Thursday 26 September 2013

Well bless that mason

Worth waiting for eh. When I left him, he was saying that he would have to leave some of the stones on the left hand side because it wasn't looking strong enough to support itself without them until it had been jointed, but he obviously reconsidered when he got to it. The greenery is stuff that has grown on top of the pile of stones in the ruin. You can watch the birds and butterflies on the ripe grapes without them noticing you :-)
So now why would you brick that up and plaster over it to match down below. Then there is a fire and the whole lot is filled in with stone and plastered over. It makes me smile as to why you would have a window within two feet of next door's wall. And did the neighbours build their house first or after?

This is my first attempt at jointing. Him Outdoors so loves doing this that when he tried to show me how a few weeks ago, it was physically impossible for him to let me do it. This seemed to go alright but do I dare do the bit that will be right in his eyeline when he's in bed. (This bit will probably be mostly hidden by cupboard!)
And since yesterday morning this appeared on the road just above the house. I wonder what that means exactly (all other parking spaces are marked by white or blue lines so it must be no parking in just that bit, mustn't it??) and what happens to you if you park on it? I did see the municipal police there yesterday and asked them politely what they were doing - nothing was the reply!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Wait for it

Called in this morning to see how the mason was getting on. Wow!
Pas mal huh.

I think I might be spending some time in the toilet!

It's not very clear, but after our discussion of how amazing it was to find this and what a special view and general being pleased with ourselves, he pointed out a metal bar that appeared to be holding up the sink.
Shall we have a lookat where it goes? Ooooh yes please, now. And he fetched his drill and in two minutes had taken all the plaster off at the bottom and revealed that under the sink was infill too. Although some of the stones continued straight down, he didn't think it was a doorway filled with a sink, he thinks it might be a cupboard. So it was agreed that he would do the work that he expects to finish today and then if there was any time he would investigate the cupboard. Since he loves this stuff as much as I do, I can't wait to go and see tomorrow!

Tuesday 24 September 2013


1. The balcony man is definitely coming to look at the balcony to see what needs doing today.................or tomorrow, definitely.

2. He will definitely come to do the job on Monday 30th September because the scaffolding comes down at the end of September.............definitely.

3. The mason will definitely finish the window today .............. or tomorrow.

4. The crepi will definitely dry the same day you put it on ...............or maybe the next day ..............sometimes depends.

5. Yes you have definitely ordered the handles we talked about for the windows ..............probably.

6. I will definitely remember all the things to tell Him Outdoors when he gets back from walking.......................not

Saturday 21 September 2013


Went back today to admire the mason's handiwork in peace and quiet. Did a bit of cleaning, putting tools back in the right place and brought home the cake tin and teabags' jar to replenish. (Note to self, orange cake disappears quicker than ginger.) And sat with a cup of coffee wondering about the women who had used the sink and what their lives might have been like.
The mason suggested that the window might well have been blocked up because of window taxes in the old days. As he will hopefully reveal next week, the window would have looked out straight at the side wall of the ruin. 


As you look closely at it, it is more evidence of a major fire in the house at some point. Various remains seem to point to the destruction and replacement of most of the woodwork.  And the wall at the back of this sink (which must be after the blocking up of the window) is black. Various stones that the mason has removed are black on one side too.
There are potentially three lintels over the window and only the central one remains. The mason has found an old one to put on the house side and we agree that if he couldn't find another old one, a new one would be fine on the outside. There is a huge stone and also a carved stone arch in the ruin, both of which seemed a bit over the top for the loo window that you can't see! 
I wonder how old the house is? And how you tell when all houses are built in the same way for hundreds of years. The notaire promised to look into papers that he had. But since he still hasn't given us the house purchase documents from January,\I'm not over hopeful. Good reason for a visit to nudge him though.

Friday 20 September 2013

The walkers are off

Just got back from dropping the walkers off at the station. Miserable morning, dark and drizzly when we set off. They are renovating Agen station so no decent coffee, horrible loos and no train either. Their train was a bus.
Just heard that everything was on time and they are now happily munching at pork, ratatouille and chips with a carafe of red wine just about to meet up with friends from last time and all is brilliant. So pleased.
(This is my husband and his sister who have already walked 650 kilometres of the Camino de St Jacques de Campostelle between Le Puy en Valey and Aire sur L'Adour. They are off to finish the French bit to St Jean Pied de Port and then on to Pamplona, another 250 kilometres or so.) Ben if you see this before you go to see granny, and can print her off a copy, you will gain even more brownie points x

Wood pile

All over this area, there are piles of wood carefully stacked by the side of the road. Local farmers cut wood and stack it to dry and then it is accessible to cut and bring home as required.

And this is ours! How cool is that.

PS the seller says it's mostly oak with some chestnut.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay

Started the day just taking a picture of how brilliant the outside is going to look. Some of the scaffolding has come down to allow the balcony man to put the new metal in - quote arrived this morning!
Then, better do a 'before' picture of where the downstairs loo window is going to go through.

Fortunately, the mason is much more discerning than us and he noticed that about where we were going to go through there was an idiosyncratic patch of bricks in the outside wall and a stone with a hole in at the bottom.
And guess what, there's a medieval stone sink!!!! Now this may not look much yet but it is a lovely stone feature found in all most ancient houses around and we've got one!
And above it he has revealed a large window with beam, that has been blocked up. Brilliant. You'll just have to get used to peeing in front of a metre square window, it only looks out onto the ruin anyway.
(PS to get the picture of the patch of bricks you have to clamber about on the heap of stones and brambles that is the ruin, it isn't as obvious as it looks.)

Saturday 14 September 2013

Hobson's choice

We started with this
Very pretty balcony but unfortunately it turned out that the concrete floor was failing and while the scaffolding was up we took it down. There was a moment when these guys were going to save the day and build us a wooden one. Turns out that over the summer the guys have parted company. The one that is left is run off his feet and building his own house and lives 80km from us.......
In steps the guy from down the road. Seems lovely, yes he can build a metal balcony, yes he can do it while the scaffolding is up, yes he can make it bigger while he is about it. He'll do the base immediately and then we'll worry about the balustrade next year because he can fix it from the floor. Brilliant. Then all goes silent. No devis (estimate) as promised, no appearance of balcony man as promised.

After two 'yes, I'm definitely coming' telephone calls and one complete mess up on my part of trying to explain that if he could possibly come and reweld a bit of metal that one of the workman had cut, before the mason came to do the window sill, my life would be perfect. He responded to another call with 'how about now' and here he is. Turns out his wife has injured her leg and she is in plaster and unable to put her foot to the floor for a month! He has a 15 year old and 13 year old twins, all boys, who all play rugby in different places at different times and he is run off his feet. So the only way we are going to get any sort of balcony any time soon and without more scaffolding is if we have one the same size. No choice. OK. Big sighs of relief all round and he will be there next week. Fingers crossed. And as we thought about it, because the window is bigger, the space to get round the table is also bigger so all will be well.
PS Thomas Hobson was a livery stable owner in Cambridge in the sixteenth century who said you could have any horse as long as it was the one nearest the door. Hence Hobson's choice. I can remember sitting on the bus with my mother, who was born and raised in Cambridge, as we passed Hobson's Conduit and she explaining it to me. Since Hobson's conduit was an obvious stream in front of me, my mother beside me who had been there as a girl, I am really surprised it was so long ago. I thought it was in her grandparents' time :-) 

Friday 13 September 2013

A lot can happen in a week

We have spent a week in England. Lovely family wedding, visiting family and friends and generally rushing about the place.

What have they done to the house while we've been away?? Well, made a hell of a lot of mess for a start. But beyond that, it is all coming along brilliantly.

They've doubled the height of the guest bedroom window. To make this opening, more scaffolding had to be put up in the street. Apparently, there was a visit from the Municipal Police last week to say that we should have got permission to have scaffolding in the street. Ooops. And it was only because it was well put up that they didn't have to take it down immediately. Fortunately, all was well. I think we might well take all the sad grey plaster off this side of the house too but maybe not this week.
Between the houses there is a narrow passage. Variously described as a firebreak or a pooh trap. We have friends with a much older house that have a stone toilet seat overhanging the gap. In our house it seems to have been used to gather water from the street to fill the cistern so is a concreted gully. Of course it hasn't been cleared for years. So today was the day:

I can't add the pictures to show where it comes out the other side because Blogger has decided that these are enough for now.
The guys have also finished jointing the back of the house. It looks just lovely. Lots of new bigger windows and lovely golden stone. Brilliant. 
So after spending all day removing the thick layer of dust from everything, it is time for a cup of tea.