questions he puts to me and the answers I get. Even Kirstie with her O level French is impressed.

Now we have water and a long hose, we put some more water into the septic tank. By the end of the day, we have made a significant contribution to progress and we end the day with a photo session. Finally Kirstie waters the trees with a hosepipe, which is novel; if a little less taxing physically, while I manage the tap at the other end.

painted shutters



Well, painted shutters; something must be happening

We eat out; again. A good meal, wine and entertainment ends up as €15 a head, or about £10 each.

If we ever finish our holiday house in Dordogne, we'll be back there

Day 40 Friday 9th April

Well its market day in Riberac. The Boss uses any excuse to go shopping and says Clyde and Kirstie should see a French market. So we go. Not the best market we've been to but the coffee and pain au chocolate always make up for things. It seems to be aimed at the tourists as its Easter. An English book and second hand video stall, and lots of "crafts"; the sort you get beach sellers anywhere in the Mediterranean region selling.

In the afternoon, back to work. I speak to the neighbouring farmer to see if I can resolve the problem he has with Mr Septic's men. Basically, the track owned by the commune is 2 meters wide, adjoining our land, and the rest is his. And Mr Septic's JCB has been driving on his gravel road and reducing rocks to dust. I offer to speak to them as they were working for me, but he is now a bit more philosophical about it and says its not necessary.

On explaining my EDF story, he takes me to see a local house being renovated and worked on for two years, with electricity all the time. Unfortunately its locked and I can't see the type of fuse box. He says If I run a cable across the road, I can connect to his house. In every cloud, there seems to be a silver lining.

The Boss visits the Marie (the Mayor's office to you) to get our "Declaration de Travaux" which is essentially a statement of works on the house. Unlike planning permission which we'll need on the barn, this we submit and if they don't object within six or eight weeks, we can just go ahead and do it. The only thing we need this for, is Velux windows and increases in window and door openings as these all effect the external appearance.

The Mayor remembers her and she gets a guided tour of the new office which he moves into next week. However, she gets back with the paperwork for a "Permis de Construire", the full blown planning application. The Mayor was either thinking of the barn or has taken a shine to her and was not thinking too clearly.

But I'm sure a Mayor with a twinkle in his eye will be handy one day

Day 39, Thursday 8th April

A yardie box (disjoncteur de branchement chantier if you insist on being pedantic), is not supplied by the DIY type shops, So, I call trade suppliers, using my now ever growing catalogue of DIY and building supplies vendors catalogues. No one has one in stock, and they all quote around a weeks delivery. Is this a conspiracy or am I becoming paranoid?

Oh well, a tour of the building works is due and so if EDF want more of my money, they'll just have to wait for a few days. In the meantime, Mr Septic's men have run the green pipe across the road, of course, digging it up a third time. C'est la vie.

With three people working I spend my time supervising. It's great having visitors here. They do all the work and I strut around like the foreman, until I'm reminded of the joke about the foreman and the trowel, at which point I go back to work.

Clyde and the Boss make a lot of progress on pointing the interior walls we will leave exposed. However, Clyde loses patience with the fiddly bits and gets on with the heavier plastering. And the shutters, once painted a delicate yellow and now just faded, rotten wood colour, get a coat of paint, after Kirstie gets fed up collecting rocks and carrying them upstairs. The reasoning is that with all the work (except of course the earthworks) being inside, the neighbours might think we just come to sit in the sun and drink tea. At least if we paint the shutters, they'll see some progress.

As we have visitors, we eat out. As we are learning, with many restaurants, the food is good, and three (or if you're hungry, four or five) courses, can cost less than an average English pub meal. However Easter has its effect. Every customer is speaking in English.

And tomorrow perhaps we'll see the sun

Day 38, Wednesday 7th April

The day starts with a visit to the local EDF office, only to find it's derelict. So using my UK mobile, I call from France to England and back to France to someone who has a telephone book. And then I call the local EDF office via the UK again. After struggling with my French I give up and drive the 35 miles to their office.

And now the fun begins. With the help of an English speaking employee of EDF, I understand that we have the permanent connection. They will only switch it on, after I send a request for a certificate of conformity, get the conformity inspection and the inspectors write back to EDF confirming we have met the regulations. This takes some weeks and anyway, with no cables in the house, there is not much for them to inspect.

What I really need is a temporary connection, costing only €179. Now we're getting somewhere. Except for the temporary connection, you must supply a special fuse-box; a disjoncteur de chantier (fuse-box for a yard to you, hereafter known as a yardie box). No problem. I agree I will be back in two days, just to show them that I have the correct fuse-box, as I'm not a French registered electrician. Then, I can order my temporary connection and wait only another week. I didn't think that "A grand for diddly squat" would translate very well.

To sum up, no electricity this week. By now, it's 11:30 and I try not to vent my frustration by driving like Michael Schumacher, in a white van.

In the afternoon, we drive to Bergerac to collect Clyde and Kirstie coming to see what Clyde's crazy parents are doing in the middle of a field in South-West France and decide if its time for the men in white coats. After a 15km detour because of a little bit of road works, I think if the men in white coats do come, I'll hold my hands out ready for the straight jacket.

Maybe tomorrow will bring a pleasant surprise

Day 37, Tuesday 6th April

The Boss is shopping for extra supplies (not building supplies, real stuff like chocolate and Easter eggs) so I go into town with her, for my regular visit to Bricomarche. After an exciting tour of the DIY shop, of course its time for coffee and; no, "you've had enough of those". And that's the morning gone.

Mr Septic calls to inspect and tells us that France Telecom won't connect across the road, so he'll have to run his green pipe across there. That's not what France Telecom told me, although with my French, perhaps it is what they said but not what I understood. We discuss the price but don't agree anything.

In the afternoon, apart from a call to France Telecom to tell them my pipe under the ground is installed, I do an assortment of odd jobs. Now, if only we had electricity.

Tomorrow, I can call EDF for the big switch on

Day 36, Monday 5th April

mains water at last
Well its Monday and its grey. I arrive on site to find an army of men digging, filling and running pipes. It turns out Mr Septic is president of the regional water committee and he had a word about our water connection. The mini digger was theirs and they have dug up the road again (see, it's just like the UK), laid their pipe and filled it in.

Well they were done and gone by 11:00 and we have a tap in the corner of the "garden" and somewhere to connect to. The road is now looking like a quarry pit, but what the hell?

The guys running the tubes for cables, have a pneumatic drill and portable generator. They get through the wall in about ten minutes. I convince them to let me use it on my hole through the wall. It turns out I was only one stone away from completing the escape route, but pneumatics made it in 60 seconds. I think by hand, I might still be talking about it tomorrow.

holes in the wall



That hole in the wall may not look like 4 hours work to you!

road digging
When the Boss arrives, I walk her to the corner with her eyes closed and turn the tap on with her hand underneath. After she's finished cheering, she says "And have we got electricity as well". Some people just don't know when to be grateful for small mercies. However the colourful cables squirming their way along the famous trench do look really pretty!

all cables underground

The farmer and the next door neighbour kick some stones about where the road was dug up, and are deep in conversation. I go over to make sure there is no problem. They assure me the problem is with the workmen, not us, so I go away happy. But on reflection, I had better find out what the problem is and try and put it right.

After lunch we go looking for a particular type of sand for external plastering. By the time we get back to site, it's just us and the site is all peace and harmony. However surveying the area, I just can't to see why the neighbours could be upset.



With such a beautiful garden, why could the neighbours possibly be upset?

Tomorrow I will find out