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