Thursday, 31 January 2013

The day a thermal vest becomes pretty and practical!!!!!!!! 24.01.13

The day a thermal vest becomes pretty and practical!!!!!!!! 24.01.13

The sun is shining, the sun is shining Oh My God the sun is actually shining!!!!!!

We’ve been busy over the last few days, but not actually interesting enough to write about on a daily basis. We have made a start on some cosmetics all the wood in the walk in wardrobe has been stained and varnished.

How to stain new wood in a walk in wardrobe

How to stain new wood in a walk in wardrobe

How to stain new wood in a walk in wardrobe

John continues with the bathroom and I start to get everything ready for a tip run, I end up with two car loads, where does it all come from? 

I am still recognised at the tip, which is nice and the guy is so helpful, I have taken a photo of the tip as it is so different to the UK, H&S has not reached French tips yet. There are no barriers and the rubbish is just thrown over the edge into a large metal container, yet the recycling is always correct as the workers are there making sure that everything goes in the right container and do not sit and hide in their little hut as in the UK!

decheterie at Huelgoat

I also had a massive cleanup downstairs, we have both been a bit under the weather and we are beginning to wonder if it is due to the house, so we are going to try to keep it cleaner, not easy considering we are working constantly in dust and dirt but we’ll try.

John removes the old roof beam from the wall in the bathroom as this is rotten; we can see outside clearly, this does explain where some of the cold has been coming from.
how to patch up an old stone wall in a derelict house in france

This john waving from inside the bathroom!

I sent a photo of this to my daughter and all she noticed was that we had filled a hole with a pound land carrier bag!!!!

John fills in all of the holes into the bathroom; we saved a lot of the stones that came away from our initial demolitions. You cannot see where the hole had been.
how to remove rotten joists from an old house

how to patch up an old stone wall in a derelict house in france

how to patch up an old stone wall in a derelict house in france

how to patch up an old stone wall in a derelict house in france

John has also been making the house warmer in other ways, he has replaced the doors that we had removed from the bedrooms and has put a large plastic sheet covering the entrance to the back of the house upstairs. The house is starting to feel warmer, still not warm enough but warmer.

We knew what we were getting into when we started this project and John has been doing this for over 30 years, and we thought we were fully prepared, but nothing prepares you fully for the dirt, the cold and the discomfort, so if you going to do this, be aware and make sure you have lots of thermal clothes. I now possess 2 thermal vests, if you had asked me about thermal vests a year ago I would’ve said they are a Christmas present for old grannies, I now look at them and think wow pretty and practical. Bugger I need to get a grip and get some proper sun!

Top Tips

1.       Pound land bags make excellent draft excluders for holes in walls
2.       Buy thermal clothes
3.       Be prepared to lose all dress sense in order to keep warm
4.       Keep cleaning, even though it does not look any different

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

3 cubic metres of logs is a lot more than you'd expect! 19.01.13

3 cubic metres of logs is a lot more than you'd expect! 19.01.13

We get a call saying the logs will be delivered this morning, but that they will be delivered to the back of the house.

We spend some time clearing out the barn to make sure there is enough room for the logs.

We go out and meet them and they are dropped at the bottom of the garden. John has the fun of wheel barrowing 3 cubic metres of logs across the garden and I have the fun of stacking them in the barn.

This takes a few hours and there is still snow on the floor.

We’re knackered but at least we have logs. I can’t believe how many logs there are in 3 cubic metres, the barn is full and tonight we have a very hot fire.

Top tips

1.       3 cubic metres is a lot!!!!!!
2.       Make sure that you have enough space for that many logs
3.       Logs when bought tend to come in 50cm lengths make sure that your wood burner is big enough, or that you own a chainsaw so that they can be cut to size (we will be buying one tomorrow!)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Its snowing, can we get any colder!!!!!!! 18.01.13

Its snowing, can we get any colder!!!!!!! 18.01.13

Well it snowed today, Well it snowed today, we woke to this view from our bedroom window, and yes it managed to get a bit colder!!!!!

We are due to go shopping again today as friends are going with us so that they can put the water heater in their car, we have finally found something that can not fit in the Volvo! We should be there for 9.30 am. We are a little late setting off and go for petrol, but we have to stop to take some photographs as the snow has made everywhere look beautiful.

We arrive at our friends and find there are not there, we can see the tyre tracks in the snow, OH Bugger what do we do now, this is the only day they can help us for a few weeks, bugger, bugger, bugger.
We stand there trying to decide what to do as we see their car pull up; they had driven to us to see if we were stuck. We decide we will still go, but not along the country lanes that we had intended to use, they had wanted to show us areas we had not yet been too.

On the way back we go to a TROC, this is a second hand furniture sales and some of the furniture is amazing 17th and 18th century wardrobes and dressers, the carvings are so intricate and the workmanship like nothing you could imagine, the only example I can think of is consider IKEA and think of the most opposite possible, and you’re still not quite there.

This furniture is so cheap, if you are looking for a career buy a big van come over and drive or ship to which ever country you live in, you will make a fortune! Obviously I cannot guarantee you this categorically, so you cannot sue me.

I see the most amazing sofa it is an old French style with green and yellow strips in velour, John hates it and we spend much of our time in the troc discussing it, but I have to accept that as it is antique we couldn’t actually sit on it and when the B&B opens we couldn’t have it and tell any visitors they could not sit on it.
We do however find a paraffin heater for only 29 euro’s, so we buy this.

Once we get home we have a telephone call about the logs, they should be with us next week, I ask if there is any chance of them coming earlier as it is really cold now and we don’t have much wood left, the contact says she will see what she can do, but if we get desperate we can call at her house and pick a car load up, can these people get any nicer?

John continues with work on the hot water, he is removing the gas water heater from the bathroom and putting it in the utility room where it will hopefully work better, as there is a chimney opening for the flue pipe. It turned out that the gas water heater had not worked properly due to the draw on the flue when in the bathroom.

It works the water is piping hot, CONSTANTLY!!!!! I have my first proper hot shower, not warm but hot, I don’t know how long I spend in it, I also finally get to use all the lovely Christmas shower smellies, it is so luxurious. I make an effort tonight and wear a nice nightie, the mood is then somewhat ruined as I also put on a pair of woolly tights, furry slippers a dressing gown and a big knitted cardigan, still the thought was there!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

How much does a new bathroom cost in France? a lot less than it does in the UK! 16.01.13

How much does a new bathroom cost in France? a lot less than it does in the UK!

We continue to work on the heating system and may have come to the conclusion that we may definitely have to lose the beautiful wood burner for an insert fire as this will provide more heat. We will keep you updated on this as we go along.   

installing a heat distribution system in France

We go to shopping again today to buy the new bathroom and see a beautiful big double ended bath (the sort where the taps and plug hole are in the middle) it is in the sale and is only 30 euro’s, but it is too big for our bathroom I am gutted, so we get the next favourite which is a square edged bath, this is really stylish and will look fantastic in the new bathroom. It cost 90 Euro’s, in the UK the dame bath would cost nearer to £300.
We also buy some more heating pipes so we can finish off the heating system when we get home.

Brico depot does not have the shower that we want so we try another hardware shop, and find a perfect one, the only problem is, it has two shower heads a normal one and a big head that comes over the top, we can’t work out whether the shower head is too low (it’s perfect for me) and if the over the top one is too high for the bathroom, we spend ages in the shop cubicle with John reaching up, in the end we think sod it, it looks good, is very reasonable priced and we want to go home, so we buy it.

We have to go to the back of the shop for collection and empty the car to fit it in, the trusty Volvo manages again. The only problem is (and we don’t find this out for a few more days is that as we emptied the car we forgot to put the heating pipe back in the car).

buying a new bathroom suite in France

 The cost of bathroom furniture is so much cheaper in France than the UK, and is so much nicer. We also buy a new shower cubicle and sink unit (with attached cupboard) and all the taps, in total the bathroom costs 500 euro’s (including toilet and all fittings). It is still difficult to comprehend the prices in France, as in the UK this would’ve cost at least £1000 and required tiling around the shower cubicle, the cubicle we have bought requires no tiling.

This bathroom will suit our needs perfectly and will look very stylish, but beware, you can spend a lot more as there are some amazing units available, you need to have your budget clear and stick to it and a word of advice, if you see a special offer buy it, because it will not be there for long.

So if you are considering this and cost is concerning, the bathroom aspect is far cheaper than in the UK (unless you have to employ somebody). But don’t get a headache when you are doing it as paracetemol are nearly 3 euro’s for 8!!!!!!!

We ring the log delivery guys again as we keep missing each other’s calls and finally get through, unfortunately they have none left that are suitable for burning, we had wanted to buy dry seasoned logs not damp ones, but are very impressed with their honesty. They tell us about another log sales person that one of their previous customers use and give us their contact details (the previous customer not the log sales), I give them a ring and they say that the log delivery they use doesn’t speak any English and a friend of theirs rings on their behalf, she then says she will contact her.

The contact calls us and says that she will arrange a delivery on our behalf; I just cannot get my head around how many complete random strangers are helping us out. Huelgoat just keeps getting better; as much as we used to love Manchester I couldn’t imagine this happening over there.

During the call we explain where we live and the woman asks if we are the couple from Manchester, we really are quite famous (or should that be infamous) as the mad couple from Manchester living in a derelict house!

Hopefully she will get back to us tomorrow.

Top Tips

1.       Have a budget and stick to it!
2.       If you see a special offer and don’t buy it, it will probably not be there when you go back
3.       Do not bring the bathroom with you from the UK because an expat expert says they are cheaper, you will struggle to find fittings and kick yourself when you go to the shops and see what you could’ve bought in France

Friday, 25 January 2013

We finally have some heating 14.01.13

We finally have some heating 14.01.13

We’re up bright and early as we are going to go shopping for our new heater system, I’m a bit nervous as I have not had to speak French for quite some time; the shop is crazy busy, it appears there are big January sales in France!

There is a person working on the aisle where we want to buy the heater from but there are about 3 other people waiting so I try a bloke on a different aisle, I manage to ask in French, but he is tiles and decorating, not heating so can’t help.

We go back and wait, we are in the shop for over an hour before finally getting served and then he does 3 of us at the same time, I have never seen a shop assistant run so much, he must’ve been knackered, he was up and down the store so many times, it was a bit unfortunate that I didn’t manage to ask for everything at once and my eyesight is not what it once was and could not see the name of what we wanted or knew how to ask for it so after lots of pointing and uh uhing we finally got what we wanted.

We also managed to ask for the pipe to go with it, which was so expensive at 24 euro a metre; we buy 10 metres for a start. We also buy 10 metres of insulation for the pipe which was much better value as this was 24 euro for the 10 metres.

When we return home John makes a start at putting the heating system in, it’s at this point that we realise the very expensive pipe was not the correct one, bugger, we had bought chimney flue instead, which isn’t a major problem as we will need the flue for the chimney at some point.

how to install a heat distribution system in france

how to install a heat distribution system in france

how to install a heat distribution system in france

By the end of the night we have one end in the living room behind us, this is not where it will stay but we wanted to try it out and you’d be amazed at how well it worked, we had warmth in front of us and behind us for the first time YAY.

The heat is not as hot as the one we had felt at Sheila and Brian’s but it is not fully installed yet so keep your fingers crossed for us.

We also realise that the wood supply that we had in the barn is depleting very quickly so we decide to give the log delivery guys a ring and order some cut logs.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Renovating a derelict property - Oh My God we have a cooker and a utility room! 13.01.13

Renovating a derelict property - Oh My God we have a cooker and a utility room! 13.01.13

Yesterday was spent relaxing and doing more research into the heating systems available to us, we look again at the hot air distribution systems that are available and these seem like the best and most cost effective solution. As I have said previously this is a box with a fan in it that is located usually in the loft with pipes that are vented in to other rooms, a pipe is connected to the area just above the wood burner and then the warm air that is usually lost through the chimney is circulated into other rooms.

The cooker was delivered when I was in the UK, this was not as easy as we had planned, they did not arrive on the due date and Sheila was good enough to ring the company, and they arranged to call back when they cooker was to be delivered, John had to take the call on his own, this was his first big test with the language and he managed it.

I had the fun job of cleaning the floor tiles below the cooker, this again meant scrapping and scrubbing each individual tile to bring them up like new, which is not bad as they are the original tiles. I hate this job and my beautiful New Year nails are now finally gone, they were red and glittery and looked so beautiful, I felt like a lady again for a couple of weeks rather than a building labourer, still there's always next Christmas!

So today he has fitted the cooker, it is fantastic, but it seems a shame to say good bye to the trusty BBQ, though it’s not really a big goodbye as we have no where to put it so it will stay in the kitchen, so we have now gone from no cooker to 2!.

John also has to remove the washing machine and the rest of the water pipes from the wall. It feels like we are finally getting somewhere, the washing machine goes out into the utility room, Oh My God it is almost like a real house (if you ignore all the crap that is still lying around)

We cook our first meal tonight homemade spag bol and it is delicious and so easy not having to try to swap pans because we have only one gas ring, the spaghetti and the Bolognese are ready at the same time and we even manage some garlic bread, I am Jamie Oliver!!!!! (For those non brits he is a famous chef).

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Renovating a derelict property - To fly or not to fly that is the question 06/01/13

Renovating a derelict property - To fly or not to fly that is the question 06/01/13

We receive an e-mail today informing me that I have a hospital appointment in the UK on the 8th I have been waiting for this appointment for months and it is part of ongoing treatment, unfortunately I now don’t have time to rearrange the appointment as the next flight to the UK is on Monday at 12noon, and we will have to leave the house at 8.30 am which means, if I wait to try and rearrange on Monday morning and they say no, I will miss the flight. 

I am stuck in a dilemma as we have not been back for long, but if I don’t go I will be at the bottom of the list again and we have not got our French healthcare fully sorted yet and poor John is still not well.

The decision is made to book the flights and go for the appointment rather than risk missing it and starting the process over again in France.

I send my daughter a text asking if she is free on Tuesday for dinner and can she gift me a lift, thinking she would be overjoyed, unfortunately she knows me too well and just assumed I sent the text to the wrong person! I call her and tell her I’m coming back for a few days and she’s ecstatic, so am I now, I’ll get to see her and baby Poppy again YAY.

I will also be able to get warm again!!!!!!!!!

I spend 4 nights in the UK and baby Poppy now recognises me and smiles at me, I spend my first night at the farm and Kayleigh comes to drive me back to my parents where I will be staying.

Kayleigh and Kate go for a ride and I walk with Poppy, it’s her first pony trek and I was there! So you can see baby firsts when you live in a different country, I just need to engineer all her firsts for when I am in the UK!

We also get to visit my gran, and have photos taken of the whole family, with baby Poppy it means there are 5 generations of girls in one family, unfortunately my aunty (who is now a great, great aunty, Dee you are now famous) has still not worked out how to send the photo’s to me. So I will add one when they arrive

they have arrived and here we all are, five generations wow!

5 generations of one family manchester,cheshire,france

By the time Kayleigh drops me off at the airport to return to France, we realise it isn’t as difficult to say goodbye, as it is easy to get back if needs be, and I will be returning to visit on a regular basis.

If you were wondering the appointment was very quick as the surgeon decided I needed an MRI scan before he could decide on the way forward, this will be in a few weeks! It isn’t anything serious I have a frozen shoulder (or something along those lines).

Being a scrooge I had decided not to take any luggage on the flight with me and fitted everything into hand luggage, unfortunately I had been on a bit of a shopping spree with my daughter and was now a little over loaded, so I returned to France wearing a T shirt, a Jumper dress, a cardigan (or two!!!!!) and my coat, but at least I was warm, well actually I was cooking, there really is no pleasing some people is there ha ha ha

John was there waiting for me when the plane came in to land and it was so nice to see him, it was lovely to get back to the house, I had even forgotten about the cold, it was so nice to be home.

I have now remembered the cold and it’s no better! But the bathroom looks so much better, John has cleared all the rubble and the room looks quite big

Monday, 21 January 2013

Goodbye toilet my old friend 05/01/13

Goodbye toilet my old friend 05/01/13

We have started work in earnest today, after realising that I had got my delivery dates mixed up, the cooker is due on the 6th.

We decide to demolish the blue bathroom, this is quite a strange feeling as this was our first indoor toilet and there are some fond memories, I know I’m a sad person, but it is amazing at how the little things in life make you happy when you are living like this. This was such a momentus moment!

replacing an old toilet and fitting a new bathroom

When we first empty the bathroom we notice the solar light in the window and find it hard to believe that for weeks this was the only light we had in the bathroom and remember trying to bathe with this light, it makes us realise just how far we have come

how to remove an old bathroom

how to remove an old bathroom

how to install a new bath, toilet and washbasin

The wall comes down well, and I have real fun with the lump hammer again.

replacing a bathroom sink

removing and replacing a bath

We are going to remove the entire bathroom and turn this into the main bathroom for the house or when the B&B starts this will be the ensuite for the back bedroom; it will also be the only room in the house with a bath. I am already starting to day dream of the day when I can lie and luxuriate in hot water and bubbles, oh the luxury.........

Oops better stop dreaming and get on with the hammering.