The long pause

As bloggers go, I’m not that consistent. So many things happen and yet there never seems to be a good moment to writing about it all. It’s nearly 2015, and I have barely put digits to keyboard in 18 months. That being said, I may try and blog a bit about the last few months (ok, couple of years), but in reverse order.

So, the most recent happenings at Number36 have been to do with the roof, the façade, and the garage. In mid November, M. ABELLO Serge put the scaffolding up to redo the façade and the roof of the house. Jobs like that are horribly expensive over here, but with an old house its possible to get a grant to help. Perhaps more of that later…Top half, base coat, bottom half bare stone

The plan was to chip off the old frontage, and redo it in a shiny new lime based render in 2 coats. All good, and while the thick basecoat was drying they would do the roof.
So all was going to plan, they finished the basecoat and Monday morning were due to start the roof. Only it hammered down with rain. For the whole week. There was another small job to be done from inside, so they got on with that. Basically making a window a bit bigger to get more light in.
That took us up to the 1st December, and at 7.30am on Monday, while it was still dark, the doorbell rang. Men and machinery were in place to to get the old roof removed and start on the new one. Day one was removal of half the roof, day 2 was casting a concrete beam around the perimeter, and getting the 8″ extruded insulation in place. Water resistant chipboard on top, water resistant plasterboard on the bottom, and a lot of insulation between.DSCF9080

Day 3 arrived and the rest of the roof was removed, and on the 4th day a similar process was underway, so we had a complete but not yet tiled roof. Hurrah! Note there is still no glazing in the window openings so we are still very open to the elements. That was the Thursday. On Thursday night, it started to piss down with rain. There had been 1mm predicted, and what we got was a downpour that lasted 24 hrs. The gaps between the panels were filled but not yet watertight so the attic started to fill with water, and we went to sleep to the sound of dripping water. Hard at work with a crane!Sleep may not be the right word, suffice to say it was not a good night.

The next morning the chaps turned up at the usual time with a determined look on their faces. “We’re tiling” said they. And boy oh boy, did they tile. 3 of them covered the 140m2 roof in the morning, rendering us more or less watertight. With the lack of glazing, the breeze is running through and drying the attic out nicely, so the next week should see most of the roof finished, and maybe even the façade on it’s top coat.

Exciting times. More photos will follow!

A new chapter

After losing Nibs the sadness in my heart was just so heavy I barely slept for several nights (24 to be exact).   Resuming “normal” just wasn’t working.  I couldn’t imagine life in Number 36 without the companionship of my large grey hound.   My work was suffering, I wasn’t really eating; what might be “just a dog” to some people was my very special boy and a character that played a huge part in both our lives.

To the astonishment (or disapproval) of some, a week ago last Thursday afternoon, a van pulled up outside Number 36 containing 1 very tired Miles and 1 rather confused little dog.

After seeking a lot of good advice, and doing hours and hours of research, the process of bringing this little pup into our world seemed to take forever.  In reality it was only a matter of just over 2 weeks.

Miles was absolutely fantastic, and at the 11th hour booked a cheap flight to the UK to facilitate the transport of the little boy, that we have named “Skype”, because that is how we chose him.  What’s so unusual is that quite accidentally he shares the same great-grandfather as Nibs.

The courtyard has been puppy proofed, and the dining end of the sejour has a make-shift barricade that will hopefully keep him from eating the sofas.  For the moment we are fairly hound & housebound, until he has had all his jabs and we can introduce him to the south of France in Spring.  I can’t wait.

After a few weeks living in an unhappy and empty house our energies are now occupied with feeding and entertaining one small (but growing) Weimaraner.

His arrival in our world is making us both a) tired but b) so much happier.  The rest of life goes on, we are back to work, and despite all the other difficulties and unhappier things, we have light and laughter in this house once more.



3 months ago today

When we started this blog we hoped to keep a record of our progress with the house, mostly for distant friends and family.

3 months ago today we officially “moved in”, and it would be fair to say that since then, thankfully, advances have certainly been made.   As it turns out, we have not been very good at updating the blog and circumstances rather dictate that continued and interesting progress on the house is likely to be slow or sometimes stationary.

So our future posts may become a bit more random – rather like life as we know it in Number36.

Miles & Nibs putting the world to rights

4 weeks in (8 Dec) – Miles and Nibs putting the world to rights

Walls of stone

Miles thought I should write a post on the blog. It’s been ages since we updated it.

Since getting the keys for Number36 I tried to keep a record of our installation and decoration but once actually living here the busy-ness of life has got in the way. Perhaps on a quiet afternoon I’ll get around to uploading some photos.

This really is a super house. It is a lifetime project and was bought for at least the 3 of us to enjoy.

Most of the time the radiators work, the fire has been a blessing, several walls are a better shade of white, and we have enough sofas and beds to sleep about 18 people. It’s a house that offers masses of space but is now horribly lacking that special welcome and friendly energetic face. No more woofing or the sound of paws on the tiles. No more snoozy groans by the fire, stretchy yawns or a big shake of the head and ears being flapped. The silence is absolutely deafening.

We lost Nibs so unexpectedly last Sunday night. It feels like months and months ago already. Time is going so slowly. We put the radio on, the TV on, but nothing seems to help.

We are very sad that he won’t get to sit out in the courtyard, chosen especially with him in mind. We are sad he only had his new bed 3 weeks it didn’t even have time to get smelly (a bed of ridiculous proportions and especially imported). We are sad he never got to eat all his Paddywack, a Christmas present from Scott and Emily, and we are sad that his new dog tags arrived in the post just days after he had gone. But mostly we are sad because we miss him so very much. Our daily routine no longer exists, putting on socks and shoes is just not the same. Leaving the house is so unexciting. Coming back into it is so grim.

this is more like it ...

this is more like it …

Even in the short while he was here, he had a few favourite places, but mostly by the fire hogging most of the kitchen floor. I find it difficult to spend time in the kitchen, without that nose observing my every move. I dread coming downstairs in the morning, the silent empty space a huge reminder he’s no longer here. And when I sit and work he’s not somewhere out the corner of my eye, on the back of my chair, resting his head on my knees, draped across my lap or curled up under my desk. It feels so strange to make a phone call, without him trying to join the conversation in the background.

All this unpacking to do and he's back on Facebook

All this unpacking to do and he’s back on Facebook

I miss him launching himself onto Miles for a cuddle, and all the giggles, nose-bleeds, cuddles and snoozing that usually followed, or curling up on the bed on lazy mornings and gradually kicking Miles out of it.   When bringing home the shopping or opening a box his nose is not in the way, and when Miles is working on something there is no great grey head closeby just checking he’s doing it right.




There are practical things to attend to.  His food and treats have been given away and his water bowl put in the bin.  We will finally be selling the dogbus; that stinky beaten-up old car purchased just for him. I have to send his incineration notice to the insurance people, and will send thank yous to all our friends that have sent such lovely and comforting messages.

We bought some asparagus grass in the market, and will try to grow it in the courtyard to remember our spring walks in the woods. We will plant some daffodils to his memory, and when I find the strength we will dismantle his crate that fills the hall. Yesterday we bought a dusty old lamp from a Brocante, that we will light in the hall in place of his bed once it’s gone. And finally we will go to his favourite vineyard and bury his collar and lead. But I’m not sure when that will be.

In the UK Weimaraners are often called “grey ghosts” – as they hunt in the morning mist they are almost impossible to see.  In France they call them “grey tombs”, which is how this house now feels.

Our enormous energetic noisy affectionate annoying but magnificent friend is no longer here. Life in number 36 is definitely not the same.



The “Holidays”

A month since either of us posted. Could that be due to it being the ‘holiday’ season?  Kitchen tilesHere at ‘Borris Towers’ there does not seem to be one of those, although in many ways there was no real expectation of a rest, just a slight hope!

Since the last post, we have sorted the heating, and even in the coldest weather the house has been comfortable, helped of course by the lovely open fire and a diminishing tank full of heating oil. Mr Baskerville (Nibs) likes to try and climb in to the fire as it gets going, then when it’s hot he collapses in to the nearest bed. Other progress includes continuing the quest for a red and white kitchen (see pic) and a proper go at making it habitable in some of the other bedrooms. One of the reasons for that is Katie (sister of Annette), Mark and the 2 kids are arriving this morning. New years eve for them would not be the same without some fab food and a boogie in a restaurant in the South of France. As last year, the choice of venue is the Terminus. Just to make the week even more challenging, tomorrow we have invited pretty much everyone we know to come and look at the house and have a drink and a nibble. All this seems to have escalated to the point where a sausage roll is now a smoked duck blini, and a cheese and pineapple on a stick has metamorphosed in to individual pear and blue cheese tartlets. Annette has worked her socks and knuckles off to get the house straight for this week, all the while trying to keep paying clients happy. Me? I just keep going through my ever lengthening DIY list. Happy new year all…

Colour of the day: Red White or Blue

The latest influence in our lives is Option Tempo – ”La couleur du jour’.

The EDF (Energy Dearly Furnished) have various “plans”.  Number 36 has a red white  & blue plan.  Since moving in we have not fully understand what that means but thankfully (and before it’s too late) we have grasped the concept and found the all-crucial internet page that tells us what we need to know on a daily basis.

It’s now EXTREMELY cold here – snow is on the mountains, the winds are icey – we have no carpets and the central-heating is still a mystery.

What this very patriotic chart shows is that when it is MOST cold and MOST expensive the cost of electricity is highest – on a red day it’s .50€ per unit !

So in Number 36 we now consider every switch, every bulb, how we cook every meal and when we wash.   Today has been a blue day which is great – I’ve managed to fit in 3 loads of washing AND we’ve put the dishwasher on.

It’s true – there’s nothing like an empty bank account to make you aware of your environment.  The log pile is getting a total hammering but if all else fails we could start burning some furniture.


The Moving Diary

I’ve been very bad at keeping the moving diary up to date on the blog.  I think we are both suffering “overload” for different reasons.   I’ll try to get some photos on here soon – meanwhile you can find a few of them on a Facebook album: The Move

Big jobs, small jobs

Morning everyone. After a day of looking ill and not being himself at all, the hound is bouncy again. He had a good sniff around the courtyard on Monday, and licked the floor. Not great, and who knows what he might have found.

Today is a Get Stuff Done day. We made a list of the jobs that need doing by me asap. Combine that with José coming to look at the roof (it’s pretty watertight but in shocking condition) and it looks like a long and very productive day. Here’s my list:

Help José with the roof
Finish the bathroom (silicon and grout)
Silicon the kitchen sink
Put the knife rack up
Tile the splashback
Add 2 spotlight to the Kitchen ceiling (I don’t like French electrics)
Look at why 2 of the electric shutters are not working (see above)
Level up and fix big wardrobe
Fix the under-bed drawer
Reattach bedside shelf Annette’s side
Sand and re-oil kitchen worktop
Go to No 44 and fill the holes in the walls
Load car with stuff still in 44 and bring it back
Tidy courtyard before dog licks it all again.

That should keep me busy. Now, what shall I do after lunch?

Order from chaos

It’s been a while since I had the urge to write anything, and an awful lot has happened in the last 2 weeks. There’s been the new kitchen, the adapted bathroom, the runs to the dechetterie (tip), and the endless painting. The main thing is that although we’re still camping in some ways (trying to find a towel is interesting) there are improvements  in our living conditions every day.

Now that the kitchen is operational (first meal cooked from scratch was Fajitas on Thursday) the bathroom is next on the list. This may sound like it’s in the wrong order, but thanks to our former landlord we have the keys to the old place for a few more days yet.The bathroom was finished in a quite foul rough Artex kind of way, designed to absorb nicotine and pick up as much dust as possible. After a few discussions French friend José said he would be happy to skim it with a layer or two of plaster, and at a later date, replace or lower the ceiling with a false one. A fine idea, as even the lights were quite foul. Off came the radiator, the loo was unbolted, and José set to.

So with other priorities (like trying to earn money while doing all this) being sorted, the bathroom is having a few days in the limelight. The skim was pretty rough and ready (or French as we like to call it) so some tidying up with a scraper and an old chisel was needed, then a coat of white paint on everything, back on with the radiator, and Sir Bob is indeed your Mother’s brother. Although I have braved the nicotine and

cobwebs in order to feel vaugely clean, it is now getting to the point when invited people can use the bathroom without feeling like they have been in some kind of dungeon.

There are a lot of things I could write about the last couple of weeks, but the biggest one has to be the help we have had from everyone. From transporting furniture and clothing, to tip runs and cleaning, there is a role call of willing helpers, without whom Annette would be in an asylum, and I would be a gibbering wreck, hugging my coffee machine in a corner of the sejour. You know who you are. Thank You All.

Paint it white

Aged nicotine is not our favourite colour so it is decided that the easiest, fastest and (very crucially) cheapest solution is to paint every room white and take it from there.

However, French paint is infamous for its transparency and boy do we need a lot of thick thick white paint to cover those walls!

So in exchange for one of Miles’s large pots of beef Bourguignon (OK an unusual but fairly reasonable swap) we are expecting a delivery of English paint.  The paint should arrive on Friday so no real “brightening up” of things is expected until we have moved ourselves in.

Due to the scale of the task and the fact we are so pushed for time, Miles is determined to use a paint spray gun.

I sense this could be messy.  Does anyone have any dust sheets or a space-suit we could borrow ?!