New and Improved (Exactly the Same)

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Tuesday. The lock of the front door seized up with the key stuck firmly in it. After repeated attempts to remove it I settled for leaving the key in the lock overnight and bolting the door from the inside. Faced with having to break the key off and replace the whole thing, we levered the key with a screwdriver and it gave way and came out, slightly bent but still usable. We removed the lock, doused it (I don’t think that is too strong a word) in WD40 and I wrapped it carefully in a towel in my handbag, like a puppy. Today, in LeClerc in Limoux, they cleaned the lock and cut 2 new keys for 21 euros and it is working again. Not only is this cheaper than buying a new lock, I was able to easily re-fit it myself without damage to the door, and we can keep the beautiful original lock. Not to mention that my handbag is much lighter!

The meeting with the builder was a real mix of good and bad news. Yes, the roof will be very expensive (though hopefully less than he originally quoted) but also yes, the house is actually pretty much structurally sound. The ‘sound’ bit was the last thing I had expected. He reasoned that the 400 year old beams are still supporting the weight of all the original floor tiles, so they are strong and we shouldn’t worry about a bit of movement. There’s logic to it, and he demonstrated his point by jumping up and down on the spot several times where I want to put one of the extremely heavy and apparently very humorous ‘baignoires anglaises’

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Buoyed by this news I started removing the hideous 70s-patterned fabric from the walls of the Club Room (see remnant hanging right of photo – this awful material was covering every wall, right up to the ceiling). There are 3 or 4 layers of paper underneath before I reach the plaster, but it is encouraging so far. It would be lovely to be able to get one room looking presentable fairly soon, so that we could use it as a kitchen-diner, somewhere to have a cuppa and a sit-down, or even a glass of wine. Yes, that would be wonderful

I think I’ll have to settle for painting over the wainscotting. It is going to take forever to strip back this ‘brown stuff’, and then I’d probably paint it again anyway. But under the fabric wall covering was a fascinating glimpse into the thought process of the evil genius who decorated this one room, back in 1970-something:

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Yuck. They went to great trouble to select just the right shade of … whatever it is

‘Normandy Grey’ by Little Green would look a treat with the floor tiles and fireplace. It would certainly be more restful than this, but I am letting my imagination get ahead of things. Back to reality, I have to meet the electrician and the plumber tomorrow so that they can also scare the bejesus out of me, but tonight I am shacked up with a baguette and a very nice cheap bottle of red wine. Outside il pleut, in our house il pleut aussi, but in this apartment il fait tres chaud..

(smiley face, smiley face!)

First step to owning our new gorgeous wreck/house in Quillan

Today, nearly 5 weeks after having the offer accepted on the house in Quillan we have finally been able to return the Procuration and pay the 10% of the purchase price to the Notaire. I am so excited I could just explode. These are a few of the photos I took when I viewed the house, but there are a lot more! It feels like a crazy derelict film set and there is no sign of anyone having done anything to it since 1970-ish. The design on the walls in the so-called ‘Club Room’ (6th picture – will explain later) is actually fabric rather than paper. The same thing has been done in  the ‘Jewel’ room (with the stained glass French doors to balcony). This is love. True love. I can see the next few years of my life being spent trying to restore this amazing house, and I cannot wait! The fireplaces look to be in pretty good decorative nick except for the black one in the salon, which someone has tried to forcibly remove, and so broken in the attempt. I am sure we can get something done to reinforce it. I also found a small area of hand painted design on one wall, which may be the last remaining trace of the original 17th century building. I am sure the fireplaces are later and that someone remodelled the entire place into a very grand house in the late 18th century, but hopefully I will be able to find out more once we have the paperwork and the keys.