Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 7

Start the week here

Day 49, Sunday 18th April

Have we been here nearly 50 days? Our gte in Dordogne South-West France is not even started. Well the weather is damp, windy and grey, to make us feel really at home. And its none too warm. The only consolation, is that the UK is getting about the same.

So late start, and then plans to visit another brocante, as the Boss is now finding her feet. But its cancelled because of the weather. Instead, we get taken to a very large house which is unoccupied. On the side of a hill, woodland in front, leading down to the river. Games room, double kitchen, house spread over three floors and enclosed pool, with electric cover. How the other half live.

Perhaps if I worked Sunday's as well, the gte would be ready soon ....

Day 48, Saturday 17th April

Saturday, as I'm sure you are tired of hearing, begins with croissants. Then, more hole filling. It seems that the holes are never ending. As the day wears on, I get less and less conscientious about removing all the ivy remnants before filling a hole.

In the afternoon we visit the DIY store, to try and get some plastic pipe for interior plumbing. They don't do it, but I can get copper. I'll try somewhere else next week and the plumbing will have to wait.

The plumbing is different here. Water systems are all pressurised, with no storage tank. This has some benefits but I won't bore you with the details. The funny thing is many pipe fittings are measured in inches! What I really need is an English French dictionary of building terms. It would make life so much easier; once I'd read and digested it all.

In the evening, as its Saturday, we go for a pizza; but the week wouldn't be complete without a glass or two of red wine. Purely medicinal you understand. At the next table are four Britons talking loudly about there homes. Exactly as the recent article in a British paper described the owners of French holiday homes.

Hope we aren't getting to be home building bores.

Rent a gte in south west France, Dordogne in this weather?

Day 47, Friday 16th April

First, we need to look at our first floor. Not quite level, but the next one (what next one?) will be better. What a difference a day makes. The "kitchen" and "lounge" can now be promoted to kitchen and lounge. Perhaps in need of a little decorating, lighting and windows, but they actually look like rooms!

Having put more than 4 tons of sand onto the ground floor, and then added concrete, which I reckon at about the same weight again or more, I am worried about the walls moving. As we've cleared lots of ivy, which was binding much of clay, and cleared lots of soil around the outside of the lower walls I think its time for ensuring the 1830's foundations are still solid. Renovating a gte in Dordogne for rent, is not all fun.



Where did my trench go?

What this means is slow laborious filling of the larger holes in the wall with concrete, trying to leave none on the face of the stones which will ultimately be exposed after final pointing. The only break in the monotony, is filling a hole in the wall with a lizard inside it; only to see it appear minutes later from another hole elsewhere. This is probably the most fun the lizards have had this year.

The Boss does the holes between knee and head height. I do those below knee height and from about 5 feet to the roof line; and no, I haven't reverted to imperial measures. I'm making it easy for you. The farmer is spraying and the wind is blowing so we keep on taking cover inside, just in case. The sunflowers are just beginning to shoot, and we are almost as interested as he is.

He bring us an electricians card to help with our electrical problems and tells me if the roof can wait until September, he'll come and help as harvest will be over. I hope the b$*&%# roof is over by that time too!

And tomorrow, more of the same, but at least helped by croissants

Day 46, Thursday 15th April

Concrete or beton day; and we are on site by 9:30. Richard and a young French student who speaks good English are there to help. We pass the time by watching Mr Septic's men filling in the ditch they so carefully dug and cabled for us. By 10:30 we get bored sitting around so find odd jobs to do. By 11:00 we have a book on when the beton will arrive, or did we get the day or even the week wrong?

By 11:30 we get our French assistant to phone directory enquiries, get the number and phone the supplier. They are on the way and 15 minutes away. They do arrive (in less than 15 minutes), and we have some discussion about half the load in each room, through the windows, and do we want it dry or wet. A bit of manoeuvring later, we stand in the "lounge", so carefully prepared, waiting for 2.5 cubic meters of concrete to appear down a slide. Now we've got an hour to spread it around, level it, and get on with the next one.




Reverse over my trees and they'll never find the body under the concrete floor

It arrives in torrents, and is actually easy to move around with rakes and shovels. What we did not really plan for is standing in 100mm of wet concrete, while getting it spread across the floor. Within 30 minutes and a little sweat, the room is finished. Now the kitchen. I'm glad my boots are working ones and not my best trainers.



If this concrete sets before I get my top off, I'm in real trouble

Same procedure, except we are short of concrete and he has to go back for another load and we have to estimate the amount. Its my fault, for not allowing for the sinking of the sand, and over-use in the first room. He'll be back at 1:30. Again the book starts up, as 1:30 is still lunch time. At 2:15 he arrives and we complete the "kitchen".

While admiring our handiwork, a van selling frozen foods arrives next door but I'm the only one to spot it. I offer everyone an ice cream and they all think I've lost it; "Where are you going to buy ice creams in the middle of rural France?" However, I buy a box of ice creams and we sit in the sun, which is now quite warm. Concrete is easier than I was led to believe. If only electricity was this easy.

Tomorrow we walk on a solid floor

Day 45, Wednesday 14th April

To move all the ready-mixed concrete round; beton in French, we will need larger rakes, and an extra shovel. So, a shopping trip is necessary. We've used a shovel with a round end and a very thick and long handle, which I've never seen in England and they are great for moving sand and rubble. We buy one, get large rakes and get an extension to the hose, which makes watering the trees, even easier.

While working, the Boss goes into the barn to collect some equipment and I hear a scream. My guess is its rats, so I go running to see what's wrong while she is sprinting out of the barn faster than Linford Christie. It turns out to be a snake which she disturbed while collecting her gardening things, and it had the temerity to "Hiss at me". Not knowing the grass snakes from the vipers, I have to be the knight in shining armour and slay the dragon. That was after I managed to catch it. The farmer later tells us it's a harmless snake.

no snakes here






As you can see, I'm really enjoying this!

After all the excitement, it takes a while to get back to work, but we finish everything ready for beton day. The sun is shining but there are some black clouds around. I see a picture of 5 cubic meters of solid, dried concrete dumped at the side of the road because the driver refuses to go over the quagmire and cannot take the concrete back again. Please don't rain.

The Boss is so shaken by the snake, that we have to go to the local for several red wines and like fishing stories, it gets bigger every time its told.

Pasta for dinner to build up my carbo reserves for beton day. I know what you're thinking; he's got too many reserves as it is, but I'm having my pasta anyway.

And tomorrow is concrete day

Day 44, Tuesday 13th April

We've really got to make a decision on the downstairs floors. The decision is ready-mixed concrete, giving speed and ease, versus mix it yourself saving money. I have worked out the we need about 60 bags of cement at 35kgs per bag. I can't envisage having to lift these out of the van, and then lift them one at a time to pour into a cement mixer, then shovel in three times as much sand, then .... The ready-mixed option sounds better and better.

With the help of a friend who's French is better then mine, we visit the ready-mixed supplier again. They are the only local supplier, and although they have a modern office, we go into a site hut, where the "patron" works, controlling the computer generated fillings for each lorry.

We discuss how they will deliver, can they tip through windows, how long it stays workable and how much. It takes us a while to grasp the price calculation to decide if its one load or two. By the time we know what we need to know, the language barrier has done my head in, but I bet the supplier also has an almighty headache from explaining things four or five times to these mad English people. We order the concrete for Thursday 10:00 and I pray it doesn't rain as he may get his lorry in, but he'll not get it out.

Now all we need do is make sure the place is ready. We have to move the mounds of earth we removed from the floors, get the damp proof course down in the "kitchen", clear some garden waste, and move the scaffolding so the lorry can get in and tip the concrete directly into the middle of the floors. From what we've been told we'll need a cast of thousands to move five cubic meters of cement and level it before it starts to set.

This is the time we ask why did we dump the rubble we removed there? So having moved it once, we move it again.

Oh well, amateurs must learn the hard way

Day 43, Monday 12th April

Easter Monday; holiday for most. We spend most of the day with protective glasses on, up ladders removing the remnants of the ivy. Ivy embeds itself deeply into the clay used between the stones of the wall. It takes forever, removing the remnants and at the same time, much of clay holding the wall together comes with the ivy.

It's slow, laborious and your arms ache after standing with them raised for hours on end, but what the heck. Would I rather be with my arms raised to reach the steering wheel, trying to get to Manchester for a 10:00 meeting. I'm sure you know the answer. Anyway, the sun is shining and its getting warmer slowly.

By the end of the day, we've done most of it, but feel we need a break from this and leave the rest for another day. Driving home we see wild deer in the local woods. Despite the penchant for hunting here, I'm told they know when the season is over. "You won't see them during open season".

Maybe tomorrow will bring more pleasant surprises