Sunday, 29 July 2012

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

Mad dogs and English men go out in the mid-day sun; as do Brendan and Deborah.  We have often worked through lunches (the French stop religiously) and during sweltering weather (the French sensibly close their shutters and stay in the cool).  However, the last few days have been too hot for even the mad dogs to work.  We have been starting very early and doing a few hours before being forced to stop by the scorching heat.

I am sure all you kindly souls who volunteered to help get the tiles onto the roof are mightily relieved we didn’t call you to take you up on your offers.  The weather has been unbearably hot and I am sure you are far more comfortable sitting around your pools sipping cold beers.

The Meccano set
We hired a monte tuile (tile hoist) on Monday evening from Locatoumat.  We had planned to load tiles for a few hours that evening but when we collected the hoist it was loaded onto the truck in a zillion pieces.  I wished then I had played a little more often with my brother’s meccano as a child. 
Stacking the tiles
So my job title changed from builder’s labourer to tile stacker.  In this capacity I was to load the tiles into the box on the hoist and send them up to the LGB on the roof who then walked them to the various areas for stacking whilst attached to his climbing ropes.
We managed to piece it together fairly easily and got a couple of hours tile stacking done the first night.  When I sent the box up for a trial run the LGB was tweaking the mechanisms and left his finger in the way.  Naturally I got the blame for almost severing his digit.  He was bleeding to death etc. etc., you know how it goes with these men.  He soldiered on.  Granted there was a lot of blood.  I offered to dress it after he had washed it only to find a few pin pricks on each side!

Tiles en route

The LGB awaiting delivery

Up bright and early on Tuesday we worked for a few hours before surrendering to the heat of the sun.  I was feeling the heat on the ground but it was much worse for the LGB up on the roof.  This week the thermometer on the roof went off the scale at over 50 degrees.  Down below it was nearly 40 in the shade.  The heat on the tiles was immense; I really think you could have fried an egg on them. The same again Wednesday morning until I thought I could do no more.  Thankfully we had enough tiles on the roof by lunchtime.  Dismantling the hoist was probably harder than putting it together.  However, job done and what a time and energy saver.  I really don’t know how we (the Royal ‘we’ that is) would have managed to get them up manually.
Roped to the roof

Impressive - Making good progress

Off the scale
Thursday morning the LGB started laying the tiles.  At this point I had to admit defeat as I can’t work up that high without a scaffold.  So whilst the poor LGB worked on the roof I cleaned the caravan with the luxury of two fans keeping me coolish.  By 11.30 the heat got too much and the LGB came down.  I was so impressed when I went down the garden to inspect his efforts to see that he had covered a good bit of the roof even in a relatively shorty period of time.

I have explained our plumbing system to you before where we have roughly sixty miles of hose snaking around the garden heating the water from the sun during the day.  The water tonight was actually too hot for the LGB to shower in.  That tells you what the temperature was like today.

The Return of Dr Crochet
The LGB had an appointment with Dr Crochet that afternoon.  Et voila! The first thing he did was get out the dreaded crochet hook.  He told Brendan he should stop working for a while and watch the Olympics!  Pas possible!  We have our own marathon Olympics to contend with and many a hurdle to get over before we reach the finishing line and collect our gold medals.  But today there was nothing for it but to spend a couple of hours lounging on the beach (man-made) at the lakes.  The world and his wife had decided to do the same; I have never seen it so crowded.  So, I enjoyed my first swim of the year in the lake.  The LGB didn’t brave it; instead he knocked up a few well deserved zeds on the grass. 

Friday, like the trooper he is the LGB was back on the roof for more of the same.  Storms were forecast for today.  It was very humid and it did rain, but the promised storm didn’t materialise.  Again I was really chuffed with the amount the LGB got covered especially as he is suffering with his back and sciatica.

One side complete
Getting His Priorities Right!
He has had the petrol stone cutter on the roof where he has been worrying the bejaysus out of me cutting the tiles.  He told me he wasn't taking any chances on the roof and was confident working with the cutter up there.  He said if he felt himself fall he would just throw the cutter out of the way.  I was a little perplexed.  The night before when we were sitting on the ‘lawn’ enjoying a glass of wine the leg of the LGB’s chair went down a mole hole.  This sent him off balance.  He pirouetted, teetered, wobbled and doddered on one leg trying to keep the chair upright and prevent himself from falling off the chair.  This balancing trick seemed to go on for some time with him and the chair rocking to a fro with one of his arms furiously flapping around trying to regain his balance whilst the other arm stayed amazingly level.  I should point out that the balanced arm had a glass of wine on the end of it!  Finally the chair toppled over but the LGB still managed to go from a crouched position to fully upright with his glass of wine intact. 

Now you will be wondering where my perplexity comes into this long winded missive.  Well, he had stated that if he thought he was falling he would throw a few hundred pounds worth of cutting machinery off the roof to stay safe, but when he was falling off the chair there was no way he was letting go of that glass or even a drop of his wine!!  I wouldn’t mind but it was only a cheap bottle of fizz! 
The Jolly Chef

Vide Grenier

Vide Grenier
Sunday we visited a giant vide grenier or car boot sale.   ‘Vider’ means to empty and ‘grenier’ means attic so in fact the French empty their attics. The field had been recently mowed and the farmer had ploughed the lines where the cars could set up their stalls.  The French are so civilised; everything stops for lunch.  There are no fast food vans here, nobody walking around with a giant burger hanging out of their mouths.  The sellers have tables and chairs, wine, containers of prepared food and crockery and they sit and enjoy a good lunch.  The organisers have a barbecue on the go and tables and benches under canvas and of course a bar and likewise the buyers stop at lunchtime to enjoy a repast.  I didn’t break the bank, I bought a pretty blue pottery vase for 1€.

One person's rubbish..........

is another person's treasure

Thank you for all your feedback on the blog.  Whether you email, text, Facebook, phone me or leave a comment on the blog it is all much appreciated.  Thank you also for all your offers to lend a hand.  The LGB is a proud chappy and doesn’t easily or readily accept help.  I on the other hand have some washing, ironing, a few buttons to sew back on …………………oh, and twenty four windows and doors to paint!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Floppy Lettuce and Surgical Stockings

Mary and Alan arrived with a harness from their climbing days (before they took to stunt riding on bicycles).  The LGB was trussed up and given a lesson by Alan how to use the ropes and karabiners.  The intention is for him to arm himself with a few tiles and swing along the top of the roof and place the tiles as he goes.  I would imagine it will be a bit like his own version of ‘Total Wipeout’ or ‘It’s a Knockout’ for the genteel elderly folk amongst you. This is exactly what he probably will end up doing – knocking or wiping himself out.  They were like two kids at the swing park; a very funny spectacle to behold.  I had some great photos but once again the computer whizz has managed to erase them.  When I retire from the building trade I will take a computer course.

Monday morning armed with his ropes, karabiners, harness, dried food supplies, S O S flares and other paraphernalia the LGB set off to conquer the roof.

He has been working up a height in the blaring heat (thirty plus degrees today) and I set up shop down below in the shade with my measure, pencil, saw and electric chop saw.  My job has been to cut the tiler’s battens to length and sometimes put an angle cut on the end and pass them up to the LGB and also cut and pass up the roofing felt.  I have had to sit and await instructions, which has given me time to catch up on lots of bill paying, letter writing and I even had time to make a few cards.  We lost one afternoon to the searing heat this week and the next morning to the rain, but in my eyes we have made good progress.  The LGB has battened and cross battened in readiness for the tiles.

Floppy Lettuce
I popped across to the Petite Voisine, little neighbour, with a bag of wilted lettuce for her lapins and returned with the same!  She has four huge rabbits and about nine cute, fluffy baby bunnies that in a few months she will eat!  She poured the contents of my carrier bag onto the grass, ran into the house for a knife and proceeded to chop and cut the floppy pieces and placed 90 per cent of it back into the bag telling me it was perfectly good to eat tonight with some frites.  I had instructions to place it into a bowl of water and change the water every few hours.  Lo and behold my flaccid lettuce plumped up to many times its original size and would surely have won best in show.  It will be all round the hamlet what a wastrel the Anglaise is.  That morning she had killed, plucked, cleaned and portioned her rasp of guinea fowl ready for the freezer (that’s one noise nuisance abated).  Her husband, who stands a good two feet taller than her can’t do the slaughtering.  She showed me around their potager, I think she must be supplying Tesco with the amount of vegetables she is growing.
Luscious lettuce
Most people have an ensuite; we had the luxury of an en jardin for a while, but already we have made some home improvements and shower block H has been upgraded and moved into the utility room.  Once again the glass fibre lid has morphed from its last function as a concrete holder to a shower base.  What a pampered life I live – you can keep your jacuzzis – I have not one but two garden hoses fitted together and filled with water that is then left to heat in the sun all day and whoever makes it to the shower first in the evening gets a luke warm douching.  Lucky for me the LGB enjoys a beer after a long day’s work.
The 'en jardin' shower
New up-graded luxury facilities
Everybody wants a garden view

The LGB has told me I am not to write about the surgical stocking.  So pull your chair in a little closer and I will whisper it to you and then it doesn't count does it.  We ordered the LGB’s surgical stocking today; we have opted for the light-weight summer number in black with a natty little peep-toe. You can’t go wrong with black can you?  Gosh, I might even find a box to keep it in and label it.   Thrilling!  So what was so bad about that?  If he was wearing women’s fishnet stockings on site some of your eyebrows may raise a little - but then again you’re a liberal bunch.  I have to finish for now as I am battling with the mosquitos and they are winning – plat du jour again.

A French Word
Now and again I come across a word I really like and the word for ‘poppy’ is one of them.  Le coquelicot  is pronounced like cock-a-leekie, but cock-a-leek-oh.  I couldn’t imagine it translating to a little girl's name though.  Iris is iris, Rose is rose, so they of course would be fine, Lily is lis, that could work, Daisy is marguerite,  no problem there and Ivy is le lierre, no, that’s not doing it for me.  And Dandelion is pissenlit, which you may have gathered means piss the bed and wouldn’t do at all for a little girl’s name.

When I greeted my choir master with a chirpy ‘salut’ which can mean ‘hi’ or ‘see you’ he picked me up on my pronunciation.  When he told me how to say it correctly I could have sworn that was how I was articulating it; apparently not.  He said I was pronouncing it sal-oh and it should be sal-ooh.  ‘Salaud’ (sal-oh) means ‘bastard’ or ‘sod’.  So for over three years I have been calling all my fellow singers bastards and sods!  How very rude! 

I have probably told you before how much I love the site of the bales of hay in the fields.  I now have three of my very own bales in my field.  Another little thrill!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tiles, Tanks and Thrills

It has been a frustrating and infuriating week of ordering, buying and chasing around after things.  this all has to be done but inevitably takes longer than anticipated.  Internet connection would have saved us time and probably money, but we don’t have it and therefore have to do the best we can.

View from the bottom of the 'garden' after the farmer had cut the grass

We registered with a new doctor as our lovely doctor retired in December.  We have found another delightful man who spent a good deal of time with us.  He commented on Brendan’s meagre two pages of medical notes and because he obviously didn’t want to waste a file said he would file them with mine!  However, the LGB still managed to come away with a prescription for a tetanus injection, ibuprofen, twenty sessions for his bad back with the crochet sadist (read the old post on Crochet Hooks), a pair of surgical stockings and a partridge in a pear tree!  Ok, I’m lying about the partridge. When the doctor asked if he needed anything else the LGB had to fight the urge to ask what was on special offer or not moving that he could take off the Doc’s hands.

I also had my blood pressure taken, thyroid check and tummy pummelled and then when I jumped off the table he said ‘Now wee please’.  I thought it was a bit much with both him and Brendan in the room and no receptacle to be expected to give a urine sample.  I said ‘Pardon’ and Doc said ‘Wee there’.  I looked into the corner where he was pointing expecting to find a door, little potty or porta-loo, but there was just a weighing scale.  Ah, weigh there!  Mystery solved, but it irked me somewhat that he obviously thought I was a podgy little porker who needed weighing as he hadn’t asked the LGB to weigh himself!  The diet starts Monday – again!  Brendan said it was a good job there wasn’t a kiddie potty there; I would really have been in a quandary!
This years sunflower battling through the weeds

Years ago I used to get a thrill when I bought a new pair of shoes (that was before I met Brendan of course).  I delighted in many a thrill as I had a vast number of shoes in every colour of the rainbow stored in labelled boxes with matching handbags (sad I know)! These days the work boots and fit-flops get chucked into an old fruit box and I now get my thrills in the wonder of nature.  You get little clues that life’s delights are changing when you start looking forward to the Chelsea Flower Show on the BBC.

Those of you who have read the blog from the start will remember my sunflower photo and how it had grown all alone on the mound of earth that had been heaped up from digging the foundations.  When it had died off I picked it and hung it on the terrace to dry with the intention of planting the seeds. I went to collect the seeds to discover the greedy birds had devoured every last one, despite the fact that I had been feeding them.  However, once again this year I have not one but two sunflowers growing on the heap and battling with many more weeds than last year.  What a thrill!

A bit tatty around the edges!

Hammering the Point Home

Sometimes I get the urge to use my hammer on something other than a nail head.  Today I dropped two lots of fascia boarding.  I say ‘I’ because I got the blame for not holding onto them.  I think sometimes the LGB has a thought in that little head of his that he thinks he has transmitted to his mouth and therefore I will have heard it.  Not so.  I have many talents but mind reading is not one of them.  Hence, if you let go of a three metre length of fascia and I only have hold of the first two inches it goes without saying that the counter balance will send it crashing five metres to the ground.  Perhaps a little ‘tap’ on the head with the aforementioned hammer will remind you to put those thoughts into words, Sweetheart!  The hammer is hanging safely in the shed and the urge has now passed.  (Since reading the draft for the blog the LGB has taken to wearing a hard hat!)

We placed our order for 2,700 Romane-canal terracotta roof tiles in the colour of Vieilli Castel.  We made this choice because as the name Old Castel suggests they don’t have the modern look of a solid colour of tiles.  These are multi-coloured and some have an aged look.

Materiaux Fourgeaud told us the roof tiles would be delivered at the start of the afternoon on Wednesday.  You can guess this hour and a few more hours came and went.  At 17.45 I called Fourgeaud to be told they would investigate and ring me back ‘tout de suite’.  I always thought ‘tout de suite’ meant straight away.  Silly me, I now know it means ‘in the morning’!  The next morning I was informed the tiles would be with us the start of the afternoon.  A feeling of déjà vu swept over me, but true to their word half the delivery arrived.  Where’s that hammer?

About 17.45 the other half arrived with the septic tank.  When the driver had finished unloading I noticed the tank was a 3000 litre and not a 4000 litre tank.  He muttered a few words and loaded it back on the lorry saying he would be back ‘tout de suite' with the right size.

Back to the depot with the septic tank
The most exciting, amazing, wonderful and thrilling thing to happen all week is the ride on mower is working again after a year out of service.  I can’t remember if I had written that we were quoted over 600€ for a starter motor; we finally got one with Alan’s help sent from the USA.  The cost including postage was 121€!  The grass has been cut again.  We’ll give the neighbours across the road with a lawn like the top of a snooker table a bit of competition now.
Have I mentioned the building work?  Next time then.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Short And Curlies

I have forgotten to bring my camera to upload the latest photos, sorry.  I have uploaded random photos for this post.

THEY sometimes have you by the short and curlies here, completely over a barrel; bent so far over you think you may never get up again.  Let me proffer you a little example; The roof tiles we are using cost about 1.25€ each.  We will also need a number of ventilation tiles.  These are the same as the normal tiles with just a ‘humpy up’ opening bit.  Hazard a guess at how much one would cost, go on, have a guess. No, much more – between 26€ and  35€!  EACH!  Now don’t be silly, get yourself back up off the floor and read on.  How do they work that out?  Whoever is making the tiles punches a little lump in the clay and sells it on to Monsieur Supplier who says ‘Voila, je vous ai par votre short et vos curlies Madame’.

A rare sighting of the lesser spotted LGB cleaning the buckets and tools.  Thankfully I don't have to do it either for a while. :)                                              

We ordered the remaining windows and doors today.  Forgive me for being naïve but I would have thought the bigger the window the more glass and wood required; more materials equals more expensive. Not so, the prices are random.  The goods are surely being priced by an egit in the factory who has a little tombola box and picks the prices out willy nilly.  We were asked today if we wanted the bathroom windows as a one panel opening or two panels.  Two openings - more wood, more hinges, more glass to cut and  therefore more expensive.  No, it was cheaper, but in this instance I had THEM by the short and curlies because I actually wanted the two pane opening.  Hah!

The tools of my trade!  Every girl needs her lippy.  For now I can replace the trowel with a hammer but the lipstick stays!

You may or may not realise that we do not have mains drainage here, not only us but most of rural France.  This means we will have to put in our own septic tank or fosse septique. Although only the two of us will be living here the powers that be have stipulated that a four bed roomed house must have a 4000 litre septic tank.  We have been quoted roughly 1000€ for a plastic tank.  It rankles me somewhat that a giant holding bay for pooh will cost that kind of money.  For that amount of dosh I would much rather have something big and sparkly adorning my finger.  I could go on with more examples, but quite frankly I am boring myself now!
The LGB in the office
Fantastic Plastic

I have been cajoled, threatened, inveigled, call it what you like, into having UPVC soffits and fascia boards.  The LGB told me in no uncertain terms, if we had wooden ones I would have to paint them every year. You know me and heights and the thought of being at the top of a ladder with a paintbrush in one hand, a paint pot in the other and holding the ladder with……………..what?  Therefore I have succumbed to the fantastic plastic. L  I extend my apologies to all the eco-warriors amongst you.

This seems such a long time ago now
So, that is what we have been doing the last couple of days as well as the now familiar game of Hokey Cokey with the rain – you know how it goes by now, ‘In, out, in, out, you shake your wet clothes out’.  It takes quite some time to do all these jobs as a building site would have scaffolding around the whole building, we only have enough to scaffold one side at a time.  It is therefore, quite a mammoth task to dismantle the scaffolding and set it up again against a different wall.  I cannot offer the LGB much help either because by the time I have negotiated the joists he has the job done!  

Deb - 'So who's in charge here?'
Bren -  'You are'
Deb - 'Who's the boss?'
Bren -    'You are sweetheart'   
Let's hear it one more time

Monday, 2 July 2012

Broken Arms, Serpents & Mime Artists.

Our friends Mary & Alan of ‘Old Bones On Bikes’ fame have been renamed ‘Old Broken Bones Off Bikes’.  Sadly Mary fell off her bike in Hungary resulting in a broken arm which necessitated a return home three quarters of the way through their latest adventure.

The LGB and I downed tools on Saturday to ‘nip’ to Paris to collect them.  I had tried to persuade him to spend a couple of nights in the city of romance but he was having none of it.  He wanted all the building work completed in readiness for starting the roof. Who says romance is dead?  Gay Pareeeeeeee will have to wait.

I take my hat off to the Old Bones for the ground they did cover – not in my wildest dreams could I manage such a feat. Bravo!

Another broken arm occurred when the LGB continued his new habit of dropping things from a great height.  The casualty this time was a garden chair.  In the event of my sudden, sad demise, if his plea is ‘It just fell from a great height onto her head Your Honour’ the clumsy clot will probably be telling the truth.  Have I just signed my own death warrant there?

We had a very unwelcome guest come to visit this week.  As I walked towards the awning I startled a snake that then decided to join the LGB in the awning.  My hero was very brave (well braver than me) and like St. Patrick he chased it from the purlieu (hey Mary, that's a good word!)  Bears Grylls would probably call it a garden worm and at about 2 feet in length it certainly wasn’t the largest we have encountered, but I would rather not see them at all.  However, with a field of wheat growing next to the caravan I fear this may not be the last we have seen of Hissing Sid.

On 21st June each year the whole of France have a Fete de la Musique.  Free music from rock to umpah bands and African drums are performed in the streets and venues.  We usually go into Angouleme and enjoy an evening where the streets are buzzing and there is always a great atmosphere. The past two years on this night I have performed with my chorale group.  Whilst I love being in the group and singing it does mean I don’t get to enjoy as many performances during the evening as I otherwise might.

Being the token Anglaise, I am the only one performing with the lyrics, which I print on small pieces of paper.  This performance I forgot to take some of the words which threw me into a tizz and because I change between singing soprano and mezzo I forgot to change places for one of the songs so just mimed to that one!  Well, if Cheryl Cole and Britney Spears can do it then so can I!

Up On The Roof
Zippidy doo dah, zippidy ay, my oh my, what a wonderful day!  We have started the roof/puzzle!  Mick our helping hand comes with good credentials.  Rumour has it when he was six years old he was completing puzzles for ten year olds; he also wealds a mean hammer and can jump around the trusses like a monkey in a tree.
On your marks.......................

And they're off............................

Easy Peasy!
Actually, it wasn't easy peasy.  It was heavy and exhausting work and even the LGB was shattered and probably suffering a little sun stroke.

Now....will this puzzle work?

A doddle!

End of day one :)
On Tuesday we endured an incredibly hot day full of good humour and banter and really broke the back of the daunting task of putting up the roof trusses.  We were both delighted with the progress.  More of the same followed on Wednesday in even hotter temperatures.  We decided two days working in such intense heat was enough so offered Mick a get out clause by asking if he would like a day off until it had cooled, thankfully he jumped at the offer.

Celebrating in style.  Fish and chips in
the best restaurant in town!
Friday, with Mick back on site we completed the roof trusses.  Hallelujah!  All the LGB and I have to do is bolt brackets onto the ring beam and nail them to the trusses.  We do still have the roof of the single storey to do, but that certainly doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  Happy days!
It's really starting to look like a house.

I am trying this new blogger.  In the top left corner you can choose the style you would like to read it in.  What do you think?  This or the old style? xx