Bangers and mash

Kieran and Nick were very excited to find that Aldi had electric mincers on special offer; I was despatched on the appropriate day to buy one. Obviously a mincer on its own is no use, so I also got some belly pork, pork shoulder and sausage skins and set to, with the addition of garlic and parsley,  to make sausages. It took a while and they did turn out very thick, (I’ve worked out how to make the next batch thinner), but they were yummy! Definitely worth the effort!

When I’ve not been playing domestic goddess recently I’ve been making the most of the glorious autumn weather we’ve had. Now I’m not complaining; far from it, but it does seem strange to have to don T-shirt and shorts to work outside in October. But such are the hardships of living here, so we’ll just have to put up with it! I’ve been lasuring the balcony woodwork for what seems like forever; but now I’ve finished the second coat on all of the front edge of the highest section, a knee-trembling 8metres up and have done most of the lower section too. Most of the ceiling remains to be done, but that will wait until the balcony floor is in place to work from. I’ve also finished tiling the kitchen in what will be the gite and I’m pleased with the result.

Nick and Kieran have been busy putting up plasterboard in the new house, another job that seems to have taken an age; but it’s beginning to look like a house now, with spaces that are recognisable as rooms at last. The underfloor heating company is due soon, but there’s a bit of work to finish before they can start.

A present – just needs stacking!

The sun was just setting this evening, when we heard a noise in the field behind the house. Our friend Guy was there, on his tractor, with a huge trailer loaded with firewood, on the offchance that we might want it, because he needs the trailer emptying! It’s all split and cut to length already, but Nick wasn’t impressed when I pointed out that “all” it needs is stacking; there’s about 5 cubic metres, or two days’ work for him and Kieran. We’ve enough wood now to keep us toasty warm for several years to come 🙂 And our side of the bargain? English lessons for Guy’s wife and son.

A poem wot I wrote

OK, so it’s stretching a point a bit  to call it poetry, but here goes…..


The summer is over, the heat has abated,

Our shiny new roof is so well insulated,

The internal walls are now mostly in place

And photovoltaic panels now grace

The roof of the garage to generate power,

But the link-up to EDF is even slower

Than passes for normal here in the South West,

Where things only move at a snail’s pace, at best.

There are windows and doors where before there were none,

We’ve used cement, sand and gravel, many a ton.

There are wires through the plasterboard walls and the ceilings,

Where to put sockets is leaving us reeling.

Decisions, decisions, so many to take,

Where to put switches? Don’t make a mistake

In the choice of direction to open a door,

Or the colour and style of the tiles for the floor.

We are making progress, one day it will end,

And I hope that we won’t both be right round the bend!


Lots of work and a bit of music

We actually seem to have made some real progress this week; the electrician came back to put in light switches and sockets on the ground floor, so Nick and Kieran have been able to start insulating and plasterboarding the downstairs walls. We’ve booked the heating people to come in at the beginning of November, so it must all be done by then. The weather has been so lovely that the lads decided to work outside one day, putting in the beams to support a floor in the chaufferie (boiler room). For my part, I’ve started tiling the kitchen in the gite.

I was given an evening off yesterday as the band was part of a Celtic, Gasconne and Breton music festival in a nearby village. Not a concert, there were members of about five different bands, but it was something of of a free-for-all with anybody joining in with anything they fancied. There was an amazing array of instruments, including Pyreneen whistles (only 3 holes, so they’re played one-handed), a hammer dulcimer and, horror of horrors, Scottish bagpipes! A lot of the Breton music was to dance to and most of the people there knew how to do the traditional Breton dances, which were done, traditionally, to pound flat the earth floors in new houses; so lots of stomping about. Unusually for France, food and drink weren’t provided, but everyone took something and we shared it about. A very enjoyable evening.

Pink job or blue job – that is the question

The Emperor Adrian’s an old-fashioned sort of chap who believes that men should do men’s jobs and women belong in the kitchen. Well, that’s what he’d have you believe, when he’s not turning out a quick chicken satay or some other delicious dish. He was suitably appalled when he found me many feet up the ladders, lasuring the underside of the eaves, before the guttering can be put up. “That’s a blue job!” he announced “Why aren’t you scrubbing the kitchen floor or doing something pink?” Now I have to admit that the kitchen floor was in serious need of scrubbing, but as anyone who knows me will be well aware, housewifeliness isn’t my strong point; I’d much rather be painting, tiling, making stained glass; in fact, doing anything other than housework. But even Emperor Adrian had to admit that there is such a surfeit of blue jobs around here at the moment; chopping and stacking firewood, hanging doors, building walls, just to name a few, that those jobs with just a hint of lilac about them are fair game for me.

Decorating has more than enough pinkness about it, and I’ve finished the dining end of the kitchen, which looks much better, in stark contrast to the cooking end. I hope to start tiling the walls tomorrow, so watch out, Ade!

The boys, in the meantime, have been putting up rails for the last of the internal walls and hanging the first door inside the new house and we’ve finally decided where all the electric sockets are to go, before Didier, the electrician, comes back tomorrow.


Autumn cometh

It’s that time of year; all the summer’s guests have gone home now, leaving the house feeling empty and quiet; the mornings are cool and misty and the nights are drawing in, though it can still be sunny and warm during the daytime.

Work continues in both houses; Nick and Kieran have installed the kitchen units in the gite, so the room’s ready for decorating now. I thought I’d just give the walls a quick coat of emulsion, until I looked a little more closely at the chimneybreast; what a hotchpotch of gloss paint, polyfilla and wallpaper! When I scraped the paper off, the plaster came with it, so Nick had to replaster some of it, not leaving a great finish. It seemed like a good idea to crepi it as this covers a multitude of sins; crepi is somewhere between thick paint and rough, sandy plaster and is applied with a trowel. I’ve never had a lot of success with plaster, so I wasn’t too surprised when the pile of crepi landing at my feet was growing at an alarming rate, but the coverage on the wall was minimal, at best. Nick, being otherwise occupied, just laughed at my distress and said I obviously needed more practice! After many very frustrating hours, and using techniques which I don’t think are recommended (akin to finger-painting!), I finally got enough crepi to stick, to cover the walls. You could describe the finish as rustic, I suppose!

When not chopping and stacking the huge pile of firewood we had delivered, Nick and Kieran have finished plasterboarding the upstairs walls and the downstairs ceilings and put in the bathroom wall, so we’re waiting for the electrician to come back before they can plasterboard the downstairs walls. Little by little, we’re making progress.



Once upon a guinea pig holiday

Once upon a time, in the dungeons of the chateau of the Emperor Adrian, in deepest South West France, there lived a hairy guinea pig called Mr. Rattletrap, so named because his Ducatti motorbike sounded like a bucket of spanners falling down the stairs. This was no ordinary guinea pig; Mr. Rattletrap was not only bilingual, speaking Guineapigean and Motorbikean fluently, he also played electric guitar, built kitchens and mended lawn mowers.

But poor Mr. Rattletrap was at a certain age in his life where his motorbike leathers were beginning to shrink slightly, so, to cheer himself up, he invited his good friend, the not quite as elderly, lesser-hairy, but equally talented Mr. There’s-not-enough-chocolate-in-it to visit for a while. On Mr. There’s-not-enough-chocolate-in-it’s arrival, the two old pals went through their annual ritual of greeting each other, a mutual inspection for signs of ageing, balding and weight gain, none of which was difficult to find, in spite of their increasingly poor eyesight. The big difference this year, though, was that Mr. Rattletrap’s leathers seemed to have shrunk less that those of Mr. There’s-not-enough-chocolate-in-it, so a re-naming ceremony had to be performed, according to Guinea club rules. Thus Mr. Rattletrap’s new first name became Used-to-be-the-chubby-one, which trips off the tongue rather nicely in Guineapigean, while Mr. There’s-not-enough-chocolate-in-it was now known as Oy-chubby-boy.

Mr. Oy-chubby-boy There’s-not-enough-chocolate-in-it always had a wonderful time on holiday in his friend’s dungeon; not only did the two feast on proper bloke food, such as sausages, burgers and chips every day, but he was also allowed to indulge himself, eating the scraps which would otherwise have been given to the dogs (whose leathers appeared to expand while he was there). The two intrepid explorers also went off on their motorbikes into the nearby mountains, where there be dragons, but were so busy riding up and down the narrow, twisty roads, Mr. Rattletrap sounding all the time like a bucket of spanners being dropped down the stairs, that all the dragons heard them coming and fled to the safety of their caves, so the lads had to eat sausage and chips again for tea.

The friends enjoyed their holiday, partaking in many guinea pig favourite holiday activities, such as chopping barrels in half, lugging huge sheets of chipboard up flights of stairs and putting floors down. They also visited their friends, the  Skinneapig family, Mr. Bonnet-ornament Skinneapig and Mr. I’m-just-off-to-dax-to-see-alice Skinneapig, who live in a corner of the soon-to-be-plastered, will-one-day-be-a-kitchen building site in Caupenne d’Armagnac, where, after inspecting the level of water in the moat, they tucked into foie gras and fig tart tatin, chicken Basquaise and sticky toffee bread pudding with chocolate brownie ice cream, the new, experimental recipes on offer that day. I hope Mr. There’s-not-enough-chocolate-in-it’s leathers haven’t shrunk so badly that he can’t get them on to go home!