Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 45

Day 295, Monday 14th February

Valentines day and the postman; well actually post-woman, as they mostly are, seems to have mislaid all my cards.

country holiday house in sourh west franceThe weather has got colder and the bathroom I'm working in is cold enough for me to have to wear gloves with the finger tips removed. It's more tiling today. I've taken to mixing the tile cement on the floor. As long as I'm careful not to let too much water soak into the floor, this has many advantages.

It's quicker, the cement can be mixed where it's needed, it is easier to scoop up and put into place, and I have no bucket to wash out afterwards.

Monday is washing and cleaning day for the Boss, so no help there. Then some plastering, sealing the gaps in plasterboard, particularly over the stairs.

During the day we have real trouble with the wood burner. It seems oak requires a different regime to ensure it stays alight and gives out a reasonable amount of heat. The logs are much thicker and heavier than the ash which we've been burning to date. The size of the logs means that the Boss and I work harder when cutting them, as each log is cut into three, not two, and just lifting an uncut log can be difficult.

But, it saves going to the gym. 

Day 296, Tuesday 15th February

It's colder, but I need to see some daylight instead of working like a mole in the bathroom with only artificial light. I start by trying to dig over the vegetable patch, but it's too wet and the mud clings to everything, including the fork, and my boots which get heavier with each step I take.

Instead we decide to start to clear the far corner of the garden, which is going to be the first area to be landscaped. The whole morning is taken by levelling the areas where the electricity main and water tap have been installed. Try and pull up the remaining weeds, which while appearing dead, have live roots.

Then a bonfire, which with the wind almost gets out of hand. Then Portuguese Pete decides to put his washing out, so its the end of the burning. A small amount of work has actually made quite a visual improvement. The neighbours probably think we're mad, but hey, who cares?

The Boss insists on finishing the stone wall, which means I have to collect rocks. Fortunately, there is no shortage. By the time we've had lunch, its off to the garden centre, and then hardly any time left for working. So we stop for tea at a friends on the way home.

When we get home, the fire has almost gone out and the forecast is for a few more days of cold, or perhaps even colder weather.

All we need now is a few more friends visiting to finish clearing the rocks.

Day 297, Wednesday 16th February

I think I've cracked the art of burning oak. It smoulders all night without burning out. But to get it going again, you need the woodworm processed old wood from the barn. It catches very easily and burns quickly. That gets the flames and the draught going. Then load up the oak, and keep it hot.

It's even colder today and there is a sprinkling of snow on the ground; or is it sleet? Despite the cold, I suffer the unheated bathroom. The wind comes right though the wall where it has not yet been pointed, even though its 60cm thick. I have to keep going downstairs to thaw out.

Now that we have the car repair invoice that they posted to us, it's time to pay it. We drive to the garage intending to pay by credit card. Except they don't accept cards. Oh well, we'll pay tomorrow. And the bathroom is no warmer.

And tomorrow, its back to school.

Day 298, Thursday 17th February

Nothing exciting today, except more of the same. The work is slowed by several things.

Firstly, when working inside, I am constantly moving things around to make space. Despite having half of the upper floor not yet renovated and hence just open space, with tools, equipment, wood and assorted boxes of personal effects as yet unpacked, it is cramped.

Secondly, as it's cold, the things that I would normally do outside on a workbench in the sun (or occasionally gloom), I do inside. Working wood is messy and I am starting to accumulate lots of saw dust, but its better than freezing outside.

In the afternoon we go to our first French lesson. We've started in the "Getting Better" class, which sounds like an out-patients treatment centre. The level we find easy, but agree its better to do the revision first.

After class, we go for a coffee in the local bar. One of the other women in the class arrives and introduces us to her partner who had been drinking in the bar. After some polite discussion, he asks where we're from.

When he hears I'm from South Africa, he sets out on a path which could have been designed to start World War III. Without knowing my family history he says, "Nelson Mandela should have been hanged thirty years ago". I'm not often lost for words, but this is one occasion.

However, next week we'll see the continuation of this story.

Day 299, Friday 18th February

The Boss is off to do the weeks shopping. That means I have the morning to myself; no change there then.

As the new bigger Brico's opens today and I need a few bits of plastic pipe, I go into town to see if the bigger is as the ad men like to say when they've changed the packaging; "Improved". It's a hive of activity. Maybe everyone has come to see if it's improved, or perhaps they've so missed their daily stroll around Bricomarche, that they have come out in force.

Well, it is bigger; I'll give them that. They have finally stocked all the extra shelves. And, much to my amazement, they actually have three checkouts now. What is more surprising to me, is that they are all in use. It will never catch on.

Then, its back to work cutting, planing, and sanding wood outside, with gloves on. These bits really are too messy to do inside. Now when I get my workshop, ....

In the afternoon, I visit the Mayor's office; the Mairie. We would like to use a track as an entrance to the house, but it will need a bit of work to make it useful in wet weather. I just want to remove the surface and put down what is called calcaire, although I'm unsure about the spelling. And the man himself has said no problem, so that's one more job on the list.

As Mick, Tracy and Mick's Mum who is here on holiday are coming to dinner, its clear up time later on. Now I'll never be able to find my tools.

Day 300, Saturday 19th February

If I've counted the days correctly (which I probably haven't), then this should be an auspicious day; first 300 hundred days in office!

If you're a football fan, you'll know that this weekend is the fifth round of the FA Cup. Good old BBC public broadcasting, showing two big matches. In between the morning's game, lunch, another trip to Brico's, and the evening game, it hardly seems worth doing any work today, so I'll call it a rest day.

But tomorrow is definitely a day for work.

Day 301, Sunday 20th February

Today is our anniversary and as I keep telling the Boss, "You only get 15 years for murder", but she takes no notice.

We decided to buy another tree as a joint present to ourselves and bought a small Cedrus Deodora, a type of fir tree. Of course it has to be planted, and to confuse the neighbours further, we start digging just as the light is beginning to fade.

Another pile of rocks and some sweat later, the next tree is in. I switch on the outside tap and ice is the first thing out of the hose. And when we've finished, the Boss says, "I hope the septic tank for the barn is not going to be right here".

So do I.