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!

When Offered an Olive Branch, Wear Safety Goggles

a difficult decision – is it the right one?

To ‘offer an olive branch’ is to make good with someone, to try to resolve issues. The definition I found online was ‘to do or say something in order to show that you want to end a disagreement’

Our builder may define things rather differently. He was at a tasting in an olive grove this weekend, and managed to walk into the branch of a tree while not wearing his specs, very badly bloodying his eye in the process

Oh, the irony. He looked terrible, poor man, but assures me it looks worse than it is

At today’s meeting he confirmed that the structure I have found is indeed a very old fireplace, but said that the work required to uncover it (my work, not theirs) would be far greater than I realise. Part of me wants to continue, but once fully revealed it would surely compete with the wooden 19th C fire surround next to it

This wooden surround is a strong enough statement

It’s tougher than I thought, this job!

When we bought the house we knew the building was 17th C, but the huge attraction was very definitely the 19th C aspirational makeover, which was done with some conviction and was largely intact. The danger is the distraction of earlier finds, some of which (the lion murals, for example) will have to be worked in, because they are very special

So I will document this latest find and allow the builders to put plasterboard in front of it, thereby preserving it, at least. I had hoped to avoid using plasterboard, as I know that builders can be overly fond of it, but perhaps in this instance it’s the best thing (however, if you ever see me referring to the use of ‘plasterboard’ in a future post, please stop me!)

We don’t want this house to be sanitised and shrouded in board. It must keep its character, but because of that we must also hold onto a reasonably cohesive scheme – something I was reminded of only today by another blogger’s post

Perhaps covering up this very early fireplace is our offer of an olive branch to the ’19th C’ house we fell in love with:

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


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

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

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



Room with a Temporary View

The sky may be grey rather than blue, but it’s still the sky

In the builders’ lunch area, two large paint pots and a board had been used to create a third seat at the Formica-topped table, and there were thermos flasks, bread, a frying pan and a camping gas stove. They may be the first people to sit down and eat a hot meal here in over forty years

That’s a wonderful thing, a landmark. Life is creeping back into the house


The removal of the roof began. It’s been windy and very cold but the guys really cracked on with removing the tiles. Almost all the original 17th Century beams are past saving and need to be replaced, which is disappointing, but an essential compromise toward stopping the decay in the rest of the house


Seeing the sky come into view (albeit a flat grey that even F and B would struggle to glamourise) through the open roof was a beautiful thing and it reassured me that anything is possible, that we will overcome whatever obstacles we face and rescue this house

But we need to earn some more money first 🙂



My Home from Home from Home

I feel totally at home, but my home is nothing like this

I sit here on an upholstered dining chair at a wooden table in front of a television. I have my laptop, phones, magazines. I have wine, water and wasabi peas. There’s a flushing toilet. This is luxury

IMG_7903.JPGI realised as I let myself into my neighbour’s charming apartment that I have become very comfortable here. I want for nothing and his charges are very reasonable. The fact that I can get a phone signal and use his wifi means that I can even stay in touch with Baz and C

Meanwhile our own house is shrouded in scaffolding. The sight stopped me in my tracks when I arrived, even though it was planned. Inside I was surprised and impressed to see that the builders have reinstated the little Formica kitchen table and 2 chairs that we had ‘bunged’ into the garage, presumably as somewhere to sit and take a proper break

Someone on a British TV programme this week described the French way of life as ‘gentle and civilised’. I realise that ‘frustrating’ will be another adjective I’ll continue to use, but both Baz and I thought this was a perfect description. There is merit in upholding traditions and rituals, in maintaining the order that has prevailed. In the UK we have some stunning villages – there is no doubt of that – but in France the villages still largely live and breathe, many communities exist in much the same way as they have for a very long time, and older people generally seem less isolated and lonely

Perhaps I am wrong about that, but most people are deeply sociable and enjoy the company of others. I have just read Blog-sur-Aude’s post (coteetcampagne) about just the same thing – community spirit, available company, shared interests: a village bench where people sit if they choose company. These days millions of people in the UK have nowhere to meet up with others and often no daily connection with their community. A gentler and more civilised way of life would solve so many social problems

But tonight, I’ll just curl up alone with my comforts




Springing into Action? Oh yes please!


There is movement. Apparently work is about to commence on the roof, and not just sometime soon, but this Monday. I am as astounded as I am excited. Hard though it is to imagine the house without the interior waterfall, I also wonder if this might run for a while yet – I mean, it’s all very ‘sudden’ in contrast to the frustration of the last few months. I am not complaining because this is the beginning of the rebirth of the house

Coincidentally I was given an unexpected opportunity to get some more of my junk down there if I had it packed by yesterday, so this was Thursday’s priority, and I have booked a flight. It all fell into place rather well. Baz is understandably jealous and he feels more than a little second-best to my the house. He noticed that I labelled all the boxes with my name rather than our names. I didn’t mean anything by it!

Instead of sleeping in a roofless house, I have succumbed to Plan B (the very comfortable apartment I rented last time) because I can claw back some money by eating in and on heating. And because having a bath and the privacy of a working toilet is just irresistible


This time next week I intend to be knee-deep in wallpaper strippings and I can barely wait




The ultimate romantic gesture

I have allowed my face to be moulded and ‘splodged’ in latex, come face to face with myself made out of plaster of Paris (a very strange experience) and been photographed throughout as C did weird stuff to me towards her Art GCSE. But I long for the time and space to do my own projects and I fear the time slipping past

When my ‘big’ birthday arrived in September there were generous gifts of chocolates, money and booze – many and varied booze(s), in fact – and an extravagant evening out. So imagine my delight when Baz, the love of my life, presented me with his gift

A gas-fuelled soldering iron/ blow torch

Jason at work compared this to the time when his dad gave his mum a set of saucepans one Christmas (apparently she was livid – imagine!). But for me this little beauty is just what I will need to repair my Jugendstil chandelier, and to experiment with countless other glass and metal projects I have in mind


Ah, the fun I will have…

But more than that, I believe this gift is Baz’s way of saying ‘It doesn’t bother me that you fill our lives with unco-ordinated tat that needs mending. It’s OK that you never want nice modern things like other people.’

It’s obviously his full acceptance of my obsession with old crap and therefore a licence for me to continue to attempt to resurrect dying things, and perhaps even finish a project one day

At least that is what I get from it. Am I wrong?