The winter, the kitchen and the heating man cometh

We’d booked the heating people for the beginning of November, but as is the way around here, after several phone calls, they finally turned up today. At least the chape has had plenty of time to dry thoroughly. I hope they come back tomorrow to continue the work.

In the meantime, we’d ordered the kitchen for mid-November, foolishly thinking the heating would have been done by then. We’ve bought the kitchen from an English neighbor who’s had a kitchen business here for some years, he had full of closeupcheck equipment that we really wanted and is now moving back to the UK, so we need to take delivery as soon as possible. But where to store it? We still have loads of stuff boxed up from the move, so we’ve shuffled boxes around in the storage space behind the house and managed to make space; there are kitchen units and appliances all over the place now and I think the work surfaces and other long stuff will have to go in the arrière cuisine.

Nick’s built the window to go in the front wall and is ready to fit it, but it needed varnishing first; so he put it on trestles in the arrière cuisine, I varnished it and we waited for it to dry. 36 hours passed, but it’s so cold out there that it was still tacky, so it’s now sitting in state in the sitting room, with a fire gently burning to keep the chill off, and hopefully allowing it to dry!

Hard work, this retirement lark!

It’s been a busy weekend. It started on Thursday , setting up the patchwork exhibition; I was the only person tall enough to reach the hooks near the ceiling, to hang the quilts from, so spent most of the afternoon standing on tiptoes on tables. There were dozens of quilts to hang, but it looked good by the time we finished. Then a quick bite to eat and off to Qi gong, then band practice.

Friday was a shopping trip to Auch; new fridge ordered, walking boots bought and Kieran’s and my official paperwork taken in to the appropriate offices, amongst other things.

On Saturday the local wine cave and armagnac distillery had its annual open day, so we went along; this year is their 50th anniversary and they’re making a special “Nogaro” wine. There were three different wines to taste and to vote for a favourite, and two different labels to vote on. Everyone who voted will receive a bottle of the chosen wine next year, as a thank you. Nick stayed for the lunch with a fellow cyclist we met there, while I spent the afternoon helping man a stall at the patchwork expo.

Today was the cycle club AGM, an event only made bearable by the lunch afterwards. I will never understand why they have to read out how many riders there were on every ride of the year, as well as who they were! The treasurer also reads out the entire financial report, down to how much is spent on beer for the after-the-Sunday-ride-aperos! After that and various other reports, by the safety representative, the president and a few others, the maire of Nogaro has his turn. Extremely tedious! But the lunch, heavily subsidised by the club. makes it worth while!

The meal didn’t finish till 5pm, just giving us time to get home and feed the cat, before heading back into Nogaro to attend a theatrical evening at the cinema. It was a sort of live biopic of Yves Montand, a French singer and actor who lived from 1921 to 1991. The singer, and main man, told the story of Montand’s life, interspersed with many of his best known songs, accompanied by three very talented musicians; we didn’t recognise many of the songs and struggled to understand much of the dialogue, but it was an enjoyable evening nevertheless. There were only about 50 people in the audience; the cinema is very poorly attended, so we go as often as we can, to support it. I was shocked to learn recently that the average attendance is only 34 people per film; they get new films, sometimes show them in 3-D and the seating is SO comfortable, with acres of leg room. In addition to that, it only costs €5.90, or €2.50 if you have a pizza at the Progres bar beforehand! We went to our first entirely French film last week; there were seven in the audience; we didn’t understand all of it, but enough to enjoy it, and it’s all good practice!

Tomorrow I’ll be helping to dismantle the quilt show, then it’s back to work as normal; it will be good to have a rest!

Nogaro 6 hour cycle race

When it was announced at the last cycle club dinner that not even one member of the club had signed up to do the Nogaro 6 heures, a 6 hour cycle race to be held yesterday on the Nogaro motor race circuit, and that they were looking for volunteers, there was an awful lot of navel-gazing went on. After all, we’re a cycle-touring club; those who want to race go elsewhere. But as the event was being held here, we had to show willing; so volunteers were volunteered,  Nick amongst them.

In total, three teams of three were press-ganged; it was to be a sort of relay, with each team member nominally doing two one hour shifts, starting at 4pm and going on well into the dark.

The weather was horrible all day, it was cold and never really even got light, but at least it was dry; until half an hour before the race started, that is. Nick headed off to the circuit laden with fresh changes of clothing, waterproofs, lights, a box of flapjack and some pasta left over from lunch. He was in the first group to go off; after what he took to be an hour, he was replaced by a team mate, and then discovered that Bernard and J-B, the others in his team, thought it would be a better idea if they only did three quarters of an hour each, meaning that Nick, by far the strongest of the three, had to go out a third time towards the end of the evening.

I went down for the start; there were some really serious looking cyclists there, warming up on rollers in the garages (at least they could warm up in the dry). It was then I learned of the calibre of some of the riders; not just keen amateurs from all over France, but even some professionals! No wonder Nick soon slipped off the back of the peloton, the pace was really punishing!

By the time he got home at midnight, he looked exhausted, but had enjoyed the experience, and had done far and away the best of any member of the Nogaro club.

Chapeau, Nick!

Don’t sit down, it’s time to dig another one

Nick and Kieran spent today digging a long trench across the front garden to put the water pipe into for the new house. Not a very exciting job, and not even an obvious one as they had to fill it in again straight after, but definitely progress.

The kitchen may not be completely finished yet, but we moved back in today, filling cupboards and drawers, moving the fridge back and putting away the heaps of tools that have accumulated over the last few weeks. It’s great to have the cooker and sink in the same room again, but best of all is that there’s a fire in the kitchen, whereas the arrière cuisine is unheated; not great, given that it’s been quite cool over the last few days.

Layer 2 of flooring done; only another four to go.

It was pouring on Friday afternoon; I felt very sorry for the driver of the cement lorry, who delivered the thin, watery cement mix and had to stand out in the rain to check that it went into Olivier’s chape liquide tank at the correct rate, from where it was pumped into our ground floor. Olivier’s wife, Corinne,  works with him and Joel had come along to help, too, and to show Corinne my tiling in the arrière cuisine, so it was quite a little party.

By yesterday the chape was no longer liquide, but hard enough to walk on, though I doubt it will be properly dry by Tuesday, when the heating people are due to start work; we’ve got doors and windows open, but it’s still raining, so the atmosphere is quite wet. Not best drying weather.

Poor Betty’s been under the weather recently; she needed a new gear box amongst other bits and pieces. Nick and Kieran have spent many evenings working in the garage, Kieran having a vested interest in getting her back on the road ASAP as it’s really not motorbiking weather right now. But the happy news is that she’s now as good as new again, complete with new gear box, new front seats and various other bits too technical for me to remember!

It’s all French to me!

Our builder, Joel, phoned this morning. He’s a great guy, friendly, bubbly, even lends us his tools so we don’t have to pay him to do some of the jobs for us! However, he talks at a rate of knots and is difficult to follow even face to face; so when I hear him on the phone, my heart sinks. After the first few moments of this morning’s call, I asked him, as always, to slow down as I hadn’t understood a word he’d said; as always, he laughed, said that was fine and continued at precisely the same rate! My technique is that every time I hear “ça va?” or “d’accord?” I agree and we sort it out when he arrives and I can understand better. So by the time I put the phone down and Nick asked what that was about, I had to admit that I didn’t really know; except that Olivier, who’s doing the chape liquide, is coming round this afternoon to do his bit and something about 5 or 10 minutes and drinking coffee???????? Joel never stops for coffee, so I haven’t a clue – we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ve put a pot of coffee on, just in case.

Next I need to phone the people who are doing the under floor heating to tell them they can start on Tuesday; that’s an easier call as Felana speaks nice and slowly for me. The boys removed the plasterboards and insulation and took the French doors out yesterday, cut away 6cm of the lintel and put the doors back in; temporarily, so they can adjust the height when the floor is down. Of course, the other slight hitch now is that the balcony will be lower than the kitchen floor, so we might have to do something about that. We’re also not sure if the kitchen tap will now get in the way of the windows opening, so we may have to rethink where the sink goes.

Olivier turned up a little later; we think just to tell us he’ll be here this afternoon and to drink coffee. So at least I’d understood something!

Oh no! I want to cry!

Believe it or not, there’s an “English Ladies’ Lunch Club” in Nogaro! Not my scene at all, I rarely have anything to do with them; but a friend, stained glass maker and fellow Etcelterrist had submitted a few pieces of glass for an exhibition they were staging at the weekend, so I went along to show my support. The standard of the work was remarkable; in addition to Nellie’s stained glass panels, there were cards, jewellery, paintings, sculptures, patchwork and pottery. The exhibition was held in a wine producing chateau, so as well as the aperitifs, provided by the exhibitors, there was the chance to taste the various wines and floc made on the premises. It was mostly attended by the ladies of the lunch club on Friday evening, the first of three days, but a handful of local French turned up as well; all good for the entente cordiale.

Back at the ranch, as they say, things had been going well – too well perhaps. Joel came round this evening to introduce us to the man who’s going to lay the next layer of floor, to cover the electric gains (a housing that the electrician will pull the wires through when the rest is done), before the insulation, the heating pipes and finally, the chape liquide, onto which we’ll put floor tiles. Now whether it’s because Nick thought they weren’t going to insulate the floor upstairs or because Joel didn’t realise we’re having underfloor heating upstairs, I don’t know; but Joel says the French doors from the living room to the balcony are set in too low. We have to remove the plasterboard, the insulation and the doors, cut 6cm off the bottom of the lintel and put the doors back in higher up, to allow space for the extra depth of floor. Joel assures us that the lintel is overly deep and its strength won’t be compromised by this. It has to be done this week, too, as the flooring people are booked for next week. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t suppose it’s that much of a setback, but when he told us, I nearly cried.