The feminist and the wolf

The French love their dictées (dictations), so when my CLAN students asked if we could do one in class, I decided to do Roald Dahl’s “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf”. We worked on it for several weeks and they so enjoyed it that we thought it might be a good idea to record them reciting it. I borrowed a camcorder, to get a professional-ish result, but, as anyone who knows me will be well aware, technology isn’t my strong point and I couldn’t work out how to do the editing at all, so that put an end to that plan. However, Alicia had recorded the dress rehearsal on her camera, so here’s the result…… (and a few pics from our Christmas party)


Macho-style gardening

The last few weeks of rain have, if nothing else, served to convince us that the garden has serious drainage issues; so Nick and Kieran, having finished their “homework”, have been working on that while Joel’s away. It’s been a lovely few days, so the moat around the terrace has dried out at last and the lads have dug out a drainage channel, that goes from the moat, round part of the front of the house, then across the garden towards the well.  The plan is to drain the excess water into the well and hopefully, use it to water the garden in summer.

I’ve missed most of the sunshine, through teaching and tiling. But the second part of the arrière cuisine tiling is now finished and ready to grout. Part 3 next week, with a bit of luck 🙂

Speed tiling

The first (and easiest)  job on the list of things to do before Joel gets back was to strip the crepi from the front of the new house, so Nick and Kieran tackled it today as it was a lovely day for working outside.

I spent the afternoon getting on with the tiling in the arrière cuisine – I’m getting quicker at tiling now, as you’ll see from the video 😉 But having had such fun this afternoon, now there’s just the small matter of the two lessons to plan for tomorrow……..I  think it might be a late night………


Homework for the holidays

France is still a patriarchal society and I suppose this shows nowhere more than in the building trade. Joel and his lads are quite happy that I regularly take them drinks and cake, and even that I’m consulted on such points as the size and position of windows and doors, the placing of items in the bathroom, etc. But Joel’s face was a picture yesterday when he came in to explain something and found me tiling the arrière cuisine walls; it was a look of total disbelief! Once he’d got over his shock, however, and conceded that, actually, I’m not making a bad job of it, he offered to bring round any extra tiles he’s got left over from jobs he’s done, that would be the right size.

He and the boys finished the brickwork on the chaufferie yesterday; we won’t see them now for a fortnight as Joel’s going to Guadeloupe for a holiday (we must be paying him too much!) When they get back, the next job is to replace the roof; but in the meantime, Nick and Kieran have been left their homework to get on with while he’s away, cementing around windows and doors.

They have spent the last couple of days building a temporary staircase in the new house; a ladder is just too precarious for carrying stuff up and down. Having a staircase seems to transform it from just a building site into something that may, one day, become a home. 😉

Cutting holes and building walls.

After weeks and weeks of rain, the sun shone today – bliss! As Nick got on with the daily task of pumping out the moat, Joel arrived to start building the chaufferie, which will house the water heater and the pipes and stuff that will run the heating system. He set Nick and Kieran to work, opening up an old, blocked up window upstairs, while Seb and David started cutting holes in another wall for the French doors and window onto the balcony. Once cut, they put up the shuttering and poured the concrete lintels.

I finished the first little wall of tiling last night, so I laid out the tiles for the next section this evening, arranging and rearranging them until I was happy that I’ve got a “random” pattern. It seems such a small job in comparison with the rest of the work going on right now, but I like the result so far.

Today’s time lapse video

Wet, wet, wet!

The rain has hardly stopped all week; rivers are nearly bursting their banks and fields which haven’t flooded in living memory are flooded. We’ve hardly seen Joel since Monday; his next task here is to build the boiler room on one end of the terrace, but it’s just been too wet. One of his lads arrived on Tuesday with a truck-load of bricks, which he and Nick unloaded in the rain, and Joel brought round some roof tiles so that we can choose a colour; the oldest, muckiest-looking one will do nicely, thank you! In a dryish spell yesterday, the lads managed to concrete the plinth to stand the pompe à chaleur on, so that’s ready to go.

Nick and Kieran have continued working on the arrière cuisine and it’s down to me to get the tiling done now. This isn’t as easy as it may sound, as I’m now teaching five language classes a week; two English and three French. In between times, when I’m not preparing the next class, next meal or next lot of clean clothes, I try to do a bit of tiling. So far, it’s taken 2 weeks to do that little wall, but I’m getting quicker!

I was gobsmacked yesterday when a friend phoned to ask if I fancied a week in Strasbourg next month; she sometimes works as a translator for an organisation, but can’t do their March convention and wondered if I might like to give it a try. I was very flattered and did attempt simultaneous translation of an article I found online; but I was rubbish at it; the bit of my brain that does the “input” doesn’t seem to work with the “output” part at all and I could only manage an occasional word here and there – certainly nothing that would have made sense to a listener! So bang goes my jolly! Tant pis!

That’s some remote control car!

Today was a milestone; the first floor concrete was arriving.

When Seb got here at 8am he announced that the cement lorry was on its way; he and David removed a few tiles from the front and back roofs, to allow the concrete to be poured in from above and we waited to see if the lorry would get in through the gates. There was no problem; apparently all the lorries are the same size; whether or not they got in before was down to the driver’s skill and today they sent us the best.

The first lorry had an amazing array of pipes, tubes and hydraulic-looking bits; the driver had a remote control unit attached to a belt, with which he moved it all into position with the apparent ease of someone who really knows what he’s doing. The lorry discharged a load of concrete into a hopper, from where it was pumped up the pipes, over the roof and in through the holes. Joel and his lads levelled it inside the house. A second lorry turned up at 9am to refill the first one with more concrete; once they’d done inside, it was time to lay the terrace.

While this was going on, our electrician friend who’s been doing the wiring in the arrière cuisine turned up to attach the sockets, now that it’s all plastered. With everything that was going on, it felt like a whirlwind! But by lunchtime everybody had finished and gone home; Joel and his lads won’t be back till Wednesday, to give the concrete time to dry. What a relief; we can have a day off tomorrow!!!!

Today’s time lapse video


A sporty little number?

They say it happens all the time; when a woman reaches a certain age she starts taking steps to reclaim her lost youth. Some women go in for cosmetic surgery, some have affairs with younger men and for others, it’s the allure of a glamorous convertible sports car. And so it was, that yesterday we headed south to Pau, to a vineyard in the foothills of the Pyrenees, to pick up our new vehicle – a 30-year-old Renault 4! Glamorous it’s not, but it came with a set of snow tyres, it’s very French and made it all the way home, not requiring the jump leads, tow rope, duct tape, cable ties or full socket set that Nick and Kieran had insisted on taking with us.

Snow tyres would have been in order today had the walking club’s planned trip to the mountains gone ahead; but it was cancelled due to almost 2 metres of snow having fallen overnight; even the ski stations were closed!

So I had no excuse not to start tiling the arrière cuisine; I think it’s going to take some time, but I hope it’ll look good when it’s done.