Project house build

We’ve got the architect’s drawings now and suddenly our building project seems so much more real! The architect will submit his plans next week for planning permission, which should be granted in 2 to 3 months; we can do inside work before we get permission, but have to wait to do the external stuff.

Up to now, it’s been mostly demolition, or so it seems; so to have the prospect of getting the builder in to start on the construction is really exciting.

La fete des rois

Well, we survived yesterday’s storm; in fact we came through unscathed and this morning dawned bright and sunny with hardly a breath of wind. It’s been a busy day, though, by our current standards anyway.

It started off normally enough; I had an English lesson to prepare for this afternoon, which was mostly done when the architect arrived at 10.30 with the preliminary drawings for our building project. He said he’d be here about an hour, so I thought I could finish planning my lesson then. But he was nowhere near finished when Kieran, Julie and Adrian arrived, starving hungry, at 12.30, so they drank tea while Daniel concluded what he needed to do. We hastily warmed some soup and ate while Julie explained that she and Kieran had had to abandon the new car yesterday evening as it took so long to get through to the rescue people that the credit on her phone ran out just as she was about to tell them where the car was! When she and Kieran got back to Julie’s it was to hear that the fridge had died as a result of numerous power cuts during the day. The three of them went to take the car to a garage this morning, which closed just as they arrived, so the car won’t be looked at till Monday now. I think Ade and Julie must have been very bad in a previous life!

I ate my lunch as fast as I could and took my half-done lesson with me, leaving the rest of them to their pudding. I managed to stretch what I’d prepared to last an hour and a half, but felt very guilty for not having done a better job when, at the end of class, one of the students brought out a “galette des rois”, the traditional cake served on January 6th to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, and a bottle of cider. The galette contains a figurine and the person who finds it is crowned king for the day. My students were interested to hear of my blog and wanted the address, so…. pour tous mes etudiants, bonjour! Il vous faut traduire cette page vous-memes; pas par fonctionne d’ordinateur!

At some point in all this, Nick and Kieran found the time to insulate and plasterboard the outer wall of the yellow bedroom; just needs the wall and ceiling plastering now and I can start decorating. It feels like progress!

The architect had had to make several changes to his plans for the house, so he returned shortly after I got home; this time just for half an hour, or so he said. An hour and a half later, I had to go for aperitifs at the Clan (where I teach), leaving Nick to sort the planning stuff with Daniel. I was the only English person there this evening, so no chance to take the easy option where language was concerned; I think this must be the first day since we’ve been here that I’ve spoken far more French than English, including some pretty technical stuff. I’m exhausted and heading for bed.

Goodnight et bonne nuit!

The weather report.

We went to an auberge in Gamarde on Tuesday for a surprise 50th birthday party for our friend Adrian; as promised, the magret de canard was the best we’d ever tasted. Ade thought he was going out for a quiet lunch, but was surprised (pleasantly, I hope) when nine people turned up.

Yesterday Kieran and Nick started work on the tart-up of the next bedroom; they’ve plasterboarded the ceiling and started to insulate the outside wall. I’ve repainted the bathroom, which was looking tatty.

Adrian and Julie have just bought a new car and were planning to pick it up from St. Foy la Grande, in the Dordogne, today. But Ade’s got a bad back and can’t drive, so Kieran went with Julie. We’ve just heard that the new car has broken down part way home and they’re waiting for the breakdown people. Ade had to text us as he’s in the middle of a power cut; not a good day!

For the last 2 days we’ve been basking, rather smugly, I have to admit, in glorious sunshine and temperatures you’d expect in the UK in April or May. It’s amazing how fast things can change! The wind is now howling around the house and down the chimneys and the rain is falling in sheets (and pouring down the chimney onto the woodburner!) It’s only two years since the “tempete”, which tore roofs from houses, left hundreds of villages without water or electricity and flattened huge swathes of forest between here and the Atlantic coast. Because there are so many holes in our grange roof, we called Rooftop Chimney Cleaning Services to fix tarpaulins to the inside of it, to direct the water out through the eaves at the back; I can hear them flapping in the wind as I sit here, typing. We’ve battened down all the hatches we can; all we can do now is hope that the wind will subside before it does any damage, and that Kieran and Julie will get home without any more problems! Watch this space for the next exciting instalment of “A Year in the Gers”.

The hols are over now – au boulot!

It was back to work today; and for most of France, in fact, as when a bank holiday falls on a Sunday, they don’t get the Monday off!

We had plenty to do; wood to chop as we’d nearly used all the previously cut firewood; the dishwasher to take to pieces to try to make it work without having to tip it up 2 or 3 times at the beginning of every cycle; and the bedroom to finish. The last was mostly my responsibility; it’s only a tart-up and I still need to paint the fireplace, mosaic the inside of it and wax polish the floor, but those tasks can be done at a later date. For now, Kieran’s itching to get started on the next room, so we’ve moved around; after all, who are we to stop him working!?

Kieran spent the evening modifying an X-box, using the tiniest soldering iron I’ve ever seen; so far, it’s not doing what it’s meant to, but I’m certain it won’t defeat him for long.

A night to remember

It all kicked off at 8.30pm; the toasts were made, the caterer installed in the kitchen, the disco set up; Patrick, the organiser, looked very nervous. It was, after all, the first New Year’s Eve do that he’d organised. The people started to arrive; Patrick served everybody their first glass of Pousse Rapiere and arranged for the toasts to be brought to the aperos table.

By about 10.30, everybody had arrived, the toasts had nearly all been eaten and people were ready to start on the serious business of the meal. The first course was served at 11pm; fresh foie gras with a sweet white wine, followed by noix St. Jacques and mushroom risotto with a dry white wine, accompanied by a lot of silliness and hilarity, party hats, blow guns with sticky boules for ammo, party poppers, streamers, etc.

We’d finished the starters by just before midnight, so everyone moved to the dance floor to see in the new Year. It seemed very strange not to sing Auld Lang Syne. We danced for a while before the “trou Gascon” (Gascony hole) arrived; a boule of ice cream in white armagnac; it smelled pretty potent! Then the main course was served; chapon wrapped in pancetta, served with potatoes dauphinoise, stuffed tomatoes and red wine. Another dance break, to let the food go down, before cheese and salad, followed by a platter of desserts and champagne, at about 2.30am. All topped off, of course, with coffee and armagnac.

There were lots of traditional songs which had to be sung while standing on your chair, waving your serviette over your head, or swaying wildly, hanging on to your neighbour, and lots of silly dances to be danced, to the strains of real French disco music. Oh, how we longed for some decent music to dance to; the French may be great in the kitchen, but their musical ability is next to non-existent; all base and noise, and it all sounded the same!

We stayed till 5am, by which time there were about 40 revellers remaining; I don’t know what time they served the onion soup, but the last person went home at 8.30 this morning. We went to help with the clean-up operation; there were about 20 turned up, so it didn’t take long; then we all sat down to another meal, with, yes, lots of wine and armagnac, and all promised to help with the annual fete at the beginning of September. At least there’s time to recover by then!