Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 35

Day 242, Monday 1st November

This morning its cool and grey. It's All Saints Day in France and therefore a public holiday.

Over the weekend, there were Halloween parties everywhere, except where we were, but we did see several witches (no jokes about the Boss please) and children dressed up. Some of the villages we passed on the two trips to Bergerac, had Halloween decorations all over the village.

We are about to go and collect some more sand, when the Boss texts from work to say as its a holiday, don't bother because everything is closed. Now why didn't we think of that? Instead we go to a friends house where I have to drop something off and then head home.

On the way we see an example of one of the key differences in transport policy between France and the UK. What I would consider a country road; a D road, is closed for a 30€ million widening. I have never seen enough traffic on it to warrant a resurfacing, let alone a widening.

The Boss arrives home from work with a swollen eye. And yes, I know all the jokes about hitting her where it doesn't show. A branch fell into it and after lunch a friend takes her off to the doctor, who is closed, but opens up specially.

And the wood burner is starting to earn its keep.

Day 243, Tuesday 2nd November

It starts misty and cool. Steve works on "electrics", so that we can have a few more switches and lights other than work lamps.

I have to try and stop the leak from the second toilet and sink. Removing the sink to find a washer in the wrong place, pre-assembled before purchase from Brico's is really annoying. That solves the sink problem. But flush the loo and water pours onto the floor and then runs down into the false wall in the kitchen. Drain it and wait for it to dry before the next attempt.

The Boss gives the original shutters another coat of paint. We will replace these, but not before we are sure how our budget is doing.

As the mist has gone and the sun is out, its hot enough for lunch in the sun. Not quite T-shirt weather, but not bad for November.

I call Sparkie (see weeks 9, 11 and 13) to arrange some roofing wood. His wife tells me she doesn't know what time he'll be back. Perhaps he went to a good Halloween party. However I do get him that evening and arrange to meet him the next day to collect, "Chalas" and "Bagettes" for the roof.

One more attempt to seal the leaking loo; its a bit like faulty towers really; and then off to get some logs loaned to us. We are also loaned an electric chain saw, which on oak logs proves about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

Oh well, we'll use the smaller logs tonight.

Day 244, Wednesday 3rd November

Lights coming on all over the place. Most of the cables are not yet hidden, but they will be. And we can now go up and down the stairs at night without a torch. Switch the light on at the top, off at the bottom, or vice versa. This camp site gets better all the time.

A grey day, but the sun is attempting to come out. Another shot at the leaking loo, and it is now almost working. So, almost two loos, a fire, mowed grass and electric lights. What next?

The dust from the cement floor in the kitchen is becoming unbearable. But we want to leave the floor to dry completely for another week before laying tiles.

Its time to use the PVA sealer I brought back from the UK. I'm sure you can get it here, but I have no clue as to what PVA stands for, so would not know where to start.

Hoover the section of the floor to be done, using just the vacuum cleaner pipe so it is completely dust free. Arrange the furniture so Steve's dog cannot walk on the clean bit, and paint on the PVA.

After lunch, we go to meet Sparkie, at his "sawmill". I thought he also lived there, but on walking about, the buildings all seem to be uninhabited. Have I got the place or the time wrong again? Call his home number and his wife said he has left to meet us, so he must actually live somewhere else.

We wander around while we're waiting. I forgot to bring my camera, but will get some pictures. An electrician, with a sawmill, stocks of tiles, a stream through his land and abandoned tractors, engines and assorted paraphernalia! I will take some pictures; promise.

We load 50 baguettes and 20sq meters of Chalas. When I take some pictures of the roof in progress, you'll see what they are for. We also arrange to meet him next week and buy some logs for heating.

Around 4:30 a friend arrives and that means it must be time to knock off. We end the day with a beer sitting in the sun.

All work and no play ....

Day 245, Thursday 4th November

Today its time to stock up on sand; again.

The same old routine (see weeks 3 and 4). Weigh the van on the way in, shovel in all the sand we want, weight it on the way out and pass by the office to pay. Just under a ton. As I'm accompanied by all these lightweights, perhaps we had better keep the load down!

An early lunch and then a trip to Brico's and the bank. Brico's don't have stock of the light switches we need. But we do buy a cherry tree for 10€. See, I'm already writing the money the French way. The Boss says I'll be wearing a beret before the winter is out but has banned onions round the neck.

We've completed another two meters of roof. That is; remove the tiles and bin the 30 to 50% that are broken, cracked or don't have a ring! I'll explain that in a minute. Then strip the old roofing boards; more firewood. Then new boards of Chalas, followed by Baco foil for insulation. Well it looks like aluminium foil. Baguettes, which are not stale bread, to support the tiles and then put the tiles back on.

We were shown an excellent method of testing old tiles that look intact, but may be on the way out. Hold one lightly on your fingertips and tap it with a fingernail. If it rings, its OK. If not, there is a hidden flaw and it will break given time.

The hard work is getting the wood up the scaffold, and then getting new tiles up as well. This is slow, labour intensive and wearying. Every time we see roofers with a mini crane to hoist them and their tiles directly onto the part of the roof they are working on, I comment. "Soft boys, not like the real roofers".

In the evening we go out to eat as the Boss has been cooking solidly for all the visitors. Not that I'm complaining. I get three good meals a day and often two or three courses in the evening.





And the grass is beginning to grow


Day 246, Friday 5th November

I have to send a fax first thing in the morning in St Aulaye, Steve and Max (the dog) come along. I send my fax and then we cross the road to the Boulangerie for bread for breakfast. As the bread is very good here, we decide to try their croissants.

Not bad, however, Aubeterre is still tops for croissants. Still, we have to test others out. Steve buys 6 chocolate and coffee éclairs (4 are consumed before 12.00 noon) by Steve and myself. The Boss has christened us "the Lardy Twins" and says we had better do some more "muscle" work to work off the numerous cakes, biscuits, croissants, beers and Grand Crèmes! [Editors note: if you have detected a change of writing style here, the Boss has gotten hold of my PC]

Steve has finally stopped the leaking toilet; yes, from leaking. All we need now is a seat for it! I get out my trusty Desmond Decker; that's a Black and Decker power saw to you. And if you don't know who Desmond Decker is, you're too young to be reading this. Then cut old floorboards for firewood.

While doing so it becomes obvious that to replace the floorboards was the right thing to do. The old ones look solid, some even feel solid, but they are soft, split easily and are only good for fuel. Desmond makes short work of cutting manageable lengths.

We unload the roofing wood. But this time we don't plonk it outside. We take it into the "lounge" and stack it carefully. This way as it dries, it will warp a lot less. In fact this load is so much drier than the original sawmill Chalas that we had, it is noticeably lighter.

Finally, despite religiously watering the grass mound, there is no more signs of grass. Maybe we left it too late in the year.

But all that raking and levelling, will not be wasted.

Day 240, Saturday 6th November

We start the day with an English cooked breakfast courtesy of the Boss - a very leisurely affair! It's an overcast day with a watery sun trying to break through, quite chilly due to a fresh wind that's been blowing for a couple of days, however, as we start to move the scaffolding to the side of the house ready to repair the leak in the chimney, the sun shines through.

Steve strips the tiles surrounding the chimney which is where we have our only roof leak in the completed roof sections. We both look at it and the leak is obviously where the water runs down the roof and has no where to go when hitting the chimney. By the end of the day, we are assured of no further leaks here.

I work on connecting the under-floor heating. It takes quite a while. The threading of the thermostat into the conduit in the floor sounds easy, but no doubt we've got cement or a kink in the conduit. Eventually its ready. Then its program time. When it's programmed, the temperature is set low, so we can warm it up slowly over several days.

To finish the day off, the Boss has to go shopping. We go along and look for cheap light switches, not modern, off-white. At Riberac, they have them. At 0.95€ and 2.39€ for a single and double switch respectively, compared to around 10 and 15 for the big brand name, we buy plenty.

We also buy an outside light but decide the outside socket will have to wait until EDF have done their inspection for "conformity". Or perhaps until I get to my local Brico's and consult the electrical specialist as the guy in this store, doesn't work too hard at making himself understood .

On the way home, its take-away pizza for dinner and a video. And its getting colder.

If you haven't seen Master and Commander, give it a miss.

Day 241, Sunday 7th November

I wake up early and walk in the kitchen without shoes or socks. And its not cold! The wonders of modern technology. The under-floor heating is doing its job, the PVA has stopped all the dust, and now its just the tiles.

Before we sealed the floor, we got too many scores in the surface for me to easily put down tiles. However, I can quickly add some self-levelling compound, which I really wanted to avoid, but its clear now that we can't.

I wake the others up at 9:30 as the Boss wants to go to a Brocante today. One car-boot sale is just like another to us heathens, but c'est la vie.

Its colder than it has been, but the sun is trying to shine making it quite nice. When we get home we have a power cut. So cold lunch with drinks from the water heated on the gas cooker. Steve starts to put up the outside light, but realises he needs power to drill the holes. Oh well, it's the thought that counts.

Assorted light work until the power is back on and I have a theory that we are drawing too much current from the farmers supply. What with electric oven, water heater and now under-floor heating, perhaps it's time for a regular EDF supply!

Well, one day perhaps.