Christmas at QC

Christmas at Quatre Chemins

The three little terrors soon made themselves at home, and we decided to call them Olive, Rosemary and Liquorice. At first the dogs were very suspicious, thinking they were R.A.T.S, so we kept the kittens in the dog cage for the first few days for their own safety, and they were not impressed!

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However, within a week, Monty and Dippy had accepted them as family, and started to wear very long-suffering expressions as the kittens settled in.

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With David and Jess’ arrival becoming more imminent, the focus was to get 1. a second bedroom habitable and 2. a functioning kitchen. Every day was a battle against dust, dust and more dust as we dug down in the fireplace for the kitchen woodburner and the floor tiling continued.

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Even before the wood-burner was properly flued in we had a ceremonial lighting!

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The next big step was the arrival of the kitchen fitter.  Three days later my internet “DIY Kitchens” units were in, and I was so delighted with them.  The quality belies the price!  And, given that I had done all the measuring for the order, they even fitted into the desired space! The granite man – a lovely, young Portuguese chap we had discovered on the outskirts of Bergerac – was a star.  He came to measure up on the Monday once the units were in, and had it fitted on the Thursday, before he went off for Christmas in Portugal.

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I couldn’t quite believe that it was coming together!  Plumbing in the sink and dishwasher was another huge step forward – no longer did all water have to come from the bathroom.  The final task, the day before Christmas Eve, was to get the electrics for the range ovens sorted.  The up side was that we got the ovens, just in time for cooking Christmas lunch (roast ducks).  The down side was that in doing so, the electrics for the central heating and freezer went down! There was no apparent solution this side of 2016, so we ended up running an extension cable from the barn, across the drive to the boiler and freezer.  If I wanted to use the washing machine – also in the garage, we had to unplug the freezer and time it for when the central heating was off!

The rest of the kitchen and house electrics are the first priority for the New Year, so the kitchen splashbacks can’t be tiled until that is done. I hate looking at the grey tile grout from the old tiles, especially now the beautiful, so longed for granite is in!  However, I consoled myself planning the splashbacks. I have already bought the tiles, plain white rustic Spanish ones, but was unable to source the Mediterranean motif tiles in the same size.  I want spashes of colour to break up area of white. After hours of internet searching, to no avail, I decided to do my own.  I found a special ceramic paint that can be baked in the oven (done in the caravan oven!!) so spent the TV-less evenings playing around with designs and painting some of the white tiles.  I wanted to pull in the colours of all my Mediterranean pottery, but also reflect local fauna and flora.

20151212_141147 - CopyIt will certainly be a very personalised kitchen!

 

 

 

Putting up Christmas decorations seemed a bit like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but we did what we could to draw the eye away from raw plaster and channels chased down walls for electric cables!

20151220_182618 20151220_182501 20151220_181749Candle light hides a multitude of sins!!!

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Sprig of mistletoe anyone?

 

 

The kittens are now banished from the living room as their new game is to circuit the room without touching the floor – via furniture and Christmas tree, using the tree lights as swinging ropes!

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We picked David and Jess up from Bordeaux airport and came the scenic way back via the vineyards and St Emilion.  The weather seemed determined to impress, and we had lunch outside before picking up some wine of the same name for Christmas Day.

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On Christmas Eve we had a long skype with Eds, Sam and Jules whilst they opened their presents, and had a lovely Christmas Day skype with B and D and Mark. It is only the second Christmas that I have spent apart from B and D, and my first one without my bambino, so it was poignant too, but we felt fortunate to be able to share our first Christmas at QC with Dave and Jess.  It felt a bit unreal having Christmas drinks in the sun on the terrace, but at least it looked festive inside!

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David co-ordinated presents from the boys, and arranged for the delivery of bare root fruit trees and we now have a small orchard! I don’t know if he regretted the idea as he had to jemby the earth to make holes in the still rock solid ground to enable planting.

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In a lovely touch, he has also cut and engraved labels for the trees so we know who gave us which trees and when.

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R and I are also very excited about our present from B and D – forget the usual Chanel or velvet – we got a ……

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Bettonier!

 

 

 

We can’t wait to start concreting in fence strainers and laying the floor for the pool pump room.  And then maybe the ………..  The possibilities are almost endless!  Our very own cement mixer!

Reduce, re-use, recycle!

J and D came with work clothes as well as finery, and volunteered to make a chicken house Remember the old original unit in the kitchen?

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The builder had been a bit surprised when I asked if any of the frame could be rescued, and I took the doors away for “future use”.  D and J put it to good use.

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Also, one of the pieces of bedroom furniture had been damaged in transit – and came in useful for constructing the laying boxes.

 

It was completed on their final day, so, to do it justice, we just had time to visit a local farm and collect 2 hens.  D and J have followed the edible theme for naming, and, in honour of Serignac Peboudou, have named them Sherry and Pepper.

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Curious about the new arrivals………..

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Today’s job (New Year’s Eve) has been to construct a temporary run for them, but they obviously like their new house, as, as I type, they have been here 28 hours and have already laid 3 eggs!

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Another big job which Rod has been wanting to get on with is getting the big dods of wood out of the attic.  They are earmarked for use in the terrace cover. This was a 4 person job, involving building our scaffolding tower (originally a tree house in Falcutt!).  The only possible exit was one of the small attic windows. Dave and Jess gamely turned to, and we spent a very physical afternoon shifting/manhandling some very heavy pieces of oak – some 6m long, out of the window and to the ground.

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Monty moments

Monty has taken very well to20151220_140628 the kittens, spending most of his time with either a concerned or a confused look on his face, especially when they creep into his basket.

 

However, he does still have his naughty moments.  When Rod mowed the “lawn”, it revealed lots of little mouse runs and M started major excavations.

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Between him, the mole and the dry, dry weather, I think a “lawn” is a bit aspirational!

The kittens also tried very hard to be rehomed! One night, they learnt how to shin up the wall and obviously spent all night  racketeering up and down.

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Note the height of the green bow on the wall by the door.  That is how high they got.

 

 

20151229_145948Now look at the state of the wall!  It needs a complete replaster!

 

 

 

Then they were plum tuckered out!

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Animals! Who’d have them?

Finally, we wish everyone a Happy New Year and Bonne Annee.  I hope 2016 brings you both health and happiness and maybe even to Quatre Chemins.

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COMPLETION!!!!!!

Needless to say, things did not go to plan! On the Friday before the removals arrived, we learnt that there was yet another delay to completion. But by then all our kit had been loaded onto the lorry and trailer ready for transit for delivery on Wednesday 25th.  So, our stuff arrived, and still we didn’t own the house.

Prior to all our belongings filling the house, we had arranged to have 2 radiators moved.  However, due to several severe frosts, the plumber was called out on emergencies, and couldn’t get to us until the morning of the removals. He duly arrived early and set too.  Unfortunately, this involved taking out 2 rooms simultaneously, and covering the floors with water as it ran out of the radiators and overflowed his containers– nightmare scenario.

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As the builder was rapidly laying flooring in our bedroom before the furniture went on it, we were left with 2 rooms fit for boxes and furniture to go into.  It was bloody chaos.  Add to that a quick phonecall for the plumber about another emergency, and off he went mid job.  As I mopped water I thought, a tad peevishly, that mine was an emergency too!!

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The second bedroom is storage for clothing, bedding and anything that needs to be kept dry.  Everything else in the barn!

 

 

We had already emptied the gite the day before so that we could 1. clean it and hand it back by the end of the month, and 2. move into the house for security to guard all our worldly possessions. We put together the bed on our newly laid floor, grabbed the caravan bedding and got ready to collapse. At that point, the central heating boiler added to the fun of the day, and refused to come on. To bed in woollies with hot water bottles!

By the end of day 2 everything had been offloaded from the lorry and trailer, but we still had another load which hadn’t fitted – to be delivered the following week.

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As the kitchen was back to bare walls, we had to improvise.  The cooker was in what will be bedroom 3 so that the terra cotta tiles could go down where the new units are to be.

 

We attached it to the gas bottle so we could use the gas rings.  We brought one of the workshop units in to mouseproof our food ( mice evident!).

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As the only source of water was the bathroom another workshop unit was put in there for cutlery, crockery and washing up.

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Eeeh – luxury! (It wasn’t worth the effort of locating kitchen stuff from the millions of boxes piled haphazardly throughout the barn so we are just using the caravan things until the kitchen is fitted.)

 

Chemistry lesson (at this point I know Eds and Sam will stop reading!)

As the tiles in the kitchen dried out, they became covered in salts.

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The instructions from the manufacturers were to “wash with hydrochloric acid”.  A bit nonplussed about sourcing some outside of a lab, we went to the local brico.  They directed us to an aisle, where the HCl sat amidst sulphuric acid, ethanol, white spirit, and all sorts of other volatile  nasties, all readily available and in up to 5l containers.  English elf and safety take note! So started the labour of love for the tiles.  Scrub with HCl until the salts have stopped reacting. (Must be carbonates, lots of CO2 given off! The appliance of science). Rinse well.  Allow to dry.  Add impregnator.  Twice.  Then ready for grouting.  The tiles were transformed, but it had taken many hours of hard graft. At this stage I began to think less happily of the remaining 55sqm of tiles to go down!

One luxury that we did have was a phone line and wifi. As mobile reception is usually non-existant at the house, at least we felt in touch with the outside world again. This lasted all of a week.  Our final delivery arrived no problem.  However, as the lorry left – taking exactly the same route as arrival – it took out the telephone cable!

Monty moments: Our backup for wifi has been the Domino – a portable wifi device which we have relied upon for the last 5 months.  We got it back out of the caravan to use if needs must, and went up to Bergerac to sort out the lack of comms.  We got back to find that Monty – never very good at spelling, had thought that the DO of Domino read DOgbiscuits – and in pursuit of canine treats, had destroyed the domino.  Thank goodness he hadn’t swallowed it – or he’d be a walking wifi hotspot!

Although we aren’t isolated, at night it seems so.  The French, apparently saving on the electricity bills, do not put on outside lights at night.  For the past week there has been no moon, and I have been startled by the absolute black of the night.  Not a glimmer of light to be seen anywhere.  The night sky is stunning, with millions of stars stretching into infinity. But precious little light at ground level – even for the dogs!  Late last night, out for their last time before bed, it was particularly dark.  Suddenly we heard a long, low, menacing growl rumbling out of Monty, somewhere to our left.  I got more than a little scared, my imagination going into overdrive about what was out there. Rod switched on the torch.  There was Monty, nose to nose with…… a newly planted raspberry plant. He’d walked into it, felt something prickling his nose and had obviously thought of woozlums!

The weather continues to delight us.  I don’t know if we are just very lucky and it is exceptional, or if it is always like this.  We have had a couple of really frosty mornings, but by lunchtime it has been around 20 and nice enough to sit outside for lunch.  Even in December.

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We finally completed on 1 December.  A fabulous day weatherwise and the official start of our new life in France. We are now owner occupiers rather than just occupiers. The work can begin in earnest!20151130_10295520151205_130926