Sunday, 22 June 2014

We've finally been IN!

It's so hard to believe... BUT...we have actually been in the pool!  At long last! 

The terracing isn't finished (and won't be for about another fortnight as John has had to go off somewhere else for the next week!), there is still a mountain of earth to shift (with no idea of WHEN that might happen) and a whole area of the garden still resembles a building site.

BUT..we do have a usable and heated swimming pool!  (An engineer came on Thursday to see why the heat pump wasn't working.  He spent two hours here but found and rectified the problem.  Some wiring had been installed wrongly by the manufacturer!)

So, leaving aside some totally unprintable, awful photos, here are a couple of half way decent ones of Danny and I enjoying some swimming...

As you can probably see, all of the margelles are now fixed round the pool and about half of the flagstones are down. 
It's been a very hot and sunny week but on a slightly cooler day this week, I spent some time tidying up the flower beds in the front garden.  As it is now so much clearer of building materials, the whole front is beginning to look better.  I've returned the patio table and my mum's old garden bench to their original positions and I think it's an improvement....

The stack of pallets you see in this last picture is going to be used when Danny makes a compost bin for us!  Just another of his projects 'on the list'!

I must also tell you about our visit to our next door neighbours' house yesterday.  The English couple who owned our house before us were coming to see their old neighbours on their way back to the UK from a holiday in the Dordogne and the neighbours had asked if we'd like to join them "for coffee and cake".  We duly turned up, fashionably late, a little after 4pm to be served red wine, followed fairly swiftly by a glass of champagne, the latter served with healthy portions of delicious cake!  A couple of hours drifted by (with more wine and liqueurs!) till the other couple said they needed to check into the hotel they were staying in that night and we needed to go back home to feed the animals.  Our neighbours then asked us all if we'd like to come back in an hour or so.  So after a while, we were all regrouped...all of this was round a huge table in the garden.  There were more drinks and around 10pm we thought we'd make a move home only to be stopped in our tracks when out came dinner plates, knives and forks!  And there followed nothing less than a full blown four-course meal!  I have read about and heard about this sort of thing happening; when you're invited for apéritifs only to end up eating a huge meal and staying till the wee hours!  But this was a first for us!

Unfortunately it hasn't been all good this week; Danny had a phone call this week to say that another of his aunts had died (the third in the time we've been here).  So he is going back to England for a few days so that he can go to the funeral.  We each hate it when the other one is away but I will have plenty of little jobs to keep me occupied! 

But I'll leave you with another couple of animal photos.  The first is of our two cats, sitting just a step apart.  The sight amused me because they don't like each other yet were prepared to be this close!

And then good old he is, showing how to sit "poolside"....
Till the next time, à bientôt!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A lot can happen in a week...

Having been so dilatory in updating this blog in recent months I thought I'd seize the moment and let you know what we've been up to this week.

And it's been a busy week!  We have had gloriously hot and sunny weather and it's such a pleasure to look out and see the garden alive with colour.  As I hope you can see in this photo, the geraniums in our window boxes are flowering now as are the roses and oleander.

(One of these days, the drive will be clear of excess slabs, stone and trailers full of rubbish!)

And on the subject of flowers in the garden, although one whole section of the back garden still looks more like a building site, the flower bed we created back in the autumn (the one I call my "eye bed" - as it is shaped like an eye!) is flourishing and, I think, makes a nice backdrop for our grey garden chair set.  True, there are a couple of shrubs in the bed that didn't survive their move but I plan to replace them in the autumn.

Danny proved that his knowledge of French is better than he thought this week!  He had to go to the hospital to have a mole removed and I was told (most emphatically, I thought) to wait in the waiting room.  Now normally, as my French is better than his, I'm always on hand to speak for him but he had no trouble at all understanding and responding to the nurses.  I've thought for some time that he could manage; he just needs to build his confidence.
Also this week, we've experienced two instances of French culture that till now we had only read about prior to living here. Firstly, the chimney sweep came round.   He trades under the name of "Le P'tit Ramoneur"  - The Little Chimney Sweep - but this is obviously a very tongue-in-cheek description as he is rather a rotund gentleman, albeit 'little' in stature!  He brought in all his equipment and I naturally offered him a drink (in my best French of course!).  He said he would wait until his work was done and I said "Un café?" His reply? "Non! Une bière!"  Danny and I had to avoid looking at each other, for fear of laughing.  We had often read of the French artisans enjoying a drink or two with you but this was our first personal experience of it!  Sure enough, after he'd finished sweeping the chimney, Danny brought him a glass of cold beer and our little chimney sweep glugged it down as he did the paperwork!
The second thing was our next door neighbour, Jean-Marie, who doesn't speak a word of English, advising me on the growing of my vegetables in the potager.  I already knew that my cherry tomatoes were growing far more bushy than they should and I had been avidly reading how to trim them.  But I couldn't understand how to put it in practice.  But Jean-Marie offered to have a look and show me what to do.  He came round and trimmed them all for me!  He also told me I'd planted my potatoes too close together and showed me how to scrape away the earth to see if they are ready to eat (they are!).  It is very much the French way to give advice and I receive it gratefully and gracefully!
So, here are my cherry tomatoes growing correctly now!  Notice how they use metal 'curly' stakes here rather than tying the plants to canes.  Jean-Marie has lent me these ones with instructions to give them back in the autumn!
And pool news?  Well, the terracing area has now been concreted ready to lay the flagstones as has the pathway from the new kitchen door to the pool area.  (There is a standing joke - between John and Danny - about how much quicker I'll be able to deliver Danny's beer to him while he lounges by the pool - oh yes?)  We also now have edging stones to three sides of the terrace which, as well as being decorative, will have the practical use of containing the banked earth around those sides of the pool.  And we have the steps down into the pool area.  Next week John starts the final task of laying the margelles around the edge of the pool and the flagstones. This will take a while and he is also away for the week after next but we are moving ever closer to the finished article!  This is how it looks today...

I should mention here that Danny has been doing his bit to help.  He has mixed countless quantities of cement for John and now considers himself something of an expert in the art of cement-mixing.  He's even decided that he ought to buy his own cement mixer and co-incidentally, John has a surplus one he's happy to sell to Danny!
We had to take off the cover as it had got dirty from the cement laying!  Plus, we realised the heat pump wasn't working properly as the water hadn't reached the temperature that Danny had set.  We are waiting for a technician to come and look at it but in the meantime, with such hot weather as we have at present, the water should heat up on its own.
I couldn't resist a little paddle.....

and Finn, who thought the pool was just a giant drinking bowl, fell in!  This is what he looked like after that particular escapade...
He doesn't look too happy about it does he?!
And on that note, I'll leave this for now..... à bientôt!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

No good excuse!

Well, as the title hopefully, if rather lamely, suggests, I have no good excuse for not having posted on here since 11 May.... nearly a month ago! 

The first thing I do when I decide to update this blog is to go through all the photos that Danny and I have taken since the last update.  Then as I go through them, it reminds me of what's been happening since then and I pick the photos that seem to reflect that.  The photos, while serving as a reminder for me, provide a framework for the update.  Why am I telling you this?  Because, until I sat down this evening to write this, it felt that very little had actually happened since I last posted.  (Maybe, subconsciously, that's why I haven't felt the need to do an update).  And yet, as you will see, things have really moved on since early May.

For Danny and I it's a constant battle as we ride a rollercoaster of emotions, trying to keep positive, trying not to let hitches and delays get us down.  We are both so aware that our trials and tribulations are shallow compared to some of the things that others are going through.  But, try as we might, there are times when one or both of us feels despondent.  For so long now we have been living on what feels like - and most of the time, looks like -  a building site.  But I had to smile when I saw this photo.  Regular readers may remember that about 18 months ago, I planted a Victoria Plum tree.  Well, here it is (bless it!), still standing amidst the rubble and earth that is the building site....
So, how has the pool installation progressed, I hear you ask!  To remind you, when I last wrote we had had all of the pipework and pumps fitted and were waiting for the pool liner to be fitted.  The air temperature had to be at least 18°C and finally, that happened on 16 May!  Tim, the man who sold us the pool kit and who has travelled backwards and forwards from his home nearly two hours' drive away to do the plumbing and electricity aspects, returned with his daughter, to fit the liner.  It was a fascinating operation! It started with a thin carpet-like layer then, when the liner was warm and (I suppose) more pliable, it was fitted.  I can do no better than demonstrate this with the following series of photos....

It was about this point in the proceedings when someone (I forget who!) noticed there was a pebble in the bottom, underneath the liner!  Poor Tim had to slither inside and retrieve it!

One of the most fascinating bits of the liner installation was, for me, the way the liner was cut away from the front of the steps.  I'm not sure if these pictures capture it but I hope they give you an idea of the operation..

 So, now the liner was in and there was an aspirator fitted to each of the two long sides of the pool to suck out any remaining air between the liner and the side panels. 

It was time to start filling the pool with water!  Danny had the honour of doing this...

Once the pool was half filled with water, our digger man, Phil was back to start back filling the area behind the panels with gravel.  At this point, we had very bad, wet weather again and the digger churned up the earth - again!

At this stage of the proceedings, it was good to welcome back John who, you may remember, installed the panels.  He is now back with us to complete the terracing around the pool and 'finish it off'.  His first job was to put down hard-core, followed by a reinforcing mesh before he could concrete.

John has now started concreting and once that is done, he'll be able to start fixing the slabs on top.

Last weekend, Danny and I had our first go of cleaning the pool, after which we put on the 'summer cover'.  This lies on top of the water and at the moment is there to protect the pool from bits of dirt and cement!  This is me, in pool-cleaning mode!

Well, while all this has been going on outdoors, quite a lot has been going on indoors as well!  Danny has finished painting not just the utility room, but also the remaining wall in the kitchen, where the new door was fitted.  These rooms have lots of niggly bits to do still before they are completely finished but nonetheless, we are making progress..

And while Danny paints, I have been busy looking after the potager.  And my fruit cage..

And I am thrilled to introduce you to my first radish...and my first new potatoes...

The animals, especially the dogs, love all the activity and all the workmen.  We currently have a pile of sand on the drive and Finn has made it 'his' place...poor John has to simply shovel around him!  And Charlie watches the proceedings from a perch on a concrete block!  I don't think I'll ever figure out what goes on in their little heads!

But I am going to leave you with a final photo of the pool.  Danny took this on the evening that Tim connected up the light in the pool.  I think it looks magical and I only have to look at this picture to remind myself, yet again, that we are so lucky to be in this position and that truthfully, our dream of having our own swimming pool is not too far off now.

So, bye for now...and I promise not to leave it so long before my next update!