Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 12

Start the week here

Day 84, Sunday 23rd May

Today is croissant day! With six of us, a mammoth order of croissants and we eat breakfast outside. Its cool, but the sky is cloudless.

On the way to site, we go past the house of an English guy who has been doing his renovation for 7 years (perhaps I underestimated the time involved) and has some tools to sell. Its a fantastic place and he is such an enthusiast, he can't stop talking about it. The history, where the stones came from, what cement he uses, how he made his own roof tile lift, and so on. I buy a couple of new toys, a mitre saw for floorboards and an SDS drill for chiselling walls. Eventually we get away.

After the grand tour, we set to work. Men on taking the scaffolding down, levelling the ground at the side of the house and putting the scaffolding back up. Women clearing the ground outside, just below the level of the floor.

By the end of the day, we have stripped the end roof, stacked all the re-usable tiles as intact or half-tiles, and removed the rest for hardcore when we get to working on the barn. This leaves a novel open air toilet, with part finished plumbing and tiling!



I'd know that face anywhere!




Men at work. Oh yes, and women at work!

In the afternoon. with a borrowed petrol strimmer, the grass gets its first cut. In one area, I think we found the fugawee tribe. If you don't know the joke, send me an email and I'll let you in on it.

Then its back to where they are all staying, and a lovely roast lamb, with a few glasses of vino.

Purely medicinal you understand

Day 83, Saturday 22nd May

Saturday, and no its not croissant day. See, we do break the routine! It will be croissant day tomorrow when our friends are here.

A later start, with only me going to site. Just after I get there some other friends arrive and want a couple of the barrels in the barn. So we get the ladder, climb carefully onto a sort of floor inside the barn and man-handle several barrels down. The only thing that holds them together is the swollen wood inside the metal rings.





Roll out the barrel

The first one collapses and leaves us with a do it yourself barrel kit. We manage to get five out intact, leaving another six or seven still to be removed. But rather than them take them home. we decide its best to water them and let the wood expand a little before any further movement.

By the time that's done, I decide its not really worth starting work today, so back to the rooms, and an early lunch. The weather is now dry and cloudless. If it stays this way all week, we'll get some of the roof done.

Later, at Bergerac airport, we collect Pete, Maggie, Steve and Olly. We laugh about friends who in England if you said come and help me with my DIY, they'd tell you where to go. But here, they are coming at their own expense, without being asked, to do exactly that.

At dinner we drink to friends

Day 82, Friday 21st May

It got darker and greyer overnight and despite a little lightning, there was no rain until early this morning and then only a short drizzle. I go to site alone as the Boss has some food shopping to do. That's the kind of shopping I'm in favour of.

At around 10:00 EDF arrive to install my "branchement chantier", the temporary connection that needs all sorts of hard to find and expensive bits, ordered by Mr Earring's partner. I tell them I don't need it as I already have a temporary connection, and they leave a little confused about what and why, but they know I do not want a branchement chantier.

I have more plumbing bits to buy so I meet the Boss for coffee at 11:30 and as its the weekend coming up, a "pain au chocolat". We start by sitting outside, but it starts to drizzle.

The floor boards are like a jigsaw. Unfortunately, I started with two boards that are not square and learned a lesson. There are four joists between the wall and the bathroom. It takes two boards to span the four joists. I am trying to break up the joints, so that where each adjoining pair of boards meet, is on a different joist.

Confused? Well its probably my explanation. Perhaps the pictures will do a better job.


Well, perhaps not. I promise they will look better after sanding. You can see more floorboard pictures here

Why floorboards instead of plumbing. Well its all connected. If you want to enter the bathroom, you need to walk over all the loose boards, and I'm happy for me to do that, but not visitors. If any visitor uses my toilet, I want to be sure they don't fall through to the floor below, before flushing!

And tomorrow, well its a rest day and trip to the airport

Day 81, Thursday 20th May

Its a holiday and driving to site, its even quieter than normal. We see no cars and only one person out walking. Even the farmers have taken a day off and there are no tractors out and about. Just mad dogs and Englishmen. Oh, and an Englishwoman.

I start on the tiling of the first bathroom. Not a favourite activity for someone with dodgy knees and that's a great excuse for an early tea break. There are some clouds about but its still hot and tea outside just reinforces how quiet the area is, especially on a holiday. It seems even the local dogs have taken a day off from barking.

 The Boss is working on more pointing of exposed stone walls. In particular, she is removing some of the plaster which was her earliest effort and re-doing it. Its not often she stops talking for more than a few minutes so there must be some real concentration going on.

After lunch and a siesta; well it is a holiday, I start on the floor opposite the bathroom. The process is lift the existing floorboards, cut off the really woodworm infested bits, then try and make a floorboard of what's left. As they are all varying widths and the beams are different widths apart, its sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

You can tell the amount of woodworm damage by the weight. The boards are thick oak, and remarkably for their age, tongue and grooved. They are also cut exceptionally straight, where I am able to remove them without damaging the edges. As each one goes back, it is treated for woodworm and several other things besides.

Its slow going, but that's the pace of life we've opted for so I suppose its actually going quite quickly.

See if I still believe that tomorrow

Day 80, Wednesday 19th May

If its not getting boring saying cloudless sky every morning, it must sound like a bit of gloating. I hope your weather is as good.

We are going to a larger town to get some plumbing stuff, which is actually quite expensive here. By the time I've figured out which bits go with what and what's missing because they are out of stock, and then queued to pay, its time to go and collect the car from the garage.

There are some salutary lessons here. Lesson 1; always get the quote in writing. Lesson 2; learn the language, so if you're unhappy its easy (no, possible) to complain. Lesson 3; make sure you know lesson 1 and 2, and if you don't, it's your own fault. The bill spoilt my whole day, and I spoilt everyone else's.

In the afternoon, I need to get the roof insulation ready for when our friends arrive. I try asking the price and then saying its too expensive and I had better visit their biggest competitor. The response was a bemused smile. Either its a language problem and they didn't understand or they don't compete for business. Of course its always possible I got a word or two wrong and they were completely confused. My antics didn't work, but at least I know they have the stuff in stock when we need it.

Then its some real work. Hole through the floor for the toilet waste and shower. And then its the floor opposite the first bathroom, so that the fourth wall can go up. More of that tomorrow. Its so hot I work without a shirt and when tea time arrives, we have to get the umbrella out so we can sit outside.

The sunflowers have grown another 25 millimetres and the air is completely still. Despite the return of some of the aches and pains, being able to "hear the silence" beats sitting on the M25 any day.

And tomorrow is Ascension Day, whatever that is

Day 79, Tuesday 18th May

I'm on my own today, so a relatively early start. Again the sky is cloudless. I start the day with a haircut. At least the hairdresser can't ask where I'm going on my holidays this year and the chit chat is limited to wash and cut or cut only, how much off and which bits.

First thing to do is get the shower position exactly right, so the beams don't interfere with the shower door, walls, or ones ability to stand up straight when using it. That's not too difficult, but getting it level is more tricky. I finally discover the base of the shower tray itself is not flat. Then it becomes easier.




Its the delicate shade of green that really sets off the layout don't you think?

Set out supports for the toilet. As I've missed my first real target of a toilet by the end of last week, this is becoming a real focus for me. As we have friends arriving at the weekend to help, a flush toilet seems to be the least we can offer them. With only three walls on the bathroom, we'll need some form of big sign outside saying the toilet is occupied, or free.

At lunch time, I go back to the rooms, and then take the Boss to her "job" after dropping the car at the garage. She has been offered and accepted a half day a week gardening job. Is it the money, the escape from me or just an opportunity to get outside in the sun?

And now its time for shorts. Even inside and wearing shorts, its sweaty work. I spend most of the afternoon, adding to the temporary lighting, clearing up, so that its safe (relatively speaking of course) to walk about and the gaps between the loose floorboards are not wide enough to fall through.




You can see why I don't do the tidying up very often

Mr Earring and his French floosie; sorry, partner arrive. She tells me that the electrician will arrive on Friday to install the temporary connection to the house. I remind her that I already have a temporary connection. Well, I think the reaction could be best described as throwing her toys out of the pram. After the strop has finished, she amends the quote to show only the cable for the permanent connection. Its more than double the other quote I have. I let them leave with floosie still fuming.

At six its time to collect the Boss, who looks sunburnt but its actually just a red face from working hard.

She better have saved some energy for tomorrow

Day 78, Monday 17th May

The morning is clear, the sky is cloudless and it looks like it will be hot. The car has a leaking exhaust so it starts with a garage visit. First, look up exhaust in the dictionary. Then, using my limited vocabulary, I can tell them the car has an exhaust which is sick. If they are confused, well I'll just start the car and let them listen.

They want the "papers" for the car, which I presume is proof of ownership. Actually they just want the chassis number so they can phone Peugeot and get the right bits. However, they do tell me that you are supposed to carry the "papers" at all times in case the police stop you. So I add log-book to the checklist of things I have to carry everywhere; glasses, credit cards, camera, mobile phone, passport and now log-book.

The Boss says she is going to buy me a handbag to carry it all in. My response is unprintable but euphemistically, you won't catch me carrying a handbag, and any old carrier bag will do. I'm not sure what the police will make of a UK log-book, but it will have my name on, the car registration number and it will look official. Anyway, they'll have the parts tomorrow so back again then.




Electrical installations are us!

Then its more partition walls. I make an interesting discovery. The special screws used for plasterboard to metal studs, can actually pierce the metal studs, without drilling a pilot hole. I suppose that's why one uses these special screws. This will speed up the routine a bit.

We hold up the plasterboard, while I drill a pilot hole. As the drill bits are small, I break one drill bit per sheet of plasterboard. The Boss uses the cordless drill and screwdriver to add the screws. If I don't need to drill the holes, well, 3 meters an hour may still be a long way away, but closer than it was yesterday!

I don't know what a sheet of plasterboard weighs, but with the narrow stairs, its a bit too difficult using complete sheets where they would fit. So we cut them downstairs, manoeuvre them upstairs and then fit them.

By the end of the day, three walls of the first bathroom are up, insulated and its time to start tiling and plumbing.

And that's it for another day