But not so fast, gentle reader. The inside of the house is done, barring one or two little details, some new doors, redecorating where cupboards have been taken out, the damp patch on the ceiling upstairs, new carpet - well, you get the picture. You're never completely finished with a house.
There remains the outside. I told you last time about looking at paving stones for the patio. That is, I hope, to be put in hand some time over the summer. And would we like a fancy lamp-post thingy to light us if we have an evening meal outside? Why not - he's already put in the basic wiring, after all. And those street lamps are so, well, yellow. I must say I rather fancy sitting out in the cool evening, as long as we can keep the insects away.
The big thing though is my Woman Shed. I want my Woman Shed. The Old Man says it's low down on the list of priorities - well, he would, wouldn't he? He said the same thing about the kitchen, if you remember, and look what happened there. The Old Man has short arms and deep pockets; which comes I have to admit from having been hard up for a lot of our married life. The Old Man also has a tougher skin than I do, and can sit out in the sun without needing to bother with a shed.
I want my Woman Shed. I want a nice big one with room for a desk, electricity for my computer, enough space for the old put-you-up so that it can serve as the overflow bedroom if ever anybody comes to visit. There's an outside tap nearby so I can get water for tea or coffee. There's the outside lavvy, just handy to the side of the shed. The birds will sing, the sun will shine, and I will get so much writing done you won't believe it. I've already bought the booster so that I can get wifi out there. I shall even be able to procrastinate, with Facebook and that new game I discovered.
And I know there are sheds out there just perfect for me. Had it not been for The Kidney Stone Problem we would have been out looking at one recommended by Rod the Electrician and his mate,the Outdoors Man, which even has a little lean-to attached to it, where you can keep your mowers and spades. Which will lock, because some toe-rag nicked our garden fork some time over the winter. It wasn't even a particularly good one. People coming in on the big road and making a clean sweep of everybody's garden shed, according to our neighbour. But I digress.
It's not as if there's anything wonderful there at the moment anyway. A shed constructed of rotting timber, breeze blocks, and internal bricks - those French ones that crumble when exposed to wet, frost, and time. A dirt floor. A wooden extension at one end that the previous owner used to house his chickens. The look of the garden would be so much improved by a nice summer house, I'm sure you would agree.
We've got the money: the work that's been done, although not exactly cheap, has still not quite used up the funds we had earmarked for the improvements, so I'm not accepting that as an excuse. Rod the Electrician and his mate the Outdoors Man are poised. Are you with me? All together, "We want the Woman Shed!"
... or perhaps not. Not if we were lucky. But there were only certain shapes and sizes available to us.
We had to accept that the existing carcasses of the cupboards would all have to be replaced. Not only that, but we would probably have to have glazed doors rather than solid wooden ones. We had, of course, asked whether we could purchase the display units from the showroom, but had been told that they had already been sold.
Anyway, after several phone calls to the Granville store and waiting until the weekly deliveries arrived, we managed to assemble enough cupboards, doors and other bits and pieces to construct a whole kitchen's worth of nice, wood-fronted units. Now I personally am not a fan of glazed doors on cupboards. As far as I am concerned, doors are there to stop other people seeing what an untidy state the inside of the cupboard is. Putting glass in defeats the object of having a door in the first place. But it is what it is, and it is glass doors. I'm thinking perhaps I can get some transfers to put on the glass, or in the very French style, some gingham material to make little curtains with to cover the inside of the glass.
There were one or two other problems. Firstly, the power supply for the dishwasher meant that the top drawer of the set of three wouldn't fit. Rod got round that by combining the top two drawers. This is actually a Good Thing, because the saucepans can now be stacked in the extra-deep drawer. First win.
Secondly, the special linen bag that niftily fits into a pull-out unit at the end, specially made to hold baguettes of French bread ... is just too short for a whole baguette to fit into it. Perhaps we shouldn't have had the little drawer above, but it's a very useful little drawer and I'm keeping it. As things stand you have to break the end off the loaf. And once it has been broken off, it would be a pity not to eat it. Don't you think?
Thirdly, the taps. We got some nice wooden worktops from Ikea (yes, they have reached rural France) and inset the sink, to find that the original taps didn't stick out far enough from the wall for the water they provided to fall into the sink. The modern way is for the taps to be fed from below, but if you look at last time's picture, you will see that these taps, which had probably been installed when everything else was done, back in the nineteen seventies, are fed from behind. And the wall is two-foot-thick stone. Not the sort of thing you want to be drilling through if you can possibly avoid it. "Leave it with me," Rod said. So we did, and in the meantime used jugs to transport the water to where it was needed. Eventually he found a way round it, with a bit of banging and hammering no doubt.
In another flash of inspiration I had decided to have another work surface on the other side of the kitchen, with a gap underneath. We currently have a tallish fridge/freezer blocking the way round the foot of the table, but as we got it second hand in the year 2000, we have to accept that it may not last for ever. The space under the work surface would be the ideal place to put a small fridge and a small freezer, We have the power points there (as well as everywhere else). The work surface rests on the chair rail. The chair rail is 83 centimetres above the floor.
Standard fridges and freezers have a height of 84 centimetres.
Back to the drawing board. Luckily the legs supporting the work surface at the front are telescopic and can be wound up a bit further. The chair rail will now sport an extra inch of wood above it. "Leave it with me," said Rod when we were there this March.
And he did find a cooker hood slim-line enough that we can still open up the cover that fits over the cooker hob. What a guy!
As a post script to our first trip to the DIY emporium last September, we were asked to follow Rod back. He had a call to make at the Lidl - great, I bought paella, and other irresistible delicacies - and then he wanted to show us the paving slabs his mate could lay outside the lavvy, so the old man wouldn't have to spend his time hacking through sweet peas when we arrived for our holidays.
It was a hot day, and the middle of the afternoon when we parted at the paving slab supplier's depot. Theoretically our car had air conditioning, but the coolant had needed topping up. "We won't need air conditioning in September," said the Old Man. Top-ups can be quite expensive. The outside temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius that afternoon. We were hot. More importantly, so was the satnav. "Too hot!" it told us. "Cannot function! Aaaaargh." We were driving along a road previously unknown to us, through the middle of the empty French countryside.
If you were in northern France last September and came across an English car with the front passenger window wound down, an arm stuck out, waving a satnav in the breeze to try and cool it down enough that it would tell us where we were and how to get where we wanted to go, that would have been us.
Oh, the display kitchen? They offered to sell it to Rod when he went back, after we had returned to Wales. After we had managed to put together enough units to fill the space available. Apparently it hadn't already been sold, after all.
So, my little chickadees, we are approaching the present day and the current situation with our house in France. It's been a long journey, and there are still things to do, but the end is in sight.
When last we left our intrepid Francophiles, the satellite tv and broadband dishes had been installed, and work was proceeding with the electrification of the house.
Now I have to admit I had gone a little overboard on the electrical sockets. My belief has always been that you can't have too many; so I had some here, some there, and ooh, some more over there, and why not ... anyway, there were plenty. Then we changed our minds about which side to put the tv and broadband hub, so let's have a couple more by the window. Why not? We had an electrician almost permanently at the house.
The house had originally had oil-fired central heating, but in all the years we had been there, we had never managed to get it to work. I had read the instructions, and proceeded as they said, but the sands of time had gathered in the nooks and crannies of the boiler and solidified. The plumber had removed the old fitments, the space had been given to a dishwasher, so now we needed the electric radiators we had decided were the most sensible solution for a house that would not be occupied in the coldest part of the year in any case.
Oh, said Rod the Electric, you need to go to a place in Flers for that, and he rattled off the directions, ending with "You can't miss it". We arranged to meet him at the DIY place the next morning.
Well, we did find the place in the end, after driving through Flers twice and stopping to ask a very helpful lady who was washing the windows of her apartment, and we were only ten minutes or so late. We had allowed for a certain amount of errantry, you see, having had experience of French road signs previously. What can you say of a nation that has road signs indicating the way to "Toutes Directions"? At least the British are more selective, indicating the way to "The North" or "The South".
So we got to the DIY emporium, as I said, snagged a large trolley, and went around practiacally stripping the shelves. Light fittings, more sockets, a pile of electric radiators, undercupboard lighting strips - why not get a few more? - outside lights, inside lights, lights for the staircase and the lavvy, we would have lights everywhere.
Then there was the kitchen section. Now the Old Man had insisted that a new kitchen was way down the list as far as he was concerned. As far as I was concerned, we still had money in the French account, so I took him on a tour around the kitchen units.
It seems the French have a weakness still for Formica. Personally I have a weakness for natural wood, and there was just one kitchen on display with natural wood doors. Look, it's quite cheap! We collared a sales assistant We had worked out on the back of an envelope what units we needed, if we could get doors to fit the existing units on the opposite side to the sink. Could we buy those units?
Non. The kitchen she is discontinued. There is only what there is in store. But perhaps we can get some units from the other shop in Granville.
All is well, Granville has more units, we can get them next week. Doors of such and such a size? Non.
We go to lunch in a restaurant with a WWII aircraft theme, eat les frites au fromage, and lick our wounds.
To be continued.
Yes, I'm just back from a month in France.
And why, when I have all mod cons, inside plumbing and wi-fi, did I not post anything about my wonderful new kitchen?
Well, It wasn't the worst holiday ever; I've already blogged about that, after all. But it was up there.
We always stop over at our sons' place Down South on the way to the ferry. It means we can get the early ferry without driving all night, or the afternoon ferry without getting up at stupid o'clock. Although on this occasion the Old Man decided he didn't want to drive to our French house in the dark so we were on the early ferry. Stupid o'clock it was.
Except that when we stumbled out of the house at 5:30 am, the car wouldn't start. Now I have to say in its defence that it had hiccuped a bit the previous week, but seemed to have recovered. Anyway, we got one of the sons out of bed, and he said not to worry, he could give us a start from his car. And when he finally got the bonnet open (he hasn't had it very long, and obviously hadn't had occasion to top up the screenwash yet) he found the negative terminal on his battery is just too close to something or other (I didn't inquire) to get a crocodile clip on it.
Not to worry, he said, he would call his mate who lives next door. Everything is done by phone now. I'm surprised he didn't send him an email. But in all fairness, his mate next door got out of bed and came to try to get our car going for us, which shows what a stand-up guy he is - thanks, Carl, you're a toff and a gent. Unfortunately it still didn't work. So we called first the ferry company, then the RAC.
The RAC man turned up at 8:30, coincidentally the exact time our ferry was sailing. He sold us an extremely expensive new battery, and off we went. We had to pay to have our booking transferred, and more because they didn't have any inside cabins left, but we did at least get going, on the ferry we would normally have caught anyway. Complete with night-time drive in France, our headlights adjusted for driving on the Continent by having gaffa tape stuck over part of the glass.
We had not been in the house for a week when the Old Man got a pain in his belly. He likened it to being kicked in a delicate part of his anatomy, but it didn't go away. Unless he lay flat on his back. For a few days he even had to eat reclining on the bed like a Roman patrician. We did a check-list of symptoms, and eventually came to the conclusion that he had a kidney stone. Which gave me the opportunity to point out that I always said he doesn't drink enough, but otherwise was not a happy conclusion.
So he spent the rest of the month doing very little, though he gradually improved and was able to come grocery shopping and mow the lawn once. And as I became responsible for the catering, at least we didn't spend the entire time eating sausages.
He was just about well enough by the time we came to depart that he could drive us to the ferry port. Except that we got a message from the ferry company, 36 hours before we were due to sail, to say that the ferry had been cancelled because of "electrical problems". Once again we had to re-book, and once again we ended up paying extra. It was a bit late to go for the next morning's early ferry, we had the final shopping to do and the house to close up for a couple of months, so we ended up on the (more expensive) Saturday overnight ferry. We missed our sons' birthday, and only just got in all the things we needed to do Down South, like taking our French clock, the one with the eccentric Big Ben chimes, to the clock repairer, and having a meal out with the boys. We got back just in time for my first Creative Writing class of the new term on the Wednesday.
Oh, and one more thing. When we were about to disembark at Portsmouth, the car wouldn't start.
Doreen lives in the empty bit in the middle of Wales, where since her retirement she has taken up writing. She says it's better than working any day.
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