Beams, van hire, friends visiting? My foot!

The title is meant to be amusing, not complaining but its been a tough fortnight.

 

At last the beams are going in. After Delia and I had nearly given ourselves hernias just getting them out of the truck, we decided to put it out to tender. One of my web clients is doing it,  and he’s got a long way. Disturbingly it is just him and his very slight girlfriend – he says it’s just technique but I reckon she has steel cables for arm muscles. Once the beams are in I will enlist a friend’s help with the flooring, given Delia’s delicate situation (thyroid problems that is, in case you read something else into that comment).

 

We have a few other situations we are trying to deal with too: hiring the van involved one cancellation because it was going to be too small (they had given total length on the web rather than usable length) and an internet reservation that got totally lost. But both of these payments left my account so I am currently in dispute with one who says they have never received it and the other who says I have to wait until the end of the month for the refund.

Also, our car has been written off, if you have read Delia’s blog and seen the photo you probably won’t be surprised. But the offer they have given me is little more than half what I would need to buy the same model/mileage/age. I hope this is because they have used the wrong model in the documentation they have sent me, a much lower spec, smaller engine and two years older.

On the bright side, all of the above have given me good telephone and written French practice!

Not to be on too negative a jag here, but I have also done something to my foot. It is difficult to walk on, swollen and red. The doctor claims it is a bruised toe joint and ordered blood tests and a prescription for shoe inserts. I told him that the toes don’t hurt to move them but the swelling is very painful to touch – I had hoped for a dose of antibiotics to clear what I am convinced is cellulitis but he is emphatic it is not. So I have to wait a week for the blood tests (which I doubt will show an infection unless it has developed into blood poisoning!). In the meantime it is getting more painful and, possibly psychosomatic, granted, but I feel I have a raised temperature. On Monday back to the Doctor perhaps?

 

The weather here is lovely, we just had a long lovely weekend with T&R two friends from Leicester, we took some lovely photos and Siena had a great time being moithered by T who loves dogs but no longer has one herself.

Still no floor joists !

Yet another couple of days waiting in for the delivery. Last week it was the drying oven broken down. This week it’s the trailer. Allegedly, it will be Tuesday next week, but don’t hold your breath.  So what had been planned for a 4 day marathon of joist stuff has turned into a series of small jobs that have been put off (and off and off). I’d already repointed most of the walls in the cave (though despite waterproofing the cement, the back wall is still disturbingly moist, we have a 35°C canicule (heatwave) with threats of drought etc etc so it might dry out.

Anyway… little  jobs, finally fixed the sticking doors upstairs, turned 20m of armored cable into a garden extension lead, fitted a hook for guests in the bathroom, relaid a tile that had lifted on the unit beside the sink, fixed a kitchen cupboard door. That last was a pain! The unit is made of a 2x2cm batten framework with melamine panels – so very little room to attach hinges. Not enough for normal kitchen cupboard hinges and little for other kinds. Ended up using a bit from a left and a bit from a right hinge. I guess lawn mowing is next. All this while Delia was re-re-re-painting the kitchen doors losing her rag with the paint sprayer she’s learning how to use. The end result so far is looking great though.

Last night was BBQ weather. We had been looking for one to replace the one that had got bunged up and disintegrated (and taken to the dump). Because we already had a gas cylinder with its French attachments we were looking for a gas one.  Most of the ones I have seen over the past 12 months or so cost as much as my first car (not very much, but you get the idea). Anyway, when we finally saw a reasonably priced one (with an additional 20€ off, for Ascension weekend) we got it (last one in stock – the display model). Last night we BBQ’d basil and tomato sausages and some lamb chops (from the whole lamb we bought last week – don’t you love a chest freezer?). Lovely evening, lovely meal and a nice red (and a bargain too).

Today we’re just off to the local fête at Lageyrat (we can just see its village church from our bedroom window, so we’ll actually walk).  The previous two years the weather was terrible for it, last year in fact it rained so hard Siena was flinching and hiding between our legs. This year then will be a wonderful change, currently about 26°C in the shade with a light breeze. Photos below.

NF = National Front, No Fun and still no floor

President Macron! A new face, even less experience than Trump but at least it isn’t Front Nationale President Marine Le Pen.  On the eve of the second stage of the French Presidential elections there was a debate where, as my neighbour said, Marine was “méchant” as in “chien méchant”. Anti -immigration from all fronts, especially from the UK (though that would depopulate most of south west French countryside). Still it’s a relief, I hadn’t realised how concerned Delia was about it until she expressed such relief at the result.

On other non-national fronts – another busy week for us both. But workwise mostly since our beams (to return a floor to our living room) weren’t delivered on the 10th as expected (I think the sawmill just told me it might be the 10th when seeing my expression after they had said mi-Mai). There’s probably a euphemism for a “French Fib” but then there isn’t one for a “French Kiss” so who knows? And anyway is it one, two or three? (see a couple of blogs back).

So, busy… I’ve been trying to resolve an issue with a new website for batch emailing. Mailchimp turned out to be way too much work, but the much sexier (and professional) sounding Mailgun is just the job!  I have a new website for Charente Limousine Exchange – an expat group we have actually been members of.  Membership, events, special interest groups all need mailing lists. Anyway as well as that I had a laptop that the owner wanted cleaned and upgraded.

Delia’s work waxes and wanes and currently its waxing and she’s a bit pressured. A weekend away from work is relaxing but with no beams I am still trying to damp proof the walls but we can spare a bit of time to venture off for lunch at St Jean de Cole for a flower festival this morning. Pity we haven’t time for the camera club trip to St Junien vide grenier (like a car boot sale) but here’s some photos from St Jean de Cole this lunchtime.

Demolition day

Yesterday we removed the floor from our living room. Now when we enter our cave (basement) we have a seemingly vast cathedral-like interior with a ceiling stretching up nearly 5metres. The décor leaves a little to be desired and the ground floor entry is a little disturbing with its 1.5 metre straight drop.

We were adamant that this time (we treated 3 years ago) the woodworm will not be returning. We had our doubts, thinking totally removal might be overkill, but removing every piece of wood seemed best, including the wood panelling on the wall. As it turned out, some beams we had thought solid were anything but once we hacked them out. We had already cleared out most of the valuables (junk) – though I am still unsure what to do with the UK headlight units for my Fiesta and the crates of electronica. An unfortunate younger friend had casually offered to help when I met him at the dechetterie (dump) a few weeks back.  He arrived bright and early with his chain saw and the demolition commenced. Crowbars, hammers and cups of tea preceded the distinctive roar of the chain saw as it hacked through the first few beams. The original (probably 19th century) chestnut beams looked especially riddled but had a hard, steel-like core that is probably what had saved us from descending into the basement, sofa and all, whilst watching Gardener’s World one evening. The old beams saved us because the newer pine ones crumbled like meringue in places.

One of my initial concerns was that I knew we were supposed to burn the infected wood. Our neighbour, Benoit, had volunteered a patch on the edge of one of his chestnut groves that he uses himself for bonfires. Our other neighbour helpfully pointed out that it would, in fact, have been illegal to have any bonfire between March and September.  All concern was, in the end, unnecessary because our friend needs as much wood as he can get for his heating, the riddled pieces serve as good kindling and the solid chestnut hearts burn slowly and efficiently. His wife, at home to help unloading on each of his three return trailer trips, was unreasonably gleeful because in the cold snaps we have been having and lacking other heating, she gets very cold. When Delia met her for a morning coffee last weekend, her hands were blue! Not only the wood, but they also took our old (21st Century, non-chestnut J ) bookcases for their now vacated ground floor currently being converted into rental apartments.

So now our bedroom is somewhat chilly, underlain as it is by a cathedral space ventilated by open grills. Oh and we’re going to need a ladder to lock our shutters shut!

As to Delia’s health, she is feeling somewhat relieved at the moment, the specialist didn’t consider her swollen thyroid to be serious. Though there is still more investigation, and she has a CT scan booked for the end of May, it is a weight off our minds.

Look out for Delia’s blog next week (deliablog.patbell.co.uk).

Les Flicks, le medecin, le kine, et le dentiste

A busy fortnight!  Last week, a new client, wanting general Windows training, tuning her laptop and resolving some e-mail problems. Along with a new website for a local expat group who invited me to lunch to discuss their required revamp of an existing site. Also another person this time with a dead computer, the dead computer was resurrected and duly collected and the website is ongoing.

During the last fortnight I have been making good use of the French medical system. X-rays and echograms of my shoulder (hurt during the bathroom work) – a pinched intraclavicle tendon apparently.  We have a new medical centre in Chalûs and last week I opened three of the four doors (so I know where the jackpot is now!) Doctor in his new office, then the physio (or kinesiotherapist NOT kinetherapy which is a load of naturopathy BS and coloured plasters!). I also needed the dentist as I had an infected tooth. At the moment we pay 30% of our medical costs but in the UK dental and prescription charges are quite high I spent less than I would have oon the UK’s “free” NHS. Plus my waiting times were negligible. We must resolve our health top-up cover though just in case of hospitalisation and stuff; I mean, 30% of an air ambulance, such as we have actually seen pick someone up here in Beaulieu, would probably bankrupt us!

 

My trip to the dentist was made difficult by the monthly market blocking access but it seemed excessive even so. I found out the next day that Marine le Pen (the presidential candidate for the Front National) was campaigning in the area and there were lots of ‘flicks’ (otherwise known as police) as my neighbour told me. 

The weather has been great, over 30°C our max/min thermometer claims! House–wise we have restarted the re-pointing and hope to finish this weekend. Last weekend Delia was out of commission with a cold but she’s out there now hacking away whilst I exhaustingly type away indoors 🙂

 

 

 

Cheek kissing and croissants

Apparently in southern France it's "chocolatine" and in northern France it's "pain au chocolat". Limousin is in the middle so it seems to be both. Either way, Delia decided no more mass produced bulk buy (bags of 10) croissants or pains au chocolat and now we have a Friday lunchtime delivery of two of each (of the four deliveries per week by three different purveyers of good things French we chose the most jolly one). It means that now, as I write I have just had a lovely fluffy croissant with fig jam (made by my neighbour from figs scrumped from a holiday home garden opposite our houses) and an equally fluffy (I prefer feulliteé - translating as leafy or sheety). There is a web site : www.chocolatineoupainauchocolat.fr which discusses this important issue.

Cheek kissing (faire la bise), two cheeks, one on each should be enough? But how many seems to be as regional as chocolatine/pain au chocolat   There was a recent article discussing how much time was spent with the business of cheek kissing in France. To us English its a novel and often unwanted intimacy usually reserved for maiden aunts etc but here in France its an embedded ritual learnt from an early age. I have sat waiting in the local Mairie (Town Hall) waiting whilst every person returning from their two hour lunch break goes around the entire office cheek kissing everyone - each returning worker does the same. And they've already done it in the morning and they will do it as they leave. Where we live, two... one each side, seems to be the tradition (though for me at least its only with women, poor Delia has to "faire les bises" with everyone, though to be fair she is much prettier than me). As this map shows there's quite a regional variation and none too predictable either , we seem to be within just a few kms of a three cheek zone! we live in the black spot in the middle of the map). The key shows up to 5 though I can't see anywhere with the shading for that, even so, working in a 4 zone must badly affect productivity!

You may know that having finished out bathroom redo (and notwithstanding the ongoing re-pointing) our next project is to "redo" the living room. The ongoing plan has involved

  • looking at laminate flooring to cover the old woodworm trails in the otherwise beautiful (though dark) chestnut floor.
  • what paint to use on the beams
  • Whether to paint grey between the beams
  • designing and painting a wallsized shelving and sideboard unit
  • hide the tv

So, with a view to pack out the supporting beams to the floor (which was slightly uneven) I was down in the cave (cellar). The beam had been woodworm damaged and some beams had been "sistered" (new beams placed alongside weakened ones) and I had sprayed extensively shortly after we had moved in. Unfortunately, as it transpires, not extensively enough. As I looked to remove some of the damaged wood I found that the newer beams were, to put it succinctly, disintegrating.  Untreated we would have found ourselves dropping 6 feet in the sofa whilst watching tv (probably during a home improvement program).

So, the choices are to either fill the cave with concrete and sell the house  pretending that it was "sans cave" or rip out the entire floor, beams and professionally control the woodworm. Still awaiting quotes (or anyone to actually want to do the work for that matter). So watch this space.

I have been going to a new French class where we mostly read the newspaper. Out loud that is, very helpful for my pronounciation and especially speeding up the figuring out of how to say years - e.g. 1895 is mille huit cents quatre vingts quinze. The way we read out, doesn't give much time to read ahead so it has been good practive for me. I am also reading much more about french politics than I might otherwise do. Enough to know that the presidential race is between Marine le Penn (Front National) and Emmanuel Macron (not Front National ). The way it works here is that if no one gets an overall majority in the first  vote (and 25% and 27% respectively is what is currently predicted) it goes to a second vote.  The predictions on that are 68% for Macron and only 25% for Marine. Marine's power base in the very south seems to be a 3 kissing region, pity its not a 5 kiss region then perhaps they might not have time to all vote!

Where are the blogs?

We expected to lose one week on our “short” UK trip but not two. So here at last is my blog.

The “highlight” of the past fortnight I guess was the French air traffic controllers strike. We hadn’t known about it until a flight cancellation text from Ryanair 18 hours before our homeward bound flight. From experience (the last time I was in the UK it was fog that cancelled my flight) I knew speed was of the essence so I quickly booked on the next available flight on the Thursday. That too was cancelled, by which time Mike and Sandra had quite got into the spirit of our unexpected holiday. It took us a little longer but we got into the spirit and visited Nottingham art galleries and went for walks with the Siena substitute that was Dominic (a King Charles Cavalier spaniel on loan from M&S’ son Nick, off skiing in Tignes in the Alps and having too much snow and avoiding avalanches apparently). Plus a memorable musical evening with Blazing Fiddles

I started writing about what we had been doing but it turned into a boring list of things wot I done rather than something more entertaining. So I thought I’d put together a few more images to show rather than just tell.

The main purpose of our trip was to celebrate our friends’ (T & R) 50th and 60th birthdays. Here’s some general shots of guests.

And here’s some of the delicious food!

And thence to Lindfield

Extra days in Nottingham… Wollaton park

And in Attenborough Country Park

Studious searching in Spring-ish

On a lovely Spring-ish morning like this it’s easy to forget how cold it was just a week ago. Of course this is February so it could all turn around tomorrow, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the sunshine. Mind you, it was a bit chilly this morning but if it’s like yesterday; it’ll warm up to the dizzy heights of, perhaps, 15°C. Anyway, this morning, the mist lingers around the trees on one of my favourite views on one of Siena’s walks. And Siena bounds around in her usual skittish way. Her horse friend was a bit skittish this morning too, it looked like they wanted to play but horses are big, and dogs are not usually their friends so Siena was on-lead.

We’ve been rather focussed on the bathroom revamp these past few weeks. I have had a bit of work to interrupt the DIY, I had a sudden slow down on all my sites (resolved by some studious searching for speed-up techniques) and also a request to recover some 800 videos and photos from a corrupt SD card (resolved by some studious searching for recovery software that actually worked). I had been thinking I might need to move some of the problem sites to my new VPS but since I pay per gigabyte, I will keep that reserved for those who actually pay me the premium for the service. So far that’s just me, but I have to have somewhere to go for anyone who is dissatisfied with the best that shared hosting can offer (if you have no idea what I am talking about then… move on, nothing of interest here…).

As I type, Delia is busy gluing down the tiles I have just cut with the aid of a borrowed electric tile cutter (soooo much easier than scoring and snapping).  After weeks of studious searching for suitable light fittings we installed Delia’s chosen two, only to find that they cast peculiar urine yellow patches on our white ceramic fitting and give us apparent jaundice patches. The LEDs are integral so we can’t just change the bulbs, so it’s back to the shop and back to the drawing board (or Pinterest board in Delia’s case).  With luck Delia should be able to present the photos of the finished bathroom in her blog next week. The bath is already back in operation, I was “trying it out” for the first time since before Xmas when the phone rang… a friend with a “serious” email problem (like many, solved by the time I rang back) hey ho, that’s life in computer support. Delia however will probably not get out of the bath until Easter.

 

Storm, Soot and Sunshine

It was certainly blowing a storm last night. I dreamt I was on a train platform, and when I awoke it sounded like I still was. I still took Siena for her walk, driving rain and chilly winds aren’t enjoyable for either of us.  It was a short walk, even she was looking at me as if to say “wtf?”.

Working in the bathroom with our current ongoing project I didn’t see the weather change to blue skies and fluffy white clouds scudding across the sky but with much less wind at ground level. Unfortunately, by the time Siena and I got out for our afternoon walk we still managed to get rained on, but at least a longer walk for her. It was late for her afternoon walk, but seeing her sitting patiently under her lead hanging in the hall at 3.30 is hard to resist.

During the week Delia was complaining of a smell of gas, “no, It’s outside” I said – but to humour her I rang around a few people claiming to service gas boilers. Ironically the first person to actually answer their phone was the same plumber who had sorted our outside plumbing leak. He couldn’t service the boiler for two or three weeks. I told him my wife claimed to smell gas and that I didn’t but could he come and check, he agreed to come the next day. However only an hour after that, the boiler stopped working completely. Ted, our English neighbour had repaired this boiler for the previous owner so we asked his advice. After cleaning and blowing out the jets it worked for a while but with a yellow flame and even I could smell the gas this time!

Anyway, the next afternoon, along came the plumber. He thought he was only coming to check for a leak but quickly found the problem was mostly accumulated soot. He took out some baffles and stuff to clean outside and a lot of vacuuming but before he had finished cleaning entirely I sent him home planning to finish off the remaining clean-up.  What I hadn’t been expecting was how difficult soot was to deal with. One wipe and it’s twenty times worse, and because he hadn’t expected to be cleaning up soot the plumber hadn’t contained the soot very well and it was over everything. Just wiping a finger tip over a surface yielded a black finger. We’re over the worst now, but when the plumber returns we’ll make sure better precautions are taken.

And since just text would be a bit dull, here’s a couple more pictures from my recent dawn photo shoot.

 

Dog moves in mysterious ways

It’s been a bit chilly lately. Minus 7 last Thursday, a balmy minus 4 this morning.  Having the heating on all night means that the house is actually comfortable (the first couple of days it never quite warmed up and it was like the bad old days in the “spaceship” when we first arrived in France). Anyway it was so cold all the lakes have frozen and I took my camera for a photo shoot during the morning dog walk. Siena is a very silly dog and I shot some photos of her walking on water (albeit frozen) before I called her off in case it was not as solid as it looked; the last thing I wanted was to have to wade in to rescue her! The frosty days do give some lovely scenes.

Adam (my middle son) is currently junior doctoring in Brisbane and is loving the heat, he says that whilst he enjoys having his bedroom air conditioned he never plans to live in a cold place again (and don’t tell me it gets cold in winter – unless you get down to minus 7!). Being brought up in Wales he’s had more than his fair share of cold grey winters and less cold grey summers but I expect he’ll start complaining about the heat after a while (perhaps twenty or so years!)

Work has been busy in the weeks after Christmas, Delia’s clients are very busy and as well as some web stuff, I’ve actually had two clients with Mac problems. To be fair the problems were more that the Mac is different in usage than a PC but I really don’t like them, working with clients’ Macs is ok but whilst they are pretty they seem to be expensive!

Being tied up during the week does mean that our planned work on the bathroom is slower than we’d hope. We must get the bath back into service before the end of February as a part of a cat sitting deal with a friend.  Who after waiting for 3 years still doesn’t have a bath in her bathroom.