25 July 2023

WALKING. STILL STANDING.

 

This year we joined the walking group that meets every Monday except for during July and August when it's too hot to walk.  Walks moved from afternoons to mornings for the last few weeks of the season and on this day finished up with a light lunch at the house of some friends near Barrou.

Walking around the region makes my heart sing.  It's just so beautiful.


On this sunny morning the farmers were busy getting crops in.


The views are stunning.



It seems to me to be a record year for sunflowers.


I wonder what used to be behind these gates.


This barn must be several hundred years old and still standing.

I'm off back to the UK tomorrow for a whole week.  I'm not looking forward to the journey.

I'm taking the ROP (rattly old Peugeot) back to England where it will stay.  It needs four new tyres which I will organise when I'm there and Nick will take it for its annual MOT when he goes back in September.  I'll be flying back to France courtesy of Ryanair which is how we'll be travelling from now on, except for a longer winter break when we take Hugo and Daisy with us.

Daisy is soldiering on, on a regime of painkillers, eye drops and ointments, administered as and when we can ambush her.  She doesn't do much now, sleeps a lot, but doesn't seem to be distressed, yet.  We wonder if she will still be with us when we go back to the UK in the winter.

I have mixed feelings about this trip.  I know I will hate the roads, the litter and the busyness and will miss the tranquility of the French countryside.  And Nick, Hugo and Daisy of course.  It will be good though to catch up with family and friends.  

22 July 2023

THE ROOF TERRACE

This was the roof terrace in July 2015.

It was a bit scruffy and we more or less ignored it for the first few months after we moved in.  It seemed an odd thing to have - an outdoor space accessible only by climbing out of the bedroom window!


The roof terrace is above the "well room" which is at the far right of the house.


The well room is clearly an addition to the original building, being three walls and a roof built over the well and attached to the end of the house, for who knows what reason, an unknown number of centuries ago.


Tacked onto the back of the well room is another building with a tiled roof which looks like it was built in the twentieth century as a pair of animal sheds.  We don't know what kind of animals but it's a useful storage space.


In 2016 we noticed that the condition of the roof terrace floor over the well was not good and getting increasingly worse.  The terrace leaked and the structure was rotting away.



During that year Nick set about repairing it and once the old tiles were off the extent of the damage could be seen.




He replaced the rotted floor panels and one of the beams and covered them with a waterproof membrane.  On top of that he laid new tiles.


 
This picture illustrates why the roof terrace was actually there in the first place.

The "door" is in fact the window that leads from the bedroom and on the right hand side you can see the line of the original roof.  When the well room was built (however many centuries ago) the rear slope of its roof would have covered the window.

This wouldn't have mattered to the people who had the well room built, as the "upstairs" was not a habitable floor at all, just a loft space.  This space, called the "grenier", would have been used for storage, would have had a tiled floor made of rough terracotta tiles called "tomettes" and two access hatches, one at each end.  There would not have been an internal access to it (staircase) from the ground floor originally, only the two hatches.  These would have had wooden doors, not windows.  With one access blocked by the well room roof the space would still have been accessible at the other end.

Amongst the photos left for us by the previous owners of the house is one which shows the inside of the blocked off access.  When this couple bought the house, renovation had already been started on the other end of the grenier.  They then wanted to extend into this end of the grenier, creating a large bedroom, and to reinstate the access as a window.


To uncover the access they had to cut off the rear part of the roof over the well, creating a large void.  They put down beams and a wooden floor, tiled it, and built a back wall under the remaining roof section, also made of wood.  Et voilà!  A roof terrace!


This is the bedroom the previous owners created with the window to the roof terrace at the end.  This large, light and airy space was a huge part of why we fell in love with the house.  The previous owners were rightly very proud of it. 



The roof terrace in September 2016 after Nick had repaired it.
We loved it.


A misty sunrise seen from the roof terrace in September 2016.



Over the years we made a few alterations to the bedroom, removing the home made office desk, rehanging the closet door so that it opened outwards rather than inwards, replacing the velux window and finally, fitting a new carpet and decorating it in September last year (2022).

The only way the delivery drivers could get the carpet upstairs into the bedroom was via the roof terrace.  We had not used it at all for three years (due to spending so little time in France during the pandemic) and it was in terrible condition.  Nick took down part of the barrier so that the carpet could be hauled onto the terrace and then into the bedroom via the window.  Having stepped out there for the first time in ages the true horror of the state it was in was both embarrassing and worrying.



It was leaking badly again and we were worried that it was becoming unsafe.  Much as we never really wanted or needed a roof terrace at all we realised we had to do something about it.

The fundamental problem was that the terrace bounced slightly as you walked on it.  This movement gradually caused the tiles to break up and the membrane to puncture so that when it rained water seeped into the wooden floor panels and beams, causing them to rot.

Although we didn't want to have to invest in a new roof terrace it was clear that the wooden beams and floor would have to be replaced with something more robust.  Concrete.


The roof terrace in April 2023, in bad condition and desperately needing repair.
This picture also shows the line of the old well room roof and how it covered the window.




Work started in April this year.  The roof had to come off, the old floor and wooden beams were removed.  The roof over the animal sheds was also removed because it was in poor condition.  




New concrete beams were installed and a concrete floor supported by a forest of acrow props.



In May work began on replacing the roof over the well, using the original tiles that were taken off.



In June the big digger was driven away from in front of the house where it had lived for over a month, the new tiles were laid and, with a lot of work still to be done, we were at last able to enjoy the space again.





The new guard rails were fitted and finally the new panelled roof over the sheds at the back.


It's been a long and expensive project but it's a space we can really enjoy.



As a finishing touch Nick built some new oak steps to enable us to climb safely in and out of the window!

It is a bit of a white elephant, a vanity project, that we don't need and never wanted but had to do in order to solve a problem that was never going to go away otherwise.  We like to think that it's an asset to the property or at least that if we ever want to sell the house prospective buyers will see it as a such.  Only four months ago it was just a problem that badly needed fixing.

We celebrated the finished job by inviting the lovely builder and his lovely wife round for apéros on the roof terrace just the other day.

14 July 2023

DAISY

 

I am sad to report that it very much looks like Daisy's days are numbered.

In 2022 she had three quite big operations due to the appearance of a lump just in front of her left ear.  It looked very much like a small raspberry.

The first operation was in France for a biopsy that revealed that the lump was a sarcoma.  The vet said it was not life threatening in the sense that it would not metastasise but was very invasive and we should have it removed.  This was the second operation, done in June last year.

Four months later, just before we returned to the UK at the end of our 180 days we thought we saw a few bits of "raspberry" reappearing and our UK vet confirmed that there was some regrowth of the tumour.  She performed a major operation on her face to remove it that involved using something called a "flap".   This is where the skin from further down the neck was stretched and stitched in place over the wound.  Clever stuff and, we thought, very successful.

After this third operation Daisy looked awful, her poor little face all stitched up like a rag doll, but the fur soon grew back although on her left cheek it was at a funny angle because it was neck fur not face fur.

After both of these operations the vets (one in France, one in the UK) stressed that it was impossible to be absolutely sure that all the sarcoma cells had been removed but she looked fine and has been fine until very recently.

An unfortunate consequence of both operations to remove the tumour has been that her left eye would not completely close, leaving it vulnerable to injury and infection.  I had been putting artificial tear gel into the eye daily to help prevent drying out of the cornea.  Then, about a month ago, I noticed that the eye looked sore, that there was a whitish spot on the edge of the cornea and some pinkness.  I suspected an ulcer and vascularisation of the cornea.

I spoke to the UK vet who had performed the second removal of the tumour and she said to take her to a local vet as soon as possible.  We went to our usual vet in Loches but was disappointed that we had not been booked in to see the young woman who had performed the surgery but one of her older male colleagues.  I explained what had happened at length, providing him with post op photos from both occasions and after what was a cursory glace at Daisy's eye he prescribed some anitbiotic ointment. 

One week later the eye was clearly getting worse so I specifically asked to see the young female surgeon.  She examined Daisy much more thoroughly, using fluorescein to check the cornea and confirmed that there was an ulcer which was increasing, was a threat to her sight and no doubt very painful.  She prescribed a whole barrage of eye drops to tackle it and painkillers.

She also pointed out that the tumour had come back and was quite large.  We were mortified.  We had been attributing the wonkiness of Daisy's poor little face to the appearance of the displaced fur over the wound but once we knew it was there we could actually see and feel a large lump.

One week later there was no improvement and clearly more deterioration.  The vet prescribed a gruelling regime of drops, ointment and painkillers and we went back to see her yesterday.  It was not good news.

The tumour is growing alarmingly fast and she thinks that the damage to the cornea is no longer due to bacterial infection as the antibiotics would have dealt with that.  I was fascinated to see how she examined Daisy's eye at every stage and on this occasion she actually measured her intraocular pressure using a mini version of the same kind of non contact (air puff) tonomoter that is used routinely on humans.  Glaucoma had been one of my worries, a common outcome of vascularisation, but thankfully the pressure was normal.

That was the only bit of good news though.  The eye is almost certainly now blind, there being a large opaque disc near the centre of the cornea and she is almost certainly in constant pain.  Ongoing treatment now comprises regular use of lubricants, drops, gel and ointment, and painkillers.

The vet has referred us to a feline ophthalmologist but frankly I don't feel inclined to go down the route of any more surgery.  A corneal graft might been a possibility but not practical due to the fact that the eye does not close properly.  Another option would be to stitch the inner eyelid together to keep the eye more closed but after three major operations already in only a few months we don't feel inclined to put her (and us) through that.  Largely because the tumour itself is clearly growing so fast.  Sooner or later it will cause her an unacceptable level of pain and distress such that euthanasia is the only option.

What we don't know is how long that will take.

Daisy was just nine years old on 4th July.  She is definitely not herself, eating less and sleeping more than usual.  She takes her medications stoically and is amazingly good.  I googled "how to find out if your cat is in pain" and she demonstrates some of the signs but not others.  The vet said that as long as she is still eating and "doing cat stuff" it's not time yet.

One of the websites I found said that it is better to put a beloved pet to sleep one week too early than one day too late and that worries me.  How will we know?

We will miss her, when the time comes, that's for sure.

9 July 2023

OH, WHAT A NIGHT,

Three am thump, thump, thump, thump, dadadadadadada

The end of school year rave in a barn three farms away.

Five am Boom, boom

Thunder storm

Five thirty thump, thump, dadadadadadada clatter, clatter

The dog's feet on the wooden staircase.  He needs to go out. The cat follows him out.

Six am crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch

The cat is devouring a freshly caught mouse on the bedroom floor.

Bang, bang, crack, crack

Hunters shooting deer or boar at the edge of the wood.  They’ve been feasting on the crops.  Our spy camera captured a family of five boar at the back of the house last week.  Deer regularly appear on the wrong side of the barrier meant to keep them out of the crops.

Boom, boom, crash, crash

The thunderstorm now right overhead

Six forty five thump, thump, dadadadadada 

Whump, whump

The cat's mouse makes a reappearance on the bedroom floor

Thump, thump, dadadadadada

Grumble, grumble, mutter mutter, damn that cat

I fetch kitchen roll, cloths and marigolds from downstairs 

Seven am thump, thump, dadadadadadadada

Bang, bang, 

The guns go off again

Clitter, clatter, pitter, patter

The rain begins

Seven thirty rumble, rumble

The thunderstorm moves away.

Eight am all is quiet and I am exhausted.

A thunderbolt sets fire to the roof of the eglise at Descartes, destroying it.

1 July 2023

OLD STUFF AND PIZZAS

 


The brocante and vide grenier season is in full swing now and there are bargains to be had.  I got these lovely red soup bowls, a really good make - Emile Henry no less - four for 2€ at the brocante in Ciran a couple of weeks ago.  The day was memorable not just because of the bargains but also the pizzas.  

Soon after we arrived we bumped into a couple of friends and we decided as it was more or less lunchtime we went in search of food.  Arriving at the little bar in the village two more friends arrived.  Three of us went around to the back courtyard where tables and chairs were set up under a shady "barnum".  A barnum is the term used for what we would call a gazebo.  There was also a trestle table with an electric oven and a deep fat fryer perched on top, and a barbecue.  A man was busy cooking chips, sausages and burgers.

The other three ordered food and drinks from a table in front of the bar.  Apparently they had run out of bread so burgers and sausage sandwiches were off the menu so we all opted for pizzas.

Two friends then appeared in the back courtyard carrying frozen pizzas in boxes to be cooked in the electric oven!  Another found her choice of pizza had run out and was directed to the walk-in freezer in the bar to choose from the rest!

Then the electric oven conked out.

Bread arrived so other diners were able to have their burgers and sausage sandwiches while our uncooked but rapidly thawing out pizzas remained piled up next to the broken oven.  The cook was looking decidedly stressed while we waited patiently to find out how we were going to get some lunch and eventually the young woman taking the orders at the table out front came to our rescue.  She took the pile of pizzas away to be cooked in a neighbour's oven!

More drinks helped to pass the time until the pizzas reappeared, piping hot and very tasty, having been cooked who knows where!  There is never a dull moment for life in rural France!


I mentioned in a recent post that we stumbled upon a huge brocante at the moulin (mill) at Veigné.  It was huge, occupying an enormous area on both sides of the road that goes through the village.

This was more of a vide grenier than a brocante - if my understanding of the difference is correct - with a predominance of used clothes, toys and baby stuff.  I didn't buy this toy cat in a basket.



It was a baking hot day but the band toured the site entertaining us with what I would describe as oompah music.

.

I bought more soup bowls (I now have enough to feed quite a crowd when I finally get around to making French onion soup) - six for 3€.  A stack of plastic trays to stand our troughs of geraniums in on the new roof terrace - four for 1€.  A very pretty bread basket for 1€ and, the best bargain of all, a set of two Le Creuset gratin dishes for 2€.

They appear unused and I felt uneasy after buying them.  The seller was an elderly gentleman who had a lot of household items displayed on a plastic sheet on the ground.  The dishes were upside down so the name "Le Creuset" was clearly visible and when we got home Nick looked them up.  You can still get a very similar set in John Lewis for £37.  

I thought instantly of my dad who soon after Mum died disposed of much of her kitchen stuff thinking he would never need them.  It never occurred to him to ask me if I wanted any of it and some went to the tip, some to charity shops.  I wondered if something similar had happened to this old man, that he didn't realise how much his stuff was really worth, and wished afterwards that I had insisted on giving him more money for them.  Hey ho.



At the little vide grenier in Descartes we spotted this painted table lamp.  The seller first asked for 10€ but we hesitated and she offered it to us for 8€.  Judging by the wiring it is clearly quite old having a very early plug on it - 1950's possibly.  We rewired it and gave it a new lampshade and it fits very well with our other furniture.


At the same vide grenier I bought these strings of pretty ceramic beads from a young lady who was clearly selling her cast off clothes and trinkets.  She wanted 1€ for the lot so I gave her 2€ and asked for no change.

Last but not least.....there is a brocante shop in the nearby village of Mairé which is a huge barn stuffed with old stuff.  The prices are not as cheap as street market prices but often quite reasonable and there I spotted this throw for our large sofa.  It's actually a tablecloth.