Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Dans le jardin

So, I finally convinced myself (well, Bev did) that a bit of gardening was in order as it was still dry and a good time to resow the lawn. The existing lawn was pretty much just a field and pretty devoid of actual grass - so Patrique, from the next village, was put to action to rotavate and resow. He's a blinding gardener and, with a teeny bit of help from me and Bev, he had it done in a day and a half.

Meanwhile Bev set to trimming up the grape vines and I hacked up the nasty old coal bunker. The geezer at the local tip (decheterie) got to know me and my trailer pretty well over the next few days.

A few pics of work-in-progress then - and since we got back from Madrid the grass has started to spring up nicely. Over the Winter I'm planning to move the woodshed, build a patio, put a fence up to cover the nasty breezeblock wall at the far end and add a gazebo. Not much then ...

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

... this is what I feel like most days - a combination of too much hefting furniture and house fettling. I'm only 40 - bloody 'mal a la dos'. :^(

By crikey, moving into an unfurnished house in a foreign country with no electrics and in need of 'some renovation' is hard work. This is 'living the dream' - help!

So, we acquired the house about 6 weeks ago now - the electricans laid into it with gusto removing all the soggy and sagging old electrics from the 60s/50s (and probably 30s for all I know) and started to replace with new. This caused a decent amount of mess because of the need to chase wiring into walls and replastering and the natural amount of dust that's in a house of this age. The electrical install has had it's moments - the 'chef' is a German guy, very pleasant, but terribly erratic in the way that he works - for example he can turn up with 4 guys one day and then disappear for a fortnight. I'm trying to be accomodating - this is France and this is what we expected after all - and to be honest I'd rather it was like this and done properly rather than have it all done in a trice and have problems. At least this way we get to test drive it all properly. If he's not here tomorrow though ....

Decorating. We've decided to do a quick tart up to make the place a bit more cheerful and inviting for the Summer and all the visitors we have in August. To that end we've quickly painted the two bedrooms upstairs and the guest bedroom downstairs (thanks to my folks for painting and cleaning duties). Also Bob & James from Girton motorbiked over and spent a week laboriously painting the front room, hallway & dining room (a huge job, given the state of the walls and the amount of paint required). Many thanks to Bob & James for their efforts and a lot of fun during their stay - shame the weather wasn't better for you - and please come again soon.

So, that's good enough for the Summer now - the Autumn and Winter will be a slow process of tackling the house room-by-room to make it 'nice', probably kitchen first, when finances allow. I'll also be repointing the front of the house, something I'm desperate to get my teeth into, but am leaving until some of the more important work is done. There's also the small matter of a new bathroom and fitting out my office in what was the old workshop ...

More news soon ... and pics ...

Thursday, 9 April 2009


I've neglected the blog of late but then we've been busy ... and bought a house. It's the one pictured below at Corme Royal, a nice little village about 5ks from where we are currently renting. It's bang smack in the centre, a sinner's crawl from the church and equally near the bakers and most importantly the bar (in fact I think I may be able to hop over the back wall if I'm in a hurry). It's a traditional Charentaise stone townhouse, with 'some work' to do to finish and there'll be plenty of room for visitors: please bring a paintbrush.

The boys are doing well at school and are beginning to grasp the finer points of French vocabulary. Bev practices hers with the local Mums when she drops the boys off at school, picking up all the local idioms when she can keep up. I continue to speak French like a half-wit and wish I could have been bothered more at school. Harry's football team have continued after the midWinter break and after a couple of storming games have now reached the final of Le Cup, to be played next month sometime. Followers of youth football from the UK will be pleased to learn that French youth football is as full of colourful language (from the touchline) as back home although, in general, the players seem better behaved.

We had a spell of beautifully warm weather a few weeks ago (hot enough for me to get my nose burnt, which I was hugely pleased about, it still being March) and Spring has definitely sprung. Apparently the weather in general this year has been particularly cold for the region and by now should be consistently mid-20s - yes please!

Other stuff going on 'down on the farm': Jim has been preparing his sail boat for a trip down the Medi to Valencia, the boat has been thoroughly painted and repaired and he's due to set sail in a few weeks; Farqua, the leader-of-the-pack horse has gone back to the rescue centre after she kicked one of the other horses - the other horses seem much happier without her; Rosie, the only remaining puppy, is getting stronger and spends most of her day chasing or biting any part of her mother that she can; two rabbits have been added to the menagerie after Jim found them running down the road.

A family return to the UK (planned for April) has been postponed because we're too busy with house stuff and trying to save a few Euros for unexpected bills and furniture. Yes, we have no furniture or white goods or anything really - not even a telly :^(

We're due to take possession of the house in late May, hopefully move in in June after the place has been rewired. Cross your fingers that the exchange rate remains kind when we have to pay for all this ...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Corme Royal House

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

More househunting

So, the househunting continues ...
The number of houses viewed must be well past fifty now and we've looked at the details of probably hundreds - getting really hard to keep track of what we've looked at and exactly why they've been discounted. We've put offers in on three different houses (the La Brousse house, the St Romain House & a house in Soue (not pictured)) since Christmas and been knocked back on all occasions - I think this means we are cheap bastard carpet-baggers :^) but we're determined not to get stitched up in a plummeting market. The extra expense of buying a house over here is pretty outrageous; up to ten percent (!) for the estate agent, approx seven percent for fees and taxes at the notaire stage. Pretty much all the houses we've seen also 'need work' to some degree and artisans don't come cheap as their own taxes are high and they must guarantee all work for ten years. Or they think we are mugs.
Have to say it's hard being 'without a house' as I kind of like pottering and fixing stuff. The pile of DIY and renovation book pron is mounting as I hanker to get my teeth stuck into a house project ...

The weather is getting warmer. Oh how we laughed when we saw the BBC News showing the UK under thick snow and the usual travel chaos and media whining and complaints about gritting etcetera. At least we were smug until we had a few storms over this way; high winds unlike any I've ever experienced before, strong enough almost to knock you over. Surprisingly little building damage, although I guess most of the houses are built of stone. The weather did knock the satellite dish out, mind, and I've had to suffer no Match of The Day for the last three weeks. Hopefully the satellite man is coming tomorrow! :^D

The Jack Russell pups next door are getting ready to leave for their new homes: the boys were allowed to name them and they ended up as Rufus (in honour of Phil and Jackie's dog), Patch, Snowy (the biggest and totally white), Olly and Rosie. Rosie is the girl pup and the only one that will stay. On the plus side Kiara (the huge white german shepherd that lives there too) has finally decided that she's not going to eat the pups and that they're actually horrid, irritating pests as they all try to bite her at once.

I'm back in the UK for business in the first week of March (first items on the agenda - proper beer and pie) and then back 'en famille' at the end of April.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

St Romain de Benet house