Sunday, 22 December 2013


Roof all finished. Can't speak highly enough of the guys that did this. Brilliant, thoughtful job, thank you so much. (We're going to have to have pierres apparentes on these walls aren't we.)
Inside we have started on the insulation (yes R and A we have at last decided what to use :-) The first layer is like lining the roof with teddies' fur which is actually hemp and smells lovely. Then polystyrene to seal it in, then two more layers of hemp before the plasterboard! Should be able to heat it with a candle - or four candles (always makes me smile).
We've also decided what to do with the floor and beams which has been a point of debate between us for weeks. Him Outdoors loves pale wood floors while I hanker after a deep polished glow. I set too with a sander seeing what things actually looked like when sanded and we have decided on a mid brown wax/stain for the floor to camouflage all the rusty nails and clear on the beams. Phew just hours of sanding then :-). Hurry up 2014, I can't wait to move in.


Happy Christmas everybody. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. I made a tiny decoration in front of the fire amidst the dust and collection of tools, bags of cement that is our kitchen at the moment. Tomorrow we fly back to spend Christmas in England but yesterday we had this.
and this. The town had laid on a lovely evening of vin chaud, streets lit by candles, decorated shops open late and a carol concert. On a beautiful clear, frosty evening we walked around the medievalness with candle lanterns, perfect.
And here's our tree in all it's party lights.
Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Saturday again!

Where do the days go? Every week we say the same - must be getting old :-)
Most of today has been spent working my way through the mountain of tree offcuts that are left after the tree was cut down and having a huge bonfire. Well, a small bonfire for a long time. I've got about halfway through and have smoked out all the town. Fortunately we have been in fog all day - no, not all my fault - so maybe they haven't noticed. 

The roof is coming on brilliantly. It's watertight which is a good job because it rained quite hard last night. And the special 'patrimoine' veluxes are in. They haven't started tiling the other side yet but it's ready to go on Monday.
Inside, I started brushing decades of dirt off the beams in order to have some idea what to do with them. Unlike most beams, they will be very close. They are not ancient and are not oak. You will only see the A frames not the rest of the beams because there will be masses of insulation. There is not a huge amount of light up here so need to be pale I think. Sort of thinking 50/50 cream chalk paint and water. Had left the cream back at the ranch so did some blue. Didn't like the paint as is but quite liked the wash. Will try the cream tomorrow. What do you think Annie Sloan expert??

And here's the promised picture of the decorated tree. The space it's left is a continual sunshiney delight so I hope it's happy here.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

More roofers

We are having the most amazing weather this week. Frosty starts and then brilliant blue skies and sunshine. Yesterday afternoon I was admiring the roofers'  handiwork and noticed that the old boss of the company was up there too. 'Does your wife know you're up there?' When he came down he was telling me that he hadn't been up on a roof for more than a year but he obviously couldn't resist this one - I'm honoured, I think. He did the roof last time and is keeping a very close eye on things.

They are using this vehicle to get the tiles up there. It is an enormous bit of kit that completely blocks the road - more boys' toys!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Too late .............................

We got to the house this morning to find it swarming with Frenchmen. They'd arrived to cut the tree - and it was over. Oh bloody hell, someone could have warned us.....................

The tree was down but lots of excitement left. They had removed the top and cut the rest of the trunk into metre lengths. Could you just cut the leylandii down too, possibly, pretty please? A grunt of 'apres' and off they all go, tying ropes and hauling the tree to a waiting lorry in the road. (I will try and upload the videos that failed the first time.) Meanwhile the view from the balcony and bedroom is now spectacular. And a perfect sunny, frosty day too. 

At ground level there is a whole new view of the garden. Had a lovely time gazing and trying to work out where to place the fruit trees that have been waiting in the shed. After deciding that my first plan for placing the washing line was ridiculous in the winter because it gets no sun, that would be a good place for the trees.............

And here's where the top of the tree ended up. It looks a bit startled, perhaps it will look prouder with decorations!

When Santa got stuck up the chimney

If you will decide to put in the second wood burner yourself .....................................

Thursday, 5 December 2013

House and walking

Monthly walk today. Let's just pop by the house and see what they're doing. Fog so thick it was raining. Arrive to find the road completely blocked by a delivery of the stones for the uprights of the lucarnes (dormers).
Everyone hard at work ripping bits off the roof, drilling holes in stones, mixing crepi, adding more scaffolding.
Off for the walk. Not really my idea of a good time. Thick fog, very cold, no view, these horses were interested in us though.


The woman leading us on the walk showed us the garden of a friend of hers which was lovely. Even on such a day the bones of it were really good. This pond appears to be full of lotus flowers which were a surprise, surely they are too tender for this part of the world - googling required.
And then we called back at the house on the way back and the fronts of the lucarnes are finished! We were just in time to see another even huger vehicle carefully placing the second top stone on. We said see you tomorrow to the mason on our way out and he said that he would be finished tonight, just got to lay some blocks for the sides of the dormers.

While we were in the attic gawping at the stones, the roofer mentioned a couple of things that he had done because they needed doing/it was better that way/while he was up there he just........... Still loving this guy.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Ne vous inquiétez pas

Look, look they're here already.
Putting up the scaffolding - if you can call it that. Works very well and is used everywhere but a certain lack of safety rails! The English builders won't touch it. 

Midway through the morning there was conflab about where we wanted the Veluxes. Much sucking of teeth because we have three chimneys, all of which seem to be in the way, and a lack of distance between walls and rails........ OK I'll order them then. Me - you are sure that they are ok with Batiments de France, we were told no Velux by the architect. Him - ne vous inquiétez pas, it will be fine.
This will be the view from our shower room - minus the tree. (Although these guys think it is hilarious that the maire thinks he can get this tree out of here.)

 By lunchtime half the roof is stripped! (And the guy had reappeared to say that a couple of the beams were a bit rotten and it would be a mistake to put new stuff on rotten so he would replace them while he was there - I am loving this guy.)

Friday, 29 November 2013

A Good Friday

 The window man came today and replaced the guest bedroom window.

Which looks so much better from the outside.

He also put in the cloakroom window. Him Outdoors has put the basin in too - just to see, not finally.

And then put proper French handles on nearly everything. (Note that apparently it is normal to put window handles at really strange heights! Not sure I believe this but hey, another French oddity.)

And also today, Noam came and crepied the cellar wall. This is Him Outdoors admiring his technique. He was being labourer and providing barrowloads of golden crepi. They have done an absolutely brilliant job. And so quickly.

And since there was some left, why not crepi the pillar too.

A blast of gold on a freezing winter day. It will dry paler but is a gorgeous colour and turns such a gloomy dreary space into a wondrous goldenness.

Yesterday afternoon there was a loud noise of a wheezing engine coming up the hill. Turns out the neighbour opposite was having a load of wood delivered by ancient tractor. We couldn't leave her on her own to unload with elderly driver so we helped. Got a drink after and also ordered our own load to be delivered next week.

Went up to the Mairie this afternoon because apparently if we are having wood delivered we must ask the Mairie to get the road closed so that we do not cause a traffic problem - oops. Well after explaining what and when I wanted a guy said, oh that's ok, the road is already closed because the roofers are reroofing a house next week. Turns out it is our house!!! Who knew?? When I mentioned to another neighbour that this was happening, they knew too!

Love it.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Where do the days go?

It seems ages since I wrote anything but it isn't really. Nothing much has happened but there is a general feeling of turning a corner. Putting things back instead of ripping them out. We hope to reuse 5 of the old doors, so Him Outdoors thought he'd better check that they were possible to fit fairly easily when you haven't got the original frames or hinges. Shall we keep the wallpaper??
I have pretty much finished smearing what I've decided looks like breast fed baby pooh on the walls of the cellar. Just the bottom of the walls to finish off and much brushing off of pooh to make it look lovely. It takes ages to dry off enough to brush in this weather.

Super Mario delivered a cubic metre of castine (gravel) this morning, which Him Outdoors spread over the floor of the workshop. The big box is an enormous new water heater.

This lot was from a trip to the local DIY sheds yesterday. Half way through Him Outdoors rang to say that his card had been refused and could I ring the bank to find out what random limit had been reached and was there anything they could do about it. Turns out that the general opinion is that it is so complicated to raise the limit and it could only possibly be raised for a month unless we pay for a superior card - yes you pay for credit cards in France - that it would be better to use the cheque book which has no limit. No wonder there are such long queues while people painstakingly fill in cheques.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

He's got to the end of his list !!!!

Apparently Him Outdoors has got to the end of his list!! Quick, quick make a new one.
The old kitchen - yes, that's all that was left - has had the rails put in for the electrics, pipes, insulation and plasterboard. Take out old sink, discover that its fittings are not standard, can't reconnect with bits we had (sigh) but Him Outdoors and the local Brico to the rescue and we can have tea again.
Also lots of time spent trying to work out the best way of replacing the cupboard frame in front of the plasterboard.
Sometimes this rail system feels like we are building a plasterboard box inside an old stone house. I suppose we are but there will be loads of old bits left and it makes it really easy for all the structural gubbins apparently.
This will be the downstairs cloakroom. Lots of debate as to the height of the ceiling.

This will be the wall of the pantry/wine cellar. I've chipped out all the old wobbly stuff and put in some new golden. It is taking an age to dry so that I can finish it but it will look gorgeous, only 2 more walls to go. The wall on the left of the picture will be all golden but we are having a local professional in to do that - hopefully before the end of November.

On the other side of the wall we have made  a concrete plinth for the oil tank. Him Outdoors has been digging out the cellar floor to make it level having realised that if we don't do it soon there will be no easy way of getting the soil out.

I spent a happy morning buying trees and plants I couldn't resist. And then an equally happy time planting them. Two apricot trees, a plum, and two apples and also a pomegranate which I have seen here as a tree but seems to come as a bush. Some of the garden turns out to only have about 4 inches of soil above solid rock so on Sue C's suggestion I had a lovely time choosing irises and then on the same theme surely pinks and rock roses would go well. We shall see - which is one of the joys of the whole game.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Sideswiped again

What is it with people commenting on how tall you are. Even after all this time it still shocks me that people seem perfectly OK commenting on your height.

Out to lunch with a group of people I know slightly. Lovely lunch, lots of chat. We get up to leave and a man says 'lovely to meet you, shame you're so tall'????

Is there any other physical characteristic that people feel able to comment loudly upon for no reason?

OMG but you're short, fat, bald, skinny???

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Someone last week said that they were amazed that we were doing up a house at all, let alone together.

It was the 'let alone together' bit that is proving the more difficult. We have been together for more than 40 years and since 2007 have spent most of our time together. So we think we know what the other one is thinking. How wrong can you be.

There are more and more occasions where we assume that the other one has understood that we were ordering such and such, that we were 'always' thinking of doing this, 'never' going to have a radiator there, the basin was 'always' going there. And so on.

I guess we are having to make huge numbers of decisions.

And each time, it is surpring. And somehow unsettling.

PS The roof man has confirmed that we are booked in for end November, beginning December - yay. Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Delivery points

France has a very effective system of delivering to central points. Usually a bar. We have had several things delivered on this way and it works very well.


Get an email saying your delivery is ready for collection at such and such a shop. Check here for location and opening hours of shop.

Oh good, open Sunday morning, we'll go out of our way this morning to collect the parcel.

Bonjour have you got our parcel.

We're shut.

Since the door is open and you are obviously here, may we have our parcel please?

Non. The machine doesn't work on Sundays.

Are you open tomorrow? Non.

Oh, OK then we'll be back on Tuesday then.......?..........

Monday, 28 October 2013


Hmmmm. What's about to make something nice for pudding.

There's a packet of readymade pastry. In France they sell circles of readymade short crust and puff pastry that you can unroll and put in the tin still on the greaseproof paper they arrive in. Having bought a tin that fits them, life is simple. Bit past its sellby date but hey who's counting.

Some perfectly good but slightly sad apples in the fruit bowl.

Let's try some butterless cake on top. Weigh two eggs in shells, put same weight of ground almonds, castor sugar and rapeseed oil in bowl with the now broken eggs, pinch of salt. Mix.

Scatter cored and thinly sliced apples onto pastry. Dollop cake mixture. Bake for half an hour at something between 180 200 depending what the oven's feeling like............. et voila.

Impressive huh.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Stained Glass

In our last house we commissioned this stained glass for a west facing window in the bedroom part of our barn. The light through it made lovely patterns on the opposite wall and it was (and is) a delight.
In the new house we have commissioned these guys to make something for the little holes in the end wall. He is the local man that did the last one, spends a lot of time repairing medieval stained glass in local churches. She is his new partner Lots of talk about the angle at which the light will come into the house, where the horizon sits when you look through them.......

Hard to photograph but today they have come and fitted them.


and right
What do you think?

Monday, 21 October 2013


Started at last. Him Outdoors strimmed the back garden on Saturday.  Huge bonfire and we
have space to imagine.

Today we brought over the bench and chairs that belonged to my parents and my father's parents before them. Something hugely connecting to be sat in my new garden admiring my handiwork somehow in the company of my mother and grandmother. (I realise that it is not just a female thing but it feels like it.)
This is the view from the bench. Halfway through. Dug one bed which was originally for raspberries but then after sitting on the bench decided that the asparagus would get more sun (and appreciate it more) if it had that bit. Dug another one for raspberries to its right. Am now totally knackered!

The jumper is hanging on the middle post of the washing line. There are huge lumps of concrete with holes in them to hold posts running down the garden. For the moment, I have left paths under it so that I can hang out the washing.

And here's the view from the balcony. They look much smaller from up here :-(
The soil is lovely. Dark brown and crumbly and although there are surface weeds there is very little at any depth. And only one worm!