Saturday, 26 May 2012

We've Nailed It!

What's in a Name?
I was very pleased that my blog has had over one thousand hits and very bemused to see that 999 of them were on my last post!  I exaggerate, but it certainly got more than any of the others.  Could the title have had something to do with it do you think?  There will be some very disappointed adolescent lads out there finding nothing more than the ramblings of a middle-aged plus women wittering on about blue tits, building and bikes!  Sorry lads!

We have put all the floor joists in but still have some nailing to do.  As it was a bank holiday we banged the nails in very quietly!  I am always concerned about making a noise on a jour de fete but the neighbours went out early and the farm work doesn't stop for a bank holiday.

Joists in the sejour
It was 26 degrees and very muggy  but I am not going to complain about the weather because in true British style that is all I have done lately.  Oh, OK then.  It was far too hot and claggy and we are both shattered.  The LGB has just said it is too early to stop work he will have to find something to do in the evenings.  I did point out that we had actually put in about 10 hours today.  To be fair to him we did stop for lunch and two tea breaks.  

View of what will be the bedroom floors
Over the last three days we have hammered in approximately 2000 nails with more to go.  The joists are all in place and Brendan is now busy cutting the noggings ready to hammer in tomorrow.  Good progress we feel.  We treated ourselves tonight.  Kevin told us the fish and chip van was in a local village. Fish and chips are a very rare treat for us here (twice in 10 years), not the same as the home chippie but enjoyable.

Go girl! Only 1,500 nails to go

How many noggings?
The Great Wall of Noggings
Job Vacancy – Nogging Knocker wanted.  No experience necessary.  Nogging…..……it’s a great word isn’t it, and the Scottish word for one is a dwang!  Well, we’ve got roughly 160 dwang noggings to put up and hammer in place.  Oh joy!  They are used to strengthen the structure and stop the joists from twisting.  (Before the spell check police come a-calling I have checked out the spelling of noggings/noggins and am going with noggings.)  

The LGB on the top of the Great Wall of Noggings
The LGB gave me what he called a nice steady job which involved more hammering and more nails.  I nailed metal straps to the ends of the scaffold boards to protect them and stop them splitting.  The only nails I want to see again are beautiful French manicured ones on the end of my fingers.  Some hope.  By the way, for nice steady job, read boring!

A steady little job.
A Little Drop of the Wet Stuff!
I have wiped ‘that’ word from my vocabulary; I shall ignore it like a naughty child in the hope that it will start behaving. It is precipitating cats and dogs, chucking it down, pouring, pelting, piddling, p***ing down.  I have just got soaked to the skin.  Some women look very alluring soaked through.  Look at Ursula Andress or Bo Derek.  Not me, I’m more Vicky Pollard meets Moby Dick!  Whaaaaatever!  I’m not sure if it is the cement splattered fleecy, the tracky bottoms and hobnail boots or the mascara running down my face but I just can’t carry off the wet look off. 
So as the dark falls and we sit in what is beginning to feel like a submarine there is nothing for it but to watch another episode of Downpour Abbey, I mean Downton Abbey.                                        

By Thursday the nogging gnomes hadn’t materialised so the LGB had to tackle the dwangs himself.   I was as useful as a chocolate teapot but the LGB insisted they were difficult enough for him and there was no way I would get the nails in.  I just kept him supplied and held them in place as and when needed.  I thought he was losing the will to live because he is usually very upbeat, (when he’s not very grumpy), but he wasn’t enjoying this job. 

Friday saw the noggings finished, the site tidied and the joists planked ready to start building the upper floor.  During the proceedings I fell and badly twisted my ankle.  Ever the hero the LGB sprang into action.  Did he call an ambulance or grab the first aid kit?  No, he brought a bucket of cold water to soak my foot in!
2,000 nails later and still smiling!
My lovely Dad’s favourite saying is ‘Keep Smiling’.  Good advice.


Thank you for all your comments whether it be on here, facebook or by email.  It is much appreciated and keeps us buoyant when it sometimes all feels a bit of a chore. :) :)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Tits and Old Bones!

Wednesday 9th May – The LGB’s birthday.  We were awake on and off with the rain last night and enjoying a cup of tea and a read at  5 am. Still, it was a good start to the birthday boy’s day.  A delivery arrived at 8 am and the rain dried up.  It has actually been a scorcher today. We finished the sides of the doorway and tomorrow we will put the lintel across.  The winch is working a treat.  

Brendan had to leave a hole in the wall for a blue tit family who have made their nest inside a concrete block and are feeding their chicks.  The poor things must have set up home when it was nice and quiet and now they must feel like they are living in a war zone.  For those of you who read the title of this post I am afraid that is as exciting as the 'tit bits' get.  Sorry if you are disappointed. :)

The blue tit nest inside the block

Access to the nest
On the subject of wild life today we have evicted two slugs, a spider, a snail, two unidentified bugs, two bees and numerous ants.  Perhaps they have heard about the ark. To be honest the ants weren’t actually evicted, they were eliminated. The LGB said we should put down some ant powder.  I feel this will be all in vain as he is unlikely to eradicate every ant on our site, not to mention the ones in the farmer’s fields that are probably totally unaware that there are any boundary lines at all.  A mole has also come up into the awning.  Is he blind?  Can’t he see there is already somebody living here?  I don’t know how many attempts it must have made before finally finding a gap and tunnelling through; it must have quite a headache because we have laid chipboards and then laminated on top.  There’s posh!

Our uninvited guest
Thursday morning we tackled the three stones (nicknamed Jagger, Richards & Charlie Watts), that would make up the lintel across the door.   They behaved very well and went nicely into place.  
Richards and Watts

And Jagger caps it off
An Unexpected Delivery.    At 3pm on Thursday a lorry arrived with the roof trusses to the main house. We had arranged with Metiers du Toit to call them when we were ready for them . Of course, having had so much rain we are behind schedule (what schedule?) so hadn’t rung them, but they sent them anyway!  Another puzzle to ponder.

That evening we headed off on our ‘jolly’, a weekend with Mary and Alan to a little place close to St. Nazaire where they were starting another mammoth bicycle ride.  In a nutshell they are following the Rivers Loire and Danube and ending up in Romania in two months.  I’ve just made that sound like a doddle haven’t I?  It probably will be for them compared to their adventure last year.  I am exhausted just writing about it! 

This expedition is only 4,000 kilometres!  Their last one was 7,500 kilometres!  Some people just aren’t consistent are they?  They also have a blog called Old Bones On Bikes Have a peek at their progress and if you really feel generous you can dip your hands in your pockets and give them a few pennies for their chosen charity ‘Medicins sans Frontieres’.

Mary & Alan
The Old Bones on Bikes
The harbour at Pornic

We had three lovely days.  We discovered a beautiful area of France (Loire and Vendee).  The weather was amazing and we played a teeny weeny part in M & A’s latest adventure.  I have, however, now lost my most ardent blog follower, Alan. 
Their car is now safely parked up back on their drive.  The boot polish has done wonders to cover the scratches and scuffs! Good Luck to you both!

I would like to say we are now rested, but the LGB and I tend to try to pack as much as we can into our ‘jollies’.  We have at least had a change of scene and will be going hell for leather whilst the weather will allow us to do so.  Did I mention it had hit 35 degrees on Thursday?  I want to say that is far too hot for me but after all my moaning about the rain……………..

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Did my last post mention something about being ever the optimist?  Well let me tell you, I am well and truly pessimist off with this weather!

We have now been holed up in this caravan for three weeks.  It has rained every day and every night bar one.  It serves us right really.  We are always very smug about the wonderful weather we enjoy here with our own little micro-climate, whilst those of you in foreign parts are usually experiencing a less clement climate.  Well, please feel free to gloat, it is like Armageddon here.  When we were watching Independence Day it was like being an extra in the film.  The caravan was shaking, the awning was billowing.  We were a-rocking-and-a-rolling.  I was expecting to go to sleep in Canvas and wake up in Oz with Dorothy waiting to greet us in her little red shoes.  (Did you like that little play on words?? Canvas/Kansas? Oh, never mind!)

Things That Go Thump In The Night
Well it has finally happened.  There we were happily watching ‘Boys from the Black Stuff’ when a thump drew our attention to the fact that the awning had finally succumbed under the weight of the rain and collapsed in one corner. We have a stream running through what was our little sitting/kitchen area and now a broom is propping the awning up.  We had months without rain and now it is non-stop.  If there is somebody sitting up there above the clouds in control of meteorology could you not get a little happy medium going for us, please? Something between deluge and drought would be good. 

Noah’ good carpenter?
Abandon all hope!  That’s it!  Enough is enough!  We have decided to abandon the construction of the house and build a chuffing ark instead.  All are welcome to join us. We like to keep up with our changing times; therefore, we are not insisting on you coming on board two by two, singletons are welcome.  However, a supplement will be charged if you are travelling alone.  Climb aboard me hearties.
Strange Sightings In The Sky
In the words of Dinah Washington - ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’.  After three weeks of rain we have had, oooh at least three sunny days.  It is amazing how a ray of sunshine can lift one's spirits.  It can turn a boggy swamp into the Garden of Eden.   Suddenly all is right with the world.  What fickle creatures we are.
I forsook the paperwork to enjoy some sunshine and Brendan strimmed whilst I weeded.  I trod on the rake and smacked myself full in the mouth just as the neighbour’s sister and mother came over to introduce themselves.  I just pretended I hadn’t done it!  I’m now nursing a swollen lip.  I wouldn’t mind but I did the same thing a couple of weeks ago!
We chatted with Elben’s mother and sister.  I say that so nonchalantly as if the LGB and I were stood there conversing in fluent French.  I cannot mislead you; they, in fact, both speak fluent English!  Amazingly his sister Vi went to Nottingham Trent Uni, where Jack is studying and she still lives in Nottingham. His mother lives in Tahiti.

Trolley Dollies and Steel Toe Caps
When I was cleaning my ‘bathroom’, it suddenly occurred to me that a caravan toilet and an aircraft toilet are almost exact replicas.   The main difference being the caravan toilet doesn’t flush with that violent ‘whoosh’ that has you worried you are going to be sucked bum first out of the aircraft!  Absolutely no comments please about my derriere causing a ‘bouchon’ and therefore that being unlikely to ever happen to me!  Anyway, that set me thinking about my old life.  ‘Builder’s Labourer’ doesn’t sound as exciting and glamorous as ‘Cabin Crew’ or ‘Air Hostess’.  Life as a ‘trolley dolly’ does, however, have surprising similarities to that of a ‘navvy’.  It involved checking toilets mid-flight, serving meals and tidying seat pockets and sometimes dealing with awkward people.  I still serve meals, I still do all the tidying, in answer to your question Alan, tis I who cleans and empties our loo and I sometimes deal with awkward people person.  Whereas we used to climb to 35,000 feet I now climb ladders.  Do I miss my old life?  What, staying in lovely hotels, cheap holidays, a good salary and going to work in high heels and a smart suit?  I still get the odd night in a nice hotel; if we were to take any holidays they would definitely be ‘cheap’ but I no longer earn a salary.  As for the high heels, they play havoc with my gout these days and the heels get caught in the ladder rungs! Now where did I leave my steel toe-caps? Tea? Coffee?

This is a blog about building so I suppose I ought to mention our progress.  None!  Well, a little. We have bought an electric hoist to aid the LGB in his advancing years.  I don’t mean a Stannah stair lift or a personal winch for getting him out of the bed or chair; it is to save his poor old back.  He has had a little play around with it and cobbled together a system to winch the big white shell stones into position around the living room doorway.  He screws a hook into the top of the stone and I operate the hoist whilst the LGB shouts at me and manoeuvres the stone into position. Less of the shouting fella, fingers can very easily slip on these controls!  So there we have it; half a doorway built in three weeks.  After a few calculations I would estimate the build being finished about 2020, by then the LGB will need that hoist.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Hi-De-Hi! Morning Campers!

Brendan has never understood the idea of dragging a box around on the back of a car to holiday in.  Two nights in the caravan and I can see where he is coming from and that is without us trawling it to a camp-site beforehand. 
Home Sweet Home
In his infinite wisdom the LGB decided that sleeping bags were the new duvets.   Easier to tidy away during the day.  With this in mind we purchased a matching pair in pearl grey with turquoise lining and left hand zipper.  We lay in bed like Tutankhamun and his wife (half-sister!!??).  I felt like I was in a strait jacket.  Some people would say I should be in one!  I had to abandon the idea of sleeping in a bag during the night sometime between gentle strangulation and near death asphyxiation and unzip it into a blanket. I know there are people who enjoy that experience, but it's not my bag (no pun intended). Mind you, I think I could give anyone a run for their money in the sack race now.
King Tut!

Near death experience!

The rain lashed down all night, so between the noise, being strangulated and stubbing my toe on a cupboard every five minutes not a lot of sleep was slept!

The first morning I decided to go for fresh bread for breakfast but got the car stuck in the mud trying to drive off the field (for Alan that will read off of the field!).  I abandoned the car and took the transit van instead.  I secured the last baguette at the local bar/store/restaurant.  A couple of old boys were enjoying a morning tipple – you might find you have a bit of a problem there lads that may need addressing, nothing that a few meetings can’t sort (one day at a time)! 

We have a little fridge in the caravan and the big fridge in the garages.  The distance between the two is roughly 300 feet, which in itself isn’t a vast distance.  In fact it is quite a pleasant strolling distance between shoe shops and chic boutiques, however, when you have to cover it four or five times during the making of a meal it becomes a little tiresome.  By the time I finally served up the scrambled eggs and toasted baguette it seemed only reasonable to add a glass of wine and call it lunch!  I may be joining the old boys in the bar in the morning.

The LGB was not impressed with his first night 'ping' meal!

The second night I moved to the other end of the caravan where there is no toe-stubbing cupboard.  I also opted to abandon the sleeping bag and duly ironed bedding and hunted out the duvet from the garage.  The LGB was adamant he was slumbering in his sleeping bag.  When I asked why he informed me we had bought them so he wanted to use them otherwise it will have been a waste of money!  So he settled on one side of the bed in his sleeping bag and I lay on the other side buried under a heaped up king size duvet. 

As Suzanne and Kevin have no paying guests at the moment we are still going over to shower at the gite.  If you would like to be a paying guest the link to their gite is;  A huge thank you to them for their kindness and generosity in letting us use the gite, not to mention the lovely meals.

Tonight will be the third night in the caravan.  The LGB is already snoring his head off all cosied up under the king size duvet!

For sale - Two pearl grey sleeping bags.  Hardly used – as new.  Open to sensible offers!!

We were spitting feathers yesterday.  I should have known it would be a bad day when I realised our CT (MOT) on the car had run out in January! We thought after two weeks and no telephone call we would find out if the RSJs had arrived. To cut a long story (and longer wait for service) short, the assistant who finally came to our aid sent us to his boss in the office.  He in turn informed us their supplier no longer dealt with them.  I have a limited command of the French language, however, why does it desert me when I am most in need of it?  I spewed something about them having our telephone number, waiting a long time and nobody phoning.  Then with a very Gallic gesture of my hands I stormed out of the office pushing Brendan ahead of me!  I have been told that the English word I mouthed through the window as I walked past would be universally understood!
The wind and rain have been tremendous.  We have only had one night without rain.  It comes in great cloud bursts that wake us during the night.  We have no television, so most evenings we have settled down to watch a DVD.  We had to turn the DVD off one night because we couldn’t hear it for the rain! 

Walking the plank!
Ever the optimist, at least this camping malarkey can only get better. When it stops raining, and the wind stops howling, and the mud dries up, and the sun shines it will be all ‘hi-de-hi’ happy campers!  Watch this space, this oh, so very small, confined space!