Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 15

Day 100, Wednesday 9th June

We're on  our way home from England after a week so there's a gap in the diary. Are there any pangs of regret or confusion about whether we are going home or going away? None. We are going home and we'll see friends and family when they visit us or we return to visit them again.

I automatically switched into left-hand drive, without even thinking about it, even though our car is still right-hand drive. Its been hot in England and the weather here is about the same. The real difference is we drive to our rented accommodation on almost deserted roads, despite it being early evening. Through the Double forest, we pass three cars in 21km.

They say what you've never had you never miss. But once you've had the quiet of the countryside, empty roads, and a slower pace of life, some will miss it; and we do.

It's good to be home 

Day 101, Thursday 10th June

Where do we start? I've not thought about building for a week and need a few hours to get my head around the things that need doing in the immediate future. The Boss has gone shopping so we have something to eat.

I am getting to get grips with plumbing again. Unlike the UK, the water systems are pressurised. This means several things. Firstly, every joint is more prone to leaks. Secondly, the water coming into the house goes through a pressure reducer. Finally, water heaters are sealed units and this adds to the complexity of dealing with expansion and the regulations require electrical isolation.

Before we went away, I was so consumed with getting water to the single toilet, that I completely forgot about the water filter. Also, I have trouble sealing the leaks, so its time to start again. For the real plumbers out there, I've tried using PTFE tape, "teflon" as its called here. Under pressure some joints continue to leak.

I spend the morning assembling the water filter, which looks like something from NASA mission control. It has three taps and a by-pass so that one can isolate the filters without switching the water off. A quick lunch and then its time to start work for real.

With the filter connected, I need to mount it on the wall. However stone walls are not that easy to drill and plug. I either drill into the clay between the stones which is too soft to hold anything except the lightest load, or into the stones which are really hard. I don't use the pneumatic drill on the stones so as not to loosen all the surrounding wall, so its slow going.

By the end of the day, the water filter is on the wall, and just needs to be connected. The Boss has been collecting stones and hardly made a difference to the landscape. These are used to build up the internal walls to the height of the future ceilings. She says its therapeutic! Well it must be something as apart from asking me to carry the buckets of stones up the stairs and mix the concrete, she works quietly and continuously all afternoon.

We water the trees and flowers and then its time to call it a day

Day 102, Friday 11th June

This afternoon, we're off to Bordeaux to collect our oldest son Spencer, here for a few days. The Boss is doing her paid for job of gardening, so I'm working alone. The first sunflower has appeared.





The early bird catches the worm, and the early sunflower catches the attention!

I ask the local farmer about some "joint compound" he used on our garden tap. It sealed the joint so tight, I can't undo it to insert a bleed valve. It comes from a mobile sales van and he'll call them and tell me on Monday when its next due.

Rather than try and deal with the leaks, I find other things to occupy the time. I unpack the enormous and rather unsightly water heater. This type of water heater is unknown in the UK. Its a sealed unit, with insulation inside, designed for pressurised water systems. The electrical regulations require the pipes are isolated by special dielectric joints. Even though I'm using plastic pipes, I connect these.

There are no installation instructions with it, so the "security" supplied with it also takes a little working out. It comes with a non-return valve, which I think is mandatory. It probably also needs an expansion chamber which does not come with it. By the time I've worked this out its almost lunch time.

We collect Spencer at Bordeaux, and have missed the rush hour going there, but will catch it coming back. So another trip to IKEA while the traffic dies down. We have to start collecting furniture and buy a few things. As I have no concept of the prices in the UK, I can't make comparisons.

And then its back to the rooms, but not before stopping for dinner on the way. The food is good and well presented, but it is too hot sitting inside, even at 9 o'clock.

Day 103, Saturday 12th June

I get the croissants as usual on a Saturday, and leave Spencer and the Boss to lie in.

On site, with the sun shining, it is getting quite hot. I have slight paranoia about friends and family seeing the place for the first time, without some semblance of a clean up, so I sweep, collect tools strewn around the place, pile wood and plaster board in one location and believe it or not, the morning is almost gone. Its then time to get on with plumbing.

Plumbing was one area of expertise that I had really no concerns about. Well, I owe all the plumbers out there an apology. Typical DIY plumbing, for instance connecting a washing machine is easy. But installations from the beginning, requires lots of planing, careful thought about the order of things, and most of all, you must have exactly the right bits. One minor item missing, and no hot water, or sink, toilet or shower.

The Boss calls and says they have been shopping for food and Spencer has bought some fishing bait, to use with the rod left by Steve 1 (Roastie to his friends). They are going back to the rooms and I will join them later for lunch. Thank goodness; I've had enough of this plumbing lark.

After lunch, the customary tour and then visitors have to earn their keep. I explain the routine with floorboards; lift one, check the quantity of woodworm damage, discard or reuse and if necessary cut out the damaged part, cut to length, shave to width, and finally fit. Spencer does the cutting and planning, while I lift old boards, measure and replace the re-worked ones.

Tea in the sun, and an at the end of the working day, a quick beer at the local

Day 104, Sunday 13th June

Rest day today.

Spencer goes fishing as the rooms we have are on the river Dronne. He doesn't know what type of fish are there, and tries various baits, and depths. Although there are definitely fish there (see day 64, week 10 for proof), but they either don't like his bait, his technique, or perhaps they were frightened by the echoes from his iPod. But it keeps us all amused for some time, especially paddling a rowing boat with a canoe paddle.

The Boss gets invited to help herself to cherries on a tree so laden that they will go to waste otherwise. I don't think you can overdose on cherries. At least I hope not.

In the evening, its France versus England in the European football championships. We go to a bar, modelled on an English pub, with a big screen. The customers are about half English and half French. Some groups are mixtures of both. The atmosphere is terrific. Pity about the result unless of course you're either Scots or French. 

And tomorrow, we'll not be talking football