It nearly looks like a house!

Today was earmarked for fitting the two pairs of French doors in the new house; one in what will be our bedroom, the other in the living area upstairs.

The downstairs doors weren’t too much of a problem; though at 120cm wide, solid oak and double glazed, they were very heavy. But Nick and Kieran had a system, which worked well and they were soon firmly fixed into position. The doors for upstairs are wider and therefore heavier and were downstairs. There’s only one photo of their journey up the stairs as it took all three of us, heaving them one step at a time, hardly daring to think of the consequences of a wrong move, but eventually we made it and all in one piece. The fitting was then a piece of cake and we are now nearly weatherproof. There just remains one window to do, but it’s not at all standard, so Nick’s going to build it himself. I can’t believe the difference it makes to the appearance of the house; not to mention the temperature inside, without a howling gale whistling through.

Poor Hugo doesn’t appreciate the changes, which mean he can no longer come and go as he pleases; he ended up sitting outside on the bathroom windowsill, licking the glass!

A bit of sun, then back to the rain.

After months of rain, Sunday was glorious! We thought summer had arrived at last.

There was a big bike ride and a walk from a town near Ade & Julie’s, so we stayed over, Nick cycled, Julie and I walked and Ade stayed home to do the cooking. I do like the domestic arrangements chez Rhoney! As part of the weekend, there was a small exhibition of old bikes, along with the clothes worn at the time. Often hand knitted, sometimes elegant and stylish looking, I wouldn’t like to try riding in anything so cumbersome. Give me lycra any day!

By Tuesday the unseasonal weather had returned; wind, torrential rain, hail, thunder and lightning. At least we know that Nick and Kieran have done a good job of installing the velux windows; I don’t like to tempt fate, but they’ve been well tested and haven’t let a drop in, which is more than can be said for a small patch of the roof where it meets the gite; there were hailstones bouncing in today!

We collected the doors and windows for the rest of the house in a deluge and the lads have spent the last two days installing the windows and cementing plinthes to support the French doors in the kitchen and bedroom. Soon it should be weatherproof and a lot more pleasant to work in.

The tale of the prince and the three tasks

Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who lived on a building site, with lots of very croaky frogs, in South West France. He lived with his parents, King Nick (aka Old Nick) and Queen Jackie, who were trying to convert the building site into a chateau; but being royalty of the ex-NHS variety (more dash than cash), were doing most of the work themselves. This is where Prince Kieran comes into the tale; a talented, hardworking young man, not usually given to romantic attachments, an expert digger driver and mender-of-all-things.He had volunteered (yes – really!) to live with the eccentric couple, helping them, until the building work was completed.

One day Kieran asked the king if he could borrow the royal carriage to visit the Princess Alice in a nearby town. “If you want to visit the Princess Alice, you must first complete three tasks” said Old Nick. “The first task is to install electricity and clean out the swimming pool so that it’s fit for use if ever we get any summer weather this year. Your second task is to help me fit two more velux windows, and your third task is to design and build a piece of modern art inspired by music of the 80s; but this is to be no ordinary work of art – it must also be useful.¬† If you do all this, you will be free to visit the princess at the weekend.”

So Prince Kieran set to work, digging housing for electric cabling, scrubbing the pool, cleaning the filter and yes – removing the goose! He helped the King with the velux windows, even when the rain poured in through the hole in the roof, soaking them both to the skin. And the king had to admit that his work of art was indeed inspired – and useful, so the prince was given the keys, but not for the royal carriage; Old Nick and Queen Jackie needed that for a very important visit to see their friend, the Emperor Adrian for a photoshoot of his band (more of that later).

Kieran could only hope that the princess would be charmed when he turned up in a 30-year-old rustbucket and would put it down to English eccentricity.


My husband, the little bat

This afternoon’s English class was on descriptions of people.

Student: “My husband is a little bat.”

Me, looking slightly confused: “Ummm…”

Student: “My husband is a little bad?”

Me, doubting this: “Try again…”

Student draws a large circle in the air

Me: “Aaah! It would be more polite to say ‘a little overweight’.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, seeds are rotting in the potager and the wind has all but flattened the mange tout and broad bean plants. Nick and Kieran are still having to find indoor jobs, so Kieran has nearly built the wall at the back of the kitchen-to-be and Nick has been busy plasterboarding a wall in the sitting room-to-be. The windows and doors are scheduled to arrive in Mont de Marsan on Friday, so we should be slightly more weatherproof in the not-too-distant future.

When I saw Joel at the builders’ merchant’s last week, he told me he’d be back when it stops raining – maybe June, maybe July……. ūüôĀ


A rather British bank holiday

When I tell you we spent the bank holiday weekend in Biarritz, you’d be forgiven for imagining blue skies, sunshine and warmth; that’s what we had in mind when the cycling club booked for the annual cyclefest in the Pays Basque, an event attended by thousands of cyclists every year.

We left Nogaro¬† on Saturday morning in rain that got steadily heavier as we neared the coast; the wind was blowing and there was thunder and lightning to boot. Nobody was stupid enough to ride in those conditions, so we all headed off to Spain, to a bike shop someone knew of, where we stayed out of the deluge for a couple of hours. Lunch and back to Tarnos, where we’d booked chalets, most of them now standing in water. There wasn’t a lot to do for the afternoon, but most of the men were more than happy to pass the time in a bar, watching the European Rugby finals.

The next morning dawned dry, if cold and windy  so we headed to the start of the ride; there should have been a choice of four routes, from 36km to 160km, but the longer two were cancelled because the cols were closed, due to snow! It blew a gale, but at least it stayed dry, so they all enjoyed their ride.

Monday  was mostly dry, so Nick and three others went for a ride from Capbreton, just up the coast from Tarnos. Guy, who has an apartment there, invited us to join him for lunch in one of the local fish restaurants. The meal started with mussels, which arrived in buckets, followed by parilladas, which is basically a selection of seven different fish with potato croquettes. Protein overload, but delicious.

A good weekend, in spite of the weather.

Men from Lyon have bigger boules

When the band I played with in England rehearsed, we met, practiced, maybe had a cup of tea and went home; it was usually over by 10.30. Things are very different here. Last night’s rehearsal started early, at 8pm, because Marc, one of the guitarists, had an early start today; for the same reason it was held in his bar in Riscle.

We sat around, chatting and having aperitifs, for the first hour or so, then practiced a couple of numbers, till Marc’s wife set the tables and brought out plates of melon. This was followed by the most enormous mushroom omelette I’ve ever seen, plenty for all ten of us, with bread and salad. We then did some more practice, before adjourning again for dessert, followed by a bit more practice. Very civilised! We even met our objective of finishing early, so I was home not long after midnight.

It transpired that the reason for Marc’s early start was a trip to Lyon to take part in the national Lyonnais boules championship; the Lyonnais version differs from normal boules in that the boules themselves are bigger and the rules of play are more complicated, but please don’t ask me how! This contest is a big affair, leading on to the world championship for the winners; Marc was world champion in 1976 – quite a claim to fame!

Over the last two days the photovoltaic men have made good progress, solving the problem of our less-than-square garage roof and fitting the panels and the connecting boxes and onduleur that feed the electricity into the grid, in the garage. There are just a few roof edging tiles left to fit now, which will be done next week, as it started to rain again this afternoon.

Nick and Kieran have demolished a section of wall in what will be the kitchen in the new house; this is the part they enjoy most, the rebuilding of the new bit of wall won’t be done with quite the same degree of enthusiasm. They’ve also widened the hole for one of the windows; a very un-standard window, so Nick’s going to build the frame for it himself.

We’ve got panels – no we ain’t!

The photovoltaic man arrived on Monday morning, as promised; dropping off the materials as he had another job to finish. He came back on Tuesday, with two workers and they set to work, taking the back roof off the garage, laying the waterproof membrane and placing the frames that will hold the panels and form the roof. Everything was going so well. But then they took¬† the frames off, put them back on, and took them off again. The garage is more of a trapezoid shape than a square, so the frames, which interlock, weren’t sitting properly.

By this time it was 7.30pm, so they went home, expecting to be back this morning; but it hammered down with rain overnight, leaving everywhere too wet and slippery to walk safely. So they’ll be back tomorrow – if it’s dry. Here’s hoping.

Nick and I have been swamped with tax forms recently; my autoentrepreneur tax form, our joint French income tax form and our UK tax forms. Fortunately, we subscribe to an English ex-pat type newspaper, which has a whole section devoted to how to fill in the income tax form, so we’ve spent several evenings pouring over that, collecting together all the required data and tonight have finally completed it! It feels like quite an achievement to have done it ourselves, without driving over to Condom to ask the nice man in the tax office for help. Just the UK ones to do now, then.

Calling all gardeners…..

Kieran arrived home today, after his holiday back in Harrogate; so tomorrow will be back to getting on with big projects.

While Nick’s been working on such things as helping Didier, the electrician, tiling the windowsills, ready for when the windows and doors arrive in a couple of weeks, and generally tidying up, I’ve been on gardening duties. We’re eating mange tout, broad beans and strawberries every day now, and the lettuces are nearly ready, so I’ve been busy planting the stuff for summer; spinach, green and yellow French beans, radish and rocket.

I got a bit carried away at the market; there were veg plant stalls everywhere, selling varieties I’d never even heard of, such as blue tomatoes and white aubergines, as well as the bog standard stuff. I came home with the car loaded with little veg plants; tomatoes of every shape and hue, purple and white aubergines, long and round courgettes, yellow peppers, chilli peppers and onions. They’re all planted now, but there’s very little space left for the seedlings in the cloche, grown from seeds we saved last year; 40 or so cherry tomato plants, a similar number of beef tomato plants, red peppers and yet more chillies. I think we might have to dig another “overflow” bed! I hope we get lots of keen gardeners visiting this summer; if I had nothing else to do but garden, I might just about keep up with it……

The continuing tale of our (lack of) photovoltaic panels

You may remember that the people we chose to fit our photovoltaic panels were supposed to start work in March, but didn’t turn up and didn’t reply to any form of contact, but called round while we were in Spain. Kieran wasn’t quite sure what the guy said, but thought it was something along the lines of they’d start in 10 days time. So we waited. Nothing.

I phoned and emailed; eventually we had a reply, explaining that their original supplier had gone bust, the next one they tried had an eighteen week delivery delay, but they’d just found one who could supply the stuff sooner and they’d be starting work on May 6th, at the latest.

May 6th came and went; I phoned and emailed, but what a surprise – no reply. I phoned the Greffe Tribunal de Commerce and was pleased to hear at least that they hadn’t gone bankrupt. So Nick and I went to see them this afternoon. The office was locked up, but their van was in the driveway of their house. I chatted to a man working on a nearby building, who said he’d seen several people come to see what was going on with their orders and he thought they’d simply taken on more work than they could cope with.

We rang the bell – nothing. We hammered on the door and eventually monsieur appeared at an upstairs window so we asked if we could have a word. He didn’t recognise us, but as Nick was in cycling lycra, he could be forgiven. He claims the last piece of the kit only arrived this morning and that their phone and internet haven’t been working for the last few days, but that they will start work next Monday. I’ll believe it when I see it.

While that work hasn’t been going on, we haven’t been idle; we’ve finished the bike shed, applying a coat of crepi (somewhere between paint and plaster) to the walls and painting the ceiling white. I don’t think I’ll ever make a plasterer; I hardly managed to make any of it stick to the wall and the pile on the floor just grew and grew. Just as well Nick was there to do 90% of the work!

He’s put a velux window in the room upstairs that we hope will eventually become a family guest room; in the meantime, it’s going to become a temporary sewing room, largely because I spent a small fortune on patchwork fabrics for a quilt for the spare room last week. Better get on with a design then……


La quatre L de Jackie

Maithee and Pierre called in yesterday to bring us a CD they’d found in their collection; it includes a song called “La 4L de Jacky”, about a Renault 4L, well about Renault 4s in general.They suggested we might like to sing it in the band!

If you watch the youtube clip, you’ll soon see that it’s not the most complimentary video ever made; the song tells of how they have to be pushed up hills, are covered in rust, how you get soaked every time it rains (yes, there’s something for everyone!) and how noisy they are. All true – but we still love our Betty!