Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 17

Day 111, Monday 21st June

The Boss is at her real job this morning, so I take a picnic lunch. As is my way when there's food about, lunchtime comes round at the French time of 12, not my normal 1:30 or 2. And then I'm hungry again by 2 o'clock.

So its back to plumbing. Using my new tool kit of string (special plumbing string of course), soft jointing compound, mobile sales van supplied rock-hard jointing compound and the now discredited PTFE, I re-make all the joints on the cold water supply as it stands.

The one lesson that I've really learnt all the way through this, is the DIY shops never have every component in stock. There is always one item not in stock, so you either have to go elsewhere, buy more than you need when you see it, or keep going back. I've opted for the latter, and I get a coffee and pastry each time I go. A sort of reward for all the frustration!

The plumbers merchant where we ordered the taps called and said they are now in stock.

After lunch the Boss arrived and we spent the afternoon mixing cement and pouring this into the gaps between the concrete floor and the walls. Why was there a  gap? Several reasons, which unless you're really interested in building, I won't explain, but by the end of the day, the concrete floor extended wall to wall.

The accumulated mound of sand is gone and the kitchen looks more and more like a room and not a building site. Just need to hide the sewage and water pipes, sweep the floor and paint the walls. Oh, and seal all the sewage pipes to get rid of the odours!

The Boss baked a special cake, without fat (perhaps she's telling me something) which keeps well. She gave half to Louis, the 82 year old guy who grows his own vegetables and he was quite touched.

And tonight its the England Switzerland game.

With football on every night, my diary just gets further and further behind.

Day 112, Tuesday 22nd June

We are going to collect the taps, so a slightly later start. We get these, after the salesman opens each box for me to check that all the bits are there. We look at a few tiles and see some really nice ones but not today.

While in the town, we go to a larger supermarket than our local one. This means a bigger choice of fresh meat, fish and vegetables. I'm so relaxed, I wander around the supermarket without any signs of high blood pressure, while the Boss shops.

Then its coffee (and patisserie for me). Its so nice just sitting in the sun, not covered in cement or dust, and as its 12:30, we decide to eat lunch there. Half the tables are occupied by English speakers. After lunch the waitress asks if we want a dessert. I say I started with dessert, and she smiles and repeats my words slowly, "Je commence avec dessert", as if to say, well the cultural gap is still about as wide as the Channel.

Then back to site. I spend some time looking at how the taps, connecting pipes, and waste traps all go together. The shower is the most difficult, as I have bought bath taps and the shower column and head separately (for reasons too obtuse for me to easily explain). Amazing how much time one can spend doing things like this. Now if only I had a Meccano or Lego set, I'd never do any work.





Why is the water heater upside down in the kitchen? Well, it weighs 75kgs, and I'm waiting for the first rent visitor to help fit it.

The Boss spends all afternoon building up internal walls, which means I am frequently interrupted to haul rocks up the stairs or mix some more cement. Louis brings us some more home grown vegetables and says he enjoyed the cake. My sons get cakes when they visit, the neighbours get cakes, but I have to buy mine at the coffee shop. I need to think carefully about this.

Last tea in the sun looking at more sunflowers poking their heads out and then its home to catch up on the diary; unless of course the football is on.

Day 113, Wednesday 23rd June

I start out early to try and get some bits of pipe work, that are not in stock locally. I get about three miles away and the car's exhaust decides to drop onto the road. By using a bit of rope and crawling about on the verge I manage to make it drivable. Its lucky there was a verge as often there is no space to get off the country roads.

As this is the most expensive exhaust in the history of motoring (see day 80, week12), fitted just a month ago, I go back to collect the Boss, and we drive in convoy back to the local garage, sounding like a real boy-racer car.

The garage proprietor says it needs welding but it has broken at the place where their worked stopped and is therefore chargeable. The Boss hustles me out before I create an international incident. Whatever happened then, its was the old high-pressure me, not the new calm and relaxed me. So its off to another garage and leave the car there for repair. And I still haven't got my plumbing stuff.

I'm convinced that Bricomarche deliberately arrange their plumbing stuff with one key item always out of stock and they just change the "out of stock" item from time to time. This way you have to visit the store more often. Once again, I get everything I need, except one item, which I can't get at the local store as they don't do plastic pipe accessories.

One more morning gone. I need a break from plumbing, so time to get some of the nearly two hundred years of paint off the kitchen walls, giving the dust time to settle before we move in. Most comes of really easily, but the stone work around the windows and the fireplace take some careful manual and power tool labour.

My Bosch "excellence comes as standard" power drill, 4 months old packs up. How I'm going to claim under the warranty, bought at B&Q in the UK, now in the middle of rural France, is worrying. What this means is I use my pneumatic drill for everything, and its heavy. Oh well, good for the biceps, but not so good for the aches and pains.

And home in time to watch the football. Best not say anything about that!

Day 114, Thursday 24th June

The day starts with a trip to collect the car. Then to buy concrete blocks. These are similar to "breeze blocks" in that they are very light and easy to cut, except they are solid and are white, not grey. These are for the walls of the shower.

We also buy a steel bath as its on special offer. When loading the breeze blocks, cement and bath, the sales guy "Mr Brico" gets a call on his mobile. Sounds like he's having a hard time with someone. I continue loading and when finished, tell him I want a Brico T-shirt as I've been doing all the work. It gives him and the other customers waiting around, a good laugh.

We start to build the shower walls, with me measuring and cutting the blocks, while the Boss pastes the special cement on and stacks them. We both check the vertical constantly. With a break for lunch on site, we have done one and a half walls by the end of the day, and I did not calculate the waste from cutting correctly, so we're out of blocks.

The Boss goes off for gardening duty, while I clear up. These blocks are really easy to work with. Cut them with a normal saw, preferably an old blunt one, file them, shave them with a chisel, and the special cement sets quickly and hard. The only thing is the dust from cutting gets everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

I look like a poor imitation of a snowman when we leave

Day 115, Friday 25th June

We start by getting some more blocks. Then its a bit of team work to complete the walls. The really difficult part is shaping a few of the blocks to work around the beams. All at angles, none square, and mostly of varying thickness.

I'm told there is a known phenomena about two people working together on the same task. Apparently, you actually both work faster than you would if you were doing the task alone. Therefore 1 and 1 makes three. I have actually noticed this on occasions, but have always dismissed it as Miss Whiplash on my case that makes we work faster.

In between working on blocks, we begin to try and clean up; again. We are starting to clear the floor upstairs in one half of the house. The rubble from roof work, floorboards and bathroom fittings, and tools in collections around the floor are making it impossible to move without tripping over something. It will also stop dust and an assortment of rubble from falling into the kitchen.

We decide to make a start on tiling the shower the Tommy Walsh way. He's the guy on BBC and the Lifestyle channel, telling you people how to use a screwdriver and build your own house in ten days. What sarcasm?

Tommy's way is place a baton one tile length up the wall, tile up from there and then do the bottom tile. After six tiles with me tiling and the Boss slapping on the tile cement, they are clearly not right. I take the tiles off and decide to start again tomorrow. Thanks for nothing Tommy!

And at last croissant day comes round

Day 116, Saturday 26th June

Well its croissant day, but as I overslept and I'm cream-crackered (that's rhyming slang and you'll have to work it out), I don't bother to go and get them.

The Boss is going to do the tiling of the shower. "I'm better at the jobs that take patience, which you seem a little short on at the moment"! Well at least she doesn't mince her words.

The top edge of the shower base has a curve in it. No wonder it was so cheap! So I set up the bottom tile levels (not the Tommy Walsh way, the easy way) so they all go up straight and the Boss gets on with tiling.

I nearly forget that one tile needs to be cut to get the taps through and the holes are too big to cut after the tile is up. But only nearly. I have to admit it. She might be slow, but she is doing a great job. The lines are straight and the gaps consistent. Perhaps I'll see if Brico have any patience on special offer.

Lunch in the "garden" looking at the sunflowers which are now everywhere in the field. A bit like the weeds in ours. Did you know sunflowers start with L plates? They don't seem to manage to follow the sun, at least not yet. And apart from a light drizzle, they haven't had a drink for many weeks.

As for the plumbing, well, the best laid plans and all that. There is one place where waste pipes cross water pipes and the space allowed to hide them is enough for one or the other, but not one on top of the other.

I need a rethink, which means a few more plastic pipe corners and angles. Fortunately, I've taken to always buying a few extra. When we're finished, I'll be able to set up my own DIY accessory store.

Day 117, Sunday 27th June

Normally, Sunday is a rest day, but as we are moving in soon, I suppose we had better do some real work. So although we lie in and later, its off to site.





Well let's just hope my plumbing is better than my photography!

With the back wall of shower tiles, I now know the height of the final block on the side walls. I get on with these, while the Boss starts tiling the sides. The final block takes some time as they too have be arranged around beams, cut to the correct height and stacked while the Boss is in the shower, so to speak.

I spend a while running the shower's water supply, through the metal stud work, which is no mean feat when you have not really planned the detail first. Believe it or not, I'm actually quite good at planning, but usually get bored with it (its that patience stuff again) and want to get on with the real thing.

At lunch time its so hot even under the umbrella, we decide to sit inside where its cool.

By the end of the day, we are close to grouting, but we really need a heavy duty Hoover, especially for the floor, before we start.

And that's another day.