8 July 2015


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.


  1. Sorry to hear the news about Nick's mom. It's a lot to deal with, especially from a distance. The stair looks good; I hope it meets with your approval on your return. :)

  2. The photos of the staircase do look good so here's hoping they are perfect. I'm so sorry to hear about Nick's mum and all the stress the wider situation has been causing. You don't need that when all you want is to be near your family. Tradesmen can be frustratingly obtuse.

    1. Susan, obtuse is a good word and I see that it's the same in French!
      The annoying thing is that we daren't be anything but very grateful all the time in case he took his bat home and we didn't get the staircase for another three months.

  3. I'm really sorry to hear about Nick's mum - it's hard to deal with from afar. I don't always like being back in the UK (mostly because of the weather) but I do know that I made the right decision and my Mum is eternally grateful. The stair case looks superb - so much more in keeping with the house. But why can't workmen come up with a date and keep to it. It drives me to distraction!

    1. Craig, I think it's the curse of the self employed. They daren't turn down work in case the supply dries up, even though they don't really have the time to fit it all in. Hence they hop from one job to another to keep the ones that complain the loudest happy.

  4. Workmen! It's just the same in the UK my mum has just had to wait a month for a small job that the tradesman said I will do next week... The same the world over. Stairs look great... Sure they aren't the same ones sanded up!! Ha Ha

    1. Colin, I suspect the old ones were a bit more wobbly.
      Our former neighbour Mme. André knew exactly which house we were moving to when we told her we were leaving (she knew everything about everyone for miles around, although she didn't always admit to it) and she informed us that its last French owner died when he fell down the old wooden staircase.
      I'm not sure I really needed to know that but consequently we were very keen to get something really solid as soon as possible!

  5. Lovely staircase, and hopefully solid enough to last a very long time.

    My thoughts go out to you at this time. Vx

  6. Do take care, life, like workmen, can be hard to predict.

  7. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear of all of this with Nick's mom. Thank heavens he was able to get there. What a sad, difficult time.
    The staircase does look great, and a great addition :)

  8. So sorry to hear about Nick's mum but if she is unconscious at least she is not in pain, A difficult time though, I know the feeling. Our thoughts are with you. x

    We found a great carpenter in Chasseneuil, his dates were a bit late but not that much! Take care Diane.