Time to light a fire

The days are getting shorter,

The nights are drawing in,

The evenings are feeling cold.

“Can we light a fire?” says I,

“Not till I’ve swept the chimney” says he.

I’m cold.

Sitting in the evenings, 

I put on extra sweaters,

I wrap up in a quilt,

I go to bed early with a hot water bottle.

“Can we light a fire?” says I,

“Not till I’ve swept the chimney” says he.

I cough.

“Bronchitis” says the doc,

“Go home and stay warm”.

We visit friends,

“You look awful” they say,

“Go home and stay warm”.

“Can we light a fire?” says I,

“Not till I’ve swept the chimney” says he.

Today he swept the chimney,

I polished the stove,

We brought in wood.

Tonight we’ll have a fire and be toasty warm,

And I’ll be a happy bunny.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

It seems so long ago that Nick suggested we design our new house upside down; it was so long ago. His reasoning was good; the interesting architecture is upstairs, the views are better from upstairs and the bedrooms will stay cooler in the summer.

What we didn’t take into account was the difficulty of getting such small, lightweight items as kitchen units, a large fridge or a range cooker onto the first floor. Nor the 152kg of woodburner that we bought a couple of weeks ago and which lived for a while on the terrace, until Kieran could come over to help move it.

The digger being out on loan, using that wasn’t an option; nor could they use the electric winch because of the overhang of the balcony; so ingenuity and brute strength came into play. They removed any parts they could, put up two ladders, side by side and wrapped the stove carefully in blankets before strapping it to a pallet. They attached a hand cranked winch as far as possible up the ladders, it only has about a metre of wire, then one winched while the other pushed. They used chocks and wooden beams to stop the stove sliding back down while the winch was reattached to the ladders higher up. That worked well till they reached the top of the ladders, but how to get it the last bit of the way? After a bit of head scratching, they removed the back planks from the balcony so they could tie ropes to the beams below, took the wire over a briquette and a beam to give it the required height and finally it arrived. Getting it from there to the fireplace was a doddle after the previous two hours’ nerve wracking hard labour.

Now all it needs is plumbing in; but Nick wants to rebuild the entire chimney, from bottom to top, first. I think it could be a very cold winter!

Quand on a pensé de faire notre maison dessus dessous, on n’a pas consideré comment on allait mettre des choses lourdes, comme frigo, cuisine ou gazinière, en haut.

Ni le poele qu’on a acheté et qui pese 152kg. Kieran et Nick ont réussi le mettre en haut avec des echelles, un treuil et beaucoup d’ingéniosité. Maintenant il ne faut que l’installer, mais Nick veut reconstruire toute la cheminée, du haut au fond, avant. Je crois qu’il pourrait etre un hiver froid chez nous!

A cycling roundup

In spite of repeated assertions that he’s hardly been out on his bike this year, Nick has clocked up a fair few kilometres.

It started back in April, when he got back on the bike properly after his accident, with a week’s trip to Majorca with Ian and Andrew; 600km. Another few weeks off after having the pins removed from his ankle, and it was time for the big trip up the Col de Tourmalet, with hundreds of other cyclists, accompanying the Geant du Tourmalet statue up the col to its summer home. A long weekend soon afterwards with Andrew and Ian saw them take in five cols and 8300m of climbing over 330km in the Pyrenees.

Then there was the morning I woke to find a note; “gone for a ride – heading south – at least 6 hours”. He’d left at 7.30am and phoned at 11.30 to say he was in Bagneres de Bigorre, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, was “going strong for the top” to quote Hillary and Irvine, so it would be rude not to go on to do the Tourmalet. Fortunately his trip had a happier ending than the ill fated Everest ascent and he got home at 7.30pm, having done 240km in the day as well as the Tourmalet (a savage climb of 29km, for those who don’t know it).

While I was at the patchwork show in Ste Marie aux Mines, Nick was exploring new territory; he’s long wanted to cycle in the Vosges, so this was a perfect opportunity, not to mention probably the only reason he agreed to drive 1100km each way so I could go to a patchwork show. The first day he’d planned a 130km route to take in 4 cols, including le petit ballon and le grand ballon; but on arriving at the summit of le petit ballon, he found that the road marked on the map for his descent didn’t exist, it simply petered out on the top, into trails and footpaths. So back the way he’d come up and find a new route back to Colmar; he ended up doing 170km that day. Day 2 was a gentler, more touristy ride, calling in to pretty villages with German sounding names and stopping to look at the French and German WW1 military cemeteries on either side of the border that runs along the ridge top; a mere 120km.

Since then he’s met Wayne, a New Zealand cyclist who has moved here, but with limited French. I don’t know how the Nogaro pharmacist had heard that he was looking for someone to ride with, but she mentioned it to our friend Jacques, who phoned Nick with Wayne’s number and a request to contact him. They’re well matched, both equally keen on the mountains and have had several trips to ride various cols before the winter weather sets in.

In all, he’s covered 6265km and ridden 39 cold so far this year; not bad, considering he couldn’t start till March.