Saturday, 27 October 2012

More news of the staircase

The staircase saga started so long ago it has disappeared into the mists of time!

Three and a half years ago we ordered a staircase from someone who said that it could be delivered when we wanted it. It was delivered about 3 months late and very badly put in. Big argument in the hall.

We offered to pay half. He sent the bailiffs in to collect his money. Didn't realise at the time that in France you pay for the bad work and then go to court to get it back. Fortunately we had ticked an insurance box that meant that our insurance agent would pay for any court cases resulting from bad work - bet he wishes he hadn't.

So he took us to court. We had an expert come to look at the stairs, he wrote a report. He had an expert in to look at the stairs, he wrote a report. The court sent an expert in to look at the stairs he wrote a pre pre report, a pre report and a report. He held a court case in the kitchen with legal representation from us and them and the stair man came to that.

Judge wanted a quote for removing staircase, making good stairwell and putting in new stairs - after a delay of years that had to be within the week.

Judge ruled that the staircase was indeed badly done and we should be refunded.

Our solicitor claims the money. Stair man doesn't pay. So now we are sending the bailiffs after him..............................

Monday, 22 October 2012


Well all seems to be well.

We have just returned from a second visit - who knew that the house was quite that wonky, definitely a rhombus not an oblong.

We went to see the notaire to see if there was anything that we could sign that would agree the house sale to us and his advice was to send a letter outlining our position and telling the owner how easy it would be to sell the house and that he would do everything - for the fat fee that we pay him. Leave a paper trail.

We have rushed around getting a letter written in a suitably french flowery style to say that we loved the house and were so sorry that the owner had such difficulties etc etc.

Cousin seemed to be falling over himself to say that everything would be well, much more concerned that we wouldn't wait until the new year when we return to France to buy the house.

Such a relief to have a house that we really like at a sensible price. And such a relief not to have to keep looking.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Yay it's brilliant

We took a posse of friends to view the house. Turns out that the french guy knows the guy showing us round. Both rugby players. Phew.

Great house. Just as good as we could expect. Lots of original features, lovely garden, all wood floors left. A complete tip (I'll get the pictures sorted later) but in a sorting stuff way not a neglected sort of way. All good.

Ended up by offering the asking price and the guy showing us round said he would tell the owner that it was sold and he took down the sign.

Much relief on our part. A house at last. Lots of discussion and planning.

Then tonight. Phone call from the guy who had shown us round. Had we rung the owner? No I thought you were doing that but no worries we will.

Rang the owner. Somehow it turned into a conversation of other people viewing, more money, nothing happening until January.....................................

So, yet again, from delight to What the Hell????????????

Rang and explained to french guy and he has rung the guy who showed us round and all is well with him. So what is going on?

And there was us thinking that the roller coaster was over.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Shirt ironing

As a teenager we all had to take turns at washing up after the evening meal. At the time, it seemed to me a better option to do the ironing in front of the telly even though it took longer and my brothers would be gloating about how they had finished.
Dad was in the RAF and there were always at least 5 uniform shirts each week and sometimes dress shirts and others. I was told it was very important to do these right otherwise he might get into trouble on parade. Looking back now, I wonder again at the gullibility of children that it was a privilege to iron his shirts (and polish his shoes) - clever Mum.
A few weeks ago, I was discussing ironing shirts with my brother-in-law and discovered that we ironed them in completely opposite order.
For me it is collar from the back, shoulders from the inside, sleeve, cuff, sleeve, cuff then right front round to left front. Then lay it on its front on the ironing board, fold in sides and sleeves, tuck in tails (yes they had tails) and fold comme ca.
Fortunately the days of endless work shirts are over and I haven't managed to pass on an ability to iron to any of my children. They all seem to work on the basis that the creases will come out while you wear it and the most they get is the front ironed for interviews. Ho hum, failed again.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

OK This is exciting

The lady from Bordeaux has just rung to say that we can see this on Sunday. A second/half cousin has turned up with the key.

On edge of town. Large garden, lovely views, potential garage down chemin rurale at side and..............................70,000 euros. Even though I know it can be complete rubbish inside I don't care I'M EXCITED.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Houses, houses, houses

A miserable, grey start to the day. Took some effort to get started this morning. Come on, let's do something. Let's go and find some of these left overs. Bit of phoning and emailing to try and locate some of the houses that are for sale privately.

First one was too suburban. Second one:

we visited a long time ago. Him Outdoors didn't like it much but it has a good position, good land, near the town we like. And it's been on a long time so therefore cheaper.

This one:

is much more expensive - you can tell can't you. But again been on a long time. Owned by a friend of a friend so no agents' fees (which on this house would be 24,000 euros (!) are a consideration) Maybe they are desperate enough to come down to something we can consider. Still nothing much to do but a much nicer place to do nothing in and again near the town.
In the back of our minds we have had a couple of houses in the town that were for sale years ago but the sign was no longer on them. Good position, lovely mature garden and fruit trees, bit derelict (if you can be a bit derelict surely it either is or it isn't).  Let's go and check the numbers and then go to the Mairie and they will tell us the owners and a contact address.
And look, there's a new sign (with telephone number) on one down the same road. Lots of peering over the fence and it seems to be ok with a good garden. And so it seems from the Maire.
So now we have two people to ring and two possible back ups. Definitely a day that is improving.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Peach jam

This morning a lovely box of tiny peaches was left on our front door step. I think it was Madeleine, the farmer's wife from up the road, who probably left them. She will have dropped them off en route to one of her many cleaning jobs. I'll try and catch her when she flies by at midday to prepare George's lunch.
Lovely. Let's make jam.
Recipe first. As usual, all the right recipe books are in the other house. Google Jane Grigson, she'll know. And found (a direct but acknowledged crib from
Peche de vigne conserve
1 kg vineyard peaches weighed without stones and peel
400g sugar (or more if the peaches are not very ripe)
juice from 1 lemon
40g pectin in powder (not necessary if you like a runny jam or if you cook it long enough to be dense)
200 – 300 ml crème de cassis
Put the peaches in boiling water for two minutes. Take them away with a slotted spoon and place immediately in cold water. After a couple of minutes the peel will come off easily with fingers.
Remove the stones and cut the fruit into small pieces (do not throw away the juice!). Weigh it.
Put the fruit, the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of water into a non reactive pan and cook on a rather high heat until the peaches become soft. Stir it often and watch the pan constantly (if there is not enough liquid they will burn). Add the sugar and simmer on a low heat for ten more minutes.
Add the pectin and more sugar if the jam is not sweet enough, stir it and cook for another ten minutes. Put aside.
At the end, before filling the jars, pour the crème de cassis and stir the jam once more.
Spoon hot jam into sterilised jars, cover with lids.
Leave the jars to cool.
Not sure mine are vineyard peaches but hey, and you only add the cassis at the end so I can see how I get on.
Then the big saucepan and jars..............................hmm
Somewhere in amongst this lot, Him Outdoors has hidden them. You can just see him behind the water tank and look what he found, bless him.
And a couple of hours later, interrupted with more house discussions, washing and general Saturday morning stuff, I have this and Him Outdoors has gone off to get bread for lunch and lemons and sugar.

Well, it worked. Not hugely tasty jam I don't think and when you add cassis to it, it tastes like jam with ribena to me. Maybe it will mellow into something spectacular?
It was Madeleine that left the peaches. She called in at 5 pm and I was able to give her a jar of jam. Domestic Goddess moi? She said they were peches de vigne and I was also able to talk knowledgeably about them and discuss jam with cassis which Madeleine knew well and if she hadn't spent all day (and all week) cleaning she would have made. Georges is also growing us some walnut trees in case we might need some in a new house. I didn't like to tell her that Jackie is currently minding a couple of mine for us. Incidentally I have also managed to grow two pots of Indian Bean Tree seedlings by scattering a seed pod behind the geraniums. There is a sprouting of baby trees. Green fingers too eh!
(Later -  I have done some internet searching for peche de vigne and most of the pictures seem to be of a much redder flesh than these. The peche de vigne were planted at the end of the rows of vines because they are very susceptible to mildew (roses were also planted in the same way) and if they get mildew then watch out for your vines. My peaches are pale and not really very full of flavour - maybe not ripe enough? Adding as much cassis as the recipe says makes a very over cassised flavour to my taste. I have only tasted the leftovers this morning and not the un cassised so I will open a jar of that later.)

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Maybe Plan B

Found a new agent today. Usually rents properties and has some for sale as well. The first one
looks pretty, good position and worth a look. Just on market at too much money but what's new. It's ok but it's a holiday home done on the cheap. No insulation, no heating, needs new bathrooms and kitchen, pool is above ground. So needs too much money spent on it and you'd still get a very bitty house with difficult spaces. But this, on the other hand.............................

This was une maison de tolerance (brothel to you and me!) right next to the church. Faded grandeur but not huge. With added single bedroom house next door for visitors or added income. Small but not tiny garden. All well done with dated but expensive fittings. Good white bathrooms, dated kitchen but paintable units. Bit of a worry as to what Him Outdoors would do with himself and also, even when you are waiting for the church bells, they are VERY loud but it felt good.
Positive end to the day.