Back in Derbyshire for Christmas, we woke up this morning to a kind of winter wonderland scene. We very nearly had a white Christmas but the snow arrived two days too late, falling on Boxing Day instead of Christmas Eve.
The truth is that it actually arrived too early – a few hours earlier than forecast which meant that many people got caught out going home from their Boxing Day celebrations. Consequently this morning the roads were littered with abandoned cars, making the roads even more difficult to drive on.
We decided to leave our car at home and instead took a white knuckle bus ride into town. There we had a nice lunch, enjoying the opportunity of being able to have a drink because we weren’t driving.
The main purpose of our shopping trip was to buy some of that ghastly clear plastic carpet protector. Yes, you can still buy it, although it took some finding. The urgency to find such a thing is due to the antics of a certain “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth” Miss Daisy.
Daisy will be six months old in about a week and predictably, on Christmas Day she came into season. Only those who have had to live in the same house as a cat in season will know what that means!
When we talked to the vet in Descartes about having her spayed, he said we would definitely want to do it as we wouldn’t be able to stand the noise. He was not wrong! She makes a very loud noise which is something like a cross between a meow, a chirrup and a whine, and her favourite place to make it is at the top of the stairs, on the landing, outside our bedroom. All night long.
We have taken to shutting her downstairs in the interest of getting some sleep and she tries to dig her way under the door to get back upstairs to her favourite calling spot. Consequently the carpet in the doorway is taking a battering and we decided to do something about it while it still had some tread left!
Changing the subject, our last few weeks in France turned out to be hard work. It was a constant battle with the cold and the mud. With the boiler not working it was a full time job to keep the two log fires going and to keep enough heat to warm the house.
On top of that, the condition of the drive had deteriorated enormously. The thin layer of gravel had gradually given way to mud with more muddy areas than dry ones. With the dog, the cat and the frequent visits to the barn for wood, it became impossible to keep mud out of the house.
A new drive is one of the things we planned to get and, like most of our other plans, we felt the need to replace it sooner rather than later – as a matter of urgency in fact. There is however one other major piece of work that has to be done before anything else.- the installation of a new septic tank – the fosse.
When a house is sold in rural France, the sellers are obliged to have the fosse inspected by an organisation called Satese. If the fosse does not meet the current standards the buyers are obliged to replace it and have twelve months to get it done. This is the way that the authorities are attempting to make France more sanitary – to rid the countryside of unacceptable eighteenth and nineteenth century methods of dealing with the products of human existence.
Our fosse is essentially a large concrete box with a hole in the bottom buried just outside the front door. We have no idea what happens to the waste ultimately – the previous owners were there for twelve years and say they have never had to have the fosse emptied. Predictably it failed the inspection so, with Nicole and Alex’s help, we engaged a contractor, Fred, to do the work.
Plans were submitted for a modern design of fosse and we waited for Satese to get in touch. Eventually a rendezvous was arranged between Satese, Fred, us and Nicole, for the site to be inspected again and soil tests done. We had no real idea what the next step in the process was – whether we had to wait for a letter and approve any changes or what. Consequently we also had no idea when the work could begin.
On 15th December the man from Satese came and had a discussion with Fred. Soil tests were done, a modification to Fred’s plan was proposed and signed off there and then. Fred announced that he would come and start the work two days later !!
We were overjoyed. That was the best Christmas present we could have had. When Fred has finished the installation of the fosse he will then put down a new drive as part of the job. When the drive is down we can then get on with the internal projects, the new staircase, the kitchen floor and the new kitchen.
Our original idea was to return to France when the work began on the new fosse, to see how it was done and to know what was going where. The fact that the work was to begin the day after we came back to Derbyshire for Christmas put an end to that idea but as Fred said, we really would not want to be there! I suspect that he also felt he could get on faster without two anxious home owners fretting about the state of their garden!
He did however promise to keep us up to date as the work progressed with some photos.
While installing the new tank and pipe work it was discovered that the overflow from the old fosse was pumped into the well. Lovely! Fred said he had seen this kind of thing before, especially on farm properties. And worse I suspect.
So by the time we are next chez nous, we will have a new fosse, a new drive and, with a bit of luck, a new boiler too. It will be lovely to return to a house that can be kept clean and warm, and not to worry where our waste is going. We will also be able to look forward to getting on with the other improvements we have planned.
So, all that remains is for me to wish everyone a belated Happy Christmas and wish you all the best for the New Year. From Daisy and, of course……
…from Lulu, Nick and me.
Greetings of the season and a very Happy New Year from us all !!