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 (

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 : 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!