Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 38

Day 256, Monday 22nd November

I'm out all day today and the Boss is out in the morning. So not much I can say here, except the digital camera is broken. B#@*~^ technology. So that should explain the lack of pictures.

Day 257, Tuesday 23rd November

We are about to start tiling the floor of the kitchen. There is one big building decision to make. As we were walking on the floor the day after laying the concrete, the surface is scratched and scored. Do we use self-levelling compound before we begin to tile or do we just bite the bullet and do it.

Using self-levelling compound means more disruption to the kitchen which also functions as our living-room. It also means more work and more delays. So I opt for the easy choice.

As my DIY friend on the telly, Tommy Walsh knows, marking the centre of the room by drawing lines between opposing corners, is the way to select the initial tile positions. I told Tommy that there is a 300 litre water heater in one corner, concrete blocks supporting worktops along one wall, a protruding hearth on another, and another corner has a recessed doorway. His response was unprintable.

I pick a spot that should ensure the minimum of very narrow stretches of tiles, and we begin. The real fun is trying to get around the kitchen, without being able to walk in certain places.

Day 258, Wednesday 24th November

The first line of tiles are down. I'm definitely too old for this. Kneeling, even with knee pads, and being bent over most of the time is hard going and needs frequent breaks.

It seems however carefully you lay and spread the tile cement, the unevenness in the floor rules OK? Each tile needs to be placed, checked for level and either more tile cement added to raise a corner, or tap down with a rubber hammer to get it flat. I should have put self-levelling compound down first!

Anyway, as we're out of tile cement, its a trip to Brico's. As they are trying to get their enlarged store into shape with some stock on the shelves, they don't seem to have any large tubs. But the builders merchant just outside town, does have.

Instead of "tile cement for floors", they ask me what the floor is being laid on, and only have powder, not premixed. I've not used this but buy several 25kg sacks and go home, getting a coffee and "grand creme" on the way, of course.

Mixing this new stuff is hard work. But get the consistency right and it spreads easier, and as we come to know, is better in many ways, despite being much cheaper than the premixed stuff. I suppose the pre mix is for the DIY'ers while we've got the professionals tool; and rightly so!

Move more furniture about, and then back on my knees to earn my keep. The Boss lays and spreads the tile cement while I lay and level each tile. This continues until we have to stand up and stretch.

Just one more job as its now good and cold outside. Clean all the tools.

Day 259, Thursday 25th November

Wake up to a cloudless, blue sky. That must mean an opportunity for work on the roof. I've got to finish at least one of the apex's before the winter really sets in. It also means that the Boss has to be woken earlier than usual.

Despite the sunshine, its still cool, but hey, its the end of November so don't complain. This is the slowest of all the roof work, especially without the motorised hoist the professionals use and with only two people.

First, move the tiles so I can walk on the insulation underneath. Then get some more tiles up the scaffold. If you need a workout without going to the gym, this is it. The Boss collects the tiles and stacks them at the base of the scaffold.

She passes up two tiles at a time. Holding a couple of tiles one-handed, using your other hand to ensure you don't fall off the scaffold, grab them, stretch to put them on the next scaffold platform or onto the roof, without the pile toppling. And then comes the cement.

A half-bucket of cement, one-handed again, is a bit tough for us city boys. Making sure it doesn't topple over on the roof is more challenging. But eventually that apex is finished, and cemented down. And I forgot to tell you. We had to move the scaffold before we started.

Later, the Boss passes up stones to build up a little more of the outside walls. Well, " passes" is not quite accurate. We decide its easier for her to throw them one at a time and me to play catch at the top of the scaffold. She wears her tin hat as I drop a few. This is because her throwing (more like his catching) won't make the England cricket team; or then again, perhaps it would!

Day 260, Friday 26th November

Fortunately its drizzling so respite from the roof. So its back to the chaotic kitchen to do a few more tiles.

What we are now discovering is that the first few tiles are the most important. As I did not get these absolutely level, levelling subsequent tiles becomes even harder. And I make one further mistake. Yes, yes, I know Tommy Walsh could have told me.

I have done several lines across the kitchen. Because of having to use the kitchen and work around us living here, I've now done several lines down, supposedly at right angles! Well the angle was 90 degrees when the line begins, but then becomes 91 and then 92. So as we lay more tiles, the gaps are getting bigger.

While we're working, two young ladies knock on the door. Being unable to resist a pretty face, I invite them inside out of the rain. They are selling double glazing, and I think its worthwhile getting a quote. So I agree to an appointment for tomorrow.

After the croissants that is.

Day 261, Saturday 27th November

Well the croissants are good, and the double glazing guys don't appear. I guess they took one look at the place and decided to go back to the pub.

Tiling is really slow. Now the first ones are dry, we move some more furniture around and do some more. I can't show you the pictures, as my digital camera is broken and with the building work going on, its too difficult to take normal pictures, get them printed and then scan them. So no pictures.

The powdered tile cement is cheaper and better in many ways. Once mixed, it can be used for at least three hours without starting to dry. However it sets strongly within 24 hours and its easier to clear off excess of the surface of tiles, once dried. So no more pre-mixed stuff for me.

Just an aching back and knees.

Day 262, Sunday 28th November

Another brocante. This one really is a a car boot sale. I'm bored to tears within a few minutes, but there is a chateaux nearby that has a Christmas fair on so its off we go. This one is locally made arts and crafts and much more up-market.

Lots of lovely stuff and best of all some mince pies made by a local chef. Pretty good, but the Boss insists they aren't as good as hers! Unfortunately it's a while since I've tasted her mince pies, so I can't comment.

And tomorrow, its back to tiling.