Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Taking the plunge

So, last summer, during lockdown after selling up in the South of France and moving more northwards, we bought a house after one visit... as you do. It was a 'coup de coeur'  (blow to the heart) as the French saying goes, and it still is; a wonderful, characterful place with the most intriguing and beautiful garden. The house was at the lower end of our budget so we knew there would be work to do, and there is, and of course, much more than we anticipated. We've done a few of the essential repairs - re-fashioned chimney as it was in danger of collapse, a renovated dormer window (Lucarne - or the wonderful name of sitting dog, window) leaky velux window and smaller renovation - floor boarding the top floor and re-doing, in a budget fashion, the top bathroom, etc.

Now, it's the really serious stuff. The things that need to be accomplished in order for us to make an outbuilding into a rental space - something vital since most of our other plans have temporarily (or possibly not temporarily) dissolved due to the pandemic. For about three months I've been wandering into the afore-mentioned space, vaguely attempting to clean a few of the blocks of tuffeau (the local white - or should be - stone) before wandering out again with fear and angst settling into my bones at the enormity of it all...

We got quotes and have gradually got used to the scary nature of their contents, finally picking a local building firm. They've been here for two weeks now and are actually a pleasure to have around - chatty, always turn up when they say they are going to and explain everything in detail that they are going to do. A little like that comforting way that a really good dentist will - now, this here is a stone-chainsaw, and this a 50lb lump hammer, and that, a very special stone drill. Don't worry, everything will be absolutely okay and it won't hurt at all - just your bank balance will be rather sore...

Yesterday and today the head builder and his main 'colleague' worked on demolishing quite a lot of stone to make a large doorway, and digging out the floors to an even level to eventually put down insulation and concrete. It's fascinating seeing the plans (tentative scribbles on an envelope) come to life; just looking through the newly made openings gives one a strong idea of how the spaces will work, even imagining the  rooms as they will be, salon, bedroom, bathroom, etc.

Although feeling fairly useless most of the time apart from handing our team cups of coffee/glasses of water, we did prove our absolute worth as reptile tamers today... I was just settling into a spot of writing when there was a fairly anxious sounding rapping at the main door. Mark answered and shouted up something like: 'help needed!' Horrible visons of the second in command-builder trapped under a beam or similar in my head I reluctantly left my office (bed with hot water bottles) and found Mark removing a large stone from the corner of the room, the two builders hopping from one foot to the other, eyes wide, expletives issuing forth. They had uncovered a large nest of snakes, obviously a favourite spot in that room as I had often come across one sliding along the floor at dusk towards its den. We lifted all eight of them into a carrier bag, dropped it and all the snakes wriggled forth, builders practically screaming. Made a second attempt with a 'bag for life' and hastened to another outbuilding to set them free amongst wood and damp debris where I hope they will be suitably housed. 

Apparently snakes keep rodents at bay and having had experience of the latter involving chewed water pipes etc, I'd far rather welcome snakes to lodge with us...

So, the work continues and I still haven't calculated where we're at with all this, but less budget and things moving positively forward rather than a bigger budget and being paralysed with renovation fears feels distinctly more exciting.


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