Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 39

Day 263, Monday 29th November

Another frost but this soon clears. Today, guess what we're doing. We're tiling.

The monotony is broken by a visit by a French lady who I understand is doing work for the commune. How naive can one get? I answer all the questions, about glazing, roof insulation, and floor insulation.

By this time the penny has dropped. She's a canvasser for a company of some sort. The give-away is when she asks if the Boss will be here when I get my "free inspection" tomorrow. The inspection is for woodworm and termites.

Anyway, more tiling while the Boss goes shopping with a friend. I also have to cut some logs, using my new toy chainsaw.

Day 264, Tuesday 30th November

The weather is cool and crisp. The Boss and I go out for an early morning walk, with me planning to jog part of the way. Half way out, the local farmer passes me in his car and says there are some men looking for us. I guess the saying you can run, but you can't hide is about to come true.

The Boss has stopped and is talking to two guys in a car.

It's the termite inspectors. I got the time wrong. So home again tout suite and a sales pitch about termites, woodworm etc, and the risk of the house collapsing. Anyway, the result is it's 7,700 to drill and inject all the woodwork. Thanks but not this time.

The extended sales pitch means its breakfast at about 11:00. But of course all I can think about is not tiling, but woodworm. We've still got some beams that have not been treated by us and we resolve to do this soon. After a bit more tiling!

In the afternoon, Fabrice the farmer comes over. He's got the electricity bill and the bill for the tiles we used in the hearths. The price of the tiles has put paid to any suggestion of using them for the hall as well.

And after an extended period of talking French it's time to stop tiling for the day and leave it until tomorrow.

Day 265, Wednesday 1st December

The weather is good, so its an opportunity to do all the awkward tiles that need to be cut. I can cut them outside, leaving the dust to blow away, and not get back inside soaking wet.

When nothing is square, each tile cut has to be separately measured. I'm using a large angle grinder to cut the tiles, which makes short work of cutting, bat hard work on my arms. Its heavy, and the gyroscope effect when its turning makes it difficult to handle and probably a little dangerous. And don't ask me to explain "gyroscope effect". Do a Google search if you're really interested.

I now wish I'd invested a little more when buying a tile cutter and bought a powered one. Live and learn. What we do is measure in situ, go outside and cut, bring the cut piece inside and check that its right. As I go along, I somehow seem to be getting better at measuring. Don't ask me why, but the more tiles I cut, the higher the percentage of "right first time".

Yvonne applies tile cement and lays the tiles as fast as I can cut them. Now, the hardest thing is mixing the tile cement.

We do this with a paint stirring attachment on an electric drill. One of the secrets to good tiling seems to be getting the consistency of the cement right. It must spread, it must stick, and it mustn't be so runny, that the tiles can be placed and levelled and then will not sink once this is done. So mixing too is an art.

As with plaster, it seems better to mix the tile cement and then leave for several hours before use. But despite all this getting better and better, its still slow.

Day 266, Thursday 2nd December

Its misty and cold; well, cold for those of us now acclimatised to the sunshine of South-west France.

Spencer, our oldest son has booked a flight for the end of January, staying for the weekend. He may come with a partner, and I say "a" partner as they seem to change fairly often. This means I need to start thinking about the lounge again. So we take a break from tiling and get the insulation down on the lounge floor.

This takes most of the morning and of course I run out with 4 square meters of floor un-insulated. So, back to Brico's. I can't recall if I told you that Brico's have built a massive extension, mostly with the profits from our renovation expenses.

Anyway, the shelves are being moved, new shelving added and of course, everything in the store is in a new or a temporary location. What this means is one can't find anything without either good luck or lots of searching. No luck and lots of searching later, I ask Jean-Pierre for help. He's the guy from the Brico's story of week 8.

Together we walk the entire store, each isle from end to end. And we still haven't found what we are looking for. Finally he asks a colleague and we get to an end of isle where there is insulation for floors, but not the stuff I want; tre normale!

So I go to the builders merchant. They have lots of different insulators, but nothing for under the floor. So its back to Brico's, to buy the stuff I don't really want!

At least the floor will be warm.

Day 267, Friday 3rd December

Its getting close to Christmas and the Boss, being kind and considerate (no, no, I really mean that!) is giving a Christmas dinner for some friends, one of whom will be spending Christmas alone. This means the pressure is on to finish the kitchen tiling and the curtains on shelving.

So, while I have my head down tiling and grouting, the Boss is preparing food. We've tried the grout in several ways. Very thin and watery, thick, and in between. We've used a grouting squeegee, a sponge and a cloth. None really works well and we end up with grout on all the tiles as well as in the joints.

Cleaning excess grout off becomes a major time-consuming task. If we clean it off too soon, the grout is still soft, and we wipe away too much of the grout in the gap. Leave it too long and its hard and has to be scraped off rather than wiped. This is a hands and knees jobs, slow and laborious. And it takes up several more days, in between bouts of tiling.

Day 268, Saturday 4th December

The sun has come out, and its warming up quickly. I'm getting bored with tiling and so decide to take a break. We've got a small window in the lounge, which, with some work, could be re-used.

I have removed it in one piece, frame and all, and ordered and collected a sealed double glazed unit to replace the non-existing glass. Double gazed units seem to me to be very cost effective. This one is 17. I spend all day in the sun, dismantling, sanding, and rebating to take the thicker glass, and add some outside oak to frame the glass and fix it properly.

A quick trip to the largest supermarket with the Boss and I manage to buy a small "delta" sander for less than 10. It will have been made in China, but their quality is getting better, and at that price, I don't expect too much. It will help finish the corners.

By the end of the day, we have a real window, as opposed to the cardboard cut-out made by Steve on his last visit. And here it is.



This is from outside (obviously). It's the original real oak, with a little magic from me and double glazing courtesy of Brico's





And from inside, before cleaning up the surrounding wood and stone





Day 269, Sunday 5th December

And today a real day off. We go for a walk, part on the road and partly on footpaths. Soon we'll be saying goodbye to all of this for a while.

But things are moving on