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!

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…

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.

When the going gets tough…

…. Miles goes to the UK.

A family visit beckoned, so on the stormiest and coldest weekend since March, I jumped on a ‘plane and went to see the family in Wales, leaving Annette to pack small stuff and try and find the heating switches. Lovely to see everyone of course, but 5 trains, 2 planes, 2 busses, and 4 car rides in a little under 72 hours does not leave much time for chilling with the family. I think moving will be a rest.
I took some local wine to drink with them, one called ‘Le Demi-Siècle’, which has a story behind it but not for this page, and one 100% carignan Cotes de Thongue, which is usually delicious but on this occasion had just started to turn. Never mind, worse things happen, and not only at sea.

On landing back in France, I changed SIM card to French, and had a message saying that despite having done the transfer of funds to the Notaire on Thursday last week, it hadn’t happened. One odd thing was that it was the banking centre at Marseille that phoned me, but our centre is in Montpellier…. very French. It was just as well that Annette was stuck in traffic on the way to pick me up, as it gave me a chance to make phone calls to see if we could sort it out. Twenty or so calls later, and our local bank manager agreed to see me, and her rank meant that she could log in and do the transfer there and then, so there was still hope for Wednesday. We just had to get through the Béziers traffic and arrive at her office before 4pm. 3.57pm, we walked through the door and did the transfer. On the way back to Number 44, we stopped at the Notaire to show it was all OK but she was not convinced. With a phone call to the seller, everything was sorted out, and we left feeling that all was back on track…

Not our favorite colour.

The boxing of things has been put on hold for 48 hrs as we have run out of padded cells and are waiting for the Usain Bolt of bubble wrap to arrive. We have had a couple of interim messages saying that the change of account is ‘en cours’. Great! We asked for the 5th of November and they are aiming for the 4th. Of course! ‘Why wouldn’t ya’ to borrow a phrase from friends. Luckily, the 4th is a Sunday, so the chances of the French telecoms bloke turning up are slim. Monday morning, there is a much better chance of things happening.

Steady as she goes…

So there’s a few bits of progress, as below… new lodgers, Orange sounding like the lines might switch at the same time, and the pile of things that never get used is shrinking.

Looking around the house is a bit odd. So many of our possessions are great to have, but never get the use they deserve. That gives rise to the ‘should I pack it now or should I wait syndrome. Wait for what? Until we run out of time and have to rush everything? Less than three weeks to go, the way forward must be to pack it all, and if we need something, tough. It’ll have to wait 3 weeks.

One of the most exciting things is that we’re going from several rented houses, to a permanent base that we could be in for years. The difference on a small level is that it’s our wall; if we put up a picture, there is no thought of ‘I’ll have to fill that when we move out…’. It may be a small thing, but mentally, it’s huge. We could paint the walls pink, put wall to wall carpet in (yeah, right), whatever, with nobody to ask permission from. It’s going to be home instead of somewhere to live.



Well. Plenty happening, just a question of where to start. I think as far as timescale goes this post could be a little random.

Let’s start from the vide grenier as Annette mentioned it. Not-for-profit would be a fair description. Annette got the chandelier, and I saw a rather good paella pan, but forgot to go back and buy it. Oops. We’ll just have to stick to the one that feeds 15 people. On the upside, someone left me their phone number to buy my laptop, and bought it 2 days later! All part of the pre-move slimming down of possessions.

The other thing that has left the family is the rather fabulous (if a little sick) Skoda. The ad had been on the French Gumtree (Le Bon Coin) for about a month with not a nibble. Random phonecall from ‘Boris’, very interested, knocked the price down, and agreed to buy it. Small complication, he lives 5 hrs drive away. A few texts and phones and he’s organised a chap to come on the train to pick it up. Béziers station at 23.38. Terrific. Getting in the car for a 90 min round trip at the time my head would normally hit the pillow did not strike me as the most fun a chap could have.
So I got to the station on time, and a tall blonde bloke walked up very confidently, smiled and shook my hand. Off I went in French, ‘good evening, nice to meet you, did you have a good journey’ etc. The answer I got was ‘No.’ There was an accent there, so I tried English. ‘No’. With what little communication he and I could manage, it was determined that he was from Lithuania. The drive back to the house was very very quiet, with me wondering if I had the right bloke, was he a random stranger looking for a lift to anywhere, all the usual things that go through your mind when you’re driving through France in the dead of night in an English car, after a conversation with ‘Boris’ and a Lithuanian in the passenger seat that you have no means of communicating with. Having never sold a French car before I had looked up what to do on the internet. No worries, Miroslav (he wrote that on the paperwork) knew it all. The  he paid for the car with amongst others, a €500 note. Having got this far, I couldn’t say ‘smaller notes please’ so I accepted it, out came his GPS, and off he went. I fell asleep wondering if the Skoda would be used to smuggle various contraband in and out of Lithuania….
The following morning the lady at La Poste accepted the €500 with a cheery smile, so all good.

It strikes me that this blog is about the house move and taming of Number36, so I should add some news about that. We had been granted acces by the owner from the 1st of November, so that we could get a head start on moving stuff. That was excellent news, but today I received a phone call from the notaire saying that the paperwork was done, and if I had the money available, we could complete next week! WOW! Even more time to get things swapped over, maybe paint a little, and get things properly in order, Great news indeed! So the next decision is whether to go for it ASAP, or wait for the rate to creep a bit.

I’ll let you know when we do.

The Big Red Button

In less than 8 weeks we should have moved or certainly be at a point where we’re living in the house with but a few bits left to do to complete the move. Technology is playing a part in all this, as we have set up a spreadsheet (D&F style) on Google Docs to track and tick off all of the jobs that need doing. There is rather a long list.

I’m at that stage (and I know I get like it) where I just need a big red button to do it all. Kind of like Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s apprentice with the magic broom. I could start packing things in boxes, but will we need something out of that box in the next 2 months? In my mind, almost certainly. In reality probably not.

I’ve cleared a corner of the garage for packed and labelled boxes that are ready to move. It’s still clean and clear. Hopefully by tomorrow night the weekend activities will have included packing a box or two, emptying a cupboard or two, and maybe even cleaning out one of our 3 fridges.

The other side of the garage has been set aside for the 9th October Vide Grenier (Car Boot) sale in Capestang. There’s a LOT of stuff, so hopefully I’ll be able to enlist the support of someone for the transportation of it all to the site. If we can get a few euros for our junk, great. If we don’t have to move said junk from one house to another, even better!

In amongst all this I also have a few jobs to do for clients, so if anyone has a spare big red button, could I please borrow it?

Welcome to the Number 36 blog

For the last few months Annette and I have been looking at houses to buy. We have seen spectacular wrecks with more rooms than you could possibly use (short of starting a B&B), expensive grotty hovels, characterless newbuilds and a host of other places that were not what we were after.

While talking to one of the estate agents, and having just seen one of the aforementioned wrecks, the agent mentioned that an old colleague of hers was selling a house in Quarante, our top choice of village to live in. I asked how much it was, and in a slight twist of fate, misheard what she said. I managed to mis-hear by €40,000. Had I heard the correct figure, we would probably have never seen Number 36, and Annette, being all wifely, decided not to correct me.

With many original features, a courtyard and a garage, both of us loved Number 36 from the first site of the ridiculous iron front door. Walking around for the first time, we both had that look…. this is the one.

With it being very much a buyers market, I put in a ridiculous offer to start the ball rolling, and after a small amount of tooing and froing, we reached an agreement with the seller. It’s not quite ours, but the paperwork is in place, the notaire is on the case, and in a few weeks, it should (barring earthquakes and acts of God) be our new home.

This blog will track our progress, including days and days of Ebaying, boxing things, selling at a vide-grenier (French style car boot sale), decorating the old place, decorating Number 36, and all manner of other stresses and strains of moving house in France. We both hope you find it interesting, and perhaps even mildly amusing at times as we move house for (in Annette’s case) the 7th time in 5 years.