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

 

 

 

Riches to Rags, Defiantly

I’m charmed by neglected things and the spirit of defiance

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There are cracks in our floor, but the tiles are almost more beautiful because of their imperfections. Theirs is an honest story of survival and service, the history of the house itself

Yes, I’m charmed by neglected things, always have been. Recently through necessity it’s French architectural salvage, though I’ll never turn down anything pretty or useful

Or in need of help

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Found in the garage – Pretty AND useful?

I have optimistically bought old radiators from Ebay, with no idea if they will function in France (or at all), and I can’t wait to see the plumber’s face when I show him my latest treasures!

But I am sure our very likeable builder now understands some of the vision for this house. Initially I was made aware by friends that he prefers to rip out and modernise everything (and this was borne out in our early meetings), but I have noticed a subtle change in his attitude – ‘un change de tête’ after further visits. Standing with me in the house, he admired the quality of the ironwork on a window one day, and he talked about how attractive the old shutters will be when sanded and refreshed – yet weeks before he might have suggested replacing them. I might be imagining it, but

I think the house is actually getting to him

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This house has a true riches to rags story, though no-one seems to know the details. And though it doesn’t need anyone’s approval but ours, I suspect that there lurks in our builder a real admiration of this strong survivor, cherished and valued for centuries before being left abandoned and neglected, exposed to the elements for decades. I think he now has a better understanding of why we are doing this and how hard we are prepared to work towards it

It can never again be pristine. Perhaps it never was, despite its grandeur. But pristine wouldn’t really do it for us – we’re not pristine either

How could anyone not love this house, if only for its total defiance?