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.
The 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
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
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
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.