Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 9

Start the week here

Day 63, Sunday 2nd May

As we now have a home telephone, AND electricity, I can use my computer at "home".



The webmasters office!





The scenic view from the webmasters office

While the Boss deals with household chores, Steve tries to catch trout with loaned equipment, I connect to the global village from my networked, neatly cabled "office".

With the progress we make each time someone visits we'll soon have a gite let and I think I will put up a web diary so you can all book your working holidays in the sun. In the afternoon we go for a bike ride in brilliant sunshine. The Boss manages to land on her back in a ditch, fortunately filled with grass, not water. Steve and I laugh so much we aren't able to help her out.

Then back to check on Steve's fishing rods, still in the river. Nothing. The Boss arrives picks up a rod and catches a fish.

I suppose that's why she's the Boss

Day 62, Saturday 1st May

Croissant day; comes round quickly don't you think? A later start and lots more boards to remove to make way for the bathroom. I'm getting excited as the progress (some might describe it otherwise) is visible. The underside of the boards that we remove, have aged well and have a beautiful texture. If only we had got there before the woodworm.




The top of the boards are grey, but underneath, aged and coloured

Although there are still clouds about, the sun comes out and we take a tea break in the sun. After lunch, the whole of the "bathroom" floor has been removed, the joists are intact, but one needs supporting at a wall, and they are fairly level. All we need now is the wood. While I plane the better boards square, the Boss gets tired of "crepe"; plastering to you. Some (those less charitable than I) say she spends her whole day talking ... I'd better not go there.




 Artiste at work

The Boss gets Steve to plant another tree as he wants to finish the day in the sun. Then, its out for dinner, again!

Can't let or rent the gite just yet

Day 61, Friday 30th April

Friday starts on site with a consultation about the best approach to wiring bearing in mind what we want, the French regulations and the house layout. We decide that it will be best to start the wiring after a conference with Sparkie with a translator present as we have to meet the letter of the EDF requirements before we can get turned on permanently.

So we begin by lifting the upper floors floorboards, where the bathrooms will be. Of course, we switch on the lights before we start! We switch them off and on again a few times just to be sure they're real.

Oak floorboards that have been in place for over a hundred years, and are tongue and grooved, don't lift easily, despite the help of many woodworm. Unlike the ground floor where brute force ruled the day, we want to reuse the good ones. Most break as we lever them up, but we do get some intact and we keep almost all, except the worst woodworm or dry rot affected ones.




Those woodworm really have got to stop eating

After lunch, we go to buy chipboard for the bathroom floors as tomorrow is a holiday (Electricity remembrance day). Brico's has only small pieces, so we travel a little further to find they too don't have enough. We find a supplier with enough in stock, but its 2 minutes after 5:00 and the warehouse handlers have knocked off. So no floor until Monday morning.

As its just after 5:00, we stop for a coffee and cake, and the Boss declines the cake. What willpower. We unload the van at site with cable, conduit and assorted wood bits, and then home.

In the evening, we go to a pub with live music. The band are all Brits, and as old as the numbers they play from the 60's and 70's, but still good fun.

Tomorrow let gite, we might as well lift a few more floorboards

Day 60, Thursday 29th April

As we have a visitor, we have to start the day with croissants. Then, a friend is clearing a house that's sold and we can buy a good bed in the right style for an old house, but we have to collect it. So off to a huge manor house, dismantle and load the bed, and then also collect some floodlights, and extension cables which would be handy if we had electricity. Part of the deal is we also have to load a few other things onto the van.

By the time we reach site, Sparkie is smiling with his silver teeth glistening in the sun. We have electricity. I try the floodlights and hey presto. The President has declared Saturday a national holiday to mark the occasion!

As we had no estimate from Sparkie, I ask him for the bill. He says he needs to do an invoice which I assume is building up the price and when I see the size of his invoice book, we joke about large invoice, small price; at least I joke about it. However, when we see the bill, we are pleasantly surprised and pay him there and then. And up yours EDF.

By this time Steve has had the grand tour and its time for lunch. He says he can't stand the pace. Mr Earring calls again, but I haven't got the info he needs. And its off to Bricomarche. I'm just amazed that they don't greet me by my first name, but my Brico's loyalty card should be overflowing.

By the time we've bought some more French plugs for my drill, plane, saw and assorted other things, its time for a coffee. The weather isn't great but its good enough to sit outside.

Steve says any more of this hard work and he's going home

Day 59, Wednesday 28th April

Steve arrives from the UK today, to help us with building. Can't understand why anyone would want to spend their retirement digging up stones, but we are looking forward to seeing him and the help.

The architect arrives at the site to see when we're going to help him build his pension fund. No he doesn't want a gite let. We discuss ways of breaking the barn design and planning permissions into stages to lessen the demand on our cash early on. We also talk about drainage and where to get certain types of sand. As the stone walls are lime based rocks and clay, they move more than modern buildings. This means plaster and concrete must have lime or other plasticisers to stop them being too rigid. I can tell you finding the French for plasticiser in a dictionary, is just not possible.

Mr Earring calls and needs some more information to assist with the electricity connection. On the other things we discussed, I make it clear that he is not yet to go ahead. Just get the quotes and he agrees. However Sparkie arrives early and starts work. I don't remember a quote or a commitment from me, but if he can do it, "just do it".





Sparkie, still smiling as we leave, believing electricity will be connected when we get back. Huh!

We take a late lunch and Sparkie has been working all morning. He says by the end of the day, we will have our power. Yeah, yeah.

In the afternoon, we drive to Bergerac, and there are still flipping roadwork's, on the main route. It's raining and getting darker as we get to the airport and hope Steve doesn't get on the next plane back again when he sees the weather. When he arrives, he says they nearly didn't get here at all as the pilot "Couldn't see the runway and the instrument landing system was turned off". Welcome to rural France.

We have to get him into the local working habits, so we start with a "kir" (white wine and black currant liqueur) and a coffee.

Tomorrow we can do some real work

Day 58, Tuesday 27th April

We've got a friend arriving tomorrow so the Boss is doing extra shopping, cooking and other house chores. See; no chocolate biscuits or three courses for me, but for Steve ...

I start on site just after 9:00 with a jumper on. Having unloaded about half the tiles into the barn, I'm down to a T-shirt. By the time I've finished unloading the tiles, I'm sweating, and there's still the water tank in the van.

As I'm going to visit the "Marie", which is the mayors office and the local commune centre, I have to change my shirt so as not to put them off while asking for help. I need help with some of the details to go on the Declaration de Travaux.

In my best French, which although better  than it was, is still poor, I manage to get the help I need. It's easy really. Pretend you're a helpless man (the Boss said I should be good at that) and some, at least of the women want to help. It takes a little while, but the declaration gets registered in the official book and posted in an official envelope. Now we just wait our 6 or 8 weeks before we can change the external appearance.

Then its digging time, as if I haven't sweated enough already today. I need to dig up the water connection from the main, so we can have some running water into the house. Although its been dug over and filled recently, its still not easy. Once that's done, switch off the water main and remove the temporary tap.

I already have the plumbing attachments, but of course, silly me. I should have known that Generale des Eaux do not use the same thread as everyone else, even though the pipe size is identical. So if we want water in the house and a tap, its another trip to Bricomarche. Fortunately the farmer has come to collect one of his vehicles from our barn and sees what I am doing. He says he will get me the bits, and also points out some extra things I must do to avoid the tap bursting in the winter.

If only I were a builder ....

Day 57, Monday 26th April

To the market early today and see other gites to let, and I must get a cap, to stop sunburn on the thinning regions of my head, much to my disgust. The day starts cool, but cloudless and by 11:00 the jumpers are off. Then, more bricklaying. A meeting with the electrician and he seems positive and almost as dismissive of EDF as I am. A short guy with  an Andy Cap style hat which never comes off and several silver teeth that shine in the sun, hence "Sparkie" fits perfectly.

An early lunch in the sun, some soaking up of rays at the site, and we are off to Angouleme. That's where Castorama, B&Q's French operation have their nearest superstore.

If I had air conditioning in my van, I'd be using it today. We buy a hot water tank, and what I hope is all the associated plumbing. Things you don't normally see in the UK, like pressure regulators as the whole system works directly off the mains water supply. We are also going to use a water filter for the hot and cold except the kitchen cold tap.

But as I'm using plastic pipes, I'll definitely need another visit. Figuring out what connections you need for what, is not easy unless of course you're a plumber. We also buy extractor fans for the bathrooms. We need these now as we are building up the walls, so we can allow for the vent tubes through the wall.

Then on to another large DIY store. We collect the floor tiles we ordered weeks ago and pick up two bidet's. Despite the name, they are not as common here as you might think. On leaving the store, we get approached by a man who starts in broken French and then realises we are English speakers. He says, "Thank god for that. Where do I find the large trolleys"?

Although it was hot during the day, the temperature drops quickly once the sun goes down and the Boss insists we need a fire. Before we leave, we take a picture of the view, which changes almost every day as things are getting rapidly greener.

But soon, rent or let a gite and summer is definitely on the way