Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We are currently riding an emotional roller coaster, one day it looks like we will make the deadline the next something happens to change this. We worked on Le Chene all last weekend finishing the decorating, putting up lights, curtain rails, wardrobe fitments etc. The weather on Sunday was appalling with 80mm of rain falling in 24 hours. Serious stuff!
The forecast for Monday had been ongoing rain, but thankfully the mist lifted, the wind got up and cleared the way for sunshine so that the guys could finish rendering the pool house.

Many hands make light work!

On Monday we had help from friends Kevin & Siobhan who bought our village house two years ago.They are out here on holiday and foolishly (but we are very greatful)volunteered to help. At the end of the day we drank wine in our pool house and felt we were on the way and would meet our deadlines. These being guests in Le chene 23 May and in the gites 16th May.

Our gardener has started preparing the ground at Le Chene, putting in the staircase.This is the front of the house facing North. He has huge amounts of work to do and will receive huge amounts of money for doing it!

I have been cleaning the pool which is now beginning to warm up. The landscaoing around should be completed next week.
And today our rollercoaster was definately going down hill. First Thijs our Mason, is facing a distinct lack of co operation from the Electrician and plumber over who is doing the respective parts of installing the pool equipment. And then we find out that the Pool cover is delayed until May 11th so just 5 days before the guests arrive which means we cannot fill the pool until the 12th let alone heat it.
I think we might be awake agian tonight................

Thursday, April 23, 2009

22 Days left and today was busy with the league of Nations on site! Simon (English)and Jeremy(French)were building our entrance wall, Patrick, the Electrician and Monsieur Trouchet,the satalite TV man were both here all day doing what they do! we have 3 satelite dishes at Le chene, 1 for French TV, 1 for UK TV and the other for the internet,Dominic the gardener and his assistant (a guy of about 58 who still adresses him as Monsieur Maubert), again French, Thijs(Dutch) his crew of 3, two French and 1 Morrocian, the spicy sausages!and Johann , Austrian.

As if we did not have enough to do I have been out showing houses with what will be my last client for Home-Hunts as I have been fired! Yes , for the first time in my life Sir Francois has fired me! Clearly I am not the man I used to be! It was in truth by mutual agreement due to a lack of time on my part.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not long after 9am and they start rendering the pool.

With just over 3 weeks until 'G' day - guest day, its all hands to the pumps! Thijs and his merry men were on site as were the guys to render the pool. Their name is Merguiez, as in the spicey sausage. So as you can imagine we are always asking where the spicey sausages are. They are a great team, ranging in age from about 30 to mid 70's, working 8am to 5pm and chatting away in either Arabic or French.

This is the oldest member of the team, he seives the sand by hand.

Within a couple of hours good progress is being made.

And at last the facade of our house is going to be rendered, we are so fed up of living with scaffolding, and our lovely Oak front door has been under plastic since November. The gutters are being fitted next week and then the scaffolding will come down - horray!

We have been pretty bold with the colour - dark grey , the result is a natural water colour rather than the normal bright blue. Everyone is interested in seeing how it will turn out.

By early afternoon the walls are done and they start the floor.

By 4pm the rain moves in, not to heavy luckily, but very threatening with thunder and lightening over the Luberon. It is important to keep the pool dry for a few hours so we cover up quickly.

Not to be beaten, the guys work under the tarpaulin to complete the job. Tomorrow we can measure and order the cover.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It is four weeks to the day until our first clients arrive all the way from Winnepeg, Canada.Now the pressure is really on! The pool house is advancing, Thijs and his crew worked all day today,Saturday, but we are really up against it. We have to have the rendering of the pool finished by Tuesday so that we can order the cover, this is likely to take at least two weeks to come and only then can we start putting water in the pool! So at worst the pool may not be full and at best it will be but cold! There is also the decking to be done all around the pool, further landscaping to conceal the parking area , oh yes and of course Le Chene, Karen and I are now on cleaning, snagging, putting up lights , curtains, bathroom fitments, door handles etc and then there is the garden at Les cypres before our next guests arrive there. And yet another storm rolls in! just what we do not need!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One question we are frequently asked is what is different about living in France. We have just experienced two extremes of French customer service. I guess you could say its the same in Britain.
Remember there is a recession here as there is in the UK.
You might of heard of the mail order company Leredoute,we received a voucher for a free 'ladies trench coat', free delivery and 20 Euros off the first order. Great - so we thought. We had found a peice of furniture for the new house. It was 250 Euros with 20% off. I placed the order on line, put the code in for the trench coat ( Karen was already getting excited about it!), all ok, then the code for the 20 Euro reduction - there was not one! what am I missing? Then they want 15 Euros delivery. No code of course. So not to be defeated I call them. 38 pence per minute! Needless to say I have to press lots of numbers and wait 5 minutes eating into my 20 Euro reduction.

When I finally get to speak to the lady she runs through the order,no problem, so I ask how do I get my 20 Euros off ? you don't she tells me, the item already has a reduction so you do not qualify. Great. Ok lets try the free delivery - no - you don't get that either as it is to heavy!so I go ahead, defeated and about 3.80 worse off for the phone call.I guess it was a cheap french Lesson!

By contrast I had to buy some sun beds this week - 14 of them with cushions. Another shop where we will not be forgotten! But what great staff, ladies who helped pile them up, store them until we came back next day, load them on the trailer and hold the queue at the check out whilst I asked for various 'factures' invoices. The scene of Karen carrying the 'cellophane wrapped' cushions resembled a lunatic wrestling with a crocodile. The French looked at us curiosly, why so many, who are these strange people from Mars! And then we drove home, attacked in the car by the rampant coloured cushions and the trailor piled high, by the time we arrived home it was dark & pouring with rain. Next morning we found the trailor had suffered a blew out - I thought it was wandering a bit. So French!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Despite the deadline ahead we felt it necessary to take our annual skiing holiday with Ian & Sheena in Morzine, in the Northern French Alps, a little under 5 hours drive from home. When we made these arrangements last year we did not expect to be up against tight a tight final schedule, but hey ho, your a long time dead!!
Here we are, first day, lunch over looking Morzine.

Despite is being the lead up to Easter the slopes were pretty quiet, there was plenty of snow and lots of sunshine! Perfect conditions.

Karen and I..........

The other women in my life!......

We had 5 very enjoyable days, as ever being kept entertained by Sheena (thanks for unplugging the internet!)and Ian making a great Ski guide and aide.

We returned last Fiday to see the progress of our pool. For us it is now the countdown, after two years building we are just over 5 weeks until our guests arrive.
It is hard to imagine that in 5 weeks people will be laying by the pool. For that to happen we are reliant on good weather. Until the pool is rendered (3 coats by hand abt 7 working days)we cannot measure the pool cover, this then has to be ordered and made ( there are 3 bank holidays in May here), it then has to be delivered and fitted, only then can we fill the pool which then has to be heated by Solar so we need sun! Please, please!!let it be sunny. In betweeen this the front of our house has to be rendered, the gardens landscaped (both houses).

We have beds and bedding to sort,we have potentially 20 people arriving and leaving our various beds on a Saturday so we have bedding for them all and to do changeovers plus bathroom and pool towels, thats a lot of washing and ironing..............

Still at least I bought Karen a nice anniversary present! I know how to treat a lady - just joking!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

It has been one heck of a week.

The Platane - one of three bars in our village.
Last Saturday we set off from St Sat at 6am drving back to the UK. It is 1000 kilometres. We drove through heavy rain arriving at 4pm for the Ferry. Thank fully the winds and rain subsided for our crossing. We arrived in Weybridge just before 8pm. Sunday was a day shopping buying all the things we cannot get here, or if we can they are extortionately priced! We enjoyed an evening with Geoff, Wendy, Sue & Tim before diving back into more shopping on Monday. The main purpose of the trip was to collect some furniture that we had bought.
We left early Tuesday morning with an alternative drive back through Paris which was interesting! If you thought the M25 is scary-try it!

Work continues, slowly on our pool,The walls are built from hollow concrete blocks which are reinforced with steel, concrete is then poured into the blocks.Before this it is necessary to shutter the entire area ready to receive the poured concrete.
It is a slow process as due to the access restrictions on our land it is necessary for the cement mixers to wait at the top of our drive, pour the cement into the bucket of the Manitou, which then takes it to the pool side for pouring.

This is Le Chene - nearly finished, no evidence of the water coming in!

We returned to get back to working on Le Chene however once again we were thwarted by the weather. There was heavy rain on Wednesday which found its way under the newly laid terrace and into the basement of the house - there was water pouring through the ceilings! In addition it found its way up the walls in the newly decorated dining room.

I think it is true to say that Karen and I are fairly positive. We have over come a lot of hurdles here to build. But today, Thursday, really was a low day. we were tired, the decorating we have done is getting ruined and water is pouring through the floors into the basement - can it get worse? At first we could not find the cause of the leak . Thijs started taking tiles off the roof but it was dry. We had that feeling again the house was built then they start undoing it. Eventually we found (we hope) the problem which we are now trying to resolve.

The basement walls of the pool house have been built and the floors are now prepared.

And so a very frustrating day pasees!.

Friday comes, it must be better than Thursday! I have a meeting scheduled with Thijs. We have 5 weeks until our first paying guests arrive and there is tons to do - we are way behind schedule.Our house still has scaffolding up, it is not rendered, there are roof tile missing, the pool needs 3 coats of render, then we have to order and fit the pool cover before filling the pool. Then there is Le Chene......... so we are feeling a little under pressure - during this meeting we had a delivery, just two deck chairs for Le Chene - the van arrived - the driver (who had been given 6 points that morning) took his eye off the road and that was it - next thing he knew he was off the road stuck on a well!!

It's a great way to meet your neighbours! they were out like bees - whats happened?, this is the third time!, we heard it all - but in fairness the locals, unlike the delivery driver were very willing to help and were on our side. And then the rain came again, absolutly torrential for abt an hour. Just what we needed - not!

And saturday - thev sun is back, the pool is taking shape - next week should see it advance further. We are sneaking off skiing for a few days, it was a week but I think we have too much on so might cut it short.