A Plank of Wood and a Glass of Wine

In some places this project would be considered therapy

I’m not really the mental psycho bitch that I am often portrayed as. For example, this weekend Baz came to France with me and helped me put skirting board around our tiny multi-angled bathroom, working around the cast iron bath, sink and loo already in situ. Despite these frustrating obstacles we worked well together, didn’t break anything and didn’t lose our cool in the afternoon heat. By the time we were cleaned up (Baz loved his first ever experiences of cast iron bathing luxury this weekend) and taking aperos we remained very relaxed and still on speaking terms

Always a good start to an evening

Through necessity, the bath is installed in a fairly small space and there is nowhere to put toiletries (the name ‘roll top bath’ sort of gives it away really)

A shelf on the wall next to the bath would look cramped, but my memory strayed back to childhood: we had a hideous broken plastic bath rack across the bath, as I remember

There are some vintage 1920s metal bath racks for sale as well as a few modern ones, but I felt that a metal rack could look very fussy in the small space. In fact, the designers of some of the modern ones have totally lost the plot, adding ugly random sticky-out bits to hold wine glasses, books, tea lights, as well as the necessary shampoos etc

Baz had some interesting ideas for add-ons but I cannot share these here

They’re a bit niche

I went into a very expensive bathroom showroom and said ‘I don’t suppose you get many people asking for bath racks, do you?’
It seems that my instinct was correct. He only had one silly rack which cost more than our entire bathroom

So I consulted my erudite friend, M. Google, who introduced me to the simple wooden racks – rather like chopping boards – that can be bought for not very much, according to M. le Goo

I decided that I would make my own, using a piece of old wood found in the house itself. I had visions of using a patinated oak floorboard, of course

There are none going begging, as far as I can see 🙂

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Before and after some graft

But last night after the plumbers had left I found this unpromising shelf, recently ripped from a (probably late 1800s) walk-in bedroom cupboard to make space for a water heater. I removed a few hooks and nails from the underside, cut a piece off and then scrubbed it with steel wool and white spirit. As you can see, the wood came up nicely and I even left the original uneven unsawn edge. I added toilet seat dampers to protect the bath enamel and to hold the shelf in place, then treated it with an oil-based waterproof finish. Simplicity itself

I could have added a wineglass holder, but no-one tells this psycho bitch where to put her wine glass I don’t think I need one

It could almost double up as a cheese board!

If IKEA had made it, it would be called ‘BJÖRD’ or ‘BÊAM’

But they didn’t make it, did they?

Because it belongs to this house, a token minimalist item. And it cost nothing

The bath will be an even greater pleasure this evening, I am sure, now that I can enjoy a glass of red wine and listen to a bit of Lana Del Ray…

Object of Desire

What’s black and white and grows in the bathroom

‘Your bath looks wonderful’ said a friend. ‘It’s as if it grew there’

The bathroom is finally coming together exactly as I had planned, dominated by the roll top bath. I was unreasonably thrilled when the plumber confirmed that I could have my first bath today – nearly two years after buying the house

And yet, as it approached 8pm I realised that I had been finding things to do and putting off filling the tub. I had really stuck my neck out by insisting on a roll top bath and it had caused a lot of effort for everyone. Supposing I didn’t like it? I was even obsessing over the idea that it would not take the weight of the 120kg tub full of water and me, and that it would fall through the floor, leaving me cold, naked and alone in the hallway downstairs

But it looked so inviting, and I was filthy

Yes, I had to improvise a bath mat (today’s dirty T-shirt) and my toiletries were balanced on the taps, but I was so euphoric after finally taking the plunge that I composed an Oscar-type thank you speech in my head as I bathed. ‘Thank you Baz for believing in me when I bought this house and this bath back in 2015, and for allowing me to fritter away war could have been our pension fund. Thank you to the Smiley Plumbers for doing what I asked, even though you thought it was wrong. Yes, you did. And thank you to the bloke on Ebay who was chucking away the bath of my dreams,’ etc …

Afterwards I ran downstairs to check that water was not pouring into the hallway. (Oh, me of little faith!)

I texted people to tell them ‘I’ve had a bath’

I called Baz, still full of enthusiasm. After all these years he still just laughs and says ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy’

The guy’s a saint

This gorgeous bath, including the taps and shower thing, came out of a house three miles from us in the UK, where developers had gone in :(. The site manager just wanted a few notes and collection within 24 hours. Two years on, it has found its homeIMG_4386

Why do people choose acrylic baths over cast iron? Enamelled cast iron looks wonderful. The smoothness of enamel is calming, cosy and warm, like a big cuddle. It’s huge. It cleans down so easily. Oh, someone stop me here! I have spent the last forty-odd years since my childhood dreaming of another cast iron bath while everyone else has moved into the acrylic future

What am I missing?

Good Friday Round Up

Two men in a mid-air wheelbarrow – what could possibly go wrong?

I quietly admire the French disregard for health and safety. I’m never sure if it’s borne out of genuine belief in what they are doing, or (more likely, I suspect) simply a heartfelt cocksure two-fingers-up to everyone

Either way, as the wannabe bathroom progressed this week, a lot of tramping through the house with buckets was avoided by using a cherry picker up to the first floor balcony, loaded with an oversized wheelbarrow, loaded in turn with pre-mixed cement and two shovels. What I hadn’t expected was for the two guys to jump into this wheelbarrow and to shovel the cement over our balcony and onto the bathroom floor

Clearly, madness

Two men in a mid-air wheelbarrow? Well, it worked brilliantly. There should be a dramatic picture here but one was face on and that’s an invasion of privacy. The other had an inadvertent (I think) builders bum. Also an invasion of privacy, and I’ll spare you

I really am a bath person, so I had a bit of a wobble when the building crew told me I wouldn’t fit my ‘baignoire’ into the tiny space, but Smiley Plumbers Un et Deux, for there are actually two of them, said we’d squeeze it in, though we did only half-joke that I will have to dive in

The guys have worked so hard this week. They were here until 6.30 last night because the toilet was problematic. It didn’t help that I had brought them a cheap flatpack English toilet to work with, which had terrible instructions and a totally crap diagram – none of us recognised the ‘black ring’. Three of us pondered the issue that ‘we don’t have zeess system in France’ and ‘ze wall it is like zeess’. It is indeed ‘like zat’, all organic shapes busting out where you least need them, but when I said I still wouldn’t plasterboard to assist fitting the loo, they didn’t throw a strop, but found an equally organic solution. All credit to them

Today we all three walked the house again and discussed places for the radiators. Of course, everything we do here is a compromise because this lovely old house was not built for modern life, but I have enormous respect for the guys working on it. They remain polite always, they good-naturedly tolerate my British humour (and I frequently resort to humour) and they respond with theirs. Ultimately they see what the house’s beauty means to me and there is an unexpected synergy

Joyeuses Pâques, tout le monde x

 

 

 

Take Nothing for Granted

Water or wine? Sometimes either will do

(My apologies if the image is terrible. WordPress is trying to force me to buy an upgrade, so it is showing all my images as low-res and is deleting any drafts that I start. You may not even be reading this!)

Written one hour ago:

It hadn’t occurred to me to ask before, so I asked the smiley plumber this morning:

‘Est-ce que l’eau est potable?’

He grinned. Of course it is drinking water. After eighteen months we can finally go to the tap and have a glass of fresh delicious water. And it really is delicious, better than that bottled rubbish I’ve been used to. I had woken up with a caffeine withdrawal migraine, so I grabbed some tablets and the only glasses we had were a set of champagne flutes

Santé, tout le monde!

It’s Wednesday and this was day three of various people in the UK, the Netherlands and France making well-intentioned promises about Monday’s delivery: ‘this morning’, ‘this afternoon’, ‘tomorrow morning’, etc. It’s now nearly 6pm and it still hasn’t turned up

I will have no-one to help me to unload the goods tomorrow. If they ever do arrive, that is. But that doesn’t bear thinking about, as it contains a lot of things I have bought and squirrelled. Things that belong to me

Perhaps the migraine is more due to stress than to coffee. Stress is less easily remedied, of course

It might not be the best time for looking at colour charts for the head in a bag room. I’ve been torn between something fresh and airy and something dark and stormy. Guess which one was winning today…

Ooh! Perhaps that driver’s head in a bag would top it off?

At this stage I was about to press ‘publish’ but there was a man outside..

Update at 7pm

Yes!! It has arrived. And though the Ukrainian delivery guy didn’t speak French or English and looked like he wanted to kill me (probably mutual, in hindsight), and while the box appears somewhat weary and deflated, I think everything’s OK inside. Good job I stuck a few pillows in with it!

Finally I can go and shower, and celebrate with another glass of water and another look at those colours I chose

Maybe the smiley plumber can install a wine tap as well?

Fifty Shades of Greige

Because blandness comes as standard

Last night hadn’t passed as I’d hoped. I had barely slept and each hour was marked by the church bell, one hour behind time. At first I thought I had dreamed that my alarm had gone off, because the 7am sky was non-committal, not the bright blue I had expected

And so, the word ‘greige’ surfaced, a word I originally learned from a very bouncy Etienne Daho song on my playlist back in Brussels circa 1991 (I still sometimes play it). I grabbed my phone again and checked for the exact translation of greige, which is ‘the colour of silk in its natural state, a light grey towards beige’

I might have said ‘muddy’

My phone reassured me that it was currently clear and that the day would get better. Of course, all that time spent awake during the night had encouraged doubts and thoughts of ‘what am I actually doing?’ to creep in, and I was glad to see that the sky had changed to clear azure as promised. I put those negative thoughts away. I had a lot to do

My day was spent stripping wallpaper and sweeping out the bulging fire grate in the ‘head in a bag room’, which is now ready for washing, filling and painting, and should probably be re-named before I get too used to calling it that!

The delivery I had been expecting all day didn’t arrive. I worked until I was filthy and exhausted and I could barely put a sentence together when Baz called. My clothes and I were by now fifty shades of greige so I took a shower at my rented apartment and recovered with a mint tea in the sun

The builders had left nothing but this cabinet in the bathroom. I can only assume that they thought I’d want to keep itIMG_5105I ‘took care’ of it as soon as they’d gone for the day

I was in the supermarket this evening with plenty of red wine in my basket (I absolutely have to sleep tonight) when the plumber called me. Just five minutes later we were back in the house talking waste pipes, British taps and toilet installations, and I am delighted to announce that thanks to their work we now have a cold water supply officially inside the house and that a basic bathroom will be installed within the next week or so

I must go now. I must sleep, and that wine won’t open itself

 

Beauty Versus Usefulness

a tale of tiles and toilet talk

The long-awaited first bathroom is still (long) awaited, but getting ever closer. As I head back to France this weekend, I don’t yet know exactly when we will have a working toilet etc, but I do know that we are making progress

I showed Baz the beautiful tube-lined tiles I had found online as we sat on the sofa one morning before work

That’s when he used the ‘F’ word at me

‘Functional’

What he actually said was ‘Don’t you think we should go for something functional in the first bathroom?’

Functional is not a word we often use in our house – dysfunctional, yes, but functional, no. For instance, I would probably never buy anything purely because it was ‘functional’. So this suggestion was a real shocker for a woman finally reaching the stage of planning something decorative in this so far very un-decorative project. And I guess he must have awoken my inner dark passenger, completely unafraid to use her own ‘F’ word:

Functional? Don’t talk to me about (f******) functional! Finally I get the chance to do something gorgeous and you talk about functional?

There was more, but I risk wearing out the asterisk on my keyboard

‘OK, OK,’ said Baz, grimacing. ‘Just. Please. Never make your face look like that again’

I did realise that he was – at least partly – right. Our choices should be fairly sensible (yes, I hate that word too – and you might notice that I used the word ‘should’). While I still dream of art nouveau splendour and art deco sophistication, we cannot justify those tiles. This little bathroom may not be all it could be, but I am nonetheless very excited at the prospect of starting this project and I now have the scheme completely mapped out, barring the practicalities!!

‘You’re thinking about tiles again, aren’t you?’ said the all-seeing Baz, one day as we were driving home. I was, but it was just a daydream

So this morning, when I received an email from the smiley (he thinks/knows I’m bonkers) plumber asking me to start thinking about how I want the bathroom to be equipped, I was totally ready for it

I even offered to draw him a plan…

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tube-lined tile from Conway Road

 

 

 

What Remains

Elle ne rit plus

After a day of noise aplenty, this evening is extremely quiet. Even the pigeons have packed up and left

Downstairs is now a full-on building site, and barely feels like our house at all

That’s OK. I know there has to be a time like this, when there is less house than there was – literally, as we are three walls down from my last visit. Numerous pickups loaded with rubble from the false walls and the huge stash of charbonne have been a sobering reminder that there are some things best entrusted to the ‘better equipped’ than we are. We could not have done this part of the work

Newspapers show that the last time anyone lit a fire here was January 1973. Makes sense

The house is temporarily without radiators, and the hallways are suddenly broad and impressive. Every single pipe of any sort in the house has been cut with an angle grinder. Plus, the sink, the bidet and the disgusting laughing toilet are all gone

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‘Elle ne rit plus’**

** That’s the last of the toilet humour, I promise

The defunct monster boiler and fuel tank have been removed, as well as three monolithic cookers of various weights and ages, two of which were up on the second floor and required huge effort to move. There is a double bed wedged into the top staircase at the moment, yet somehow that doesn’t seem important. The air is thick with dust and I have retreated to let it settle overnight

But I feel that it has been well worth coming down for this. There is now a definite commitment on both sides and stuff is happening

There will be a bathroom of sorts this summer. And a (relatively) clean area to make toast and coffee until we get a kitchen built

Feels good. Feels really good