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…

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?

 

 

 

 

The 24-hour Roof Terrace

A pop-up roof terrace but it couldn’t last

front roofFor one day only we had the roof terrace of our dreams. On Wednesday evening the guys left the front attic fully exposed to the sky, creating fantastic views of the hills, both east and west. It was stunningly beautiful and peaceful. I cried

front roofIt was the pop-up roof terrace that could never be, thanks to local restrictions. At least we were able to experience it, however briefly

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front roofBy the end of Thursday it was fully enclosed once more, before the rain arrived. All beams and boards had been replaced, and there was no trace of the terrace of the night before

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What a difference a day makes

Having lost this spectacular terrace, the attic space will be used for chilling in the evening with a drink – and a pool table?

Peeling Back Layers

It’s a random sum

There’s something about stripping wallpaper that to me is very therapeutic. The downside is that it can be immensely hard work when there are numerous layers and RSI sets in. Multiply the layers by the number of rooms to strip and the total here becomes at least fifty, perhaps seventy. I don’t know what that number means – it’s a random sum – but that’s what we’ve got. Yesterday that total equated to around about a year’s solid work for me

But today that number has been considerably reduced, courtesy of one of the roof guys who saw me labouring away and brought in a stripping product for me to try. I tried some last night and can confirm that the sum will now be divided by perhaps ten, meaning that naked walls will be achievable in about six or seven. I started again this morning after a coffee

The effectiveness seems to be due to not only the product, but the application using a pressurised spray (‘vaporisateur’), the type you sort of jump up and down on to build up pressure

When we were kids there was a product that was regularly applied to prevent greenfly in the garden, not only by our parents but by us, very willingly, because it seemed so much fun to use the spray thing. It was called, enchantingly, Killa Spray. Therefore, before anyone gets too precious about using spray substances to remove wallpaper without proper mask/ overalls/ ventilation I would suggest that any damage was already done back in the seventies

So, the concentrated product is enormously diluted with water (we’re back to wallpaper stripper now, I very much doubt that Killa Spray still exists) and is used to soak the paper economically and evenly. A few minutes later a scraper will just lift the paper cleanly. Voila! C’est fait!

I admit that I am not so tough, I do wear gloves because my hands are like beacons of abuse right now. But I am also really enjoying removing wallpaper in its truest purest form as therapy

IMG_8092And as you can see they’ve left some spare paper in case I change my mind!

Things in the Roof

Slept in today and woke at 8.40 – probably due to having a proper pillow at last and the excitement of watching last night’s fantastic rugby game

I hung out for a bit in the attic, ankle-deep in pigeon droppings as usual and picked up a few bits of crap among the way

There was a broken moulded tile of some sort, complete with incy wincy. I took photos – recording everything – and a piece of rusted hardware that probably needs to go back on one of the shutters at some point. We seem to be treating this place like an archaeological dig as much as a renovation. I tried to remove anything we wanted before the roof guys just sweep it all out. I also found what must be the original frame for the lantern over the stairway. I only realised what it was when I saw broken glass caught in the torchlight

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Looks like he’s got a spider on his moustache?

There was newspaper dated Tuesday 26th April 1955, stuck between rotten floorboards. I couldn’t decide the reason for the paper being stuffed down there and I don’t advocate using it as a DIY material, but it had survived over sixty years before I dragged it out. Will the house now collapse?

The church clock struck twelve and I retreated downstairs for lunch with my carrier bag of tragic treasures, like some compulsive shopper covered in cobwebs. On the way out I also recorded the final resting place of the last pigeon. It’s sad, it’s gruesome, but she probably had a good long life. I didn’t put her in my shopping bag. Charlotte will probably complain

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Sorry, have I gone too far here?

I love how France stops at lunchtime. I love that on a Sunday there is nothing to do. Nothing but potter

On the way downstairs I grabbed the few items of textiles that I had squirrelled away for washing at My Home from Home from Home this evening. I don’t know if any of the pieces are to my taste, but if I can’t find a place for them, someone else will

 

 

Things Removal Men Say

Do they have to share opinions?

The two guys delivering my much-fêted pillow also brought some other bits I’ve been hoarding in the UK. They did a good job overall, though at least one of my Fragile – this way up boxes, containing an irreplaceable wall light, arrived the wrong way up. I pointed this out to them as they unloaded the vehicle and was greeted by blank expressions. After 20 years working in relocation I see that removals men still have no sense of orientation. Hopefully my packing stood up to this abuse

They made the normal compulsory comments about the size of the house, the state of the house, are we going to turn it into gites, etc, and had a bit of a dig about ‘the French’ while they were at it. They were just trying to make polite if opinionated conversation

Among the goodies was one of a pair of leather club chairs that we can’t fit in our living room at home. I had them place it in the empty salon, where I have now successfully tested it. It rocks

Then it happened…

‘Now this’, said one of the blokes, himself a Brit living in France, ‘is a man’s room. That armchair there and a big TV on that wall, that’s all you need’ He kindly expressed through mime the approximate size of his enormous imaginary TV and indicated the wall where I should put it, between the elegant, if very shabby, French doors

I really don’t think so

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A Gentleman Calls

An elderly gentleman from Narnia, that is

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This morning I was waiting for my pillow (and a lot of other ‘stuff’) to arrive and using a wallpaper stripper to free up the left half of the front door in advance of the delivery. Just as I managed to free it and push it open, an elderly man with a shopping bag stopped in his tracks on the road outside, put down his bag and looked in

He greeted me and asked whether it was now my house, so I suggested he come in and look around. He became quite animated and said that he’d always wondered what it was like inside. He took off his gloves and left his bag in the hallway, while I gave him an abbreviated tour (first floor only), very conscious that he might not be as nimble as he looked. The house met with his approval and he told me exactly where he lived, including a direction involving a wardrobe(?), and told me to knock on his door any time and say my name, and he will provide tea or coffee, according to my preference. I’d followed what he was saying, except that I hadn’t really listened to the actual street address – I didn’t see me calling in on him anytime soon. But he wasn’t leaving anything to chance: before he left he took out his phone, gave me his name and number and had me call him there and then, answering ‘hello’ into the handset as he stood in front of me.  Clearly not an insane axe murderer, just a delightful old man on his way to the market. He kissed me on both cheeks and went on his way, just as the pillow crew turned up

While the pillow people were there I noticed Monsieur’s gloves on the radiator

Oh merde! I should have paid attention to the address. Now I had to call him, of course. Baz called to talk chickens, perfectly normal daily stuff for us. I told him about the meeting and the gloves. ‘It’s a ploy’ he said, laughing and reinforcing fears that I’d pulled

Shortly after, the gentleman called me. I told him I had found his gloves, and he said he was on his way over. When he arrived he explained again where he lived, including the bit about the wardrobe. It was only a few doors away. Would I like to see where it is?

I followed him around the corner and we climbed the stairs, turned left and passed the said wardrobe, next to which was the door to his flat, where we were greeted by a well-kept ginger cat, who took time to check me out before allowing physical contact. I didn’t go in, but could see that it is an elderly single man’s home, the walls and furniture dotted with numerous dusty notes and photos. Perhaps he has numerous cats too. Anyway, he repeated his invitation to me for coffee

So I will go and say hello, take some cake and have a chat (or un chat) for half an hour sometime this week. He’s too close to ignore, I have time on my hands and it might just make his day

P.S.   Thank you to whichever blogger/s recommended ‘All the light we cannot see’. I am about two thirds through it now and it is one of the loveliest and most beautifully written books I have ever read