Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 32

Day 221, Monday 11th October

50mm of concrete doesn't sound a lot. But with a room 25sq meters in area, this equates to about 10 bags of cement, each weighing 35kg, just over a ton and a half of sand, and some aching muscles. But, if it has to be done ...

Pete and I fix the levelling batons to the floor. While doing so, it becomes apparent just how much of a slope we had on what we thought was a flat floor. Even this isn't easy. The sawmill did not have 50mm wide planks, so we buy double the quantity of 25 mm wide and then fix two battens, one on top of the other.

After lunch, Chris and the Boss start mixing cement. The order is a "strong mix"; no more than four parts sand to one cement. I do the wheelbarrow moving from the cement mixer, over the front door step, negotiate the broken tiles, into the kitchen and pour. Pete is the leveller.

By the end of the day, we have used all the sand we had, and completed one section.

And tomorrow, as you know well, is another day


Day 222, Tuesday 12th October

I collect a friend and a nephew, and drive the back roads to the sand supplier. Back roads because there are major roadwork's blocking the direct route, and the passengers want some gravel.

Between us, we shovel in a 1,000kgs of gravel. I say 1,000kgs because it sounds better than a ton. Then we go back to their house and shovel it out again. Back to the "sand pit" and now they help me with sand for cement. 1,200kgs, but I drop them off on the way home.


Pete is still on his knees, so I then shovel out 1.2 tons of sand. I'm glad to be getting good at this building lark.

In the afternoon, more of the same. Chris and the Boss mixing cement. "Anything the boys can do, we can do better!" I'm wheelbarrow man, again, and in between, in case I get bored, I have to start collecting stones for their stone wall.

Tomorrow I'll just have to remind myself, if you're not suffering, its not doing you any good.


Day 223, Wednesday 13th October

We're getting taken out to dinner tonight so we had better start early; if I can get out of bed.

While lying there, I try and work out; say 4 bags of cement at 35kgs each, around 500kg of sand and maybe 30 litres of water. All piled into the cement mixer and then poured into a wheelbarrow for me to run inside. Perhaps its easier to carry the stuff and not try and add the numbers up, so I get out of bed.

The weather is poor, so Chris and the Boss try and mix cement in between showers, but needs must, so sometimes they get wet. This is the last section of floor today. Then, the only remaining bits are all the odd areas like under worktops, below the water tank, and around the main stop cock.


 I still haven't mastered the "jerk lift". You know, the one where a weightlifter picks up a bag of cement, pops it on his (or her) shoulder like a pillow and carries it across the garden from the barn. Instead I use the "Struggle lift" followed by the "waddle like a suffering duck" technique. I must write off to that place that promised me a flat stomach in only thirty days and ten minutes a day.

The dinner is four courses and first rate. If you can find better in Europe for €22 per head please let me know where.

And it seems to be getting colder.


Day 224, Thursday 14th October

With about a square meter for floor remaining, we run out of sand, again. This time, only a small 600kgs. The weather has got steadily worse and the ladies are getting soaked while mixing.

In between bouts of mixing cement they finish off their wall, meeting in the middle like the channel tunnel. And they weren't £2bn over budget. Time for another picture.

Pete has left all the skin from his knees on the kitchen floor, but as its finished, I think its best not to complain.


Day 225, Friday 15th October

Hallelujah, no cement today.

Pete and I begin work on the partition walls for the second bathroom. When I take some pictures, you may understand why its slow.

We have fun, when we screw a metal rail to an old oak beam, but a little off line. The oak is so hard, we cannot remove the screws. We finally use brute force and ignorance and break the metal rail, but the screws remain for posterity.

Chris and the Boss have gone shopping. As its their (Chris and Pete's) last day.

And it's still raining


Day 226, Saturday 16th October

Its raining; again! on and off all night. As Pete said, most people have their water features in the garden. To be different we have ours inside.

Chris and Pete are leaving today. They pack up their camper van, pay their site fees and after breakfast, I act as guide. This is because their satellite navigation system does not make allowance for the fact that their van is too high to go under the local railway bridge.

How do you thank people who give up their time to help with your DIY, pay for the dinners out and still go away smiling? Perhaps you could all send an email to chrisandpete@..., saying thanks.

Alone again, and its getting colder. So cold, that just to get some warmth, I suggest we go and collect our wood burners. It seems that everyone else in the neighbourhood had the same idea. Whoever said the French don't going in for DIY, should visit a large store on a cold Saturday.

We get the fires, the stainless steel chimney pipes and get them home, but they stay in the van for a few more days yet.

Any more rain and cold, and I might as well live in England, where at least most houses have central heating.

But what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger