A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 42

Day 274, Monday 24th January

The neighbours dogs seem to have learnt the lesson of yesterday. They don't bark until 8:30. And today, I'm reminded why we like it here so much.

I start early, going to the builders merchant before breakfast. Six sacks of self-levelling compound, and then to the cashier. My UK credit card seldom works using only the magnetic stripe. As the chip technology in the UK is different to that in France, mostly UK cards here will only work when they swipe them. Today is one day mine won't work this way.

My French credit card seems to have developed a faulty chip and will not work anywhere. So here I am with the van loaded, two credit cards that won't work, and no cheque book. To complicate matters, the manager that knows me is off today and today's manager, while he may have seen me there, has never spoken to me.

The cashier tells him my cards don't work and he simply says to me (in French), "No problem. Come in and pay the next time you are passing". I think I'll try that the next time I'm at B & Q.

Self-levelling compound goes down onto the lounge floor, but I've run out by lunch time. The Boss had been finishing the holiday unpacking and washing. After lunch we take her car to the local Peugeot dealer, which of course, is closed on Mondays. Then back to the builders merchant, more self-levelling stuff, off to Brico's for a few other things and then home.

Its cold, the temperature has dropped a good few degrees in the last 24 hours, but the sun is shining.




It's a pity that the garden moles don't hibernate in the French winter

And tomorrow, all our personal effects arrive from storage in the UK. It will be like Christmas all over again.

Day 275, Tuesday 25th January

Early start today as our personal effects are moving from one store to another. They are being brought from storage in the UK (or so we believed), to a friends empty basement, which will save us a few Euros.

We arrive at Brian's house at 9:00; about the time we were told the lorry driver would aim to arrive. At 10:30, we call the UK office to find out what time they expect to arrive. They don't know as this is being handled by their "other depot, in Spain"! They'll call us back.

At 11, we get a call saying they have just reached Bayonne, which is into France across the Spanish border, but still a good four hours away. So we disperse while Brian goes to get logs, and we go via a larger local town to get high-temperature plasterboard; Placo Flamme.

We get some but from a builders merchant. Brico's don't know what it is. The, we head home stopping at a friends who makes us lunch. By the time we arrive home, I have heard from someone on a mobile, from somewhere, that the lorry has broken down near Bordeaux, and they will let me know. I call all the people who were going to help us off-load and tell them it's probably tomorrow.




The temporarily installed fireplace, before the fire is removed to seal the chimney

After some time spent removing the chimney in the lounge, in readiness for insulating the chimney, we get another call, from the driver. He finally arrives at the nearest town at about 9 o'clock and no, we aren't going to unload tonight. We tell them we'll collect them and show them the way tomorrow morning.

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?

Day 276, Wednesday 26th January

Another early start for the Boss. The temperature has dropped further, the ground is frozen solid and the wind has got up.

The lorry driver and his mate were from Spain. Don't ask me what our personal effects were doing in Spain when we thought they were in Leicester.

The drivers are not happy as they are just "friends" of the removal company. The lorry that broke down has a whole number of faults, including no cab heater. Remember it was freezing overnight. They could not get anything to eat last night and have had no breakfast.

It turns out that after everything is off-loaded, and we have fed them, that in their words, this is the "last favour we do ...". However, after a shower and food they leave happy.

The Boss has sorted out some things we will take with us immediately and the rest will wait until the barn is watertight.

And now its too late and too cold to do anything other than have a siesta, re-stock with logs, update my diary and then read a book. Tomorrow, I had better finish sealing the chimney in the lounge and get the fire lit, or Spencer will arrive on Friday and have to sleep in the kitchen.

This evening, we will relax in our well travelled reclining arm chairs. I guess its just possible, that we may never do any further work.

Day 277, Thursday 27th January

It's still cold. The ground is frozen solid and I am worried about the metal water pipe at the top of the garden. I put a cut-off on it and a bleed valve, but of course, only remembered to use it once the water in the pipe had frozen! Wait and see what the thaw will bring.

The sun is shining and the Boss and I go for haircuts. The hairdresser, unlike the UK, does not ask me where I'm going for my holidays. Instead, I tell her where I've just been. Then we bump into a couple we know in the supermarket, so this calls for a coffee.

By the time we get home, its lunch-time. And then, I've really got to finish insulating the chimney in the lounge.

Despite having to improvise on my intended method of sealing and insulating the chimney, its completed by evening and the fire is lit. Just have to place some cardboard over the missing floorboards above and the room will warm up nicely.

While working in the lounge, my expensive and carefully laid self-levelling compound had cracked and lifted in a few small spots. Not really what I wanted and I'll have to deal with those, but not this week.

The Boss has spent the afternoon cleaning. You might think that she always seems to be washing or cleaning. Firstly, it only seems she is always doing that. Secondly, while working, we are always tramping mud, plasterboard, fibreglass and cement all over the place. Finally, in between helping me, cleaning, and washing, she whips up some first class meals. Tonight it's traditional French beef curry and rice.

Whatever I may say to friends in the bar, I really mean long live the Boss

Day 278, Friday 28th January

We wake up to a sprinkling of snow on the ground. However the weather is warming and the snow will be gone before the end of the day.

Both wood burners are still going so it means collect more wood from the barn before breakfast. We spend the day clearing the rubble from the lounge, putting down fitted carpet (made of cardboard) and clearing the piles of tiles from the entrance.

Leaving the Boss baking cakes and cooking dinner, I drive to Bergerac to collect Spencer. The Double Forest trees are devoid of leaves, but the lichen and ivy add light and dark greens to the background, giving the forest a unique beauty.

By the time we get back, the Boss has cooked dinner, made up some beds in the lounge, laid wall to wall cardboard carpet and washed the kitchen floor.

Tomorrow, a rest day

Day 279, Saturday 29th January

As its Saturday and we have visitors, it must definitely be croissant day. These are still the best croissants.

After breakfast Spencer decides he wants to cut some more logs. Not only do we cut the purchased logs, but we begin disassembling the animal feed-stalls in the barn and cutting this for firewood. The wood has been softened by woodworm, and cuts and breaks easily. Its not as good as hardwood for fuel, but it is free and it's also a start on clearing the barn.

Spencer and I go to collect the car from the garage. The car is ready but the invoice is not. As this is rural France, we just drive away without paying and they'll post the invoice. I find this kind of trust has an effect on my own scruples. I can hear the Boss now saying, "What scruples?".

For instance, I feel obliged, in the nicest possible way, to pay the invoice as soon as it arrives, instead of waiting until the last minute. As with the sand where we weigh ourselves, I would not dream of under-declaring the weight, even if it is only a few Euros.

After a bit of assembly for our satellite dish, and a trip to town for cable for the dish, it's almost time to get ready to go out. First, I have one more go at the leaking toilet in the second bathroom. Tomorrow morning will tell.

And then, out to dinner at the local chateau.

Day 280, Sunday 30th January

When we got home last night, the sky was cloudless and the stars were bright. Of course that means it's likely to be cold and we are not disappointed.

Except the morning proves to be damp and a little grey. The "country air" is blamed as the cause of some of us not waking up until after 12.

Typical Sunday, without work, a trip to Bergerac and next week we start work proper!

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