Monday, 30 January 2012

Bad Backs And Crochet Hooks

I make no apology when I say I dislike houses that have been named by joining family Christian names, like Alary, Stirena, Donally, Fioneve, Suvin need I go on.  You may wonder where this is going?  When we bought the land we bought it as a company.  Without going into too much depth we did it this way on the suggestion of our solicitor.  Because Brendan and I aren’t married and because he has children the inheritance laws are complicated.  The notaire explained ‘If mister dies you missus have a life interest in the company and if missus dies you mister have a life interest in the company’. I came out totally befuddled and none the wiser, all I did know is that madam and monsieur does not sound as sophisticated when translated as mister and missus.  Anyway, to form the company we needed a company name.  We pondered over this and finally came up with Chez Brenorah!  Can you believe that, we did it, we actually took Brendan and Deborah and came up with Brenorah!  Quell horreur!  We have a bank account in the name of Chez Brenorah, every bill has to be addressed to Chez Brenorah and now I have to live with this until the day we sell the house!

The Little Geordie Builder is suffering!  His back is bad, but he is a martyr to the cause and is carrying on building albeit more slowly than he would like.  My efforts to get him to the kinesiotherapist (I still can’t say that word) have fallen on deaf ears.  Despite this the building is up 5 courses, the door and window openings are visible and I now get a good feel for the size of the house.  The main house will of course be divided into rooms but the kitchen/family room is just the one room and is looking a good size.
The view from my kitchen.
We visualise the house very differently.  Brendan sees the finished house as empty rooms with just plastered walls. I on the other hand see it furnished, including curtains, cushions and pictures!  Having said that I still can’t decide where to put the fridge, hob or oven, although some electric conduit has already gone in on the day of concreting when I had to make split second decisions and say ‘there, there and there’.  However, if I flutter my eyelashes and make a nice apple crumble I am sure I can get the LGB to put more wires in later!

The croquet's orf.

Sadly, we won’t be playing croquet on the lawn this weekend.  It is hard to imagine this sodden muddy heap ever being a lawn. The digger was slipping and sliding and not holding the wet ground well at all.   We have spent a couple of days putting up scaffolding and loading it with blocks.  We collected the stone window sills.  Getting them off the truck with the digger was a little fraught, me panicking that Brendan was going to bash and crack them and him moaning at me panicking!  Job done, no casualties. 

As well as preparing the site for building we cut a load of logs for the fire.  Log fires are lovely and cosy but there is something to be said for flicking a heating switch on when you get in at night.  Not to mention the times we have been out in the freezing snow cutting, chopping and stacking logs.  Perversely there is something satisfying in doing this chore.  Brendan of course loves it.  I don’t love it when he stands on the pile cutting the logs with the chainsaw in his slippers!

After another sleepless and painful night Brendan went to see Monsieur Le Colin the kinesiotherapist.  He saw him a couple of years ago and before he went this time the brave LGB said he would walk out of the surgery if Monsieur Le Colin used ‘that hook thing’ again.  Lo and behold out came the ‘hook thing’ or crochet as Monsieur Le Colin called it.  As Brendan was in just his underpants there was no chance of a hasty escape.  He was in agony.  I have to admit it did look like an instrument of torture.  It must have hurt because it left red welts all along his back.  After having his leg manipulated into the most awkward position, Mr Le C clicked four vertebrae back into position and the LGB walked out a new man!  He spent the rest of the evening telling me how marvellous he felt and how easy it was to bend down, take his trousers off, put his socks on, do the can-can.  He has to take it easy for a couple of days, but is saying he can’t wait for Monday!

It's so good to see the LGB back to his old self
We decided to have the weekend off to give Brendan’s back a rest.  We spent Saturday in Angouleme.  We visited a couple of bric-a-brac shops and some of my favourite shops.  Angouleme was buzzing.  It is the four day festival of the Bande Dessinee which is basically a comic festival.  The French love comic strips and all ages read them.  The festival brings all the comic book artists to Angouleme for the fans to meet.  There are exhibitions and the artists are dotted around the city; in shops, churches and the streets drawing and signing books.  It is the biggest festival of its kind in Europe.
Some of my favourite wall art in Angouleme
I call this one Romeo & Juliet
This one can be seen driving into Angouleme
There are many buildings in Angouleme decorated with this fantastic street art, however I don't think it will be adorning any of our walls.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Another Brick In The Wall

A little poetic license there, it is actually another 'block' in the wall.  We are only two days into the build (Tues 17th) and although I am very happy and positive that we are progressing I also feel about 190 years old.  I feel a need for a replacement for every joint in my body.  We are trussed up like oven ready chickens.  Both of us are wearing back belts and elbow supports and I have wrist supports!  Brendan said if he had one for his thigh he would put that on as well!  Where will it all end - mummification?
Is 7.30 too early to go to bed? Night, night.

I had an appointment with the bank at their request.  The LGB didn't want to put his tools down to go with me.  Since selling the house we have become VIPs at the bank!   It is hilarious.  Last time we were there two bank advisers came over to shake hands whilst we were in the queue, ignoring all the other customers.  Give it a few more months when all the money has been spent on this house and we will once again be the church mice being ignored!  We have already opened 8 separate savings accounts on her advice!  During this appointment she closed four of them and opened two more!  She may have embezzled the lot for all I know and could be sunning herself on Brighton beach in a two star B & B on our proceeds as I type.

Tues 24th

Since we started the house build we have lost days to the rain once again.  We have taken delivery of blocks and sand and been to order sills for the windows and get quotes for the roofs.  We are quite a way off the roofs going on but we are not sure how long they will take to make up.  Today was a typical day dodging the rain.  Brendan has been concentrating on the corners of the buildings and once they are done we can get a good run at it.  His back is not good at the moment which is slowing him up and frustrating him.

Still smiling - for how long?

I have a love hate relationship with Minnie, the mixer.  She is like an open mouthed gannet chick that needs to be continuously fed.  Bucket of water, 8 buckets of sand, 2 buckets of cement, tip it into the barrow, take it to Brendan.  Bucket of water, 8 sand,  ........... Now and again I forget how many sand I have put in or did I put the second cement in?  At the end of the day I have the great honour of being allowed to clean everything!  Wash out the mixer, clean the trowels, shovels and barrows.  I cannot express to you in writing how much I detest this job at the end of a tiring day, but I am the labourer and therefore it is my job.  I have suggested I am ready to lay blocks, but the LGB says they are too heavy!  I am not sure whether it is genuine kind-hearted concern or his concern at possibly being usurped.

It's the way I tell 'em!!

Brendan says 'the old ones are the best'.  I say, not when you have the same audience every day and I am that captive audience!  Whenever the LGB is checking the wall is level without fail he'll say, 'I've got something in my eye can you have a look'.  It is just his way of saying 'Spot on as usual - aren't I clever'.

Brendan with something in his eye - again!

Brendan looking like Jack Nicholson in The Shining
'Here's Johnny!'
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Monday, 16 January 2012

Out Came The Sun And Dried Up All The Rain...............

...................and the Little Geordie Builder got on the site again! With a big smile on his face J.  I have to admit it was good to get back out there and working.  It was a cold and misty start but the afternoon was glorious.  We have put down the damp-proof membrane and conduit for electrics in readiness for the concrete arriving tomorrow.  We have hired a telescopic something or other that I will be driving.  It is too wet around and about the land and Brendan is worried the concrete waggon will get stuck, so the plan is for the waggon driver to fill my telescopic bucket with concrete and I will then carefully deliver it onto Brendan’s head the required area.  Sounds good in theory.

Never did I think I would see the day during my past life as a fashionista (You may scoff those of you who have only known me in the garbs of a labourer, but in fact I was the first person to wear baggy jeans in my college days.) when I would spend €21 on pair of wellies.  (Auto correct just changed wellies to willies, but it was definitely wellington boots.)  They are not even designer, unless you call Dunlop steel toe-caps designer.  Still, needs must.

Talking of fashionistas, I received a parcel from my lovely Dad. My family always worries about me being cold and in the past has bought me; battery operated foot warmers, slippers you can heat in the microwave, fur lined boots, hot water bottles and body warmers to name but a few items.  This parcel contained a Snuggie which is a blanket with arms and claims to; ‘fight off the cold, winter nights with a comfy Snuggie blanket. It keeps you warm and content while also keeping your hands free so you can reach that remote control with ease’.  The box also claimed you could ‘wear it anywhere’. Well, let me tell you Mr Snuggie Ltd Dot Com – you can’t!  It was totally impractical on the site.  I felt like an extra out of ‘Sister Act’ and fought from belting out a rendition of ‘Rescue Me’.  Besides which, I was crackling with so much static electricity Brendan would have had to wire me up and earth me to keep me from being electrocuted or spontaneously combusting!  However, I have a feeling it will come in very useful when we move into the caravan, thanks Dad!

And so to bed ready for a hard day of concreting, but it is a huge step forward and Brendan will be happy and relieved when it is done and the real building work can start.  Happy days!

Move over Whoopi Goldberg!


Well C Day arrived.  Kevin, a friend, popped along to give us a hand.  This meant a quick risk assessment of the site as Kevin is known as Mr Bump because he is rather accident prone.  I salvaged some plastic bottles from the recycling bag and popped them over the iron bars sticking out of the corners of the foundations.  Preferable to finding an eyeball on the end of it.  Nothing else seemed to pose much risk, except perhaps me driving the telescopic handler, as I now know it is called.

By the time I had carpeted the cab I didn’t get much time to practise on the telescopic handler before the concrete arrived.  I drove up to the chute of the concrete waggon; the driver filled the bucket with concrete which I then drove over to the boys where they gave instructions on where to pour with hand gestures.  Pretty straightforward I hear you say, except their hand gestures for the same instructions were completely different.   They looked like they were dancing to ‘The Birdie Song’!  Very confusing.

Also confusing was the one stick that made the telescopic arm go up, down, extend, retract, tip the bucket up and empty the bucket.  I think any kid who has played with a PlayStation and joystick would have found it a doddle!   I shunted the cement chute once and caught an iron bar, so not bad even if I do say so myself.

With the second delivery the driver decided to deliver the cement straight into the foundations.  Perhaps he thought it was all taking too long.  That went fantastically well and it was, of course, so much quicker.  However, he then got stuck on the mud so we had to shovel sand under the wheels to enable him to get out again.  On the third and fourth deliveries we went back to him filling my bucket!  I have to say he was brilliant and very patient.  Brendan said they would charge extra in England if the pour went over a certain time.

There was method to my madness in putting carpet down in the cab.  I thought it would keep it clean as there was a charge of 128€ if the machine went back dirty!  I was told to put the keys under the floor covering in the cab for the company to collect the machine.  Of course no one would think of looking there would they?  I was a little nervous leaving fifty thousand pounds plus of unlocked machinery on the drive. It was gone the next morning, I just prayed it was Locatoumat who collected it and it hadn’t been stolen.

Brendan's little invention worked a treat!

Well the hard work starts here.  Brendan has stipulated the time we must be out in the mornings, that we will probably be working later into the evenings and will stay on site to eat lunch. We have put blocks and sand out in readiness for us to start the build on Monday.  Brendan is so excited.  He is going  on site tomorrow, Sunday, to fill the water bins and put more blocks out.  You’re on your own Sunshine.  Sunday is a day of rest and I’ve got the house to clean, shopping to buy, the washing, the ironing, the paperwork………………….  Roll on Monday!

A misty end to the day.

Laying out the blocks.