Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 40

Day 270, Monday 6th December

 Today, I can't avoid a return to tiling. Nothing for it but to extend breakfast as long as possible, pretending to just finish the last chapter of the book I'm reading and then start at about 11:00. I couldn't get away with that with any other boss!

By lunch time the floor is done apart from some areas under the worktop, like beneath the cooker and washing machine. Those bits can wait. More grout, more cleaning of tiles, and more sore knees. But its starting to completely change the appearance of the kitchen.

The Boss is getting her curtains up. The plastic covered wires holding them up were fun to buy. I use my best French to explain to the patron's wife (that's the boss of Brico's), that what I'm looking for is cable, not electrical cable; cable covered in plastic. The Boss says its used for curtains, and even though she got the word for curtains wrong, the woman grasps the meaning straight away.

We ask if they intend a grand opening for the new store and she says yes. I tell her I'm only attending if they have champagne and she tells us definitely. She also explains that curtain rails and fixings will be relocated next week so we know where to find it once it moves.

Finally, with the fire lit, even with cables all over the place, the kitchen really is looking like a kitchen.


Day 271, Tuesday 7th December

I really want to get the concrete over the insulation in the lounge laid before we go away. Richard comes over to help as he's feeling in need of a workout.

The levelling battens are down by the time he arrives. Without a good half day at least to level the battens, I can't get them both level and at the same height as the kitchen floor. Finally, under pressure of time, I lay them so the floor slopes towards the door. This just means you'll be walking uphill as you enter the lounge.

Its cold outside and damp and Richard has arrived prepared with woolly hat. He mixes cement while I level. Its cold, and the water for the cement which one can't avoid contact with makes it seem even colder. The Boss arranges regular coffee, but somehow can't seem to keep up with demand.

By lunchtime, we're out of sand and call a halt for today. After lunch, the Boss and I go to collect more sand. I'm sure you know the routine but if you don't, see week 3. The roadwork's will be there for some time to come, but we can now get direct access to the sand supplier.

We decide not to go for the record and only shovel 910kgs. Our improved fitness shows after something like this, because we will not ache tomorrow. When we arrived, half of this amount took two days to recover from.

Back home via the supermarket and bar. If you're a regular reader, you will have noticed that my 'pain au chocolate' intake has reduced, but we still stop for coffee whenever we can. I guess the caffeine makes up for the loss of sugar buzz. Its always better sitting outside, but I think that's ended until spring.

And then home, prepared for more concrete tomorrow.

Day 272, Wednesday 8th December

Its still cold and damp. We use the same routine, with Richard mixing the concrete, and we take turns with the wheelbarrow, running to get over the bumps in the hall floor.

If you happen to hit a bump, and not be going fast enough to get past it, the wheelbarrow comes to an instant halt, and sloppy cement usually rises up the far edge and over onto the floor. Its lucky the hall will be done last.

Even with regular coffee breaks, we are both getting cold, so around 11:00, we head of to buy some more cement. I'm always reluctant to buy too much as it means finding somewhere good and dry to store it, but the result is we always run out just at the crucial stages.

The Boss spends the day packing clothes for the holiday. I get lots of "... you haven't got any pants",  or "If you don't tell me which T-shirts you want, you won't have any". What happened to the quiet life in France?

Richard has to leave about 2 and he has mixed enough for me to finish everything except a small section near the door, which I am using to walk on while working. I'll fill that in as soon as we get back from holiday.

Tomorrow its the Christmas party so no doubt lots of cleaning and tidying up. For that read move your tools from where they are, to somewhere they won't be seen.

And about time I get some tangible reward for all the work.

Day 273, Thursday 9th December

The kitchen is as clean as its ever going to be until the renovation finishes. The Boss has placed holly over the fireplace and put candles everywhere. I've cleared all the bits of wood and other rubbish lying around outside and the lights are on.

Charlotte supplied the duck, Mick and Tracy the vegetables as they grow their own, Richard and Lynette the cheese as they've just returned from England, and the chocolates. The Boss has done salads and deserts. Duck is not exactly British traditional Christmas fayre, but in true Christmas spirit, I manage to eat at least three times my daily calorie requirement.

Richard plays the guitar and the evening ends with a sing along. Well, perhaps not a sing along but a few slurred words from a long forgotten song, before moving on to the next one as no one remembers the words of any song from start to finish.

I'm not sure what the neighbours make of them leaving at 1:00 am, but we'll leave them in peace for a while.

Tomorrow, its just pack the van and off we go.

But as always, there is a footnote. Apart from taking a wrong turn on the Paris périphérique again; yes again, when we arrived at Boulogne, we were told the ferry is in the harbour, but they don't know when it will leave. So we go for a coffee, a look around and then try and find out what's happening. 

There is a fisherman's strike, and they are not meeting again for another two days. We decide to take Euro Tunnel and drive to Calais. The one way cost of 267€ makes me choke as we only paid £88 for a return. Long live SpeedFerries and the devil curse Euro Tunnel.

Several days later, we actually find out that all the other ferry services, except Boulogne were working normally. We could perhaps have gone for half the price from somewhere else.

Bring on week 41