Sunday, 31 October 2010

More of Orange and FT

At my new house in Angles... It seems that I have had to register with France Telecom for the messagerie service 3103 and that will take 5 days to activate! How is one supposed to have known this?  Then for the Orange internet telephone to work it seems that I have had to re set the Livebox and register with the new terribly long and meaningless email address and various passwords that they sent me on October 3rd!  I did nothing with this information because as the Internet was working why should I change it if it isn't broke and risk being out of contact with the internet services.   So there I was waiting and waiting for it to be activated when it couldn't. Even the nice helpful Orange man said it was weird to have two fti/ numbers etc!
Therefore, by the end of next week I hope to have not only the use of the internet but also TWO telephones as well as making my monthly payments. I am sure they will not reimburse me for the payments I have made whilst not having had communication with the outside world. Ah... Orange! 
Meanwhile I have to try and translate the French telephone instructions which are not available in English as of course like all technology the model number is specifically for France!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Burning decisions

I have made some PROGRESS…. Note the majiscules. 
After what seems to have been several months of ongoing, from-time-to-time-research, I have, at last, decided to buy two woodburners from a new company, who being only one month in business with their shop still not consumer ready, and having visited two other woodburner businesses in one day, we were pleased to have stumbled upon.
In addition, I have surfed the net to research woodburner companies in France, woodburner companies in our region of France and woodburner companies in UK and those with websites of particular brands / marques of woodburner stoves as opposed to multifuel stoves, gathering useful information so as to at least have a little knowledge!
Now, there is a difference in woodburners and I don’t just mean wood pellets or oak logs! 

I am not a technically-minded-creature so I cannot possibly re-iterate all that I have learned but I will say that whatever I HAVE learned is just the tip of the iceberg and I would like to learn more, but,  just as I cannot afford the chateau when I can only afford a garden shed, I cannot afford the type of woodburner my heart desires, therefore and of course with some things in life one just has to compromise.

What is it about buying AND INSTALLING a woodburner in France that is so difficult?
Well, for me, nothing is simple in my life! So, that is an aforesaid! Now to the practicalities, procedures and facts!

1.      One has to invite the company to one’s house to study the chimney / fireplace to measure dimensions and to verify that it will accept the woodburner and to establish how the company will install it.  That appointment has to be made several weeks ahead of when one wants to install the woodburner, because 
      a) it will take several weeks before they can to do ‘l’etude’,  
      b) it will take at least two weeks after that for the estimate of the works to arrive!  
      c) it may take several weeks for the woodburner to be ordered and installed!  
      So be prepared to say Goodbye to at least one to two or months and pray that life continues!
2.     IF as a law-abiding English person living in France on a full-time basis and therefore registered to pay French taxes one wishes to apply for the 40% or 25% tax rebate, one needs to buy the woodburner from the installer!  This precludes buying a woodburner online!  As a result of this knowledge we did sums to compare the costs of buying a cheaper and/or more expensive woodburner online and not gaining the tax rebate with buying a cheaper and/or more expensive woodburner from a buyer/installer and applying for the tax rebate.  The difference can be and has been surprising! Please note also that France may well reduce this tax option at the end of December of this year, hence the fact that all woodburner companies are fully-booked!
3.     Other complications set in!   One cannot find out the price of a woodburner from a French company because they want to come to the house to do the ‘l’etude’ so you have to enter the game!  I have not been able to find out the sale price of a particular brand of woodburner from one establishment without this farce.
4.    When we came across the new company, I was amazed.   The proprietor was prepared to give an estimate according to Captain Sensible’s plan, diagram and measurements AND within a few minutes of enquiry we had a devis / estimate as opposed to a 4 week wait!  More importantly, whereas from one company we had been quoted 650 euros to install each of the two woodburners we were now being quoted 150 euros to install the two woodburners. Subsequently, from a different entreprise, I have been quoted 200 euros to install one woodburner if they come and install the two!     We realise the profits have been added to the cost of the woodburner but I have also gained a 15% reduction on the cost of each woodburner.   
  5. Another shop will not tell me how much a Jotul or Dovre woodburner will cost me because they have to come and do the study which will be in 2 weeks time!  NO, I cannot wait further at this time of year.
6.     An Englishman and his company working in France for over 10 years sounds to be a reputable company and eventually after some mystery and hesitation he agreed to work from the plan with measurements. However, I discovered that their website does not suggest that they can get me a certain  brand of woodburner that is not advertised on their site!  A telephone call does suggest this! Of course I have chosen the upper end of the market with the Jotul range and because I wanted two woodburners with side doors and in enamelled Ivory colour, one with  12kw or more and one with about 9kw he can order these. If I had known this back in June I might have been more tempted!  
7.     Also.... there is a requirement that the installer is responsible for the chimney, and in the case of any impending unwanted "fire in the chimney", the insurance company makes a claim against the installer and obviously, the installer has to guarantee his installation to the house insurance company.   Hence, most probably these are the reasons for the installer to inspect the chimney, maintain the mystery and assume all expertise. If without someone who has previously installed woodburners then I think one is under their spell. I am lucky. My partner has a technical and practical mind and has installed woodburners before.
8.   By now I have sussed out that certain companies purchase e.g. the Dovre model and market it under a Franchise brand name.  
9.   Now, that is where I have ended my research because of the restrictions, mais bien sur, on the pocket and wallet!  The company which we stumbled upon now has my confidence and order within two days of correspondence.   I have paid 30% for the installation of two Dovre-models of woodburners to be installed at the end of November, when I will pay the balance of 70%.  The designated wood burners have flat waffle-patterned beds and are not for multifuel.  The proprietors did not encircle me with magic and mystery of woodburners for they quickly realized we had gained our knowledge from our research and were prepared to gain a sale realising that our measurements were adequate for a devis / estimate.  Voila! They have succeeded where others have prevaricated!
10.  I hope this story ends successfully and that the woodburner mystery saga will be solved after some more hard work on our part, so that logs and luxurious comfort compared to the current cold ambiance will be welcomed at my new house.
11. Meanwhile the Nestor Martin at Village de Vaux beats out the heat in almost November and keeps us as warm as toast on a  Sunday morning.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Meeting challenges, insufficient time and believing in oneself

There's such a lot to do and such a lot to think about! And I am tired already!  But I keep on going!
Then this week a village resident decides to take me up on my offer to help her child with learning English.  I don't need extra work this week .... nevertheless, I am always so very, very pleased to help young people or older people, whoever they are and whatever their age, to learn English.  It is a huge pleasure for the teacher in me to see and hear them making progress, but I'm not sure I was ready for over 3 hours voluntary work this week at Bac level!  Still, I have done my homework and I have treated it as a challenge and as a learning experience for me.   I just hope that I have conveyed and imparted sufficient knowledge and enthusiasm for the 16 year old young horsewoman to gain not only good marks but also the confidence and competence to make progress herself.
Learning is about accepting challenges, and doing one's best to gain whatever it is we need to learn, however old we are!!!  I don't think that as a parent I conveyed that message very well!
I can't quite think at some moments of the day, especially first thing in the morning or after the evening meal, yet at other times the list is theoretically quite lucid, until I start to think pragmatically, or start to shop at DIY institutions!
There is the need for optimism
Double glazing is arriving from UK at half the price of the French estimate as of next Tuesday! Then there is major work to do on about 20 windows and doors! I am the support unit!
Finalising the choice of two woodburners and getting an installer before the end of the year, in addition to all the prep building work we need to do, is the next challenge!   Oh, it sounds so simple!   Believe me, IT IS NOT SIMPLE!!!
Meanwhile, the electrician says he will arrive tomorrow... 8am ... to make the electricity safe and earthed and to install ( oh joy) running hot water!!!!!! from a 'chauffeau thermodynamique' ! 
Will he arrive....because last week's date of his arrival came to nought?
Today was absorbed with DIY shopping for a window and plasterboard and other materials whilst researching the price of a number of things, on what amounted to a lengthy journey, despite the impending fuel shortage.  The bonus was that we passed the fruit farm and bought abut 5 kg of fruit... different apples and pears, some good for cooking and others perfect for eating. I recommend a large apple called Golden Rosé for eating!
Yesterday, we had to go to the city on other business and witnessed the queues for petrol/diesel which affected the flow of traffic exiting from a roundabout!  We paid 1.43 euros per litre once we got out into the countryside, having decided that we had better keep the tank topped up.  Have you heard about the blockades in France and the manifestations of those who are protesting against the raising of the pensionable age to 62? It sounds bad in Paris where vehicles have been set alight!  England wants to raise the pensionable age to 66.   Will that result in strikes, rallies and marches against such governmental plans?
In the house, I continue from time to time to scrape glue and paper off the cement floors and wrestle with the pain in my wrists! The reward is that I can scoop the paper crumbs into the waste bag!
The tongue and groove boarding is being removed. Now the rooms feel as if they can breathe.
I must paint!  I must make shopping lists!  I must do the paperwork! In addition I must decide for items for lighting, for the bathroom (floor, ceiling, walls, bath, shower, toilet, sink, towel rails, cupboards)
What lesson am I supposed to learn from owning a stone house with its once 18th/ 19th century beautiful 'to the modern eye' stone walls which suck up the damp from the soil, but which have been covered in plastered insulation board since 25 years ago, and today, we struggle to covert a 21st century look?   I like the look of French stone walls on the interior so why do I have this house where not a stone can be seen as it is fully plasterboarded and hence potentially very warm inside?  A message cries out to me to build or buy a modern home, a simple, unashamedly faceless practical residence of a Fairfax-type home with its joy of an almost 'maintenance free' lifestyle that it was!   But even that dream has its challenges.  Modern sings to me... as does l'ancienne.    Pick me or Pick me.... the houses say!   Life is just not easy!  My partner wanted me to do build a new house... but i wasn't ready. I felt I did not have sufficient knowledge, expertise or confidence. It is strange because now I know what I would do and how I would do it.  The difference also is that we have some French friends who can help us and if I'd had the courage to approach them a year ago I am sure they would have helped us unravel the building regs for such a project!
For me, the wrinkles become more evident as the brain and wisdom grows.  However, it is my oerceptions that we keep more fit in mind, body and soul by undertaking this project, now that the horrors of what I have undertaken appear to be a little more manageable and under control!
It has been a scary experience.... and I am not out of the woods yet....
MESSAGE:   KNOW what thy doeth when a French renovation project calleth,  and even when one thinketh one knoweth all, be humbleth when knoweth nought!!!!!!!!!
As my French friends tell me ... when one buys an old house it can be aesthetically beautiful but one does not know the surprises that one purchases.   When one has a new build there are no surprises! I now believe!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Realities of Life in France whilst undertaking a House Renovation Project

I am writing this in reply to comments from Susan at Days on the Claise. 

In the 5 to 7 years that we have lived here, moreover and in particular within the last 6 months of being an owner of a "Maison Principale" I have thought that the Reality in France is different from the Reality in England.  Of course, I expected La Vie to be different and wanted it to be the adventure it has been, because unbeknowingly,  apart from holiday experiences, that is why we chose to live here. We wanted life to be different and it has been that, most certainly it has!

In actual fact, the  Reality of living life anywhere in the world is that life is not much different from how one lives LIVING in any country, city, town or village except that the environment and people are different.  Therefore of course experiences, actions and reactions with people, places and things to do are not the same.   One brings ones person, packages and baggages.   Suitcases are put down and unzipped.  Out fly the good and the not so good, the objects of memories, as we all try to make sense of  living life on earth.  Despite the past and present, and because of the past and present I am so glad to be alive for whatever the future may provide.  Forget these wandering thoughts of SweetpeainFrance and her attempted philosophy... let's get back to basics!

Yes, I  discovered on Day One of owning my very own little bit of french land and property that we had unwisely decided to think we could renovate almost overnight.  
What madness overtook us with the rose-tinted spectacles that obviously were worn when I had learned not to wear them?   
What ridiculous notion sprang into our heads when we have much experience between us of previous period renovations in England? 
Nothing, yes, not anything, not even experience, prepares one for the timescale of travelling for DIY shopping, the actual time spent in the lovely DIY shops, plus the logistics of getting the materials from a to b.  Never mind how much time has been taken at home deciding on what to buy and making the lists, as well as not to mention the time spent in returning items, nothing, yes, not anything prepares one for French Property Development.  Nothing primes one for the sudden,  (Was it so sudden? or Have I been living under a stone?) increase in the cost of employing an artisan! 
Nothing, yes, not anything, prepares one for the unforeseen and unexpected changes in all sorts of manner of moments which will remain unexplained.

There we have it...
My eyes feasted upon a dream, the mind thought of the future, the hands waved in the air, the voice spoke, the wallet was assessed, we decided it was manageable! 

My new resolution since the beginning of January 2010 has been to attempt to be more positive. Increasing Negativity has been a feature of my life for several years and in order to combat the increased anxiety levels which were making me ill,  I decided that enough was enough and that I wouldn't worry anymore about making decisions that were difficult to make and that I would just try to let whatever I needed for my own growth and my own personal development to come to me.   If I made a mistake in how I looked or thought or spoke or behaved then I would have to pay the price and deal with myself more rationally!
The house came to me unexpectedly when I had given up the search!
Whether it WAS or IS what I have been searching for will one day be revealed! 
It sort of is and sort of isn't!   It's a house!   It can be made into a home. 
I'll put on red shoes, click them thrice and magically it will all be done!  hahahahaha!
Yes, there are some days when I think "Oh, I don't need to look in the next field like Billy Goat Gruff!"

Seriously for me though,  I really do EXPECT that problems and challenges will be resolved as each day passes.   In fact, I am glad that certain decisions were not made earlier.  I have had time to reflect and review what it is I really want.  I am not worrying!   As long as the roof will be good (I know that will be dealt with next year whatever the cost) and the house will be dry.... and it will have at least basic washing and heating facilities then that is all that matters.  As long as I have my very best of friends and family to help me live my life and to share something of their lives, then I am happy and hopefully contentment will arrive and I will be able to move onto all the other things I would like to achieve in my lifetime.  Think of a life without restoration of houses and homes!

Five years ago the shops were reluctant to exchange or re-imburse purchased goods.  At least now commerce in France recognises that the client has some rights... and of course it makes sense, for the happier the client the more the client will feel 'bonhomie' and return as a good customer should.

It's a pity and yet probably a mercy that we can't return the damaged personal goods of our personal lives!!!!
It's also a pity that the successes and magical moments cannot be repeated.
I try not to waste my hours  ... but sometimes I can't do anymore, I can't do better ... the brain and the body seem to just go on strike!  I don't push myself like I used to!
The saying is that we should:
Live life each day as if it were the last!
I am trying so hard to do this... It is my aim!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Laurie Clement - pianiste

Coffee and macaroons were enjoyed before listening to Laurie with her new recording of Asturias by Issac Albeniz. I am in awe of her professional ability, humility and her positive, motivating, welcoming personality.
She plays the piano with passion and so I am looking forward to receiving a copy of the CD as soon as it is available. Listen to John Williams playing the original written for the guitar.  Exquisite.

Read about Laurie here.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The reason for the flurry

of postings is because I found these all in draft,  proof-read ... then published them, thinking that they would be inserted into their day... but NO ...  now they have appeared in October just to confuse us all!

MUST get the AsA blog up and running!

Making hay in May 2010

31st May 2010
Last week a small window between sun and rain scented the air with the smell of cut hay, the baler compacted the hay, then it was collected just before the wind whipped up the clouds for the falling rain.

Start the 4th Week of Home Improvements

May 2010 Filling all the dinks in the walls takes time and patience yet it must be quite boring. It is definitely neck breaking to sand and fill the between the beams but oh what a beautiful result is being produced. Both men look like flour babies!
Wall paper stripping continues....the scaffolding is mine tomorrow to reach the top of the extremely high walls!
Our reward for today ... chicken legs pan fried, then roasted in the oval braising dish with orange juice, spiced cherries, onions and the last of the coriander leaves, served with carrots and onions in a honey sauce, accompanied by a Captain Sensible 'gratin dauphinoise' styled potatoes.
A Neighbourly Note
Rushed off our feet with the excitement and new physical exercise of home renovations, I failed to take a photo of the wheelbarrow full of Monalisa potatoes that appeared on our verandah about three weeks ago, from a very dear and kindly voisin, Monsieur Roland and his lovely wife Bernadette. We are still eating potatoes even though we have given some away. They are large, perfect for wedge potatoes, jacket potatoes, chippies, mashed and every cooking style imaginable. He offered us a second wheelbarrow full. Normally we would have said 'Yes please' but working flat out there is no time to see friends. In the shops are the new Ile de Ré and Ile de Noirmoutier new potatoes but we won't need them. Our crop of early and main crop potatoes seem healthy and soon we will be eating them straight from the garden!

Energising, Renovating, Reflecting, Meditating

July 2010  Although I was energised by the owning of a property, evidently demonstrating vim, vigour and enthusiasm for wallpaper stripping, sanding down woodwork, clearing out junk, digging and filling trenches, rubbing down large beams, baking bread on a building site, helping to organise what might have been the start of a Midsummer ritual in my garden, after 7 weeks of what could be perceived as almost a kind of trauma about what I had done in buying my house, I decided to have a break and Do Something Different. So at the end of June and the beginning of July I decided to visit family and friends instead of or in addition to the months of March and November.
What wonderful weather is in England ... sunny days with privet blossom, scabious flowers and poppies by the wayside, cereals growing golden in their English gated fields surrounded by English oak trees and hedgerows. Yet though the beauty in the East Anglian fields is very marvellous I miss the French stone walls and lanes.

Reportage of the development of my new house has come to a standstill at the moment as I take stock of my life and review the goal which is to get the ground floor of the house ship-shape with running water, a bathroom, a better kitchen and all rooms painted and decorated and NORMAL. How on earth did I think it would happen in just a few weeks? "Ever the optimist" someone once said of me in my career when things were going awry and I had made some naïve comment akin to 'it will be alright on the night'.

So ... it will take a little longer than I thought and the plan on how to do it may change but that's OK ... and if I have to struggle a little more in life then "c'est la vie". It's my life and I'll have to do it my way even if I create a muddle as I go. I'll get there wherever that may be. I won't be beaten. That's another lesson that I learnt recently. Pick myself up... get on with it ... keep moving ... keep doing things ... don't brood ... think happy thoughts ... put the music on and dance, dance, dance to the Rolling Stones or reflect quietly with Chopin or Bach.

I am still energised and when I get back to 'work' I will enjoy it because life must be about working. I don't have time to be lazy anymore! I don't have time to waste! I don't have time to spend on negative energies. I want to be positive and happy. I don't want to experience any more horrid moments. I have things to improve and things to sort and dispose of or keep. I have places to go and things to do and people to meet as once my dearest friend once said.

There are some photos but it all takes time to collate and computerise and I want to write and I want to explain with photos but I'll have to get up earlier and be organised. Mrs Muddle has been too disorganised and she needs to get into ACTION and prioritise her goals.

Window measurements in France

October 2010  We bought a window for the laundry room. It was 45cm by 45cm and is an opening and closing window to seal the gaping window hole which was more like a gap that archers would have fired through only wider, into what is called The Atelier.  Captain Sensible did whatever was necessary to make it fit the hole which is wider internally than externally, and above it leave a gap for the ventilation grid, as in this room there is a central heating boiler!  It looks really nice painted Lead White.  We were pleased.
Then we move to the second window which already has brique verre on the outside wall. We removed the nasty yucky badly fitted gungy secondary glass on the inside.  Captain S managed to improve this rather badly installed window attending to it from the exterior as well as interior.   The required window had to be ordered because the dearly beloved Brico shop was out of stock. We waited because we are in France!  We didn't want to travel there and back for almost 2 hours just for a window.  In order "to get on" the window area including the beautifully place wooden sill was finished off.
Later, holding the window to the hole, we couldn't understand why it was too big!   
The reason???  It is advertised as a window 75cm high and 60cm wide so we assumed that is the size of the hole.   Mais NON!!! This is France.... please read the small print at the bottom of the window chart.... each window is actually 3 cm wider and 5 cm higher or vice versa, than the actual measurements advertised in large print at the top of the chart!!!
Our research tells us that this is the norm in Bricodepot and in Le Roy Merlin.
Does this happen in England?Therefore our hole is too small.  Captain S is going to have to undo the neat work. We will have to return to the shop and purchase another window because we returned the one we had bought.

The moral of the tale is to scan and read everything not just what one wants to read!  

Monday, 4 October 2010

Just a taste of things to do

Just for starters to let anyone who is interested, know sort of in brief, what I am up against! 
NEW WEBSITE and BLOG was created and prepared but has been on hold as I don't have time or energy to create.

Manual expertise has been on hand converting the rough and horrid to smooth and more beautiful.  I help manually. I can use powered sanding machines and elbow grease!

Electrician promises to come in October to make electricity safe and install the water heater.
Menuisier for double-glazing of the many windows and doors in the house gave us a different kind of shock in his estimate!  Others have also arrived to give estimates and we get different messages each time. Research on getting them made in UK and delivered to France continues.
Research continues into which woodburner to order and its installation.  Again different messages come thick and fast. It is not as simple as it sounds!

Despite being worn out and cold weather approaching, we get up and do ... and at weekends collapse into a practically non-functioning unit! 
Laundry room....damp walls have been dry-lined, the floor has been tanked up, cleaned, levelled and floor tiles laid and grouted with plinths. ceiling made good, windows made good, new space for plumbing and electricity created.
Next jobs: walls and ceiling to paint /  two exterior walls to chip off the render, rebuild where we know there is just plasterboard covered with cement render, make pierre vue, all of which affects replacement guttering / build worktop with sink, taps and waste outlet, connect to water in and out / build cupboard shelves / install water heater, correct faulty electrics, purchase and plumb in washing machine.
Small room to be an office....  electricity to correct and improve plugs and switches / grind off paper and glue from cement floor ( done that ) / make walls flat / remove tongue and groove boarding around windows and doors and make good / level the floor where necessary, lay parquet floor and seal, add skirting boards / fill other woodwork /  repaint all surfaces /  make replacement doors for those missing on corner armoire /  build cupboards to conceal electrics and water stopcocks / double glaze window and door (there are 4 units and to replace is more complicated than this note reveals), draughtproof door and windows /  sand and repaint shutters / choose and install wall lights / install telephone point / replace radiator / find curtaining...
Oval room ....replace insulation boards on walls, remake chimney, purchase and install woodburner to replace what was there and instal with all that that implies for the chimney!  make walls flat, repaint ceiling where necessary, make safe electricity and add plugs and switches, grind off paper and glue from cement floor, level the floor where necessary, lay oak flooring and seal, add skirting boards, fill woodwork or remove all tongue and groove boarding, repaint all surfaces,  double glaze door , draughtproof door, create a wider and higher internal doorway and buy new door,  choose and install lighting, replace radiator, find curtaining...
Kitchen ... to plan the change! It is being considered! Beams, ceiling between, walls and floor to be improved before kitchen units and equipment can be installed. Currently the fridge is a freezer and sited next to the oven which I try not to use. The hob is 'basic'ally good now I have discovered how to turn the gas down for a simmer! Before that I did not dare leave the hob for fear of burning the veg!

Bathroom's a shell... so to buy and install everything --- flooring, ceiling, wall covering and window, bath /shower, toilet, sink, towel rail / sand and paint door / extraction unit / replace radiator.
Bedroom...  lay oak flooring and add skirting board, add lighting and extra plugs, double glaze  and draughtproof French doors, repair door furniture, hang chandelier, replace radiator, consider how to heat this room if there is no woodburner next door and no oil fuelled central heating! Furnish and add curtains.
Living room.. Finish sanding and repair of doors, paint, double glaze and draughtproof. There are 4 French doors plus 2 French doors to the bedroom and 3 other doors.  Its a large room!  Sand and finish oak staircase. Pipes to paint or conceal, Skirting board to replace,  Insert and chimney to be replaced with woodburner.... (this will affect chimney flue going through attic and up to the roof).
Gardens to weed and mow here and there... TICK   to order plants and plant! (Previous owner took alll except lots of sorrel, one white peony, two surviving roses (not yet bushes),  Orange "Angel's trumpets" and another plant I know not the name of!

Tomatoes  to conserve  TICK they've been eaten so it's just the green ones to deal with!

Bonfires to light  TICK

Waste wood to saw into usable lengths  

Guttering external problems to solve
Roof  to consider how much to re-roof and do what is necessary! New ideas abound.
STOP!! STOP!!   GO!! GO!!
What about the terraced courtyard, the atelier / verandah,  the chicken shed and yard, the municipal toilet-block, and the rest?    Oh what fun has just begun!
Habitability is the required keyword!