That’s gonna hurt in the morning!

I don’t know whether it was something in the water, or just the fact that it was the most glorious, sunny , warm day today, but when we went out with the cycle club this afternoon, I felt fitter that I have in ages and instead of turning back part way through the ride, I did the whole 80km. It seemed incredible to be riding in shorts and short sleeved jersey in February. I think I’ll suffer tomorrow, though, I keep getting cramp in my legs! I wish we had a bath, I could do with a good soak.

By the time we got home, Kieran had finished plasterboarding the wall to divide off the new bathroom and had finished the woodwork on the hen house! He and Nick went to put it in the chicken run, but found that it was too big to go through the gate and too heavy to lift over the fence, so they’ve had to dismantle part of the fence, which will have to be put back tomorrow. They had to visit website to learn more about fences. By the time they’d finished it was dark, so they were working by head torches.

Kieran’s claiming a day off tomorrow, when Nick and I go to Pau, for…..wait for it…..a seminar on French tax law! Sounds absolutely riveting; I hope I can stay awake! But we’ll be able to do some shopping afterwards; bath, shower tray and cubicle, tiles, etc, etc.

Signed, sealed, SOLD!!!

At last, after many months of frustration and angst, the sale of our house in Harrogate has reached completion! Too late, I suspect, for us to avoid paying a large sum to the French government in tax on the sale of a second home; they moved the goalposts on February 1st, but what a relief that it’s finally sold.

There’s a restaurant near here which specialises in venison and wild boar; it has a great reputation, so we’ll be having a trip there to celebrate the sale, before the week’s out, .

Sorry, but there aren’t any photos today; another bedroom plastered, another few blocks on the hall walls, oh, and I stirred them up at my patchwork club by arriving on my bike!


We seem to have so many projects on the go at the moment, it’s difficult to decide which to tackle first!

The lads have decided that it’s about time we returned the borrowed plasterboard lifter to Jean, our neighbour; so they’re trying to finish boarding all the ceilings.

Work has also continued on the hen house, which even boasts a proper, tiled roof! Tomorrow my job is to treat it with wood preserver, then we’ll be nearly ready to get some hens!!!

But it’s the weekend, so we’ve had some time off. Kieran went to a nearby village’s hunt dinner last night; wild boar was on the menu and he said the meal was excellent. Caupenne has one next weekend, so we’re looking forward to it.

Nick went for a ride with the cycle club this morning, only to discover that there was some sort of a get-together to mark the start of the cycling season proper, so rather than the usual 70km, today’s ride had the option of doing 110km, which, of course, he had to do.

There’s a walking section of the cycling club too, so I went out with them, doing 12km through beautiful countryside which I wouldn’t otherwise see. Next week we’re going to “faire des raquettes” in the Pyrenees; I think that’s walking with snow shoes, rather than making a hell of a noise. All good for the new, give-anything-a-go-at-least-once me! Being out of the house by 7.15 on a Sunday morning’s going to be hard, though!


The spring has sprung?

It was frosty again this morning, but by lunchtime it was glorious! So warm, in fact, that I worked in T-shirt and shorts this afternoon. The locals don’t seem at all surprised at how quickly it can warm up and I suppose we’ll get used to it one day, but for now it’s a novelty and one we’re making the most of.

Nick and Kieran spent the morning building walls in the entrance hall-to-be, then started to work on the hen house after lunch. I’m told the design is “evolutionary”, which I gather means they don’t really have a plan, so I’m just hoping for the best. I don’t expect hens are too fussy.

I barrowed the contents of the first compost bin onto the soon to be veg plot, then turned the next compost bin-full into the empty one. I think I’m going to ache tomorrow. It was a bit difficult digging the compost out of the bin as it was still frozen from the cold spell we’ve had, but it broke up eventually!

Boys and their toys….

If success were measured in terms of money spent, we’d be onto a winner for the last week!

We spent last Thursday in Pau, going round the big DIY shops, trying to choose a bath, a shower cubicle, tiles, etc, for the new bathroom. Today we went to Aire sur l’Adour, again to the DIY shop, but this time we came home with a rotavator. Kieran couldn’t wait to assemble and play with the new toy; so we spent the afternoon in the garden, digging over the ground where the veg plot will be. We all had a go, though I think the machine won when it was my turn.

A lady from the roads department turned up during the afternoon; something to do with the planning to change the hangar into a garage (a bit late; we’ve already got the permission); as luck would have it, she’s one of the walking group I went out with on Sunday; I felt almost as if I belong here! Within minutes of her leaving, the neighbours came across to find out what was going on, soon to be followed by a friend of theirs who happened to drive past and saw us all in the garden. It was quite a party, the only problem being that, between our neighbours’ strong Portuguese accent and their friend’s strong Italian accent, Nick and I really struggled to understand much of what was said. We no longer felt like we belonged!

A new floor

After a leisurely weekend; Saturday was glorious, so we got on with some gardening, then Nick cycled and I walked in the rain on Sunday (Kieran slept, as usual): it was back to work today.

The lads mixed loads of concrete and laid the floor in what will, one day, be the entrance hall to our house, once we’ve got walls on either side of it and a decent door to the outside.

This afternoon they put up the fencing for the chicken run; no photos yet as it was dark when I got home. We still need a gate as the existing one has rusted-through hinges, so doesn’t work very well, and a hen house, both of which are being designed tonight. I’ll post photos when they’re built.

In the meantime, our neighbour came round today, with eggs from her hens; she was very interested to see the progress we’re making and offered to kill our chickens for us! I, for one, hadn’t thought beyond the eggs stage! I don’t think I’m a natural for “the good life”, but I’ll learn:-)


From speeding tickets to smones

I was lying awake at 4o’clock this morning and tried to send myself back to sleep by writing a limerick.  It didn’t work, but here’s the result;

There once was un anglais called Nick,
Who was caught driving slightly too quick,
He had the malchance
That the gendarmes of France
Issued him his first ever speed tick(et)

If anyone fancies writing one about some aspect of our life here, we’d love to see it and will put any we receive on the blog. There must be lots of people reading this who could do a lot better than me. So PLEASE have a go, it’s great fun!

He was doing 98kph in a 90kph area, so very little above the speed limit; we’ll all have to be very careful from now on!

The computer is still on the landing 🙁 Once I’d finished decorating the third and last bedroom, the computer and associated tat, junk and official stuff was all supposed to move into the spare bedroom, where I could start to sort it out. However, the guys have now decided that insulating the outside wall in the last bedroom was so quick and easy to do, and is proving so effective, that they’re going to do the same in the other two bedrooms now. Yes, this will mean redecorating again!

Over the last few days, Nick and Kieran have dug out the old, damp floor from what will be the hall of our house; today they started to lay the new concrete. I don’t know where the mountain of rubble that we’ve now produced is going to go!

In the meantime, as a bit of not-so-light relief, they’ve been digging out the base of the pressoir screw. The screw, about 12cm in diameter, stood about 3metres tall and extended nearly a metre under the ground, so it’s taken a lot of removing, mostly by hand, as trying to pull it over using the digger had no effect, except to snap the chain like a piece of thread. But today it gave up the ghost and was felled. I think they’re going to dig a trench in the grange and bury it as there’s no way we can take it to the tip!

I made a batch of scones today, to provide sustenance and calories after such a hard day’s work. Kieran had the notion to make them into “smones”, ie to fill them with Nutella and toasted marshmallows – yummy!



A good day’s work

Nick and I took advantage of the milder weather this afternoon and went out on the bikes for a couple of hours with the club, leaving Kieran with instructions to dig up the floor under what will be the entrance hall. Poor cinders, I hear you cry, but he loves playing with big, beefy power tools and the marteau-piqueur definitely comes into that category. He made some progress on the hall floor, then started on the concrete block around what’s left of the pressoir.

We were hoping to finish the bedroom that I’ve decorated, and move the furniture back in today, so I cleaned the floor in readiness. There was a patch of floor that used to be under the fireplace, which was distinctly paler that the rest, so I found some coloured floor wax and treated the pale patch. It then looked so much better than the rest of the floor, though, that I got quite carried away and ended up waxing the entire floor. So here we are, 5 hours later, with the landing still full of computer, hanging rail, boxes of books and paper, and one bedroom still full of 2 bedrooms’ worth of furniture; BUT the floor in the other bedroom looks great, and probably will do till the first person goes in with plaster-dusty shoes. Still, I’ve got the photos to remind me how rich and shiny it looked and a creaky back to remind me how hard work it was!

Ceilings r us!

Over the last couple of days, we’ve painted a ceiling, plastered a ceiling and built a ceiling; yes, in that order!

I’ve decorated the next bedroom (including ceiling), so we’re ready to put the furniture back in tomorrow, which means the computer will be moved off the landing (yipee! I don’t like it here). Kieran and Nick have plastered the ceiling in what will be the upstairs bathroom and have fitted the rest of the joists and flooring above Nick’s workshop and above what will be a hallway and my workshop, although they’re all part of the same space at the moment. It should cut down the draughts in the workshop and make it slightly less arctic.

Before we went on holiday, the architect came round to draw the plans for the work we want to do; he submitted them the day we left and we expected to have permission 2 months later. However, we arrived home to find a long letter from the planning people in Auch, detailing all manner of things missing from the paperwork, so I phoned the architect, who came round immediately and went through the letter. Apparently it’s a very recent change, to do with google earth photos, and they want all sorts of details that were previously unnecessary, such as whether we’re painting or varnishing windows and shutters, and what colour, where services come into the house, the location and size of trees, hedges etc!!!! So the poor bloke has redrawn all the plans and brought them round today; the 2 months starts again when they’re submitted; yet another delay!

On a positive note, though, the weather has warmed up and it was above freezing today so the last of the snow has thawed; we were told that it’s 40 years since this area last had weather as cold, or for as long, as this. I hope we get a good spring.

A history lesson

When we bought this house, we found, propped up against the outside wall, a large metal fire back, broken in two, with the name Isabelle Mahue and the year 1935 cast on it. We had no idea who she was or what she had to do with this house and nor did the neighbours.

Today we went for a walk, passing a large house whose garden is always beautifully kept; the elderly owner was in the garden and asked if we were looking for the sarcophagus (at which point I really wondered how good my grasp of the French language was) and when we looked blank, invited us into the garden. He took us to a small, ancient, Roman church tucked away behind the house, in the porch of which were, to my amazed relief, two sarcophagi. Apparently many centuries ago, the church belonged to a local bishop; he and another priest, who was killed on the road outside the house during the wars of religion, were buried in these sarcophagi, which were placed on the roadside, but when the road was widened several years ago, they were moved into the chuch porch.

This elderly gent, who had been sent away to a religious school at the age of 14, with the intention of making a priest of him, then took us for a look around the church, with its hand-tooled leather altar front and frescoed walls. He apologised for the lack of light (there’s no electricity), but showed us where the key is kept so that we can let ourselves in, early in the afternoon, on a bright, sunny day, if he’s not around. The whole place was superb and I’d have loved to take photos, but it just didn’t seem an appropriate thing to do, so if you’d like to see it for yourselves, you’ll just have to pay us a visit.

The man asked where we live; ” Oh, the Mahue house!” was his reaction. Apparently, he knew Isabelle Mahue, who was very short and very fat; born in 1883, she lived in the house which is now ours until her death in1970 and is buried in a little cemetery beside the Roman church, along with several bishops and other locals.

We learnt lots more about our neighbour, such as his job as an interrogator of torture victims during the Algerian war (we disagree on whether he was the torturer – our French isn’t that good yet) and how his father filled in half the moat that runs round his house, and have been invited to go back on a warmer day so he can show us photos. A fascinating man.