When we bought the house last September we thought we would replace the metal spiral staircase sooner rather than later. Carrying anything up or down it is tricky and I have nearly come a cropper many times already. Lulu took one look at it and didn’t even attempt to get upstairs. I think the open treads probably put her off.
Back in October we spotted a young man with a stall at the “Art et lard” event in Le Petit-Pressigny. He is a local carpenter specialising in roofs and staircases so in December we invited him to come and give us a quote for a new staircase made of oak. It would have been very convenient for it to have been fitted in March when the spiral staircase had to be removed for the new floor to be put down. Unfortunately it wasn’t ready then so we had to have the old staircase put back again (at a cost of course).
We managed to pin him down to an approximate date for the new staircase to be fitted – the beginning to the middle of June. The sooner the better for us.
By the beginning of June there was no sign of him so we chased him up and he said he would start on 15th June. We enquired whether we would need to move out for a day or two if there was going to be no access to the bedrooms and he said no, it would only take a day to fit so we wouldn’t be without stairs overnight.
On 15th June we assumed he had started work on the components in his workshop and we looked forward to the new staircase probably being installed at the end of the week…….on the Thursday evening he came to take the measurements and said he would be in touch “la semaine prochaine”.
“La semaine prochaine” translates as “next week” in my book but it actually seems to mean some time in the next few weeks – if you’re lucky. We chased him again and he gave us a date of Wednesday 1st July. We groaned. This was after we had planned to go back to the UK for two weeks and with Nick’s mum very ill it was more important than usual that we made the trip.
We anguished over what to do and after a long conversation with Nick’s eldest sister we decided that I would come back to the UK with Lulu while Nick stayed on to see the installation of the new staircase, flying home the following weekend. We already had Daisy booked into a cattery so off she went.
We are quite used to leaving workmen with a key to get on with some jobs in our absence, especially things that were done under the supervision of Alex and Nicole, but somehow we felt that with something as unique, personal and expensive as a staircase one of us needed to be around, to answer questions at least.
Wednesday 1st came and went with no sign of the staircase. After several phone calls the young man promised to deliver it on Thursday afternoon. Or Friday at the latest. With Nick’s mum becoming more ill with each day, it began to look like he had wasted his time staying behind and might not get home in time.
Nothing happened on Thursday afternoon. On Friday morning the assistant (“the lad”) turned up to take the old staircase down – not a job to be tackled single handed. Between the two of them, Nick and the lad, they managed to dismantle it and store it in the barn. On Friday afternoon the young man delivered the new staircase, carefully laid the parts on the kitchen floor and went, promising to start work on fitting it on Monday. So no staircase for the whole weekend, just a ladder to get upstairs.
Nick left him a key and flew home on Saturday. His flight home was booked for Saturday afternoon so he had no option but to leave the staircase to be installed in our absence, which was exactly what we were hoping to avoid. But with Nick’s mum being very poorly, he wanted to get home to see her. The doctors were saying that she might not survive beyond the weekend.
Nick visited his mum in hospital on Sunday and later that day she slipped into unconsciousness. She is hanging on but the doctors think it won’t be long before we lose her.
The carpenter has fitted the new staircase and emailed some pictures. It looks beautiful in the photos and as far as we can tell he has done a good job.
When we bought the house the previous owners gave us a folder of photos showing how the house had been renovated and our new staircase looks remarkably like the one that was taken out and replaced with the metal one, except much more sturdy.
Nick’s mum is still deeply unconscious and he and his sisters have said their goodbyes.
We will be going back to France this weekend as planned, the end of what was to be a two week holiday here in the UK. We will be coming back again soon for a funeral.
Life can be so topsy turvy at times.