Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 10

Start the week here

Day 70, Sunday 9th May

What do you do on Sunday? Lie in, eat breakfast in bed, read the papers? Well I sat in a cold, windswept house, without heating, updating web pages, and checking emails. It didn't rain last night, and by 3:30 its still dry, but whatever happened to global warming?

Still, its a rest day and we rested. We had a short bike ride in the evening, and it had warmed up enough to wear only T-shirts. And then we watched whatever it was on BBC1 as that's the only English channel we have.

Tomorrow, metal stud work, amateur style

Day 69, Saturday 8th May

Croissant day has come round again, but to help with the weight watching, only one each. The hardships we endure. The van won't start as the battery is flat, its too heavy to push start (because of all those croissants) and I don't have jumper leads.

Well, I can feel another shopping trip coming. We buy jumper leads and metal stud work, which we get through the sun roof of the car. By the time we've had a coffee, its almost lunch time, so early lunch and then off to site.

The pools of water are not getting any smaller, but at least we don't have to water the trees. In the cold, I feel like resting indoors. When the sun shines, I just want to sit outside. One day we will.

I begin erecting stud work for plasterboard walls. Stud work here is usually metal. Its more straight than wood unless you're an experienced carpenter, its faster to erect (allegedly) and it does not need to be treated for woodworm! Like so many of the things we have done so far, this is a large learning experience.

The studs are cut using special "scissors". There is very definitely a knack to this and it takes a while to develop. With the roof not yet done, its not advisable to fix studs to the ceiling rafters, making things difficult. At the end of the day, we arrange the bathroom fittings to make sure it's possible to stand up after using the toilet without cracking your head on a beam.




Whatever you do, don't flush just yet!

I can now see visible progress.

We leave happy

Day 68, Friday 7th May

The sun is out; no, it's raining; now its getting darker. We must have tempted fate by suggesting that summer is on the way.

 More building up the height of the internal walls, the Boss doing the quality plastering, while I use my crepinnette, for the rough stuff. Hail comes through the roof and the wind howls through the holes in the wall, which will be windows we can close, one day.

In the afternoon, another shopping trip and a quick visit to Brico's, using the French protocol as always. One day, the staff will shake hands with me and then I will know I'm really part of the community. After a coffee and a "grand(e) crème", its back to the site, in the rain. As an aside, the spelling of grand(e), depends upon whether the crème; cream, is feminine or masculine! I've never looked at crème closely enough to know. I'm sure the French don't have the same difficulty learning English. Maybe if I used the feminine for EDF, ...

We finish plastering of the "bathroom" walls, with the French station "Newest" blaring out on the radio, playing mostly older English pop. And the hail stones come through the roof, again. I pop round to the Marie, the mayor's office and make an appointment for next Tuesday to discuss drainage. The mayor "knows my problem" and this tells me that Mr Earring's partner has been there and I hope, been a little more diplomatic than usual.

The Boss does some planting of her water plants bought yesterday, and plants up "window boxes". One on the scaffolding, and one on some large stones removed when clearing the floor. They can't really be window boxes if there are no windows, but hole-in-the-wall boxes does not conjure up the right image. The bathroom floor and stone walls are now ready.

Now the floor is down, what comes next

Day 67, Thursday 6th May

As its Steve's last day, we have to start with croissants; again! Just to ensure he acclimatises to English weather, its cold, damp and grey. It rains for a few minutes, and the wind blows. Then it stops and the sun comes out. Then it rains and throws down a few hailstones while the sun is out. Then, it goes dark and grey again, all within the space of an hour.

Everyone tells us "Its not normal for the time of the year". But they told us that in October, December, March and now. Wouldn't it be ironic if global warming resulted in cooling and increases in rain in Dordogne and Charente regions of South-West France, while England gets warmer and drier? I'd better stop thinking and get back to work.

More cement mixed in the mixer, thrown onto the walls and filling of holes.

You remember Mr Earring? Well, his French partner arrives at the door, while we are using power tools and her face is like thunder. "Why have we got electricity? The connections illegal. Why did we have another electrician here when hers arrived?"

Well its simple really. I wanted temporary electricity quickly, but still need a price for arranging the permanent connection (as they were too slow for the temporary one). And we're unlikely to buy without at least two prices. I don't think she's convinced, but leaves with Mr Earring in tow. We know who rules the roost in that relationship.

A late lunch and then back to Bergerac Roumaniere (not sure about the spelling) airport. Steve's plane leaves in the same weather as it arrived; rain. He leaves behind the fishing rod and tackle that he bought for his next trip, and expects to hear the one-that-got-away story when next here.

On the way back we have to stop at the large garden centre for a few more plants. Driving back through the Double forest, the greenery is really taking over, and the sun comes out.

Perhaps summer is here after all

Day 66, Wednesday 5th May

We start the day with another trip to Bricomarche. My loyalty card must have so many points, it's surprising they don't welcome me at the door with a glass of champagne. Among other things, we buy a "Crepinnette". Just one more new toy to add to my ever growing collection. And now I suppose you want to know what one does with a crepinnette.

Pointing stone walls is very slow. For the walls not being left exposed, the mortar simply seals in all the clay and the quality of the pointing does not really matter. If you're lucky enough to have a crepinnette, then you put in several large dollops of mortar, hold it with one hand while turning a handle with the other. Lots of little springs collect the mortar and throw it at the wall.

My first use results in more mortar on the floor than the wall and the Boss and Steve holding their sides in laughter. They told me later that it was my expression of concentration as much as the results. Despite the hilarity, once one gets the knack, sealing the walls is made an awful lot easier using the machine. However, holding quite a weight in mortar, with one hand, often in awkward positions, is not easy.




They were still laughing at tea time

Of course boys need their toys and today is the first time I've played with my cement mixer. The only down side of using the mixer, is that EDF are getting their little cut. Switch it off, quick!




I think I've now got more toys than I ever gave my children

As its Steve's last night here, we go out to dinner. Chelsea is playing Monaco in the European Champions League and the TV is on. By the time we finish our dinner, Chelsea look to be winning. As the last people in the restaurant, we move closer to the small screen. The owner and his wife are supporting Monaco and we are naturally drawn to the Chelsea side. We get given complimentary coffee rum, which is two parts pure alcohol and one part awful cough medicine. While Chelsea conspire to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we don't want to cause offence, so Steve does the honourable thing and drinks all three.

I suppose I'll have to fetch the croissants on my own tomorrow

Day 65, Tuesday 4th May

We spend the morning making a jig saw out of high density fibre board, spanning across four joists which seem to be the only things without any woodworm. Steve should have been a steeplejack, jumping about across loose floorboards and gaping holes, while I hold on and step across gingerly. At the same time, we treat all the wooden beams. So that we don't have any cables showing leading to ceiling lights, we drill angled holes which will allow us to hide the cables behind the ceiling and inside the beams.

By lunchtime, we sit outside in the sun for a while before going back to the room for lunch. The sunflowers seem to grow an inch each time we look at them. Yes, yes; I know an inch is 25.4mm, but it doesn't carry quite the same message. The planted lines are now easy to make out and the woods get greener every day. Driving back through woodland, the woodland gets greener, the really bright light green, almost fluorescent, making the road darker.

In the afternoon, the farmer comes over and the two of us go to get some plumbing bits, while the Boss and Steve continue working. The Boss working on more "crepe"; pointing of the internal stone walls, and Steve continues with the bathroom floors.

We buy some bits of pipe and adapters and as I've forgotten my credit card, we put some of the bits back to get the total within the cash that I have. The queue builds up, but no one complains as this is easily accepted in the slower pace of life. We get back and connect the outside tap and the house to the water main. Now, we have an outside tap and an inside tap, both with running water!

At 5:00, Steve and I meet an electrician and a friend acts as a translator as both her French and English are impeccable, and she's Dutch. Don't you just hate people like that? The electrician tells us the options for permanent electricity. The only real option is finish the house interior, wait for the inspection and the certificate of conformity, and then get the permanent connection.

The electrician will act as a consultant to ensure we fully comply with the French regulations. He will charge us on an hourly rate. He asks about the roof boards and second-hand tiles, which I ordered. I tell the translator, I want a price, not the goods just yet. And you remember the expensive cable we bought. It needs to be changed, and we will need several friends to help pull the new one through the trench.

All I can say about electricity is .....

Day 64, Monday 3rd May

After Friday's arrival two minutes late to get floor boards, we leave early to get there and still have a full days work. On arrival, they do have the boards in stock, but their power saw is out of order! As a sheet of high density fibre board,  3 meters by 1.6 meters is too heavy to lift onto the roof of the van we have to go somewhere else.

Of course the next store does not have enough in stock so, we get what we can. What I am learning is that if you get a sheet of anything cut, they charge not for the sheet, but by the square meter, increasing the price significantly, even if you are buying a whole sheet.




The one that got away was at least twice as big

When we start to lay the bathroom floor, we find that one of the beams has a dip in it and this slows progress, while we try and make a shaped support, so the floor is level. The Boss collects me on the way to the market, as I have forgotten my PIN number on my credit card, used the wrong PIN three times, and now the card is blocked.

If you don't know about "chip and PIN" yet, you will soon. There is no signing credit card bills. You simply key in your PIN and that is the purchase confirmation. Do what I did and you need to get the card unblocked at a bank, which I duly do, creating a large queue behind me in the process.

You may remember we bumped into an English guy in Angouleme, looking for a large DIY store trolley. Well we meet him again and two others. It turns out that one of them owns a large holiday home, needing renovation, while the others are professional floor fitters. One of the floor fitters is related to Tom, the home owner, and they are here to lay his wooden floors. As he's been doing his renovation for four years, he says if we ever want to know how to overcome things, we can ask him.

In the afternoon, we do just that! Steve and I decide it will help with the electrics, if we can ask what they did. Eventually we find the place and get a guided tour. Nice place, expensive tools, obviously an enormous budget, and with four years in, still a way to go! We decide this is Tom's retirement project and a way to get away from the wife. But not much help with electrics. By this time the day is almost over, so we stop for a coffee and then back to the rooms.

With all the things we learn, every time we see something someone else has done, we will be extremely knowledgeable when our place is done. What are we going to do with all this knowledge?

On the next project, we'll know how not to get electricity