Tuesday 28 May 2013

Not as exciting as we hoped

Part of the property is 'the ruin' below the house.
What treasures might there be in there......................

More cutting back of brambles/box/vines.

Yay, it's a hole. Four walls with some huge cut stones for some future plan.

And some dark corners which I couldn't see into and hoped might show up better with photos. Not.

Monday 27 May 2013

The only good place for a bay tree is in a pot (quote from ex gardening boss)

But we have one right outside what will be our back door into the garden. Very useful in this part of the world as shade but not a very pretty thing. It was originally one tree but in the many years since Madame had sat under it (remains of tiny seat underneath) all the suckers had sprouted to the height of the tree.

Today has been 'attack the bay tree with a chain saw' day. Of course, I find I don't have a 'before' picture. You never take pictures of the ugly things and by the time we thought of it, the camera was two stories up and we couldn't be bothered!

So here are the afters. We now have just the main original trunk, not the surrounding sproutings, and we have managed to manoeuvre the wild roses so that they climb up.

(We have also transplanted elder son's lovely gift of a Wedding Day rose so that it too can grow up the tree. The new owners of Le Calme are about to destroy the whole garden and we dug it up quick - but that's another story.)

We (that's the royal 'we', I did some ladder work but not the crucial bit) have also taken the top out of it so that we have a better view of the other side of the valley.

To me, but probably not to our Aussie friends, it has an Australian look about it? and is altogether a more elegant thing. (I hope, Sue, that it will happily thicken up - as I expect - and not give up the ghost altogether. We did cut off, and shred, huge amounts of it.)

Thursday 23 May 2013

What's occurring

The cellar is now all dug out to the level required by the concrete laying man. Lots of measuring to make sure there is room for Son no 2/brother/nephew to get under the beam after hardcore, sand, damp proof membrane, reinforcing grid, concrete, insulation, underfloor heating pipes, screed and tiles have all been added. Not going to be done anytime soon then :-)
Each full barrow load was tipped out of what will be the door by Him Outdoors into my barrow.

I then wheel it past the vegetable bed and down the slope (yes there is a chicken house at the end)

past the peaches/nectarines, orchids, wild roses. Down more slope
to the lower garden. Stop the wheelbarrow which is really too heavy for me before it (and I) go over the edge

and tip it down the slope towards the station. And then back up to the top and wait for the next one..................................................

This morning, the woodburning stove man came and we are having this - but in matt black so the handle is matt black not shiny gold -

in this space in the kitchen

We also had the promised visit by a window salesman to a house with some windows similar to what we think we might have. Follow me............................... at 60 mph along winding country roads.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Lines of masking tape

We have spent most of the last two days drawing out the plans for the house on the floor with masking tape. The weather has been miserable (very cold with hail storms) so it has been a good job to do inside.
It mostly comes down to bathroom planning. Trying to get a downstairs cloakroom in this space without it feeling like you are peeing in the corner of the sitting room. 
And an en suite shower room for the master bedroom at the far end and a bathroom for everyone else. The trouble with the roof space is that there is not enough headroom for our 6'6" family to stand up to shower/pee/wash in most of the potential space. Him Outdoors is 6' tall and you really have to be under the cross beams to negotiate the facilities! Eventually got it all fitted in after much discussion, moving the ensuite toilet into our bedroom space and putting the guest shower over the bath. Still not sure about all the heights for shower doors/bath screens so it may turn out to be the dreaded shower curtain flapping around your legs in a cold clammy plastic way. 
But hey, with a view like this from the guest bedroom, you'll get over it :-)

Friday 17 May 2013

We met Super Mario!

Yesterday we went to see the Builders Merchant at the bottom of the hill to see if our little road was too narrow for delivery of the vast amounts of sand and cement that will be needed to make the concrete floor for the cellar. After a bit of debate about whether their big lorry could get up the hill and whether there was room to dump stuff, Super Mario was sent to look.

He jumped in Madame's car and followed us up the hill and between us he decided that he could get the big dumpy bags of sand into the front garden from the big lorry, if we removed the flower bed and some of the overhead pergola. So I have spent the time since then emptying the flower bed of plants and soil. (It has real soil!!! not just chalk lumps). Having done that (and saved it carefully in a heap that will undoubtedly be in the wong place) I couldn't resist hitting a few walls with a hammer. So the end concrete wall is lovely stone and the house wall plaster only falls off in the places that had been repaired. And the concrete flowerbed edges are removable in spite of being set in masses of concrete and having reinforcing bars in them.

I wonder which relation appeared at the house with a cement mixer at some time in the past.

We also met the neighbours next but one up the hill who had other local gossip including the fact that the old lady owner had chickens in here..................

So that's the next job then.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Blimey they all came!

Today is Dear Daughter's birthday and has proved to be an excellent day.

These dormers are proving a problem. Called lucernes (loo cairns) in french there is a lot of sucking of teeth with them because the new windows will be very close to the A frames in the roof.

First guys were English. 'Can't be done'.

Second guys were franchised local firm. 'Can but only in timber'.

Today's guys were the retired local roofer and his son in law. 'Bien sur'.

English guys come back with a very reasonable quote having changed their minds about how they would do the dormers.(Mmm not sure I'm confident with that.)

Second guys yet to quote but very efficient with iPad photos, punctual, email addresses.

Loved the local guys who also arrived on time but only after 3 phone calls. Father had done some repairs to the house 20 years ago, of course he knew the previous owners, was twinkly and jokey but must drive his son in law mad. He obviously only does quotes and goes to houses he wants to see, now the s-i-l does all the work but dad had a lovely time and was full of hints and suggestions. No you don't want the same machined tiles you need these more local, same price, ones. No you don't need the special caste iron windows approved by Batiments de France, we will put in much better and cheaper Velux. Meanwhile s-i-l measuring, asking the right questions, taking in what we wanted. Then crunch time. When can you do it. S-i-l says not til end of the year, maybe next year. Me 'oh but we want it before the winter if possible'. Dad jumps in with 'of course they need it sooner than that, they want to get on, you need to start a renovation at the hat'. So we will wait and see.

I love that the English guys quote for caste roof lights, the franchised firm know that there is a new Velux window that is much better and cheaper and approved by Batiments. And the local guys just ignore it all and put in what they want with a gallic shrug.

Next guy to arrive was the mason. I'm glad I have seen him doing this to a house as he started talking about the size of hole he will have to make.

Practically the whole of the end wall of the house will have to come out.  He wants to do it in August!! Yes, a frenchman working in August. He would have to have a little holiday of course but even so.

After he had finished talking he was exploring the site like a sniffer dog. Almost yelping with excitement when he finds another of the sort of stone that he will need that must be kept. Him Outdoors had uncovered several bricks in his explorations of the cellar which were an excitement and there are so many suitable 'pierre d'ongles' (the cut corner stones) in the ruin that he probably wouldn't need to buy any more. Just have to get them out of the roots of the walnut tree :-(

And he brought the concrete guy back and they were happy about the excavations in the cellar.

And then the stairman came and he has created a beautiful stair that fits perfectly in the space and will look brilliant.

Huge feeling of too good to be true but we're going with it today and all is well with the world.

Monday 13 May 2013

Straw Hat and Trug Gardening

The day started with a little 'straw hat and trug' gardening. Elegantly planting out geraniums in the sunshine. I too will have the typical french window box.
What better use for that old galvanised basin - with ready made drainage holes.
This one shows what Him Outdoors has cleared - by throwing it at me! - so that we can get to the ivy. Maybe a terrace in the future - a long way in the future!

Last week a man came to look at the concreting the cellar floor job. After much discussion and sucking of teeth he and Him Outdoors have decided that the 30 bags of cement and associated mixing will have to be done in the front garden. At least the full wheelbarrows will all be going downhill. What with the roof being redone and the plaster falling off the walls and new holes for windows there's not much point in calling this the front garden so I was looking around for a space away from all these activites - as well as the route from cellar to dumping ground for the debris out of the cellar - to transplant the few plants I have already gathered.

And look what I discovered under more brambles. A proper garden with soil and a wall and everything - yay happy me. (It's also full of endless brambles and nettles but nothing a boy with a toy and a bit of persistance can't bring under control.)

Wednesday 8 May 2013

More Bill and Ben than Homes and Gardens

I saw this on Pinterest.com (now there's a time waster if ever I saw one but it's really good for trying to show Him Outdoors what I mean) and hankered after it.
Today, whilst scrabbling about on my hands and knees under brambles, I came across a wonderful heap of terracotta pots, carefully saved by a previous gardener, and then submerged in the undergrowth. Now I know what I can do with them....................................................

Somehow mine was more like Bill and Ben than elegant pots. I can just imagine Little Weed peering out of the back ...................................weeeeeee - ed.

Monday 6 May 2013

What a glorious day

This is the view down the hill from the house. I am supposed to be waiting for bits of tree to be thrown at me to take down to the van (which is parked just at the end of the stone wall on the right) before a car comes along and runs them over. But  I couldn't resist the view. We do an awful lot of just gazing..........................
We were having a killing stuff morning before it got too hot. There is a lot of ivy trying to cover everything and the bits that we can't reach to cut we have sprayed. And by clearing a bit more of the top of the building behind the wall on the right we can reach lots more and not have to spray so much.

All the walls have gone - yay. This is looking towards the kitchen end and the next one is looking towards the balcony and the view. What a lovely space.

And now I must go and hang all the filthy clothes on the line so they are dry for tomorrow - oh and get a drink :-)

Thursday 2 May 2013

My turn

Paddington Bear called in today to help. Wasn't much use because his wellies were on the wrong feet but who's noticing.

Underneath the white flowery wallpaper is a much lovelier one. What a room it must have been in all its splendour. The damp got to it though and they had to replace all the plaster up to about a metre and repaper with something more appropriate to 1970s (?) taste.
Now it's my turn to wield the hammer. No more shower room. Dust got into the camera, it's not really snowing inside.

And now it's Him Outdoors' turn. Different walls, can't just knock the hell out of them with a hammer, more boys' toys required.

Before he got started, he visited a new woman dentist in the town. Good job, as another crown fell off while he was cleaning his teeth. (Always clean your teeth before visiting the dentist.) Delightful woman (thank heavens) with excellent english and quite prepared to take his euros for the vast amounts of work that will be required with decisions about implants, crowns and bridges. 

Wednesday 1 May 2013

And here we go

Today has been the first day that we have knocked walls down. The idea is that we open up these four little rooms into one big space.

That's the one behind the radiator gone and half way down the second one.

And the one to the left of the opening. No we don't plan to have a toilet in the kitchen

Not us much clearing up of rubble as we would have liked because the dump is shut as today is a public holiday but it has already made a huge difference to the light and space.