Floors and roofs

Yesterday we went to help our friend, Adrian, lay a new floor in his grange. The lads finished levelling the subfloor, and did other technical, boy jobs, while I got on with the important work of making lunch. We’d almost finished eating when a dark shadow blotted out the sun from the window; the cement lorry had arrived! It was all hands on deck to spread the concrete as evenly as possible between the bits of wood (shuttering, for anyone technical out there), that they’d put down. I think they all really enjoyed paddling about in the liquid concrete; Ade did say he’d never been allowed to play mud pies as a child. Made up for lost time yesterday, though! By the time we left it looked great.

This morning, we woke to a frost! It soon burnt off, but it’s soon going to be time to start lighting fires. It did, however, remind Kieran that they hadn’t cemented around the window in his bedroom when they replaced it, so there was a half inch gap down one side. Rather negates the point of double glazed windows, really! It’s now cemented up and he should be warmer tonight.

Nick call Flagstaff metal roofing contractors and with them went up on the roof today to repair the seal around the chimney, which allows rain to pour fairly steadily down the inside, onto the stove in the kitchen (no wonder it’s so badly rusted). Another little job out of the way before winter sets in.

I finished the first coat of emulsion in the orange bedroom, but had to spend most of the morning planning for today’s English class; numbers, times, days, months, etc. I don’t know if any of them will come back after half term, they found today so hard!

Where’s welly?

It rained today; not hard, but enough to keep us indoors. So Kieran started building some much needed book shelving to go in the orange bedroom, while I started to decorate the same. It won’t be orange any more, but I think the name change may take a while to get used to. Nick built some shelves to house teapots out of an old bit of wood he found lying around – very rustic!

Nick made and fitted some cross pieces to the window, to make it look like the old windows we’ve removed; the new windows look just too “new”.

We’re going to our friend, Adrian’s tomorrow, to help him lay a concrete floor in part of his grange; it was decided that wellies are probably the footwear of choice, but….where were they? They hunted high, they hunted low; eventually they turned up in the recycling!

Wood for free – just needs cutting!

There’s rain forecast for tomorrow, so we decided to tidy the garden as far as possible. Nick drew the short straw, so he had to use the small mower to cut the fiddly bits of grass, while I got the fun job of driving the big mower. It’s all neat and tidy now and ready for winter.

A neighbour phoned to say that he’d got some firewood we can have if we want it; the only downside is that it needs cutting, ie it’s a tree. It fell in the big storm of 2009, so it’s good and dry, but Nick seems to think we may need to invest in a bigger chain saw for it. He and Kieran are going to “have a look” tomorrow, which, of course, involves taking the chain saw and the trailer.

While we were at Daniel and Maria’s, they introduced Kieran to a kitten that’s adopted them, and is surplus to requirements. He’s called Minus (pronounced mee-noose) and is black and white and apparently quite feral; I know nothing about cats, but it seems to me that one which is on the wild side should be good at keeping down the mouse population around here. I think he’s ours as soon as we’re ready. Yes, I hear the cries of “But you don’t like cats!”, but I like mice even less, and people can change, can’t they? He wouldn’t pose for a photo, but the cockerel would, which is why there’s a photo of a cockerel today – handsome, isn’t he?

Autumn has arrived

There was a distinct feel of autumn in the air this morning; a slight chill, a little mist and the leaves have started to fall from the lime tree. But by lunchtime it was sunny again and warm enough to eat outside.

Kieran and Nick finished clearing the rubble from the old pigsty; the rubble will be used to do the base of an extension to the garden shed, for which we’ve applied for planning permission today. The system is strange here; if we hear nothing in a month, permission’s been granted. They ordered some firewood today, too, which should arrive in a couple of weeks and will live on the now clear pigsty base.

We spent some time this afternoon clearing the rest of the packing boxes out of the grange; unfortunately, some of them were on the unconcreted bit of the floor and one of Nick’s coats has been ruined by the damp (we didn’t realise there were clothes left in there). On the plus side, we have finally found the address book!

The tale of Kieran, a concrete breaker and a pigsty

We need somewhere to store all the firewood that we need to buy before winter; Kieran looks in need of a demolition type job. So we give him the concrete breaker and let him loose on the pig sty that he started to demolish a year ago. As you can see from the photos, he was quite a happy bunny and there is just the small matter of removing the rubble tomorrow.

I have, at last, finished painting and distressing my mother’s kitchen cupboards; I don’t think she’d approve of what I’ve done to them, but I think they look great. The lads moved them back to the kitchen so I could put some stuff away.

Later, after teaching my English class in Nogaro this afternoon, I started loading up the next compost bin from the heap that’s accumulated over the last few weeks. I do wonder if I’ll ever get to the end of it; every time I think I’ve made an impression on the heap, they pile more stuff on it!

We noticed today that the olives on the tree are ripening. We won’t be going into oil production this year as there are only about 20 olives on the tree, but I’ll have to ask our Portuguese neighbour what I need to do to them next.


Windows – the final chapter?

Another glorious day dawned today in our corner of paradise. As the sun rose, so did the mist, so we headed out into the blue yonder (well, OK, so only into the garden), armed with the camera. Nick insists that I admit to having been still in my pyjamas at this stage of the day, but it was early!

Later on, Nick and Kieran fitted the last of the windows that we’re replacing, so we’ve got double glazing in every room except the bathroom now, and that one will take a bit more work. That done, they went out for a bike ride and to find some firewood for the winter; we’re going to get about 10 cubic metres delivered, ready to cut to length for the woodburning stoves. We’ll have to clear a large space to store it; more on that tomorrow.

We still can’t believe the weather here; about 25ºC again today and clear blue skies.

Windows and cycling

We needed a couple more double glazed windows for the kitchen and living room, so yesterday we went back to Bricodepot in Pau to buy them. Since we weren’t far away, we called in to see some friends who live near Lannemezan, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, calling in en route, to see a large Tour de France sculpture on the edge of the motorway. Nick and Kieran went out for a bike ride, to do the Col de Beyrede, then we stayed for dinner. We got home about 11.30pm, to find we’d been invaded by flies! Thousands of black ones, buzzing round the bedrooms! Spent the next hour or so swatting and spraying them, and went to sleep to the delightful sounds of the buzzing of flies in their death throes – lovely. This morning will be spent clearing up the aftermath of the massacre.

Progress so far

After 20 years of dreaming and latterly, planning, on 27th August 2011 we moved to France, to live the dream.
The first month wasn’t quite what we had expected of retirement; staying out partying till all hours, listening to a friend’s rock band playing and going for motorbike rides into the Pyrenees.
But that’s all finished now and it’s down to the serious business of preparing the house for the winter, not that winter seems imminent; it was 24ºC and sunny today. Can’t quite believe it in October!
Getting an internet connection took some considerable time, not to mention being extremely frustrating, but at last we’re connected to the rest of the world.
Apart from hours and hours of gardening, we’ve built a New Zealand compost bin system, using the old floorboards from the first floor in the grange. It took a week to fill it, but it actually got quite hot (which it was meant to do)!
Nick and Kieran have insulated the attic and have started to replace the windows with double glazed ones, in the hope that we’ll be able to stay reasonably warm in the winter. We’ve got two wood burning stoves, but that’s all by way of heating, so I’m hoping for a mild winter. They’ve replaced the wooden ceiling in one of the bedrooms and removed the chimney breast. As soon as I’ve decorated that room, they plan to start on the next bedroom, with the aim of redecorating all three before winter.
For my part, I’ve nearly finished giving my mother’s old kitchen furniture a distressed paint finish. Kieran can’t understand why I didn’t just do a lousy job of painting it in the first place – no soul, that boy!
We’re working hard on integrating into village life, and as a result of having helped out at the village fête last month, were invited to breakfast and to watch the France/England rugby match at the Salle des Fêtes last Saturday. Breakfast was bacon and eggs, (served with red wine!) as a concession to the British contingent, then we watched the rugby (enough said about that!). After the match, lunch was served and the Armagnac started to flow; well this is Caupenne d’Armagnac, so you can guess what most of the vineyards around here make. A fun afternoon was had by all and we finally got home at around 8.30pm.
Nick and Kieran are attending French classes and have joined a local climbing club, Nick has joined a cycling club and I teach an English class once a week and have joined a patchwork club.
There are photos in the galleries, of the house, the garden, the area and of the work we’re doing. I hope you’ll have a look. I’ll do regular updates, so do visit from time to time, to see how we’re getting on.


Welcome to our shiny new website! Hopefully very soon it will be filled with info and pictures of all the fun we’re having, maybe even some work being done, who knows! Check back soon.