Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 51

Day 333, Monday 28th March

Easter Monday, and just like the UK, its raining. My sister Frances, her husband and one son are due to arrive toady, staying for a week at Mick and Tracy's. But they cancel the trip for medical reasons.

The two days of rain has created a swimming pool in the barn. Water is coming through the wall as the ground level outside the back is a meter higher than inside. Another few years without some attention and the walls will be crumbling, if they aren't already.

swimming pool

Back to the bathroom, to begin on the ceiling. But first, as I am changing the lights so lovingly installed by Steve, all the wiring is removed. The low voltage lights need completely different cabling arrangements.

And then the first bits of the ceiling and one light. It's all going to plan, until the unstable ladder that I should have got rid of months ago, slides out from under me.

Bouncing off the edge of the bath, and landing amongst scattered tools on the hard tile floor, puts paid to work for the rest of the day. The only real damage is to my pride, however I have a good few bruises to show for my trouble.

Mick and Tracy come round for dinner, and a few beers deaden the aches. However, climbing the stairs to bed, highlights all the bits of me that aren't working as they should. I must have fallen harder than I thought.

Perhaps a light day is called for tomorrow.

Day 334, Tuesday 29th March

Still light rain and the five day forecast says more of the same until Friday. I got up later than usual and the Boss insisted I don't do anything up a ladder today. And I gave in gracefully.

One more coat of lacquer on the beams in the path of the shower in bathroom 2. Then, its back to the kitchen. Some of the tiles still have not had the excess grout cleared off and finally, the time has come.

Off course this makes a lot of dust and then I have to clean the kitchen. And with all the aches and bruises from yesterday, I decide to take a day off, as the Boss told me to.

Amazing how busy one can be doing nothing. Tomorrow, ....

Day 335, Wednesday 30th March

It's really dark and grey this morning and no, I did not get up in the middle of the night. A hosepipe ban has been announced in Charente, and the last few days will have gone a long way to making up the winter shortfall of rain.

I'm still stiff and limping and it takes me a good part of the morning to get one more piece of ceiling installed. This is done on the lowest part of the roof slope, without a ladder. A trip to Brico's for a new ladder, but I'm not impressed with the choice.

The bank that ordered me a new credit card two months ago have not received it, so they will order me another! By that time, its after 12 and the other places I need to go to are already closed. So its home for lunch.

In the afternoon, we travel to a town a little further away to buy a ladder, with feet that won't slide away when I'm on the top of it! (No more cakes and biscuits perhaps)! On the way home, we drop off one of the many barrels from our barn, at a friend who wants it as a garden planter.

A bit of plastering and I'm finished for the day.

Day 336, Thursday 31st March

I was never keen on working on the roof. During the summer, I'd prevaricate until I could put it off no longer. Now I've decided there is only one area of work that I like even less than working on the roof. Its the internal ceilings.

The difficulties arise when spanning beams. They aren't parallel and none of them are parallel to the walls. The beams to which the ceiling is fixed, are different thicknesses, making a ceiling with a few bulges an inevitability. But worst of all is once a piece of plasterboard is cut.

It has to be lifted to check for size. Standing underneath, one can't help breathing plasterboard dust, which is pernicious. I often cough like a sixty cigarettes a day smoker. It gets in your eyes and your arms ache constantly working with your hands above your head.

Its a lousy job, but I suppose someone has to do it! So back to the bathroom. I have an appointment at the bank in the afternoon, to review our house insurance. It turns out we are over covered and have a small rebate to come. Someone must be looking after us.

By the end of the day, half the ceiling is in, half of the lights are working and I've got another piece of plasterboard in place, ready to be trimmed and fixed up.

Before knocking off, its time to clear up to stop the plasterboard dust being walked all over the house. The aches and pains from my dodgy ladder have all but gone, however the cut foot is still difficult to walk on.

Perhaps some red wine will help.

Day 337, Friday 1st April

The bathrooms finished, the Boss has a job paying 25€ an hour and the sun is shining. It's also April the 1st! 

The Boss is really going to the Riberac market. Its larger than our local market, but as the area has its share of wealthy immigrants, its also more pricey. However, she manages to come back having found a stall that sells cheddar cheese, and acceptable muesli, which we can't find in the supermarkets.

Some of our friends ask why, do we want cheddar, in a country that has by some counts, over two hundred types of cheese? Well, firstly, my spaghetti bolognese isn't the same without cheddar. I can hear the cries of heathen right now. The same goes for cheese and pickle sandwiches.

Of course while the Boss is out, I sit around reading the newspaper. In the afternoon she (that's the cats mother for those that don't know) goes to see about a real part time job , and I'm back in the bathroom.





The garden well, with pansies planted by Chris (she'll  know which Chris)

Either I'm getting older or plasterboard is getting heavier. Perhaps I'm still stiff from my fall. In case you're wondering, the fall was from a ladder, not from grace. So I revert to pre-wiring the second set of low voltage lights.

In the evening, the Boss again insists on a fire. As I'm sure you will know if you've read previous weeks, what the Boss wants, she gets.

Day 338, Saturday 2nd April

It's amazing how quickly croissant day comes around. But once again, no croissants. Régime  rules OK (that's diet to you and me).

While I am tired of the bathroom, I can see the end in sight and it will be the first room, fully finished. Just a bit more ceiling, a few more lights and then we paint. Oh; I almost forgot; a little plastering before the painting.

Plastering is the bane of my life right now. Mix it too wet, and it won't go on thickly, too dry and it's already going off before you get to the bottom of the container. Mix too much and I'm walking around looking for cracks to fill. That's a laugh; finding cracks to fill (an in joke for those that have seen the lounge). Mix too little and; well, you can guess the result.

I'm told professional plasterers can get up to 25% of the plaster on the floor. I seem to do quite well in this respect, but the drips always seem to land on me, never the floor. And as for only using one or two coats to get the right finish, perhaps I should go back to plastering school.

But I'm not giving up until the bathroom is finished. By knocking off time, the ceiling is done. I'm disappointed by the amount of light from the low voltage lights but I've left a cable in the wall, to add more lights after our EDF inspection. All that remains now is plaster all the remaining plasterboard joints, rub down and paint.

If only I could get a rub down ...

Day 339, Sunday 3rd April

Its cooler than it has been and although Sunday is a rest day of sorts, we are out to lunch tomorrow, hence working today.

First, plaster the cracks, but only after cleaning the bathroom again, to remove off-cuts of plasterboard, cable, assorted screws dropped onto the floor and get all my tools out of the way.

I'm using screws varying from 25 to 55mm to hold the ceiling up. The quality of the beam determines how far each screw goes before it will hold fast. If the screw is too long, in old oak, in will just lock tight and no amount of brute force will move it further. Choose one that's too long and you may not get it out so every screw is carefully chosen to suit the beam.

As usual the plaster mix is not right; its too wet. You might ask why I can't just add a bit more plaster to get the mix right? Well its like this. One mixes, and then one sits around or does something else for about an hour, to let the plaster "go off", before using. This means until it starts to go off, inexperienced plasterers like me don't know if its too wet, too dry or just right.

Being too wet means I can only do the smaller cracks and the larger ones will wait until after lunch. But it is time to get the door back on. However by the time we've had lunch, its warmer outside and we'd both like a little fresh air, so its off to work on the preparation of the vegetable patch.

And after several hard hours in the garden, we have to water the new grassed area. Because of the hosepipe ban, we're using water from the well, wound up by hand and carried by bucket.

And now, I'm cream crackered. But tomorrow; I'm sure you know the rest.