Friday, 31 October 2008

28 October 2008 Tuesday - moving tale

No wonder it seemed like a long day yesterday. I got up when my phone alarm went off and I had not put it back an hour on Sunday…..
Not a good night’s sleep again due to the smell of the paint and the rain hammering on the roof just above my head non-stop all night.
I start tackling the bedroom skirting boards and door frames around 11am as the rain eases and the light levels raise slightly.
By noon it is hammering down again.
At around 1pm the white van arrives and the bee man, Daveed (French pronunciation) and a mate start bringing up bits of furniture and cardboard boxes. Unfortunately I was still in the middle of painting so I am unable to provide you with an inventory of his personal effects. Rain is now hammering down again.
Will David be a noisy tenant? Will he leave the house at 5.30am like his predecessors? We will see.

I finally finish painting and clean up the equipment, leaving the dragging back into place of furniture and the vacuum cleaning til later. I wonder how many posts out there in Blogland have the words vacuum cleaning in them today?

Today is day one of my chicken stew. I chop up the contents of my pot au feu packet of vegetables (4 carrots, 2 onions, 1 leek, 1 Satsuma sized purple and white thing that is maybe some kind of turnip, a leaf on a thin green stalk which is listed as celery, 1 chicken stock cube in 500 ml of boiling water, black pepper, 2 chicken breasts. This fills my biggest saucepan to the top, but it looks a little on the dry side, so I add some red wine. Saucepan lid on and start cooking on 5, reducing to 3 once it has got up a head of steam. Cook until you cannot be bothered waiting any longer. Then eat with chunks of French bread.
Actually I still have 3 chicken breasts left so this could last 5 days, as I add in mushrooms, potatoes, peppers etc to bulk it out!
Perhaps I should write my own French cookery book. “L’un pot per week, cuik beuk” All I need is a list of 5 or 6 different meats to ring the changes. Vegetarians can just leave out the meat and the stock cube, and add in more veg.
It is getting colder in the evenings, so rather than sit in my scarf and hat, I switch on one of the electric “radiators” in the living room. This is one of five left in the apartment that were probably not exactly cutting edge technology when they were new about 8 years ago.
I also roll down the automatic window shutters and draw the curtains.
The good news is that these measures raise the temperature by one and a half degrees!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

27 October 2008 Monday – The paint and the bees

Happy birthday mum!
Another painting day. I give the bedroom walls 2 coats of emulsion and one side of the bathroom door its second gloss coat. This takes ages.
Around noon my door buzzer (which it turns out is quite appropriate) goes and I stop painting and look out of my window to see who it is.
It is the young man who enquired about the 1st floor studio a few weeks ago. He is standing outside the main door chatting with Madam. I go downstairs.
It seems that he is moving in tomorrow at noon. The lettings agency has not told me anything about this, so it’s a good job that I didn’t strip all the wall paper off the walls. and had finished painting the window and frame. I still have to resolve the cooker hot plates resting on the fridge and dismantle a large metal and plastic table.
He tells me that he has lived in this studio before and in the even smaller one on the ground floor. He asks me how much the one on the ground floor is to rent a month. He tells me that as far as he knows, he is the only one who has ever rented the ground floor studio. It is, he says very cold and damp in there due to the earthen floor cellar underneath the house.
He looks after bees and would like to rent the ground floor studio in April as a workshop for him to make royal jelly. I am sure that he would be looking for a reduction in rent for this. I am also sure that there are probably lots of rules and regulations about running a business from a private dwelling, not to mention the food preparation hygiene regulations.
I hope my builders get their fingers out soon and return as the humidity / ventillation issues are ones on my list for them to resolve.
So from having two tenants who cut down trees, to one who looks after bees.
He also drives a big van, so one van will be replaced with another.
It is another lovely day outside but I miss it all as I batter through with the bedroom and hall painting.
After this there is some skirting board painting to do, and some touch up work in the bathroom and kitchen. But that can wait for a bit.
I put the bathroom door back on its hinges. Of course it no longer closes. I will need to buy a chisel to take some wood off the edge of the door.
The bedroom walls are still wet in patches when I go to bed in the evening. It has been a long day.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

26 October 2008 Sunday – Vicky Christina Barcelona

Last night I tried to figure out how to work one of the cheap timer switch plugs that I bought a few weeks ago. Over here electricity is cheaper to use between 11.30pm til about 7.30am. Madam has previously told me that that is the time to have my washing machine on.
I look at the 3 tiny graphics which explain how to set up the switch. They are indecipherable. Eventually I think that I have got it sussed and I pull out the pegs to make it switch on the washing machine at 6am tomorrow morning.
I fill the machine with clothes and soap, turn the dial, and it begins the washing process right away….
I will have to practice with a table lamp to perfect my time setting technique.

This morning it is bright and sunny, so I hang the washing out to dry.
Next I take my tin of exterior wood paint and spend most of the day giving all the window wood that I can reach 2 coats.
In between, I sweep the studio, clean the floors, shower etc. The former tenants didn’t do an even passable job in the cleaning department.
I find that there is only one screw and cap holding the toilet seat in place. How can you lose something like that, or did they snap it off?

While I was in town the other day I looked at the cinema door to see what films were showing. It is “Vicky Christina Barcelona” , Woody Allen’s latest film.
I look the cinema up on the internet. It has about 144 seats, so it is quite small.
Wrapped up warm and clutching my 5.50 euros and with 6 Werthers Originals in my pocket, I set off at 8pm.
There are only a handful of seats occupied and I go for a seat in the middle, about two thirds down from the back. The seats are still very new (I think it re-opened recently following refurbishment after being closed for 7 years.)
By the time the adverts for local businesses start the place is about one third full.
The film is set in Barcelona, so it was interesting to see some of the places that I had visited during this summer, again. I will also need to go back to see the bits of Barcelona that they showed that we missed.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

25 October 2008 Saturday - emulsional

dUp early to go shopping at the retail park. Windscreen is frozen. Good job I dragged that spare sheet of fibre glass insulation material under the house and put it against the water pipes for the 4 apartments.
Eventually able to see through the windscreen so I set off. Intermarche first then Bricomarche, where I buy more emulsion, exterior wood undercoat and exterior wood paint.
By the time I have loaded up my car the sun is shining brightly and all thoughts of the morning frost have vanished.
I spend the next 3 or so hours sanding down the window woodwork in the 1st floor studio, applying masking tape (why does the window have to be multi-paned? Then applying the white undercoat.
After a sandwich, I walk into town. As usual on a Saturdayat 3.30pm, there is hardly anyone around, but the cafes with tables in the sun are doing well.
The English shop is closed until 4 November so I cannot ask about airport parking at Toulouse airport.
I take a few photos and return home about an hour and a half later.
Here is the small “recycling centre next to the Orange / SFM shop and the Halle au grains.












And here are two people enjoying the sunshine at a café.








The scene of yesterday’s road accident on my road but just out of sight from my window is marked on the road with green fluorescent paint.

Monday, 27 October 2008

24 Oct 2008 Friday – I don't want a Wee-Wee

I wake up to a temperature of 2.4 degrees outside. I try out the heated towel rail to find a good setting for towel drying. Because of the way my electrics are wired up, I cannot link the various electric radiators back to an automatic timer system. I must remember to switch it off later.
I was going to do some painting but it is market day and too cold to have the windows open.
I find a hat, put on a jumper, scarf and my thick leather jacket and I am ready to roll. In the sunshine it is very hot, but in the shade it is cold. I wander around the market in the town centre. It has more stalls than usual today. There are a lot of food stalls, selling fish, meat, bread, honey, spices etc and one stall selling a selection of (I think) dried fruits. I recognise prunes and apricots but there are also whole bananas??? And other unusual items.
The usual knife, clothes, hats, leather goods, sheets, kitchen utensils, books, DVDs, knitwear, shoes, boots, basket ware etc etc.
I did not take my camera or you could have seen some of the more exotic goods like long pink eels.
I realised later that the extra stalls are from underneath the Halle au grains across the road. The Halle is a metal structure built in the 1800’s which is now closed for refurbishment for 7 months from Sept til mid March next year.
Here are some photos of what it looks like at the moment.








It is boot season, and if women are not wearing their black leather boots (just below knee height), then they are trying them on, oving about the pavement to get a good view of their booted legs in the mirror which is propped up against the shoe stall at a jaunty angle.
On the book stall there are several “Little Noddy” books. Over here however, he is called “Oui-Oui”, yes that’s right, pronounced weewee! I promise you that I am not taking the piss J I did not look inside the books to see what Big Ears is called. You can have too much excitement in one day.

In France comic books or BD (Bande Dessinees) are very popular reading material for young and old. A Tintin BD here would cost me 6 euros. Much cheaper than in the book shops.
There are also boxes of Crime, SF etc BD’s for the older reader. I must come back and buy some at a later date. I have been looking at them in the local bookshop, and these are at least half the shop price.

I cross the main road and head towards the medieval part of town, which lies in the shadow of the castle. Lots of fruit and veg stalls in the abbey square, but I don’t buy anything, I just stroll in the sunshine. The sky is very blue and there is not a cloud in the sky. Perhaps it will freeze tonight once the sun has gone?
Next stop is the bread shop for my olive bread, then I head for home and some lunch, nibbling the end of my bread as I walk along. Easy-peasey you might say, but the bread may have been in my back pocket….
Late afternoon the traffic on the road outside my house looks like this.









is at a standstill and an ambulance arrives. I didn’t hear a crash this time so I don’t know what happened. The road is reopened about 30 minutes later, much quicker than the motorcycle / white van smash a few weeks ago.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

23 October Thursday - a load of old rubbish

Today was another painting and cleaning day. I gave the bedroom side hall a second coat and various parts of bedroom walls got 2 coats. The bed and various bits of furniture had to be moved to get access to wall. The small kitchen / washing machine / sink area will have to wait until another day as the walls there will need to be cleaned first. They are thick with grease as there is a cooker point there and no one has cleaned the walls for a long time. The roof is at its highest point here and the grease reaches right to the top.
The space available to work in is too narrow for my step ladders as they are, so I will need to take the supports off the ladders to fit into the gap.
I also painted hall 2 which leads from the bedroom to the toilet and to one of the two exit doors.
Next it was downstairs to paint some of the ceiling beams in the 1st floor studio.
This morning when I pulled the wheelie bin back onto my parking area, I watched the neighbour’s stained mattress (which he has dumped against my boundary wall) steaming as the sun gained heat. There is also a broken parasol and a box full of old kitchen pots etc on my wall.











In the afternoon I look out of the window and see the neighbour’s wife sitting on my parking area wall, presumably waiting for a lift from someone.









I think to myself, “He’s dumping his wife on my property now” and I go upstairs to take a photo. I decide to move the mattress etc back onto the neighbour’s property.






Much better position

By the time I get downstairs, the lady has gone. I duly move the rubbish from in front of my house.
It is time to pack up. My paint pad is too soggy and drippy to continue today.
I reply to Y’s email of the previous evening, saying that it is a pity that she is leaving the choir for this year.



Saturday, 25 October 2008

22 October Wednesday

Up late today after a poor night’s sleep. Some emulsioning todayI and receive some more emails from people who have looked at my choir photos on the internet.
Choir again this evening and there are fewer people than usual. 39 instead of the more usual 50+. Tonight the tenors split off into a new room, but it is a complete waste of time as there is no piano there. We give up after about 15 minutes and return to the main room to join the basses and the altos.
We are each given a long awaited CD with our parts of the petit messe, by Rossini which we can take away and listen to as homework. We have almost reached the bottom of page 6 of the 30+ page score. Progress should be quicker now if everyone does their homework.
A tiring day but as usual after choir practice my brain will not close down. This time I do not go to bed straight away, but stay up until about 1 am.

Friday, 24 October 2008

21 October Tuesday - DIY

I go into town to buy the two birthday cards from “Simply British” the English shop. I manage to post them into a post box before noon. Then it is over to Casino to buy provisions again.
Now it is time to start painting again. I dig out paint and brushes and paint the skirting and door frame in the bathroom. I also paint one side of the bathroom door and undercoat the hall side of the small bedroom door. No sign of the builders yet to discuss my next list of jobs to be done. The next few days of postings will probably be brief, whilst I catch up on some DIY.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

20 October 2008 Monday – Avant moi le deluge

Lots to do today but another crap night’s sleep, so I don’t get out of bed until 9am. After speaking almost no English for 2 days, French conversation was running round and round my head,
I start getting the painting paraphernalia gathered together in the bedroom. Despite the poor weather forecast it is a glorious day, so I go down to the ground floor studio to open the shutters and windows to air it out.
I go into it’s shower room and there is water on the toilet seat, on the floor, splashed over the walls, sink etc and the shower has black water lying in the tray.
The tooth mug on the shelf has half an inch of dirty water in it.
I whiz upstairs and get the key for the 1st floor studio. It looks like the water has come from the fridge / washing machine area of the room.
I send an email to the letting agency to let them know that I am not happy.
I need to go into town to get a birthday card for KTW and mum, so I pick up a poly bag and head for the stairs.
The tenants have arrived followed shortly by a man. That’s quick.
I ask the bloke who he is. He is from the lettings agency.
I tell him about the flood and take him downstairs to show him.
We go back upstairs and he starts poking around their shower room. I direct him to the kitchenette area.
Sure enough there is water beside the fridge. The tenant unplugged it last night. I pull the fridge out from under the cooker (don’t ask), and there is a big puddle under it. the top of the new fridge is also burned and has bubbled up from the heat from the rings above it. Perhaps the fridge the previous owners bought was too big for the space. There is no side support for the cooker/sink unit at that side, so anything heavy placed on it could lead to contact. I must get this sorted quick. Where is your builder when you need them?
I leave them to sort out the mess.
The sun is still shining and I get 2 cards from the English shop. I sit in the sunshine to write them, then post them in the “etranger” section of a post box.
I buy some more supplies from Casino and head for home.
The tenant’s van and the agent’s Audi have gone, so I dump my shopping and head to the flooded studio to check on it.
It is bucket and bleach time, so I clean the walls, floors etc. In cleaning mode now, I sweep the staircase and the hallway and mop that too.
Finally late afternoon I get a reply from the letting agent. There is not a problem, the agent and the tenants have dried everything out.
Also they are in the process of checking the references of the next tenant for the studio.
I go down to the studio to check. Pulling out the fridge, it is still standing in a big pool of water. The inside Perspex trough has about half an inch of water in it and pulling out the tray from beneath the ice compartment about half an litre of water sloshes onto the floor. Fortunately I brought my mop and bucket down with me. The fridge has not been cleaned. I am not pleased, so I email the agency again to tell them that the floor and fridge have not been dried out. I also tell them that I have spent part of the afternoon cleaning up the dirty water from studio 1. Also that the electricity and the automatic water heater have not been turned off. I refrain from saying that the agent who came out is obviously a useless ****!
I lug the stepladder down and arm myself with wallpaper paste and implements. I begin pasting up the bits of wall paper which have begun to part company with the tops of the walls. Showers of grit and dust descend upon me. After the paste runs out, the worst of the paper is repaired and I sweep up the debris and mop up.
Sometime during my lunch I also put some of the photos from the choir weekend outing onto a flickr account which I have to create. You can see them at

http://www.flickr.com/photos/foixgraham/sets/

It’s best if you view them in slideshow mode. Wish you were here?

I make a chicken stew for tea, talk to S on Skype and start writing up the last 3 days worth of blog.
The weather forecaster on the tv is giving out an orange alert, with 3 months worth of rain due to fall on some neighbouring departments to the north east.
I go out right now and shut the velux window on the landing just in case…

This is a photo of my tenants at about 10:15pm just before they drove off with the last of their belongings.

yes that is a sofa just sitting on the top of their van.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

19 October 2008 Sunday - The autumn walk

I slept well last night. I look out of the window and in the direction that we are going, a low mist is covering the hills.
Breakfast tool of choice is a bowl. You can have cornflakes or yoghurt, then put tea, coffee or hot chocolate into your bowl and drink that. There is also bread and home made preserves. I try the peach and the prune.
Eventually we set off in convoy. I and another chap stop in Vicdessou (can’t remember the spelling) and get a lift in his lady friend’s car.
Then it is up the hairpin bendy road to Goulier where there is just room for us to park at the end. There are already lots of cars there. The road is wet and it is misty in the hills. I have put on my new walking boots. New as in not used before.
Compared with my new companions I am sadly underequipped. Quiet at the back there!!
The majority have at least one walking pole, many have two. I have none.

We set off walking up the road and most are well wrapped up against the damp, with bobbly hats in place. As we commence our walk upwards towards the ski station (where we will have our barbeque) we break through into sunshine. The autumn scenery is stunning with the trees in a variety of golds, reds, browns, greens etc. There are also the views of the mountains and the small villages nestling in them.
The “easy” climb is tough going, and there is not much talking going on as we pant and wheeze on our way.
After about 2 hours we reach our destination. We are not on top of the world, but we are quite high up.
The ski lift lies silent, its tow bars stored in piles on the ski refuge floor. Someone tells me that these slopes usually have snow in winter, but that because it doesn’t get the sun at that time of year due to its location, it is a very cold ski resort. I say resort, but in this case it means a refuge with a small snack bar (closed at the moment), and a single line ski tow.
Other members of the choir are there already, having driven up to the ski station.
Trestle tables and chairs appear from the refuge. A fire is lit and the aperitif food appears. Olives, dried sausages, nuts, nibbles, breads, etc etc. Do you want to try my home made black wine? Yes. It tastes a bit like sherry.
Once the fire is ready, huge coils of Toulouse sausage, ribs and other meats are cooked. Big pots of salad appear. The two hamburgers that I brought along lie cooked but untouched on the table.
Where is your plate? They ask. Now no-one mentioned the need to bring along a plate or cutlery. Someone lends me a spare plate, and I have a small folding knife/fork/spoon set with me.
I sample other wines and top up with a lot of orange juice. I should not be drinking orange juice, they say.
Then the sweets come out.
Now it is time to sing. I chat to Y who is a retired French lady who taught English.
There is no escape from the singing though, and I have to sing a Scottish song.
The singing goes on for ages, but it is all French songs that I do not know.
It is starting to get chilly by the time we head back down the mountain. It is tough on the old legs and my right boot starts to rub the front of my leg.
Back down at the car park I drink from the prehistoric spring, which still has two large stones standing upright to mark its place. Out come the trays of figs again.
Eventually we get back into our car. “Are you coming to the lac?” I know nothing of the lac. There is a café there and a lake. We are going to the lake because it is too early to go to the house of R in Sigeur. After the lake we go to R’s house to eat the remains of the food but they need time to get it ready.
So I get into JP’s car and off we go even higher this time perhaps. We certainly seem to be high. More hairpin bends and eventually we reach the café, which is closed of course. There is the lake. We wander around a bit. I find two huge mushrooms but my mushroom expert is nowhere to be found, so I leave them.
Next stop the small village of Sigeur. It turns out that the house is the holiday home of the gentlemen I spoke to at Goulier Neige. He lives in the next road to me, speaks English and was stationed at Dalcross and Lossiemouth during the war.
I am given some foiegras to try. I have a glass of orange juice in my hand and am told that it should be accompanied with white wine, not orange juice. But I will be driving, I say.
The night draws in and more food appears on the long table under the loggia. An open fire burns in the outside grate. Given the opportunity, I think that most French people could eat and drink all day. I can see it now.
Jean-Paul, the house is on fire. Quick grab the bread, the sausage and that nice Bordeaux that bought yesterday!

At around 10pm I make my excuses and leave. As we arrived a mobile police patrol stopped one of our number for a chat. He was carrying a box with bottles of wine in it, so I was half expecting them to be waiting further down the windy road to catch the revellers. Fortunately the road was quiet and not even a police patrol was in site.
Reached home with no problems. Well done satnav.
It has been an enjoyable weekend. It is always more difficult when you are not sure what exactly is happening next, but everyone has been very welcoming and friendly. I suspect that there are still a few who I haven’t spoken to, but that is probably because they think that I will not understand what they are saying and vice versa.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

18 October 2008 Saturday – Sentenac

The day is a cool, grey one. 5mm of rain is forecast for the town, but the outlook is “sunny”???
I hope that the weather will be dry in them tharr hills.
I get up at 8am and after my shower and breakfast, I start putting together everything that I think I might need for the weekend.
While rooting through my drawers I find a rucksack….. Oh dearie me! I say.
The tenants’ windows are still wide open and there is no sign of their van.
Should I leave them a note asking them to shut their windows if they are away overnight? Should I use my keys and go and shut their windows.?
Building security issues. What a nightmare. It would happen when I am away overnight.
I see that HB is the first “follower” registered on my blog. It’s good to know that someone out there is reading this fascinating account of my life’s journey,

I have some lunch then load up the car. Sat nav programmed, I set off into the grey afternoon. I arrive at my destination with no problem, 5 minutes before official welcoming time.
A couple of people are there already. We will be allotted rooms this evening. We have a cup of coffee and eat some of the figs from peoples’ gardens, home made citron biscuits etc then it is down to the business of the day.
Various sheet music is handed out. Drinking songs in French and Italian. Two hours of singing follow.
Then just when it looks like we might be having a break, the men go off with the choir director and practice other songs. One is an update of “little red riding hood”. She shoots the wolf with a machine gun “taca, taca tac”
Surely this is the end of the practice. Nope the choir director has to go and perform somewhere else this evening so the pianist takes the choir members through everything again.
At last it is time for room allocation. There are around 26 people. There are 7 couples, so couples are to be allocated their rooms first. It appears that there may be more than 7 couples as some more are couples for the evening.
(There are non-singing people there with choir members too)
I am in luck and I get a room with 4 bunk beds in it all to myself.
No time to rest though as it is time for our aperitif. Choir members have brought olives, Pringles, cheese, bread, sausage etc etc and wine. Then it is time for the meal.
I sit next to people that I have not spoken to before and the meal passes fast.
We start off with a soup plate for our soup, and this plate stays with us for the steak and roast potatoes/mushrooms, lettuce, slice of cream cake, cheese. In that order.
There is also red wine. I then have 2 cherries which have been preserved in eau de vie. This strips my throat much to the amusement of all.
I then have a drink of something else which has no effect much to their disappointment.
Then one of the men recites a few poems, and humorously acts out following a recipe for cooking chicken involving glasses of whisky.
Tables are cleared and it is time for the initiation ceremony for new people.
I have to sit in a semi circle with the other lucky people an “Did you know Elaina went to Paris?” “No what did she buy?” “She bought a ….. you get the idea. We took it in turns and had to keep doing all the actions at all times. It was fairly exhausting. And all in French!!!

Monday, 20 October 2008

17 October 2007 Friday - Moving out?

A good night’s sleep for a change, I get up at 08:45. The sun has not shown its face, so I do some blog uploading. Once again the web host site, messes me about, especially with uploading the smaller of the two videos of the road safety event earlier in the week.
Tenants downstairs moved their armchairs and some other stuff into their van and set off just after noon.
No landlord worthy of the name Rigsby would refrain from doing some “research”. So I go downstairs and look through the keyhole. The studio looks bare of furniture, but there is still a pair of shoes on the floor and a few other small items scattered about. I think that they will be back.
I do not know where exactly this holiday village is that I have to find on Saturday, so I email la Presidente of the choir. Fortunately she is online and sends me the actual name of the place and further details.
I meant to walk into town for the morning market, but it has drizzled off and on all morning despite the TV5 online weather forecast telling me that it is sunny today. The weather doesn’t look promising for my weekend trip
Suc-et-Sentnac for the Saturday afternoon and overnight. Use link above for more about the place I will be staying including its live webcam, then up into the mountains at Goulier Neige Ski Station for the walk and a picnic/barbecue on Sunday. (no snow there at this time of year)
Waiting for a bright patch to appear and wanting to be able to leave at a moments notice, I have not done any decorating this morning.

At half past three I set off into town. In the shop above the shop above the Casino buy a rucksack for 20 euros for tomorrows trip. They I buy some more cereal, honey and chicken stock cubes. I bought sweets, 2 hamburgers, 4 burger buns for my weekend trip, in Intermarche the other day. The market is just packing up and very few stalls are still in business. The streets are almost deserted except for the beggars and their dogs.
My parents have been visiting a school friend of my mothers in Gloucester for a week. They will be seeing old friends and visiting some of the events at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. Mr Jonathan Dimbleby talking about his “Russian Journey” is one of the events.
I look at the arrivals time for them landing at Inverness airport. The plane should have arrived late morning so they should be home by now. I phone but no answer. I try again late afternoon, but no answer. I phone my Aberdeen based sister. Where are my parents? I ask. They don’t get in until about 4pm she says. It turns out that the evening before they flew to Bristol, they discovered that their flight was from Aberdeen airport and not Inverness… Good job they looked at their tickets in time. My sister tells me that she and second born RW went to a Hoosiers concert last night. It was 2 warm up bands i.e. 2 hours before the band came on to play. They did not have an interval during their set as KW reckons they don’t have enough material to have a middle to have a break in. The weather is freezing there (shame) but the band were very good.
But I digress.
A very fine rain starts to fall but it is not enough to get me wet.
I get back and the tenants are making hammering noises, which is a bit worrying. More stuff is loaded on to their van and they drive off at 5.15pm leaving their windows, which are situated directly beneath my living room window, wide open.
In Rigsby mode I go downstairs later in the evening and look through the keyhole again. Now there is a big wardrobe in my field of vision. Were they building a wardrobe?
S has booked flights to come and see me in November for a couple of weeks so that is good news.
By the time I go to bed at around 11pm, the windows of the tenants’ apartment are still wide open.

There and I thought nothing had happened today.

16 October 2008 Thursday – Dull day

A bad night’s sleep last night so Today it was out with the big tub of white paint to complete the living room bits and pieces. I also start on a small section of the bedroom where I think the yet to be bought wardrobe will go and part of the adjacent hall until the paint in the tray runs out.
It is a grey day and the light is so bad that I cannot see where I have painted. I quit decorating for the day and by late afternoon I am not feeling too good. Whether it is the smell of the emulsion I don’t know, but I go to bed for an hour at 4pm.
I cook a pizza for tea as an easy option, but the goats cheese makes me feel a bit queasy.
After chatting to S on Skype for a while in the evening, I turn in early with my sore throat, cough and headache and go to sleep almost immediately. Will I ever shake this cold?

Saturday, 18 October 2008

15 October 2008 Wednesday – The end of the beginning

Today was the day of reckoning and the builders would be returning late afternoon to finish off the trunking and to give me my account for payment.
I get the emulsion paint out and do a first coat on the new wallpaper that I hung yesterday, plus touched up some other areas needing a lift.
I tackled my blog entry for the art exhibition. Just like the day before, the photos and text would not stay in the position that I wanted. After over an hour I just had to publish it as it was.
The paint was still drying so I tackled another outstanding issue. My orange internet/telephone/TV package account. I managed to log myself onto the system and was delighted to find that I owed them nearly £230. They haven’t taken any monthly payments off me yet, and my free calls that I thought I was getting have cost me £50 so far. The builders arrived and the usual greetings ensued. “Is everything well” they enquired. I said that no everything was not well and explained about my unexpected phone bill. The builder reads my orange documentation, his son gets involved too and eventually we log in to another part of the system and I find that the option for free calls to land lines in Europe, that I thought I was paying 7 euros a month for, was not enabled. It took more poring over the documentation before the required password was located and I added the option to my package.
It was about 6pm by this time and the builders very kindly said that they would install my heated towel rail for me for free, which was very kind of them.
It took them quite a while, but by the time it was installed I had signed copies of the 3 accounts, (something about claiming back VAT or paying less VAT due to it being restoration work on an old property? Something else to add to my “I must find out about that” pile) and written them a cheque.
So phase one is completed.
The builder will return next week to look at the downstairs studio dampness and ventilation issues, the shonky stair treads on the main staircase, the leaking pipework under the building…. Will I be in? he asks. A tricky one to answer as he is vague about date and time.

Following on from my visit to the art exhibition on Sunday, the builder’s wife has very kindly invited me for a meal at their house. I have not got good eyesight and driving along twisting narrow, un illuminated roads in the dark would be a real nightmare for me.
The problem with this weekend is that I am going to be away on the choir outing on Saturday and Sunday. I had to show them the outing instructions. A discussion ensues about where the place that I am going is. The builder says that it is north and I say it is south west. So maps and the Internet have to be consulted etc.
I think that I am now going to lunch at their house on a future date to be arranged.
How many of you have been invited to your builder’s house for a meal? Things are certainly different here and the people all seem to be really nice and friendly.
By the time they left I just had time to make something to eat, get my choir stuff ready, tidy up a bit before heading for the door. The full moon was shining above the castle and it was a very mild evening. Fancy not having taken my camera to choir practice!
Choir was tough having missed last weeks practice and my throat was still playing up. The higher notes especially made me cough.

I handed over another cheque. This time to cover the weekend outing costs.
Practice finally ended at 10.45pm and as usual my head was buzzing.
As I approached the house, I could see that the studio tenant still had the light on and the window open. As I climbed the stairs there was a dreadful smell of burnt cooking. I hope that that was all it was, as a previous tenant of that studio managed to char the wood panelling . I finally in a cooking incident. I switch off the light at 1.30am hoping sleep would come. Of course it doesn’t.

Friday, 17 October 2008

14 October Tuesday 2008 – Safety first

My first walk into town for a long time. There are still lots of lizards darting about the garden. Here is a photo of one that stayed still long enough to be digitised.








The weather is glorious and as my hair is a mess (my nail varnish is chipped too), I decide to do some haircut pricing research. There are many hair salons to choose from, but I want cheap. Prices seem to range from 12 to 15 euros for a man’s cut. In one salon I could have my hair rearranged for 20 euros.
I am fed up, so I go into the first hairdressers that I passed. I get my hair washed and cut. I really just wanted it cut as I had only washed it 2 hours before. Anyway I sit very quietly in my grey open-fronted smock and rubber neck guard, while the lady snips, blows then trims away. It doesn’t take as long as it used to.
There is some debate as to how much to charge me and the shop staff settle on 10 euros (£8). There is a gents hairdresser up the stairs in the same building, so they probably don’t get many men going in.
I head towards my bank, but in the main square there is a road safety week going on. The place is heaving with gendarmes of every rank. The “Road safety village” as the large cordoned off area is called, is rammed with school children of various ages. They can put on a pair of special glasses and try and walk in and out of cones. They can go on a motorbike simulator, look at the drugs equipment and information stands, look at police motorcycles, test their reflexes etc etc. The two most interesting items were a machine that simulates what it was like to have a crash at 10kpm and another machine that simulates what it would be like in a car if it rolled over and over with you in it. Both of these of course indicating the importance of always wearing your seat belt. See the videos.
videoNo prizes for guessing which is which :-)
video
I was also given a few goodies which included a one use breathalyser kit. Wait at least 15 minutes after you have been drinking and don’t smoke during the time that you are testing yourself as this could skew the results.
I collect my top up insurance credit card from the bank then head to the Casino to top up my caramel tea supply and a few other items.
S and I saw various types of “Flammekeuche” as menu options at the Irish pub last month, but we did not know what it was. Was it stir fry?
I spotted a packet marked Flammekeuche in Casino, so I bought it. It is like a pizza on thin, flat pitta bread.

Talking of bread, here is a photo of the olive bread
baked over wood that I like.
So now you know!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

13 October 2008 Monday – Running water

I spend the morning putting up strips of wallpaper that I cut to size yesterday. This is to cover the cat damaged and damp affected bits that I inherited in the living room. I had to wait until I found a roll of woodchip paper to blend in with the existing paper. This takes until about noon by the time I have tidied all the stuff away.
I decide to copy the CPAM form that I was sent. I switch on my desk top computer but it no longer wants to boot up. The fan whirrs but no one is at home.
My scanner and printer are all from the Windows XP operating system era, the same as my desktop.
I get the extension reel up from the studio and plug the scanner and printer into it. The windows Vista on my laptop hates my printer and my scanner, but especially my scanner. It is 2 hours before I eventually find software that will make the scanner work. Canon UK software does not work, I have to raid the Cannon US web site before I succeed.
At about 4.20pm the builders arrive. They start draining down my hot water tank in order to plumb in the pipes from the bathroom to the kitchen sink.
No major floods occur.
I have now taken the side off my desk top computer and am kneeling on the floor looking hopefully for a reason why it refuses to work.
The builder is very interested and his hands are soon busy in amongst the cables and wires. The connector to the hard drive is not fitting properly. It looks probable that when the shop in Clevedon fixed my computer earlier this year, they damaged the end pins on the drive. A tweak of a screwdriver and the connectors are bent to fit back in to the cable.
I try the main switch and we have ze beep, which means the computer is booting up. Then I put the case back on and connect up to the internet to download and apply all those updates that Norton Security systems have been itching to supply me with since I last powered up the pc online.
This takes a while.

I now have hot and cold running water in the kitchen. There is still some trunking to be fitted in the bathroom to cover the new water pipes, so the builder will be back on Wednesday afternoon to do that work, give me my bill and look at the next items of work that I need doing.

I start putting pots, pans and packets into my kitchen cupboards. This is what it now looks like in use, but tidy.
Note my massive Hansgrohe tap on my kitchen sink.







It was expensive and the big nozzle bit swivels 360 degrees. I will have to be careful with it as the stainless steel sink flexes quite a bit when the tap is used.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

12 October 2008 Sunday – Exposition, La Tour du Crieu

During the week, Pascal the young builder, gave me an A5 piece of paper which advertised an exhibition of art in the nearby village of La Tour du Crieu.
His mother is showing some of her sculpture and paintings there.
The weather is good, I look the place up on the Internet and set off. Taking my sat nav with me just in case.
Of course I come off the main road too early and get lost. I switch on the satnav. I am just over 3 km away. I follow the instructions down little roads until I get fed up and head for a landmark that I recognise, a big water tower near the Leclerc in Pamiers. At the main roundabout I find a sign that directs me to the village and seconds later I have parked up.
There was a big sign to advertise the exhibition as I drove into the village, then nothing. There is a street guide near to where I have parked. There is no “you are here” sign so I am none the wiser.
As I walk into the village centre two young ladies on bikes ask me where the Huit a huit shop is. For once this is an easy direction to give as I had parked just across the road from it.
I head towards the red brick church. There are scouts about, so perhaps they are having a special service today. I find the right street for the exhibition and enter the restored building where it is taking place.
Just inside the door is Madam C, the builder’s wife. She explains about her sculptures (clay, or argile in French) and about her paintings, most of which are influenced by a holiday they had in Madagascar? Her paintings are very colourful and the ones on display are mostly of whirling Tuareg dervishes.
The pottery / clay items on display vary from a two sided / two faced African style head to a large flat gargoyle which usually lives by her swimming pool.
Her work makes a nice contrast to the other works being exhibited.

This is the lady whom you may remember recorded my answerphone message for in French sometime in September

She is not part of the main exhibition, which consists mostly of paintings on silk and some glass/clay/acrylic jewellery, but was invited by the art association to exhibit her work there.
The exhibition is very interesting and I am given a list of the paintings on show, their price (if available for sale) and a slip of paper on which to list my top 3 paintings on exhibit in order of merit. They will then be able to give a prize to the exhibitor who gets the most votes.
There is one painting of an older gentleman with a full beard and a beret which glows with life. Mm C tells me a bit about the painting and says that the man in the picture might come in to the exhibition. Minutes later he does appear and he looks just like the painting. He is obviously a local character.
After just over an hour of looking round, I have cast my votes, chatted to a few people and been introduced to Mm C’s sister whose work is also on show.
I take some photos of Mm C and her work, then I walk around the village in the sunshine, taking more photos of the place.

It may only be a small place, but there is a dog grooming parlour, beauty salon, hair dresser, chemist, a temple?? , post office, 8 a 8 store and a bakers and a bar which are still doing business after 1pm. There are some other shops but I cannot remember what they were. You will just have to go and see for yourselves.
I mentioned the church earlier. Here is a photo of it.
Adjacent to it is another village square which has an invisible road running diagonally through it. (I won't mention the dog crap in evidence there)
Here the local "facilities" are housed in a wooden structure. There is a sitting down cubicle with a door and round the corner there is a rather more open air piece of porcelain for the men or for the adventurous women.
But this is not the main point. On the outside of the structure there is of course a post box to deal with your postal requirements! The French think of everything!
There are even rows of coat pegs on the outside.

Then it is back to the car and this time the journey back home is easy.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

11 October 2008 Saturday - Pizza

There may well not be any builders today (they are coming back to finish up on Monday afternoon), but I still have to get up early. I missed out on buying fruit from the market yesterday and I am down to my last peach, 6 yellow plums and some grapes.
Once again the tenants downstairs woke my up at 5am.
It is a lovely warm day today from early on.
Intermarche first to buy some supplies, then followed by a trip across the car park to Bricomarche. I buy some clear varnish (a bit of a mistake as you cannot see where you have applied it on the velux wood, some lino glue and a nice “private property” sign to add to my car park “parking prive” signs. Unfortunately they only have the one sign in stock and I want two, so I will have to look next time. I also want two number 12 s to make it look more like my parking area belongs to a house number.
I give parts of the velux a first coat of varnish, and treat the worktop also. In three hours I can start applying a second coat.
The rest of the afternoon is spent bringing my blog up to date.

The old shower base

replaced by a sink unit






wall cupboards above the cooker and base /work top unit






Ah here is my pizza oven.






When it comes to evening meal time, it is time to break out the pizza that I bought earlier in the week as the first thing I cook in my new cooker. I take the wrapper off my 3 cheese pizza, then I look at the cooker dials and realise that I don’t know what the symbols mean. I read the pamphlet that came with the cooker. I have to have the oven on at 250 degrees for an hour before I use it for the first time, to get rid of any manufacturing residues. I also have to put on each hob ring for 5 minutes on full heat.
My pizza therefore takes an hour and 10 minutes to cook. The pizza is perfect.
I will leave the excitement of preparing my rings until tomorrow.
By the time I go to bed, I have given the worktop 3 coats of varnish and I have prepared part of the living room wall for wall papering tomorrow. If conditions are right.

Monday, 13 October 2008

10 October 2008 Friday – Almost complete

A cool day today. The builders arrive at about 9.45am and start their drilling again. They fit the kitchen cupboards but have problems finding bits of wall without hidden cables. Their wire finding machine keeps beeping all day.
Still studying in the present tense, I am doing reflexive verbs at the moment.
There is still a long way to go in my exercise book.
By half past 5, the cooker (Which has been a cochonerie to wire up) is in place, the cupboards are all installed. The sink is installed but there is no water supply to it yet. The fridge/ freezer is in place and the wall mounted fire has had to be removed to a) get the fridge freezer in and b) allow the freezer door to open.
The kitchen door has been put back in place and as a result, the oven door can only be opened if you close the kitchen door first.
Things are finally getting somewhere. Will I be able to sleep now that the fridge freezer is no longer in my bedroom?
The builder has supplied a small kitchen worktop which is just larger than 2 large table mats placed side by side. It is not conglomere he says, it is wood which is much better. It is untreated wood so this means that I will have to buy varnish to protect its surface from water etc. I also need to varnish the velux window and its surrounding wooden collar.


I have received various correspondence regarding my health cover and health insurance. CPAM has decided to change my social security number already, and I need to send them a photo of myself, fill in and sign another form and send it back to them in the envelope provided making sure to put a stamp on the envelope. I must do this without delay. I also have to enclose a photocopy of something, so I will need to work out what they want. Once they have received and processed my post, I will be sent my carte vitale, which I will need to show every time I need medical treatment, to pay for prescriptions etc. It will be credit card sized and will work just like a credit card.
The bank health top up insurance has also been in action, and there is another card waiting at the bank for me to collect. I wonder if the change to my social security number will cause problems? I will have to remember to take the letter in to the bank to show them. They will also want to photocopy the letter as they seem to photocopy everything.


In the evening S and I succeed in getting Skype video to work.
Another day is done, but not dusted.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

9 October 2008 Thursday - Bangers

The tenants downstairs bang about from 5am til about 6am when they finally close the front door for the day.
The builders arrive at 9am! and the banging and drilling begin again.
I receive an email from the choir president which contains an attachment detailing all the choir practices, including an additional evening and all day Sunday practice.
Something else to factor in to planning any trips back to the UK etc accordingly.
Still not feeling well every evening, so have not made any decision about the choir outing yet.

8 October 2008 Wednesday - comings and goings

At 5am the big black land rover from last night arrives and the driver is let into the 1st floor apartment. 30 minutes later he leaves with one of the tenants in the big beige van. At 7am they return and a while later the beige van drives off again. A bit later and the black vehicle leaves with the driver and the other tenant. Hopefully that will be that.
But no, at around 9am the beige van plus the tenants are back. Perhaps work is cancelled for today due to the rain?
At 10.15am the builders arrive, so I have a full car park. 2 cars and 2 vans.
The rain continues to fall.
The older builder asks if I heard from S last night. I tell him that it is true that she has resigned from her job.
There is a lot of drilling and banging during the day, and by the time they leave I have holes in another 3 walls. The flexible piping for the hot and cold water is now threaded through from the bathroom to the kitchen but is not connected and there is a black cable poking through the wall next to the fuse box.I am still coughing too much in the evening to go to choir practice tonight. I clear up some rubble and dust then start giving the kitchen ceiling and walls a second coat and the ceiling round the velux its first coat. Two hours later I give the velux area its second coat.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

7th October 2008 Tuesday - sky light

I get up early and open up some packets of dust sheets to cover as much of the computers, tv and bedding etc that I can, because they could be drilling through walls in the apartment today to feed hot and cold water pipes the bathroom across the hall and into the new kitchen.
The builders arrive and start bringing stuff up from their van.
During the morning they start making a hole in the roof





and by noon they have made a nice rectangular space and fitted a wooden frame into it.




Builder on the roof



They leave for their lunch and return after 2pm. By the time they leave at ten past 4, they have fitted the velux




view from velux window




and the toilet seat and have brought the kitchen units up to the first landing and the sink unit into the living room. They will be back tomorrow to start the hole drilling etc.
My cold has come back and by mid afternoon I do not feel very well again. It’s probably not helped by the lack of sleep last night.
The weather which was supposed to be at least as good as yesterday, does not live up to expectations and by 4pm it is dull and cold.
I have spent the day studying French verb tenses, but I am still living in the regular present by the time I call it a day.

I receive a text from S early in the afternoon saying that she has handed in her notice. I phone her in the evening and it is true.

Having furniture out on the landing is a bit of a worry and I keep going out to check on it. Usually the evenings are quiet, but not tonight. Two men keep parking on my “drive” and coming up to the 1st floor flat adjacent to my kitchen units, banging on the door and shouting “Mahmood”. He is out, but they come back at least 3 times over the course of the evening.
I go to bed at 10pm and it starts to pour with rain. I check on the new velux and there are no puddles on the floor.

Friday, 10 October 2008

6 October 2008 Monday – A false start and a shopping trip

I decide to wash the bed linen as it is such a warm day.
At 9.20am my builders arrive. They are not staying, they have to go and pick up the velux and the kitchen cabinets. There is a great deal of measuring then the cooker is examined to see what kind of cable will be required for it.
A diagram is sketched out showing me how one of the fuse boxes is dependant upon the other fuse box, which is the main one connected to EDF.
They could not pick up the velux and cabinets as planned on Friday as they had had to work until 7pm.
They will be back at the beginning of the afternoon………

The builder arrives just after 2pm. His van is full of my stuff and he is now going to go to his workshop and build and customise the kitchen units. He does a bit of measuring including my unconnected cooker and my working fridge freezer. He will be back tomorrow to fit the velux and everything, then he has gone.

It is still a gorgeous day as I head towards Pamiers and the temperature ranges from 27 – 32 degrees. It is summer again!
I food shop in Leclerc then head to the BUT just along the road. Inside I discover that it is much smaller than my local BUT. They have no storage panniers either so a wasted detour.
The roads are very busy, not helped by road works, but when I take the exit to get to Mr Bricolage a car has broken down just before the roundabout in the other lane. Eventually I manage to get across the queued traffic and into the car park.
I track down the heated towel rails and buy the cheapest on special offer until the 25 October. By the time I get it back to the car, the traffic problem has eased and I make good progress back home. It is a lovely clear day and I can see the changes in colour that autumn is bringing to the countryside. A line of the majestic Pyrenees are visible in the distance in front of me.
I lug the shopping and radiator up to the apartment and settle down for the rest of the evening.
I am knackered and cannot stop yawning, so I go to bed at about 8.45pm. I am still awake at 4am listening to a talking book…..

5 October 2008 Sunday - A walk and an accident

A warmer day than yesterday. I complete painting the undercoat in the kitchen then I go out for a walk. I visit a residential area which sits above castle height.
There are some nice big houses with decent sized gardens. It is also warmer up there as there is no big hill nearby for the sun to hide behind. There is however a large pile of dog crap outside one person’s wall.
It is very peaceful up there, with no traffic sound drifting up from the town. However the roads are fairly quiet today.
There is a row of separate apartment blocks being built which will nicely obstruct the view of the castle and town that the residents must once have had.

I have noticed that no one is interested in conkers. There is a big chestnut tree adjacent to the play area for children in the centre of town and the conkers lie scattered on the ground. On my way up the hill I passed more conkers on the ground outside a school.

I take a windy path down towards the town, pausing to take this photo of the castle and town roof tops. The path ends opposite the police station.
I continue my wander round the rues but there are only a couple of tourists pounding the mean streets photographing the Rue de la grand Duc.
I get home at about 3.30pm and start ploughing my way through an old music compilation tape that I must have made in the early 70’s. There is a news item that Princess Anne has fallen off her horse at Badminton? at the second jump. Prince Philip says that the jump is vicious and she is comforted by her fiancé Mark Philips. A bit of detective work later that puts it sometime between 28 July 1973 when they announced their engagement and Nov 14 1973 when they married.
Around 7pm I hear a loud bang. About five minutes later I see a neighbour running up the road towards the bend at my right, followed by his wife who is clutching a mobile.
I pick up the newspaper I used as a ground sheet and take it out to the bin. Just on the bend there is a van, a motor bike lying on its side and a figure lying on the road covered in a blanket. To my left I hear a siren and an ambulance arrives.
I return to the apartment and another ambulance arrives, a paramedic car, a tow truck a roads vehicle. Road closed signs are put across the road blocking access to all traffic.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

4 October 2008 Saturday

A proper sunny day so I get a load of washing on and hung out to dry. There is no breeze, but when I go to check on it 2 hours later it is dry.
I start taping paper round the beams and edges of tiles etc in the kitchen,
then I fill in more holes and cracks in the ceiling. I hope that when they start breaking through the roof to install the velux, they do not knock out my filler from the other areas of the ceiling.
As it is a nice day, I walk into town but as it is lunch time, there is almost nobody about.
Casino supplies my next two packets of breakfast cereal and across the road in the public car park, jazz music is playing loudly. Nissan have taken over a chunk of the car park to display their cars. Only two people are visible and they are not looking at the cars, just cutting across the car park.
I have lunch then go down the ground floor studio and bring up all my CD’s and the CD rack. Arranging these takes up a bit of time.
Finally I get out my paint roller, open the “easy open” tub of paint and set to work undercoating the kitchen. I leave the edges to paint tomorrow as last time the brush just scraped off the paint from the half dry areas.

3 October 2008 Friday

After a night of rain, I get up late at 8.15am. The tenant’s van is in the car park. Damn. This means that they will be up and down the stairs all day, so I had better postpone my stair repairs until Monday when they are out at work.
The sun comes out then goes in repeatedly.
At 10am I decide to head off to the fruit market to top up my supplies for another week.
I pop into the English shop and the owner tells me that the good news about the current cold going around is that after a week you think that you are getting better, then you get worse again.
My wood baked bread shop is open again after their holiday. There is no olive bread left, so I have to make do with a nut loaf instead.
The sun is shining, but it is cold in the shade and there is a cold wind blowing.
I look in the window of the internet café. A notice says that it will be closed indefinitely from the 14th October. It looks like the other mystery buyer lost interest in buying the business, or maybe didn’t exist in the first place.

2 October 2008 Thursday - shower and shower

sA builder free day and the sun is shining.
I test out the shower and it works okay. The toilet, still without its seat also works. The wash basin has one of those annoying continental arrangements where you pull a little rod located behind the tap unit to get the plug into the plug hole. It does not work very well, and the water runs out of the basin only slightly slower than the taps deliver it. I decide that perhaps this is a safety feature to prevent sinks overflowing.
I set off for BUT to buy 2 storage baskets for my unit. No the have none left. I go to Casa and buy a small metallic skeleton wardrobe to assemble for the small bedroom. Another self-assembly item to add to my repertoire. Then it’s off to Mr Bricolage to buy some more paint to complete the bathroom and use in the kitchen.
I check the weather forecast on the computer as it had indicated yesterday that it would rain today and tomorrow. The sun is still streaming in and I am thinking that they got it wrong. 30 minutes later the mist has come down over the nearest hills and it has begun to drizzle.
I start filling in the cracks and holes in the “kitchen” walls, then I move on to scraping the excess grout left on the floor tiles, wall, skirting in the bathroom. I discover that the toilet waste pipe is leaking, but only very, very slightly, so I just put a plastic receptacle under the pipe to catch the drips.
I decide to abandon my plans to fix the main staircase as it is now quite gloomy enough without going through a dark cupboard to reach under the stairs. I would also need to empty out the cardboard boxed, lawn mower etc.
Tomorrow then.
I even get the vacuum cleaner out and whizz it around the flat.
I listen to the copy of the Rossini mass we are learning that Michel gave me last night. It goes on and on for ages. Fortunately I think we must just be singing the first bits as it goes off into long solos.
At 6.50pm the builder’s wife phones. They won’t be coming to fit the velux window in the kitchen tomorrow due to the rain. They will arrive on Monday morning.
During the night the rain hammers down on the roof.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

1st October 2008 Wednesday

I am up 10 minutes early to make sure that I have showered (downstairs in the studio) and had breakfast in time for the builders starting at 8.30am.
At 10am the builder arrives and by 10:10 he is at work on the bathroom.
I decide that today is the day that I will start tackling French tenses. There are only a couple of interruptions. One when I have to go under the house to turn off the water to the flat, and one when I help him raise and tilt the shower cubicle on its tray, so that he can do plumbing things underneath it.
At noon he leaves for his lunch and he returns at 2pm. Progress is being made when at approx 2:40pm his mobile rings, and there is a lot of silence with just a few expletives emanating from the bathroom. A minute later my mobile rings. It is the builders wife, something about her son, his van and broken. I take my mobile through and hand it to the builder who is now finished talking on his mobile.
When he finishes talking to his wife, he says that he has to go. A woman driver in Varhiles has swerved to avoid a dog and has crashed into two vehicles, one of them being his camionette. The vehicles were parked and empty at the time.
The builder is rather distraught. He has appointments tonight, and tomorrow. I think he has plumbed in the shower but it is not finally fixed in place, the wash hand basin is not connected and the toilet has yet to be moved into position and its pipework (which needs some alterations as the floor level is now lower than it used to be) has not been touched yet.
He leaves his tools and says that he will see me later. Am I going out anywhere? I say no I am staying in.
By 2:50pm his van is disappearing into the distance.
I would not put much money on having any running water in my flat until tomorrow, never mind a working bathroom. But where there’s life….
Builder returns at ten to five and resumes work. He has an appointment at 6.15pm so this is when he leaves. The shower works and there is just a bit here and there still to do, but I can use it. The sink works. I have to wait until at least 8pm tonight if I want to use the toilet, so I think I will wait until tomorrow morning just to be on the safe side,
He will be back the day after tomorrow to put the finishing touches to the sink pedestal, put the toilet seat on etc. Then next week work on the kitchen and its skylight can begin as long as the weather remains dry.

There were a few empty seats at choir tonight, but still a large turnout. I handed over a cheque for 70 euros for the annual subscription and was told that later on there will be an additional 20 euros to pay. Something about debts from last year and sheet music.
Before the practice starts, the choir chief asks me to sing for him (perhaps he has forgotten that I did this 2 weeks ago). I decline saying that I have got a bad cold.

Details of the weekend autumn outing whose aim is to “reinforce the harmony that exists between us and to make progress in choral singing” are handed out.
There are various options, but if you go for the full thing, you stay overnight in a holiday village (bring your own sheets / sleeping bag and towels. This will cost you 30.50 euros and includes your evening meal on the first day and breakfast on the second. The evening meal on the first day will be preceded by singing festive songs at 3pm. Then there will be an aperitif at 7.30pm followed by the meal before a “peaceful and serene night”. Am I the only one who snores?
The walk takes place next day on the Sunday at 10am and lasts one and a half hours. Then there is a picnic at midday..We are advised that essential equipment to bring is a small rucksack, anorak, water bottle, walking shoes, things to snack on whilst walking, good humour and walking and drinking songs in equal measure. The final warning is not to forget to bring your meat with you to barbecue at the picnic.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

30 Sept 2008 Tuesday – a full deck, but no flush

I have a lot to get done this morning before the builders arrive to install my porcelain. I whizz downstairs and have a shower. Move my car so that they will be able to park their van as close to the steps as possible then I take the masking tape and newspaper off the ceiling beams in the bathroom and pick up my newspaper ground sheet. I warm up a couple of pain au chocolat and make a caramel tea.
The phone rings. The builder’s wife is surprised that I know who is calling me. Her husband will not be able to come this morning. He has another job to finish elsewhere. I ask what time they will arrive and am told that it will be some time around 2pm. This will give me the chance to try and clean up the wall tiles a bit. I also unpack the pieces of my cube and begin assembly.
Where is the sunshine when you need it?

Builder turns up at about 3.30pm and I am kept busy cleaning old silicone off the shower cubicle and the separate doors unit. When we lift the latter so that I can clean the underside, the top corner of the unit snaps and a piece of the plastic flies out. He says “putain!”
After a few minutes he has an idea how to fix it. He will bring some stainless steel screws to secure it to the base.
He receives lots of calls on his mobile, usually when he is in the middle of doing something, so he is not amused. Then an old lady phones him in a panic because the light in her cooker hood has exploded. He promises to drop in on his way home at around 6pm.
By 6.10pm the shower cubicle and door assembly has all been siliconed together onto the shower tray and the toilet and cistern are perched ready but unconnected in the bathroom.
The wash hand basin is visible in his box. He is leaving now but will be back at 8.30am tomorrow. We then chat for half an hour discussing what I might do with two of my doors. One option would create privacy for the main bedroom. He will bring a catalogue to show me.
I tidy up and go back to making my cube. I am soon ready to put the last two bits i.e. the top and bottom shelves into place. %”%”$%$£!!!!!! They say history repeats itself and indeed it does. The first piece of the unit has been assembled upside down and I have to disassemble and start again.
I manage to do this in record time.
I make scrambled eggs and salmon and have a big purple plum for afters. I was going to have a peach too but it was a bit hard. It is now 8pm.
I have missed my favourite French TV programme for the 2nd day running. Wheel of fortune! Not quite like the British version with Nicky Campbell and Carole Smiley, this one has Christophe, his small jack russel? dog and an extremely slim and leggy blonde called Victoria. Christophe likes to assist the ladies with skimpy tops as they lean over to grasp the wheel handles ready to spin the wheel. The cameraman likes this too. This show goes out at 7pm and one contestant worked in a lingerie and sex shop. She brought a vibrator for Victoria and an inflatable cow for Christophe. You don’t get that kind of entertainment on prime time UK telly!

Monday, 6 October 2008

29 Sept 2008 Monday garden thoughts

Pascal the young builder arrives to grout between the floor tiles. I am not to walk on them until at least 6pm tonight. Looks like a late night second coat for the bathroom. The good news is that tomorrow I will have the shower back, as well as a new sink and wash hand basin. No more having to trek down the stairs 2 floors to use studio 1’s facilities. Hooray!
Regarding my painting, Pascal tells me that the undercoat needs to be done fast, and that the next coat of paint should be put on slowly and carefully.

Food supplies are running low, so I go to BUT to collect my second cube, visit Casa to measure a garment rail hanger / storage unit and on to the Intermarche which unlike the other stores in the retail area does not close for lunch.
I do a bit of gardening as it is green waste collection tomorrow. Madam has picked a few of her remaining tomatoes.
She comes out and has a chat and tells me which herbs she has planted and where they are. She does not mind if I cut down the big tree in front of her patio area. It has a thick trunk and its roots have cracked part of the concrete path. Her cousin could probably do it in the spring next year… I wonder how much having a tree cut down will cost me?
I attach a further two “Parking prive” signs to the wall in my parking area. Madame does not think that this will do the trick. She thinks that only a chain across the entrance will stop people parking on my property. It would also be a bloody nuisance though.
At 6.30pm I start giving the bathroom a second coat. I run out of paint at 9pm but only small bits behind pipes and an easy to reach bit of wall remain to be completed. I will have to buy more paint, but I will be able to use it in the new kitchen, so not too much of it will be wasted. Another busy day over.

28 Sept 2008 painting

The day dawns sunny so I get the washing done and hung out. Feeling a bit better than yesterday so I start putting paper round the beams in the bathroom ready for painting the ceiling and walls this afternoon, and putting paper on the floor to protect the new tiles.
I have been clever and bought monocouche bathroom / kitchen paint. One coat paint. The tub feels a bit light and when I open it that is because it is only half full. S tells me on the phone later that this is because the French like to add water to their paint. I stir the paint as per instructions and apply it using a brush and a roller. This paint is like plastic. It quickly dries on the brush making for a nice streaky effect. The roller too leaves a disappointing finish. One coat is definitely not going to be enough.
The paint makes me want to throw up, so I open a window in the bedroom and things settle down a bit. It shouldn’t be a long job, but I am only running at 40% capacity by the time I finish about an hour later. It is only a small room and mostly tiled to between 5 and 6 feet high, but the beams are a real nuisance.
Tomorrow will have to do for the second coat.
Unfortunately I have not been to go to Lavelanet to help celebrate the nut fair. Still, one less nut won’t be missed.
I think there was a celebration of the potato somewhere a few weeks ago. It is also the time for the transhumance to start. That is when the livestock, probably mostly sheep, are moved from the low pastures to the high in Spring and vice versa in the Autumn. In many villages you can accompany the shepherd and his flock as they set off. Sometimes there is a communal meal as well.