The last two weeks have gone by in a blur of hectic activity. I’ll try to get things in the right order and do an update. This is a long post so please bear with me!
I was looking at the sunset in the picture above when news arrived of Barrie’s death. It had been a warm and glorious day and we were in the process of moving out of the house ready for the builders to move in. The weekend continued to be sunny and warm as we moved to take up temporary residence in our friends Tim and Gaynor’s house in the next village, something for which we will be forever grateful.
In fact it was so warm that a lizard appeared out of a crack in the front wall of our house. Unfortunately it was not fast enough to escape the attention of our little Daisy. You can see her here playing with its tail – isn’t it grotesque that the tail carries on wriggling when the rest of the lizard has run off elsewhere, presumably to start growing a new one.
The builders arrived early the next Monday morning and we stopped by in the evening to see how they had got on. They had made a good start. The staircase had been removed and a lot of the floor was already dug up. We could see why the existing tiles were breaking up so easily. They had been laid on a thin layer of concrete on top of a thin layer of sand on top of the earth, which is pretty much what we expected.
The builders had also made a start on raising the lintel on the doorway to the buanderie – the very low one that so many people bang their heads on! With the staircase gone we had no access to upstairs and with the door to the downstairs loo now blocked by rubble you can see why we had to move out!
By the end of the first week the whole floor had been dug out to a depth of about 20cm, a thick layer of insulation laid down, a waterproof membrane on top of that then steel reinforcing wire ready for the concrete. The red thing sticking up in the middle is the electricity supply for the island unit.
We spent the early part of the week driving back and forth to Tours looking for a gas hob and electrical items, namely an oven and lights for the new kitchen. We managed to buy some ceiling lights. The Thursday was the day of Barrie’s funeral. It was a glorious day, a solemn but joyful occasion – it was sad to say goodbye to a friend who will be well missed but the celebration of his life left a bitter sweet feeling of joy for having known him.
We checked the house on our way home and they had laid the concrete. The house was then left for it to dry and the builders had their Friday off. We also had a day off, went out for lunch and bought some wine. On the Saturday we went back to England for a week in order to buy a cooker and do a few other errands.
We had intended to buy a hob and oven in France, thinking that ones with French fittings would be best. We really liked the double oven we had in our old house in England, a large fan oven below and a small oven with the grill above. Then we discovered that it is IMPOSSIBLE to buy such a thing in France! Having ordered the hob housing unit to fit this style of double oven we had no choice but to order one from the UK. Delivery charges were extortionate so we thought we might as well go and fetch one ourselves.
Then we also discovered that the hob we like costs more than double from any French supplier than it does from John Lewis. Having first checked that it could be adapted for use with propane gas we decided to fetch that at the same time as the oven.
Our week in England flew by. By the middle of the week we had our oven, hob, worktop lighting and a pile of plumbing bits and pieces safely bought and stowed in the car ready to be brought to France. On the Thursday I had an unexpected treat. My sister in law Kathy was going with some friends to the NEC to a sewing and craft exhibition and there was a spare place in the car. I had a zillion and one things to do but the idea of a girls’ day out was too good to miss and I have to say I had a fantastic time. For his day off Nick went fishing.
On the Friday there was much excitement due to the solar eclipse. I had completely forgotten about it myself until it started to get dark about 9.30am! Then I remembered and dashed out with my camera.
On Sunday we came back to France to take up residence again in Tim and Gaynor’s house and to see how the work had progressed in our absence.
Monday was a lovely day and we took some time off to recover from the previous day’s twelve hour drive. We enjoyed some spring sunshine on our host’s sunny terrace and after two weeks of frantic activity we were able to chill out for a whole day.
At teatime we took our little roadster for a spin in the sunshine and visited the house. To our absolute delight we discovered that in our week of absence, the drive had, at last, been done!
Hooray, no more mud to do battle with when it rains!
By Monday evening the lintel was finished and the walls half finished.
There is beautiful new stonework around the door way and a new bit of oak lintel which blends in perfectly with the old.
The stone walls around the old stone sink were ready for the final finish. We have anguished over what to do with the old stone sink. Ideally we would have made a feature of it, revealing it in all its ancient glory and possibly making a display area above it. We have seen this kind of thing in other old houses and they look really effective. The stumbling block with ours is that the water supply has been brought into the house through the stone above the sink and the water meter is underneath it. Making it into an attractive feature would involve moving the pipework and the water meter, which is entirely possible but a big and expensive job. In the end we decided that the space was best used to house our (yet to be purchased) water softener.
The hole for the extractor fan above the new hob has been made in the thick back wall.
This evening, all the stonework is cleaned and finished beautifully.
The first few floor tiles have been laid. Progress is good.
We’re crossing our fingers that the builders will be finished by the weekend and we can get our house back. There will be a lot of cleaning up to do before we can move back in as this kind of work creates a lot of very gritty dust. The builders have been very good at sweeping up as they go along, being respectful of our property and sheeting down as much as possible to minimise the travel of dust, so it’s not anywhere near as bad as we had expected.
In the meantime we have more fetching to do – plasterboard and electrical fittings for the other two walls. There is also plenty of gardening to do – if you can call trying to transform something that looks like a battlefield into something that looks like lawn - gardening!