Sunday, 30 September 2012

Renovation project - the last wall comes down - Tuesday 25th September 2012

Renovation project - the last wall comes down - Tuesday 25th September

Get up this morning to find fresh Croissants waiting in the kitchen, I could get used to this.

Happy Birthday Calvin, he’ll be so pleased I put that on here!

Decisions are made around the day, Calvin and Liz are going to explore the enchanted forest and we are going to make a start on the attic bedroom, this is our last piece of demolition, I’m really looking forward to it.

First off John has to make sure the electrics are out of the way.

So we intend to take the wall down and turn the room in to one large bedroom.

We are also going to move the door to the centre of where the 2 current doors are.

I get to swing the lump hammer (I actually really enjoy doing this, it’s very therapeutic!) and the wall is on the way down.

By the end of the day the wall is down and the rubble bagged, the room is cleaned (well as much as it can be!) and the bed remade.

The room looks enormous, we sit and have a discussion about the doors and try to remember why we were moving the door into the bedroom, neither of us can, so we decide to leave it where it is, this will save a lot of work.

During our lunch break Sheila arrives to take me to the French class I had forgotten all about it and am currently sat in my work gear and filthy! Sheila said she had tried to call us but there appears to be a temporary fault on the line,

Calvin and Liz come back from their walk and tell us how wonderful it was, we really need to do this before the winter sets in, feel quite bad that we have lived here for 7 weeks and still haven’t made it past the trembling rock!

Liz rings home to see how the family is and the phone line is still not working! So we try to Skype but a message appears on the computer from orange stating that we have been cut off!!!!! It appears we have not paid the bill (not a good start as this is our first bill!)

There is an option to pay on line so we try to do that but the system will not accept our card, we don’t know what to do as we know we sent the direct debit as soon as it arrived, and we had also called into the bank on Friday to ensure that it had been set up.

Top Tips
1.       You will make decisions about the layout but as you start to work these decisions may change themselves.
2.       Do not over fill rubble sacks when you have to carry them down 2 flights of spiral stairs
3.       Take time to visit your area.
4.       Make sure that your direct debits are set up correctly

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Renovation project, more visitors and indoor BBQ - Monday 24th September 2012

Renovation project, more visitors and indoor BBQ - Monday 24th September

Wake up this morning and the house feels so empty and quiet, there is no going down to Sheila’s to say good morning or knocks on the door, we wander around a little bit lost for the morning, it’s really hard to get back into the swing of things. So we spend a lazy morning not doing very much except moping about.
We pull ourselves together by early afternoon and realise that we have no real food in the house as we didn’t go shopping due to eating out all weekend and as my brother and sister in law have found a ferry and may be here later today, decide we had better stock the fridge and cupboards.

We go to the main supermarket in Morlaix and do a major shop, the best buy is the kilo bag of mixed seafood, this is amazing as it also contains scallops!!!! Fish risotto here we come. We also stock up on a lot of LeClercs Eco+ food, this is similar price wise to Tesco blue stripe (found in England) but the quality is that of Marks and Spencer’s, please insert your own countries luxury shop brand. Yet again proving all those armchair experts wrong (the ones that told us how expensive it was to live in France) I may have said this before, but if you do shop around it is very inexpensive to eat well in France.

As we will be having guests in the house from tonight, John decides to block all of the holes to make the house a little warmer.

This is an excellent idea we have the wood burner going and the living room tidy and the house is very toasty warm, at this point we have dinner, bacon, sausage etc cooked on the big gas BBQ. This is when we realise that the BBQ is no longer a suitable cooking implement, with holes in the ceilings and walls it had not been a problem but with a sealed house, a BBQ indoors is a big mistake! The smoke started to sting my eyes, and we had to open the big windows, it is now time to buy a proper cooker!

Calvin and Liz arrive at approx 10.30pm, it is really nice to see them, I didn’t realise just how much I had missed all of my family, my life has suddenly turned into an emotional roller coaster.

They are really happy with their bedroom and I think a little surprised as they have been following the blog, but had not managed to stay up to date with the posts showing their bed, so I think there was a lot of relief that the room was habitable, my daughter had returned saying that we lived in a building site!

Lots of catching up around the dining table and the end of another day.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Renovation project - sightseeing and sad goodbyes Sunday 23rd September 2012

Renovation project - sightseeing and sad goodbyes Sunday 23rd September

Yesterday was spent trying to visit the whole of Huelgoat, the surrounding area and the rest of Brittany, not easy in a day, but we had a good go!

The morning was spent in the enchanted forest which is beautiful, we still haven’t got further than the trembling rock, lots of photo opportunities and hair raising moments, as I have said before health and safety in France is very different to England, which means a small metal ladder and a few handrails are all that is required to go down to the La Grotte du Diable!

La Grotte du Diable, Huelgoat, Brittany, Francce

La Grotte du Diable Huelgoat, Brittany, France

La Grotte du Diable Huelgoat, Brittany, France

The Enchanted Forest Huelgoat, Brittany, France

The Trembling Rock Huelgoat, Brittany, France

The Trembling Rock Huelgoat, Brittany, France

Next stop is Morlaix where the cakes amaze both of them, not sure if it took 3 or 4 hours for them to choose one each, another coffee in a cafe and a spot of lunch, we go for something small as we are planning to have a big dinner, this proves to be impossible as a ham sandwich comes on half a baguette!

Cakes from Morlaix, Brittany France

Cakes from Morlaix, Brittany France

Cakes from Morlaix, Brittany France

Next in line is Roscoff, where more time is spent at a pavement cafe, they French way of life is something that is very easy to fall into. Whilst at this cafe a couple come to talk and ask us if we have heard anything about our ferry, to which we reply , no we live here, still can’t get used to that! It’s such a good feeling.
Brest is next where the favourite hobbies are put in to practice, shopping and coffee at yet more cafes, it’s a hard life!

coffee at a pavement cafe, Morlaix, Brittany, France

coffee at a pavement cafe, Morlaix, Brittany, France

We drive back to Huelgoat as John did not want to eat and then have to drive home, so off to Crepuscule for another steak and pizza, we have to say if you come to Huelgoat, le Crepuscule is a must, their steaks and Pizza’s are second to none. Micki the owner is a very French lady until you hear her speak English; she has a very broad Rochdale accent (we are convinced she is Sarah Cox). This is something we have found quite often, people speak fluent French and sound French but somehow do not lose the English accent when they revert to English.

Kayleigh and I head back to Sheila and Brian’s and Rachael goes back to the house with John. The weekend is almost over!

Sunday morning is spent filling up on a big breakfast and a final walk around the town and lake. Then it’s all over and we’re in the car heading back to the airport, this is where we realise there is a bit of a problem, I am not the most organised person and I have mixed the times up, we are aiming to get there as the gates closes not the 40 minutes before, the weather is awful and I am telling John he has to make time up on the journey! The next conversation is that there is another flight in a couple of days, I’m quite happy!
We arrive at the airport 10 minutes after we think the gates have closed so a mad panic running into the airport, and up to the desk, the tickets are brought out and we realise that I had completely messed up on the times and the time I thought was gates closed was actually the time to arrive, so now we have 30 minutes to say goodbye properly, phew!

We watch the plane take off and then head home, deflated, heartbroken the house suddenly seems very empty and quiet again (I also miss going to sit at Sheila’s and Brian’s in the evening, it had a lovely couch, rugs and lots of glasses!)

We sit up very late tonight as when we go to bed, it really does mean the weekend is over, we love you both so much and miss you even more. This is something that will take a long time to get used too.

Top tips
  1. 1.       Check the plane tickets carefully before heading to the airport
  2. 2.       Do not put the plane tickets in the boot of the car!
  3. 3.       If you are going to move abroad, you will miss your children more than words can ever say

Renovation Project, the daughters arrive - Friday 21st September 2012

Renovation Project, the daughters arrive - Friday 21st September

This is it, the big day has arrived, we spend the morning cleaning the car and house once more, visiting Sheila and Brian to check everything is in place and we’re all sorted.

I speak to my brother before we leave who informs us that Brittany Ferries have gone on strike and there are no ferries until further notice, this is not good news as they were due to arrive as our daughters left, they are going to continue looking for alternative ferries.

French strikes and demonstrations are quite different to the English version, as they continue until something changes!

We arrive at the airport just as the plane has landed, so its perfect timing, it is so hard to describe the total elation felt as we saw them come through the arrivals gate.

We hear the tales from East Midlands Airport where they were both drug tested and made to remove shoes!!!!!!!!  Bad enough under normal circumstances but when your pregnant belly doesn’t let you bend down to put them back on, this is not good, I think a letter of complaint will be going in (when I have time!).

We all go to Dinan for moules et frites and have a lovely time wandering around.

Dinan, Brittany, France

Dinan, Brittany, France

The drive home seems very short as we are trying to 3 months into 2 hours!
It’s a very quick visit to the house and then out for dinner, via a walk by the lake.

renovating a derelict house in Huelgoat, Brittany, France

I am amazed to see my daughter devour steak and chips; she normally has the appetite of a sparrow. After the food and travel, baby tiredness kicks n and we head off to Sheila’s which gives John and his daughter time alone to catch up.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Renovation project - finally a bedroom with a real bed! - Thursday 20th September 2012

 Renovation project - finally a bedroom with a real bed! - Thursday 20th September
OMG our daughters are coming to visit tomorrow, it’s been so long since we’ve seen them, I can hardly contain myself, the excitement is just overflowing. They will be staying Friday through to Sunday, we have arranged for them to stay with Sheila and Brian, so they do not have to sleep or eat in the house, My brother and sister in law will not be so lucky, they are due to arrive on Saturday night and will be spending the week with us.
The day is spent cleaning yet again, we need it to be as nice as possible, it’s amazing how house proud you can be about a building site!
Every floor has been swept and mopped, the walls have been dusted and cleaned, the toilets and bathroom have been scrubbed and the room that we had been using as a lounge is now a bedroom. 

The bed is put together and John fits the home made wooden slats, the mattress is put in place and the rug laid by the bed, we have a room that looks like a proper room, we have left the basin in place for the time being as we did not want to have to start plastering the wall before anyone arrives.

So we are all ready, there is nothing left to clean, apart from the car (the trusty Volvo that has been used as a mobile skip) my daughter has informed me that she will not get into it unless it has been valleted, but that can wait till tomorrow as we are now truly knackered.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Renovation project more plumbing, more toilets and dinner at the table - Wednesday 19th September 2012

Renovation project more plumbing, more toilets and dinner at the table - Wednesday 19th September
Today is going to be a big day, we are finally moving downstairs and into the lounge! So the day is spent cleaning and disinfecting, yet again!
John spent another day spent on plumbing, this seems to be similar to the electrics as in never ending, but by the end of the day we have 3 working toilets in the house, this is such a major achievement seeing as only 6 weeks ago I was so excited about finding a flushing toilet outside!!!!
The wall is finished in the ensuite and the door is in place, people will be able to have privacy when using the bathroom (it's just a pity that there is now only the 2 of us living here!)
A leak was found in one of the new pipes, it just happened to be in the connection that is inside the 3 foot thick wall, the joys of using solvent waste pipe (I’m informed this is pipe you glue together rather than using push fit as you would find in the UK).  I decide to leave John to fix it as the air is turning a lovely shade of blue all around him.
how to fix a leaking soil pipe

The toilet went into the 3rd bedroom as the beginning of the ensuite; this room has been rearranged and re-planned so many times now, as we have to make sure the room is big enough to be suitable for a B&B room with a full bathroom and one door. We decide to put a shower in a purpose built space, but this works out to be more expensive than buying a complete shower cubicle, but no matter how much re planning we do, we cannot install a cubicle so the smallest bathroom is going to be the most expensive!
how to fit a new toilet in a derelict house in france

how to fit a new toilet in a derelict house in france

how to fit a new toilet in a derelict house in france

We have also decided to add a connecting door between this room and the next bedroom, which means it will be suitable for a family when the B&B is up and running, it also means we can accommodate our daughters and their babies in comfort when they come to visit.
2 more leaks are found as the day progresses, so with lots more cursing John spends even longer doing the plumbing, I’ve lost count of how many times he’s told me this should be a half hour job (we’re now on 4 hours!).
The day just seemed to disappear, but we were able to eat at the table without a big pile of rubble around our feet, we had just finished dinner and were settled down in front of a roaring fire, with John desperately trying to find the United game on the internet, when there was a very loud knock at the door, we opened it to find a very drunken new friend, you may remember me telling you about him before. We invited him in but he didn’t stay for long, I was very worried about him getting home safely but as John had had a glass of wine, there was no way we could drive him (we have yet to see a taxi in this town). So we helped him on his way and returned to the football, still not having much luck, but we did manage to find a channel that stumbled between slow motion and jumbled pixels. Our big night wasn’t what we expected so we have decided to tell our new friend not to visit again until he has sorted out his drinking, not looking forward to that conversation, but we didn’t didn’t tolerate this behaviour in England and we certainly don’t want it here.
Top Tip
1.       Take time to make your new friends, people are not always what they first seem.
2.       The plumbing will take almost as long as the electrics and be just as infuriating.

Renovation project - french class, Ikea and new drains - Tuesday 18th September 2012

Renovation project - french class, Ikea and new drains - Tuesday 18th September
Yesterday was spent shopping in Brest, it was also meant to be sightseeing but as the weather was awful we decided not to bother.
We found the IKEA (I know, not the shop you expect us to be visiting but they do have nice metal frame beds!). My French is improving further as I was able to speak to the assistant and explain what we wanted, this was after spending half an hour deciding which 2 beds we wanted, unfortunately they only had one in stock, the other would have to be delivered at a cost of 130 Euros!, the bed itself only cost 125 Euros, so we decide to only buy one. The staff are really helpful and bring in another staff member form a different department who can speak reasonable English, I only said my French was improving, it’s not perfect yet! We leave IKEA with a new bed frame and mattress, but no slats for the bed (again the cost of these is ridiculous) so we decide to buy some wood and make our own, this saves approx 150 euro’s.
On Tuesday morning we wake up fresh and ready to start a new day, we have a big chat in the morning about all the things that are getting to us, the stress levels have been quite high lately, we both feel a lot better after a chat, or I do anyway and as I’m writing it........
John continues on the plumbing and I have yet another car load to fill for the tip.
As I open the door there is a little surprise outside the door, and this time it’s a nice one, there is a little box of vegetables, they have been left by Sheila with a note stating that BABBLE is on today, this is the group for French and English to help each other with the language. I’m really looking forward to it, I’m also looking forward to getting showered and dressed and going to somewhere other than the shops!
organic vegetables in france

At half past one I’m still sweeping muck from the floors, so it’s a very quick shower and off to Sheila’s.
Sheila explains that the group splits into a number of smaller groups, so after introducing me to some people we join a group of 5, me and Sheila (who is already quite fluent) a French woman, a French man and an English man who has been here so long he sounds more French than some of the French people I have met.
My brain is hurting when we finish and I’m not sure if I have learnt anymore but I’m going to give it a few weeks before I decide.
I was also introduced to a young English woman who lives further up the road from us, and when I said where we lived, she asked if I had a website about our house, I was so excited I have met my first fan! She explained that she had stumbled across the blog whilst on Google and really enjoyed it, I was in my element.
Back to Sheila’s for a brew (it is still nice to sit in a real, well not just real but also clean kitchen). Then back to the grind, Johns been really busy all day and the plumbing is getting there, he has replaced some of the original soil pipe and dug a trench through the concrete in the back patio, he also realigned the internal soil pipes which meant changing the holes through the walls (I’m glad I wasn’t here to hear him cursing about that!).
John has been working hard on the waste pipes and has managed to dig out a channel in the back patio, this means that the pipes will be hidden well outside. Luckily the house has only had mains drains for a few years, so do not require replacing. The rain pipes were not so new, so this was replaced at the same time. But it does mean we now have more bags of rubble to clear.
renovation prject france fitting new soil pipes

renovation prject france fitting new soil pipes

renovation prject france fitting new soil pipes

renovation prject france fitting new soil pipes

renovation prject france fitting new soil pipes

renovation prject france fitting new soil pipes

Another trip to the tip and then it’s time to make dinner, roasted fresh home-grown vegetables with fresh salmon (we were going to have chicken, but it was far too expensive, which is why we had to settle for fresh salmon!!!!!!!!! The prices of food are crazy when you compare to England)
Top Tips
1.       When buying a bed in France consider making your own slats for the base, it will save you a lot of money for very little effort.
2.       Shop around for food and it will cost far less to eat in France than it does in England