Friday, 30 November 2012

Hello world we're back

Back to the blog

Well hello world, it feels like years since I last updated the blog and even longer since we were in France, it’s also amazing how quickly you can slot back in to the stress of living back in your old life.

We had every intention of coming back to England, doing a bit of work and seeing family and which we have done and it has been amazing, but work takes over so quickly, I am back to sitting at my laptop till silly o clock and travel for hours to do a day’s work.  

I had forgotten how horrible it was to sit on a cold train station platform only to be informed that the train is running late (over and over again!!!!) or the joy of sitting on the M6 or M60 looking at the signs telling you to drive at 40mph, if only you could as normally you are sat still or crawling in first gear and the signs still mock you.

The weather has been another thing altogether, how much rain can one small island have? I feel like I am about to develop gills, yes OK I know it rains in Brittany (a lot) but at least it does stop at times and even the sun pops out, but here it is just  constant, Oh no I have just exaggerated, it stopped last night and the temperature dropped to minus 2.

Right I have moaned and ranted enough, five weeks back in the UK and I know we have definitely made the right decision.

But on a positive note I will now add a number of posts about all the good times we have had here, soooo many friends to see, parties to go to, so many different places to eat, think we may have fell in love with Rusholmes famous curry mile all over again and the arrival of the most precious present ever known, my baby granddaughter.

If you are new to the blog, it is not normally a moan fest, but I had to get it out so I could start on all the good bits, so sit back and enjoy a bit of Manchester and a bit of my posh daughters haunts in Cheshire.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Renovation project - a filling, an allergic reaction and a fire alarm! - Wednesday 24th October 2012

Renovation project - a filling, an allergic reaction and a fire alarm! - Wednesday 24th October 2012

We have had a fantastic few days with family; it has been so nice to see everyone. We are spending a few days at John’s parents whilst we wait to move into the house we are staying at.

Last night I managed to break a piece of a tooth filling so we set off for Manchester dental hospital, which has a drop in service between 8.30 am and 9 am.

The place is amazing and we can’t believe it actually has a security guard on the door, John wouldn’t let me take a photo of him, but I wasn’t sure that people would believe me without photographic evidence, but please believe me he is there! This is very different to our little French village.

I fill in all of my forms and take a number to be seen, 

The dentists are final year dental students with a professor over seeing their work. All went well and I explained that the last time I had had a local anaesthetic I had a bit of a bad reaction and fainted, we had a discussion about this and came to the conclusion that it was probably because I hadn’t eaten before the anaesthetic.

Time for treatment and the first injection goes in, all good then part way through the 2nd injection I feel funny and have a struggle to breathe but I can’t move and tell the dentist, the 3rd injection goes in and I just manage to move and say something before my head flops back, I try to move again and speak but all that comes out of me are strange noises before I start to fit!!!!!!!! 

This is scary enough for me and the dentists but just to make matters worse as I start to fit the fire alarms go off in the hospital, talk about bad timing! The dentists call for assistance and I have a team of nurses trying to calm me down and stop my arms from thrashing about as the fire marshals are trying to evacuate. It was the most surreal experience as it was almost like an out of body experience, I could see and hear everything, but could not speak (other than make sea lion type noises) and my arms were waving up and down like a demented windmill.

I hear someone saying that I had to be evacuated and the nurses arguing that I could not be moved, then the oxygen mask was put on me, I calmed a little and we agreed to try to get on a wheel chair but the moment I sat up I passed out, so then it was a case of trying to get a hospital bed for me, with the marshals still trying to insist that I could use a wheelchair, the nurses were insistent that this was not the case and would only be considered if they saw smoke! (All the while reassuring me and trying to calm me down). This went on for a couple of minutes or so I thought. I was finally able to get on a hospital bed and was wheeled outside, where John was at the door, his face when he saw me really made me panic. It was about another 5 or 10 mins before I finally stopped shaking and was able to remove the oxygen mask.

John had been trying to get back into the building to find out what had happened to me, and was stopped at all attempts by fire officers and security (at least now we know why they have a security officer on duty!)
Apparently there were a few hundred people evacuated and at least I provided them with some entertainment whilst stood outside in the cold.

It turned out the episode had lasted almost 30 minutes in total, not the couple of minutes I thought it to be!
John was shouted at for trying to take a photo, you are not allowed to photograph hospital staff, so I was not able to show the faces of the fantastic team that helped me, but we did get one of me looking like crap on a hospital bed!

When we returned to the dentists room the poor dentist that had been treating me was in a state of shock and the professor asked if my mouth was still numb, I replied yes, thinking he was just checking and then he said right lets finish the treatment! This was probably for the best as I don’t think I would’ve ever been brave enough to go back again.

The decision was also made that I am never; ever to have an adrenaline based local anaesthetic again.
We returned to the hospital and left a box of heroes’ chocolates, as I cannot possibly thank the team enough for their treatment.

The rest of the day is spent with me dozing and sleeping, after an early night I didn’t get up until 12noon the following day, which was a miracle as I never tend to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Renovation project - fried breakfast and beautiful Plymouth - Friday 19th October 2012

Renovation project - fried breakfast and beautiful Plymouth - Friday 19th October 2012

First things first, a hearty breakfast in the hotel, it is the full English fry up, which 4 months ago we would’ve enjoyed, now we just feel sluggish and full of greasy fat (this is on top of last night’s curry) I opt for a choc au pain and it is disgusting, it’s like eating a lump of lard. I have a feeling we are going to miss our new healthy eating habits and the not so healthy but fabulous fresh baked croissants.

Once fed and showered we set off for the nearest shop selling sat nav’s. We find a Halfords, pick out the sat nav we bought to take to France (which as you may remember is now in the possession of some scruffy scroat in France).

We go to pay and don’t have the card, so back to the car, we now have the card and can’t remember the number, so john gets his phone out to find the battery is dead, so back to the car again for a battery charger and we stand with the lad from the shop waiting for our phone to charge so we can retrieve the pin number, yesterdays technological breakdown is spilling over into today.

It is only 11am and we have arranged to be at Friends in Staffordshire this evening so we take the opportunity to explore Plymouth, this is a beautiful town on the South coast of Devon (it does have its bad points but these can be easily missed) we park the car at Plymouth Hoe and walk around the coast.
Plymouth brings back some lovely memories of when my daughter lived in the area and the fact that I had planned to move here a few years ago to open my tea shop or have a little B&B. This was before I met John, its funny how things turn out.

The morning was fantastic and the sun was shining, lots of photos were taken and we highly recommend anyone heading to England to pay a visit.

The Cenotaph at the Hoe is a very sobering place, when you see how many names or written on there.
We set off early afternoon and are making good time so we decide to stop for a late lunch, we see signs for Taunton and pull off the motorway, it was not what we expected at all, and would recommend anyone considering a visit changes their mind or just has a drive through so you can say you have been. We end up buying sandwiches from Sainsbury (this was the best option we found, so you can now understand why we don’t recommend it as a visitor hotspot!)

Arrive in Ashbourne early evening and it is so nice to see Kate, Phil and the kids a lovely evening is enjoyed with lots of food, laughter and wine

Friday, 2 November 2012

Renovation Project - Total technological breakdown - Thursday 18th October 2012

Renovation Project - Total technological breakdown - Thursday 18th October
The big day is here; luckily we get up reasonably early. So it’s time to do the last lot of clothes washing (you may have gathered from yesterdays post that I am not the most organised of people!) once washed it’s time to go to the launderette for the final time, I also take the opportunity to go and buy our last fresh croissants, and I’m so gutted they’ve already sold all the almond ones.

Back at the house we manage to pack one suitcase each, it almost makes you wonder whether it was really worth unpacking a couple of days ago, but after approx ten seconds consideration, yes it was, it really, soooooooo was, worth it!

John is doing his usual with the bag of toiletries, i.e., planning on taking a rucksack full of lotions and potions, I am following him and unpacking it, saying we have just trawled them all around Spain and France and never used them, we really don’t need them in England where we bought them all in the first place! I’m not sure if it was my well worded reasoning that persuaded him to leave them or the fact that I was nearing hysterical ranting, but whatever, it worked and the ruck sack was left.

The house is totally secure and we have people looking after it, but John still takes his TV and surround sound to a neighbours, just to be doubly safe (they are the only things of any value in the house) I do sometimes wonder if he would take as much care of me as he does with that bloody TV and surround sound!

I send my last e-mail to my daughter, I’m not going to be able to whatsapp her, e-mail her or Skype her and due to not having a phone I can’t call either, this is starting to freak me out again!

Its 1.30pm so this is it, it’s time to go, the fridge is emptied, the electrics are turned off and the door is locked, this is such a weird feeling. We have a full car as we have had to take a full bag of rubbish with us, we had originally dropped off our rubbish with Brian and Sheila, but as we then decided to turn off the electric we have had to empty the fridge and freezer. We are now going to have to find a bin on the way to Roscoff to drop it in otherwise the car will stink of fish, not an appealing thought after a six hour ferry crossing.

The joy of living in the countryside, we soon find a bin area for a hamlet and dump the rubbish, any wild cats are going to be soooo happy!

The ferry is a lot nicer than the usual P&O Dover/Calais ferry and we settle down for drink and end up chatting to a really nice couple who have a holiday home in Plougasnou (Hi if you’re reading). The conversation is really good and the couple are really nice, but I am struggling more by the minute to concentrate, the ferry is rather bumpy (a lot bumpier than I had expected) I finally have to give my apologies and go for some air; apparently green is not a becoming colour for my face.

We try all different areas of the boat to find somewhere where I can feel a bit better and there aren’t any, I feel like absolute rubbish and I’m not sure how my stomach is remaining in the correct place (John has picked up a few bags for just in case, what a love). At least this does solve our dilemma about travelling, there is absolutely no chance we are sailing overnight, we are back to the Dover/Calais crossing with a big drive.

We meet a few people on the ferry and it’s surprising how many people actually have homes in France and travel regularly between the two countries, it also makes you wonder how Brittany Ferries can charge so much for the crossing.

The final part of the crossing is spent with a guy who lives in the Scilly Isles (always thought this was a great name for an Island) who said that he has a pilot’s license and has flown himself to Brittany, this has Johns brain in overdrive, but as much as I trust his driving, I’m not so sure about the idea of him flying us around!
Then we hear the most beautiful sound, it is the tannoy saying we can go to the car and escape the boat, I have never been so relieved to get in the car.

We disembark at Plymouth and set the sat nav for the hotel, unfortunately the sat nav thinks we are still in France and no matter how much we fiddle with it (and hit it) it will not find England. So we are in a town with no idea where the hotel is, we no longer have the IPhone so Google maps is out of the question, it is a complete and total technological breakdown. I had no idea how much we relied on technology, all of our map books are for France, so I make the obvious female suggestion of “lets pull over and ask for directions” which is met by the obvious male response of “no lets drive around, we’ll find it!” after half an hour of driving around and the realisation hits that we are not going to find it as we have abso-bloody-lutely no idea where we or it is, we finally ask two police officers for directions, it turns out the hotel is three miles out of Plymouth, in Plympton.

We arrive at the hotel and book in starving hungry to find the hotel restaurant is closed, so we ask where is the best place to go for food, Plymouth or Plympton, the receptionist tells us there is a MacDonald’s and a Sainsbury’s nearby, so we explain politely we would like to sit and eat and he directs us to Plympton where there is a Chinese, when we arrive we realise all of our bank card pin numbers are stored in our broken and lost mobile phones and we have no English money!

John manages to find a number for his business account and so after phoning the bank and transferring some money we are ready to go for a Chinese. This turns out to be a little take away and Plympton Town centre consists of one road, could this day actually get any worse!

We finally find an Indian restaurant and get something to eat, the food was lovely but it certainly wasn’t Le Crepuscule or Restaurant Tregont standard but it filled a hole.

Back at the hotel we manage to get on line and message everybody that we are safely back in England. I am knackered! 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Renovation project - panic is setting in - Wednesday 17th October 2012

Renovation project - panic is setting in - Wednesday 17th October

It’s Wednesday and we leave tomorrow, panic is starting to set in, we have so much to do. It didn’t help that we received a telephone call from Brittany Ferries confirming our booking; apparently I had booked the date we wanted in 2013 and not 2012. We were so relieved that they had picked up on this and rang to check, otherwise we would’ve been sat at Roscoff all packed with nowhere to go. We cannot get the same ferry, we had been planning to travel overnight, so we now have a ferry booked for Thursday afternoon, this will mean we get in to Plymouth at approx 9.30pm.

We have a chat and decide to make the most of it; we are booking a hotel in Plymouth and then travelling north to spend Friday night with friends in Stafford before heading to Manchester. The Hotel is all booked (TRIVAGO is a wonderful site!).

I don’t know how many times we double checked the dates before pressing book, I am wondering if old age is starting to set in a little bit too soon!

The rest of Tuesday and Wednesday are spent further securing the house and getting lost in mixed emotions.
It feels really strange as both John and I can’t wait to get back to England and see our daughters and friends and family, but then the next moment it feels so hard as we will be leaving our new life and the house in the middle of the renovations. It’s almost like when we first moved to France and it was supposed to be the most exciting time of our lives signing up for the new house and I sat crying at a cafe. Human emotions are very strange things and even at 40 something, I don’t think I will ever understand how I am supposed to feel.
We don’t go to bed until silly O Clock as we are trying to make sure everything is done before tomorrow, not a good idea considering how far we will be travelling.

Top Tips 
1.       Be prepared for strange emotions, they may take you by surprise
2.       Always double check your ferry bookings!
3.       You can probably stop checking once you’ve done it ten times!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Renovation project - new chairs, yesterdays pizza and a lost phone! Sunday 14th October 2012

Renovation project - new chairs, yesterdays pizza and a lost phone! Sunday 14th October    
There is a car boot sale on near our house this morning so we decide to go and have a look, and it is safe to say car boots are the same, lots of tat on tables, but we do come away with some gems, I even manage to barter in French! We buy a lovely new kettle, some English books ( we have a 5 hour ferry journey, so I am really pleased) and a set of 6 antique dining chairs, these turn out to be the sellers grandmothers so we ask if there is any other furniture for sale and swap phone numbers.

Back at the house the chairs look fantastic at the table, and they are too solid for John to break (I forgot to mention that John managed to break yet another plastic chair last night!). Dave and Jane call by and I can finally offer them a drink and a seat, it’s one of my proudest moments.

They have called by to say goodbye and wish us a safe journey, but also to ask if we would like them to look after the house whilst we are in England. This is so nice and we know that we do not have to worry whilst we are away, there are so many people willing to look after it, last week another person called to ask the same thing, so we know that there will be 4 different people calling by each day and one couple with the keys, life here is so much easier than in England.

Later that afternoon our land line phone rings, it’s quite exciting so I answer with my best bonjour and listen to blurb, I ask them to speak slowly and explain that I don’t understand, they repeat and the only word I understand is poisson which is translated to fish, I have no idea what the conversation is about or who it is, they give up and put the phone down without any au revoir!

We have not eaten much today, well I haven’t actually eaten at all, so we decide to go out to le Crepuscule for dinner, I really fancy a goodbye pizza. We arrive at approx 7.30 and have to wait for a table, we have a carafe of wine and settle down on the couch, there is a group of people at the bar, who also happen to be English, we start to chat and get on really well, so well that we don’t realise we have had another carafe of wine and we still haven’t eaten, by the time we have a table, we are in no fit state to eat, so ask for the pizza’s to take away. Part way through a conversation I realise I feel dreadful and all I want is to go home and go to bed, so john takes me home and goes back to the bar.

We wake during the night and when I check the time on my mobile phone to realise it is not there, I ask John where he put it and he said he did not have it, I had put it in his pocket for safe keeping, but obviously not that safe, as it wasn’t there. I can’t believe I have lost my phone, I am so gutted, I am also still so hungry as we didn’t bring the pizza’s home with us either, and to top it off it turns out we hadn’t paid when we left the bar!

Monday morning arrives; well it’s actually Monday lunch when we surface with a major hangover in place of a mobile phone. I’m so gutted the phone has been indestructible, it has been run over by a car, swam in a pool in Italy, been dropped on the floor in most of the major cities in Europe and taken photo’s of all the best bands and groups for the last 3 years, but now it is no more. We do very little all day.
We do manage to have a nice fry up so at least we are not starving any more, that evening we decide to go and have our final pizza (and to check if my phone has been handed in and to pay for our bill) we arrive and the phone is not there but our pizza’s are still in the fridge, so we pay up and take the pizza’s home where we sit and watch a film and eat them!

We now have no photographs of our new chairs, these will be on as soon as we have a new phone

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Renovation project - Saturday 13th October 2012

Renovation project - Saturday 13th October

We both wake up at silly o clock this morning, I’m awake at 5 am and John is awake by 6 am we have no idea why, but cannot go back to sleep, we decide to get up and have a brew and I wander into the town centre for fresh croissants at 7am. I love Huelgoat at this time of the morning, it is so peaceful and I stroll past the lake on the way back.

We go back to bed at approx 10 am for a couple of hours as we would be fit for nothing by afternoon.
It is raining again, not sure when I last said that, but it has rained almost every day for goodness knows how long, not Manchester UK rain (which is almost constant) but a lot!

We still have a lot of leaks in the drain pipes, and as we will be leaving soon, John decides to fix all of the leaking pipes and gutters. He also puts draught excluders on the doors and the makes the house quite cosy.
I go to visit Sheila and Brian who will be house sitting for us when we are in England, it feels quite strange saying our goodbyes and sorting out the house, we have only been here for 3 months but it is quite emotional saying goodbye, we have just settled in here so well.

I did have a fantastic shock whilst there (Sheila and Brian have weight scales in their bathroom) so I jumped on them and joy of joys I have lost 15 lb’s since coming to France, I was going to be French and say it in kilo grams, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as good as 15 lb’s!

John starts to remove the hardboard from the walls on the first floor and we find that there are some rotten boards behind it, so we know decide that we are going to remove all of the walls as well as the floors, we have a big job when we come back, but again it does mean boards that are salvaged can go towards making more furniture.

I can’t remember whether I explained earlier that many of the walls in the house are made from oak planks, not from brick. John will replace the walls with stud partition walls, which he will also be able to insulate, meaning that the house will be warmer and more sound proofed.

The day just disappears again and before we know it is night time, we make one of our final meals on the BBQ; this is really not good now that the house is secure and the smoke seems to fill up the house quite quickly!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Renovation project - we finally unpack hooray - Friday 12th October 2012

Renovation project - we finally unpack hooray - Friday 12th October

Today is a big day as we finally get to unpack, this is the first time in over 3 months we will have clothes to choose from, up until now we have just had work clothes and a couple of nice things in a suitcase, but today we fill the wardrobe, I’m so excited.

First of all its back to scrubbing the floor, I didn’t see your comment Rynd2it, until after all the scrubbing had been done, but thank you for the tip. The wardrobe floor comes up a treat.

All the clothes are set out, but then we realise we have only 5 coat hangers (for some reason coat hangers are very expensive in France) I still find it strange on some price comparisons, here is an example it costs the same to buy 30 sets of 4 coat hangers as it does to buy a large luxury shower cubicle with seat, power shower and massage jets! It makes me think back to before we came and people told us how expensive it was to live in France, yes there are some expensive things but, as I have said before if you shop around, or weigh up the expensive items (yes a bit of plastic is expensive!) against the not expensive items, your standard of living is much better (well than it is in the UK anyway).

I move onto the bedroom floor and John comes into point out that the old varnish is coming off and as we won’t be able to seal it the floor could get marked (so glad he didn’t point this out before I had down the bathroom and wardrobe as it is great to spend so long doing pointless things) so we decide to just try to feather in the part that has no varnish, and wait until we come back to do the floors fully as then we can empty the room and seal all of the floors at the same time.

You may be wondering where John has been whilst I have been working hard, I was! John has been scraping the floors in the 1st floor bedroom and it turns out our wood worm problem is worse than we had thought, so we spend some time wondering what to do, we decide that it is going to be easier and less expensive to remove the entire floor and replace it with new floor boards, this way we will be able to treat all of the joists, as we have also found some more dry rot. The new floor boards only cost 7 euro’s for a square metre and we will be able to recycle the old floor boards into new furniture, I will finally be getting my handmade bed (John has been promising me one of these since the day I met him!)

If you decide to try this yourself, you will find that your plans will change regularly, either because you come across a new problem or because you find a new solution. Do not have set plans, lots of people we have read about have set idea’s and state that you need to spend a long time planning everything before you make the move, we don’t recommend this as you can become quite despondent at the things that go wrong and the sheer size of the project, if you remain open minded you can adapt as required and it also makes it much more exciting as every day can bring about a new opportunity, rather a new problem.

We sit and discuss the changes late into the evening, this is helped by some nice wine and good food.

Top tips

1.       Be adaptable
2.       Be adaptable

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Renovation Project - We're getting a new cooker but not a settee! - Thursday 11th October 2012

Renovation Project - We're getting a new cooker but not a settee! - Thursday 11th October

Time to go shopping again, we are going to get some new furniture today, we are down to one comfy chair and 2 plastic garden chairs, John managed to break another plastic chair last night, he seems to be on a one man mission to work his way through our temporary furniture!

We have seen a settee in Conforama, it is lovely and is half price, we have looked at it a couple of times and not bought it as we wanted to make sure it was the right one, we don’t want to spend a fortune on furniture as it is all coming out of our limited budget and if we sell the house, it will be getting sold with it.

The settee is in Quimper so we drive over and also find the most amazing modern Aga on special offer, we buy this from the kitchen department and I astound both myself and John with my language skills, I think the shop assistant and myself use only approx 5 English words, John looks at me gobsmacked and asks where did that come from, I have no idea, I still sound a little bit like a sat nav but the words are all in there, it is all starting to sink in, which makes me worry about returning to England, will it stay in there or will I lose it again? I have decided  when we are in England I will treat myself to some new language books, as I have really struggled with the Michael Thomas system, this is mainly due to the fact that I spend most of my time shouting at the stupid woman who is on there. I have bought a couple of Osborne children’s books and these are so much more useful, I would seriously recommend that anybody trying to learn the language not to be bothered about using children’s books, they are easy to follow and have a lot of pictures it really does make it much easier to learn.

We then move over to the furniture department and try to buy the settee, this is not so good, the guy is very helpful and we get the delivery date, at this point another assistant shouts over and a lot of discussion goes on (I struggle to keep up) but I grasp that this is not possible, the guy is really helpful and tries different ways to explain that we can’t have it, but goes into so much detail I get lost in the conversation, luckily 2 other customers over hear and simply explain that all of the settee’s have been sold, bugger, we left it to long to decide.

We leave and go for a late lunch in Quimper, this is amazing, the Croque Monsieur is fabulous (this is a French version of a cheese and ham toastie) which you are probably thinking yuck, but no if you can get to have one, you should they melt in the mouth.

We do our food shop and return home, I speak to Kayleigh that night and she asks if there is any chance we can pick up some mini bottles of champagne for her baby shower, talk about bad timing, so explain we won’t be going again till next week and will have a look then, but to be honest we have not seen any small bottles and as you can buy full size bottles of champagne for only 5 euro’s, not sure if they will do them, there doesn’t seem much point.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Renovation project - we have a wardrobe and another rotten joist! - Tuesday 9th October 2012

Renovation project - we have a wardrobe and another rotten joist! - Tuesday 9th October

Its back to work again and it’s time to start building the wardrobe, if you remember when we first started on the attic there were two bedrooms and both had a sink and units in them, we have now removed the wall turning it into one big room (we have realised that this was the best decision as the rooms would’ve been very small and not managed an ensuite with both) the sink unit in the second attic room was in a small room, this is to be our walk in wardrobe, and also house the big water heater.

removing an old bathroom

First off John needs to remove the old pipes and taps and replaster the holes in the walls

removing an old bathroom and making good in a renovation project

We bought all the wood we needed yesterday and John sets to measuring, sawing and screwing, and surprise surprise we hit another problem. In the corner of this room the floor has dropped by approx 2 inches, this is due to a rotten joist holding the floor up. This joist will need to be treated and part of it replaced.

How to build a walk in wardrobe in a renovation project

How to build a walk in wardrobe in a renovation project

How to build a walk in wardrobe in a renovation project

How to build a walk in wardrobe in a renovation project

How to build a walk in wardrobe in a renovation project

We use one of the acro’s that we have to lift the joist back into place and realign the floor; this will support the floor until we replace the joist. It’s quite amazing to watch the floor lift (as I was telling john when he had got the floor back to where it should be). If you are planning on doing this yourselves, we highly recommend you purchase acro’s (you do not need to bring them with you as they are very cheap in France) we borrowed ours from next door, and for those of you who are like I used to be and have no idea what an acro is, it is like a car jack for the inside of your house, these are very strong and heavy pieces of steel, be very careful of your toes, they DO HURT!

floor dropped because of rotten joists

dropped floor fixed using an acro

dropped floor fixed using an acro

I start to clean the windows, which means taking them off their hinges and scrubbing many decades of dirt of them, but the room does seem to be brighter.

As with most things in the house the job does take a lot longer than planned and we spend a couple of days on the wardrobe, it doesn’t help that the walls are in waves not straight lines and John becomes quite frustrated, especially when his plane breaks so he is unable to make the shelves fit perfectly with the contour of the walls. At this point I’m so desperate for a wardrobe I unhelpfully suggest that it doesn’t matter and to stick a bit of trim over the edges so nobody will see it, the response to which is I will bloody see it and know it’s not right (there really is no appeasing some people!).

I then have the delightful job of scrubbing the ensuite floor, this is done by hand with a piece of wire wool, it takes ages but the outcome is amazing, the floor looks fantastic.

renovating an old wood floor

After 2 days the wardrobe is finished, again we have to leave it without decorating or varnishing, but we will be in England soon and will get all of the varnish and paint that we need.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Renovation project - new windows and more shopping - Monday 8th October 2012

Renovation project - new windows and more shopping - Monday 8th October

Today is spent shopping, it seems Monday has become the food shop day, but we also need some glass as John is going to replace the broken window panes and not the entire window frames. I am really glad about this as when we looked at new window frames we could not find identical ones. Not only would this have been a problem with the planning permission, but it would have also diminished the integrity of the house, this way we get to keep the original windows and still stay warm!

We head into Carhaix, which is a smaller town only 15 minutes away, the selection of shops is not as good as in Morlaix, but we were advised that the Brico Marche have a glass cutting department. Unfortunately we have forgotten to find out what window putty is in French so we have great fun trying to find putty in the shop!

We get all that we need and so head off to do some food shopping, and joy of joys we find a LeClercs and a Liddle, so we have been driving miles when we did not need to.

The final hurdle today is to go to But stores to find out why the payment has not been taken for the washing machine, fridge and bed settee. We opened a store card when we bought these items and were assured the full payment would be taken a month later, and after the issues we had with orange we are starting to panic that the payment has not been taken. There is a wonderful woman there who is fluent in both French and English, we do not see her when we enter the shop, so using my best French I talk to one of the girls at the desk, rude did not come into it!!!!! Her only reply when asked if there was anybody who could speak a little English was NO, I repeat myself a little differently and it is still NO, she is then a little more helpful (this is a big exaggeration of the word helpful) and states depot. We give up and go to the depot where the original helpful person’s husband works, we discuss our problems with the payment card and he explains that the payment is due in October, so there is no worries, though we have decided we are now not going to buy the cooker from But. There is nothing more I despise than rude shop staff, John thinks it is because we are English, I’m still convinced that they were just very rude and it wouldn’t matter where we came from.

Next job for me is to check the bank account on line to see if the payment has come out today, this is made harder because we can’t find our log in details, so a mad hunt is undertaken, still not found, so a methodical hunt is undertaken, still no luck. I have actually been very organised since being here and have a file with all relevant paperwork in it, so I can’t understand why this document is missing.

I decide to go to the bank to see if I left it there when we sorted out the telephone problem, turns out we didn’t, but again the bank is unbelievably helpful and changes all the passwords and prints off a new document. She also checks that the telephone and internet are fully set up on a direct debit, it is phew!

Back at the house and John has started on the window, I start to scrape the other one so they are ready for painting.

The window is finished and the orange tape is removed, we will be sleeping in an almost draught free room tonight.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Renovation project - the en suite is almost finished!!!!! - Saturday 7th October 2012

Renovation project - the en suite is almost finished!!!!! - Saturday 7th October

Time to move on, yesterdays mess is almost forgotten. So it’s back on with the work. John is now doing the boxing in in the ensuite bathroom.

Due to the amount of soil pipe required in the house the soil pipe system is rather convoluted. Due to the fact that the walls to outside are so thick, we are restricted by the places where we can get out of the house
The soil pipe goes around the bathroom (this does not look good at the moment but it was the only way to ensure we could get all of the toilets and showers that we need in the right places).

We bought all the wood that we needed the other day and the boxing in will now provide a shelf across the width of the bathroom, once all decorated this will allow for some home comforts such as flowers and fluffy towels, (it feels strange to think we are already talking about these items!).

renovating a house in Brittany, France Hiding soil pipes in an old house

renovating a house in Brittany, France Hiding soil pipes in an old house

renovating a house in Brittany, France Hiding soil pipes in an old house

renovating a house in Brittany, France Hiding soil pipes in an old house

The only question now is, do we paint them white or try to find a matching wood stain to the sink unit, opinions more than welcome.

The bathroom is almost complete, but we will have to wait for the paint to finish it.

renovating a house in Brittany, France Hiding soil pipes in an old house

renovating a house in Brittany, France Hiding soil pipes in an old house

Once all the boxing in is completed it is getting a bit late and neither of us can be bothered to cook and I have such an urge for a pizza, so it’s time to get a shower and head off to Le Crepuscule.

It seems strange there tonight as all of the outside tables and chairs have been removed; winter is definitely on its way. It’s very busy night and we have to have a drink whilst waiting for a table. A little girl is dancing to the music so I dance back and she is immediately frozen in fear, oops, I start to apologise to her family to find they are English, we start talking to find out the older couple have lived her for a number of years. Asking where they came from, it turns out they are also from Manchester and one originally from only a mile from us, it’s a small, small world!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Renovation project - fighting all day, feeling lonely and getting angry at expat experts! - Friday 5th October 2012

Renovation project  - fighting all day, feeling lonely and getting angry at expat experts! - Friday 5th October

Well it’s still on with the paint, filling and sanding until we decide it really is pointless until we get some quality paint (we are visiting England in a few weeks so we will pick some up and bring it over).

We don’t have a very good day and spend a good part of it either shouting at each other or not really speaking, I get really peeved off that whenever I ask John what needs doing next, his reply is to keep cleaning, I try to point out that this is ridiculous as he is still making a mess and so instead of sitting and discussing it and explaining how we are feeling we just shout at each other. I then realise I miss my girlfriends and being able to have a moan, which John then says makes him feel guilty, so all in all a bit of a no win situation.

The day doesn’t improve when we find out that the person we were hoping to bring over some insulation for us, can’t, and when we put a note on one of the expat forums get a ridiculous comment telling us that it is no cheaper in the UK aarrgghhhhh!!!!!!!

Whilst on one of the sites I notice a comment from another expat asking for advice on renovating an outhouse, so leave him a detailed message with costings and advice, to find that another expat has left a comment stating buy everything in England, it makes me so angry, I remember before we moved here, the amount of expat experts that give you such bad advice, these are generally the people who have never lived in France or live here in an English community and do not get involved in France. I know I shouldn’t let it wind me up but how many people don’t do this because of the stupid advice and scare stories they are told. When we first stayed here looking at properties we were informed that we would have to buy our kitchen and bring all supplies over with us, I have to admit we did panic a bit then, but once here we realised that France is a brilliant country with everything you could possibly want, otherwise why are so many Brits moving here???????

I also see a post on face book that I know will hurt somebody and there is nothing I can do about it. It makes you feel quite useless, which is not a feeling I am used too.

I think this is the first post where I have ranted all the way through it, but hey I did say this was going to be realistic and the realism is today I have felt like crap, I have felt lonely and I have missed friends and family. I have also really missed my regular beautician, which is probably not helping with the way I’m feeling because I also look rubbish at the moment!

I do get some good news during the day, French Entree have e-mailed and asked if I would be willing to do a Q&A for their on line magazine, so that is really exciting as long as the questions don’t come through on a day like today.

I don’t regret coming here for one moment, but if you are considering doing the same, you will have days like these and anybody that tells you differently will be lying, but the nice thing is, they are only days, the feelings pass and you make up and get back to normal, this was probably helped by the fact that Johns camping armchair (we did have one each until mine was broken!) collapsed with him sat in it, it was comical to watch as he just sank in slow motion and was unable to move for a few minutes. I did take a photo but as he was only wearing his boxers, he won’t let me put it on.

It’s time for bed and sleep ready for a new day and hopefully a new mood!

Top tips
1.       Be very wary of the expat armchair experts
2.       If you do ask for advice on an expat forum, don’t believe all you read
3.       You will have bad days, be prepared for them

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Renovation project - decorating with milk and becoming a stalker! - Wednesday 3rd October 2012

Renovation project - decorating with milk and becoming a stalker! - Wednesday 3rd October

Lots of clearing up to be done as we need to get the room ready for painting, its finally taking shape we can see the light at the end of the tunnel (again).

Although we have ran into another difficulty the windows we were going to replace are a different size to the original windows and as there is nothing wrong with the frames, we decide to try and just replace the window panes, this will also mean that we do not require planning permission (which would be good as we have not got around to putting the plans in to the Mairie yet). I seem to remember that Sheila and Brian had done something similar with their windows, so we will go and speak to them for advice.

The room is cleared a much as it can be, and we start on the sanding of the walls, this is not a good job as there is so much to do. We have bought some fabulous filler it’s called ENDUIALO, it comes readymade in a tub and is extremely light.

We have used this before in the UK, as a fine joint filler (it works wonders on lining paper joints as well) it is also much cheaper in France than the UK.

The next few days are spent on painting, mainly because the paint we have is dreadful, we bought 3 different 10 litre tubs of white to see what they are like, only one was nearly Ok (this was from Costorama) the worst one was the equivalent of painting with milk! So once again what should’ve been a relatively quick job has taken a few days. We will be bringing paint back with us when we visit the UK.

decorating a house in Huelgoat Brittany

decorating a house in Huelgoat Brittany

decorating a house in Huelgoat Brittany

decorating a house in Huelgoat Brittany

decorating a house in Huelgoat Brittany

decorating a house in Huelgoat Brittany

On the wall that I destroyed when stripping the paper, John added some plaster powder to the paint to thicken it up, this has now covered better but still needs a quality coat to make it look good.
But the walls are now all sealed and the dust should become more under control on the top floor.
We spend an afternoon with Sheila and Brian, as it turns out the windows were fitted by the previous owners, so we don’t get much help there, but we do get to spend the afternoon in a clean house with nice people and a steady stream of tea!

The weather has not been too good recently and the washing is starting to pile up so I take a trip to the launderette to dry it, this is when I get to sit back and really appreciate being here, this is the view from the launderette, have you ever seen such stunning scenery? It makes such a boring chore so much more bearable.

Huelgoat Brittanny

Huelgoat Brittany

I also turn into a stalker on Thursday, my daughter sent me a message saying she really missed me, so I thought something was wrong, I try to message back but no reply for a few hours, so I send a twitter tweet to her and still no reply, so I send another and eventually get her on the phone where I am told to stop clogging her twitter page and her partner is going to change the phone number and not give it to me!!!!! So much for being missed!!!!!

Top tips
1.       Buy quality paint, the price is not a guarantee of quality
2.       Add anti fungicide to the paint this will help with controlling black mould on the walls (this is the equivalent of turning your paint into bathroom/kitchen paint at a fraction of the cost).
3.       You can buy this from England also, from a quality decorating shop not B&Q etc
4.       Do not damage the walls before painting them!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Renovation project - peep holes and vampires - Monday 1st October 2012

Renovation project - peep holes and vampires - Monday 1st October    
We also took most of Saturday and Sunday off, though to be honest we missed Sunday completely, John was in bed and slept for the day, think we shouldn’t work quite as hard as we are!

I forgot to mention that even though we have now lived here for 8 weeks, Calvin asked us if the peep hole in the door worked, we had no idea that we had one! But yes it does work! We are keeping the front door and will at some point restore it to its former glory! Apparently the door and hallway were used for the horses many years ago. The horses were led through the front door and out into the stable at the back, we had wondered how the horses got into the stable as there are steps and a slope to the back entrance, I’m assuming the opening in the door was to help with the smell!

The day is spent in the attic john is finishing off the plastering and we are starting to get ready to paint, it will still be a few days yet as the plastering is taking a lot longer than we planned. The boarding of the old doorway is finished and plastered so it is as though it was never there.

The easy job of fitting the architrave turns out to be not so simple as the wall that John built is a little bit thicker than the French walls, so again he has to be inventive on how to hide this, the alternative is to rebuild the entire wall!

The sink unit is off the wall again, so that we can plaster behind it, I’m beginning to wonder if this sink unit is more a yo yo as it has been on and off so many times.

We also move into the bedroom that my brother and sister in law stayed in, I go to bed before John and whilst lying there I can hear something walk across the roof! Then I can hear scratching on the roof, all I can think initially is bugger, what now! It’s definitely not the young man, unless he can morph in spider man, but this is highly unlikely, then I think of the vampire film that I had watched on my own whilst John was in bed yesterday (he couldn’t believe I had watched a horror film knowing my over active imagination!!!) after a while of hiding under the duvet the realisation dawns on me, it is our wild cat friend, come back. He used to get in to the house via the skylight, and he is still obviously really peeved that we close them, so knowing we have no vampires on the roof I can go to sleep.

I have the night from hell, with constant nightmares and not feeling very well, John has the night from hell as he is constantly woken by me screaming and crying out (poor thing said he was quite scared at times).

So wake on Tuesday feeling like I have done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, think I probably have a bit of a bug as feel quite shaky all day, so John does a bit of work until he realises he can do no more without some more supplies, I agree to go shopping with him, 5 hours later we return and I feel like rubbish. So an early night is in store and hopefully back on form tomorrow!

Whilst shopping we decided to have a look for new curtains, an easy task you may think, but no, the shops we look at only sell one curtain and not pairs so will be ridiculously expensive to put curtains up, the sizes are also all wrong, so we think we’ll ask other people where they got theirs from.

Top tips
1.       You will keep finding new things in your house if you keep your eyes open
2.       Do not watch horror movies on your own
3.       Do not make the wild cats homeless they will have their revenge!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Renovation project - new doors and seafood risotto - Thursday 27th September 2012

Renovation project - new doors and seafood risotto - Thursday 27th September

Today the day will be spent mostly hanging doors in the new attic bedroom. One of the old doors is boarded up so we have only one door into the bedroom, the new bathroom door is fitted properly and the new bedroom door is hung. We have decided to keep the old door frame as this is an integral part of the wall and goes up to the ceiling, to remove it would mean rebuilding the entire wall.

John has the fun of planing the door to fit the hole which he does very well, the only problem is that the door is a bit wider than the original, again there is a simple solution, John will fit some architrave so that it will not be noticeable.

I do some more stripping and after spending quite some time at it, find out that we had decided to take this particular wall down and rebuild it! I’m gutted as it was a horrible job.

So I move on to the stairs and strip these. A quick clean up and we go to the shops to get some more supplies, decide to text Calvin and Liz to tell them to be careful as the stairs will be slippy to find out that we do not have their number, so spend the next 2 hours worrying that they will have an accident in the house!
Luckily we all arrive back at the same time so disaster averted!

We are having the sea food risotto for dinner and it was amazing, Calvin and John didn’t think so the following day as both felt a little bit off, I’m impressed I have gone a whole 8 weeks without poisoning anybody with my cooking, that is definitely some sort of record for me!

Feel very sorry for Calvin who now has to drive to Dieppe though! We spent the rest of Friday having the day off and catching up on the blog.

I have decided to revert back to the original format as the number of views on the new format had dropped form an average of 250 a day to 30, not been able to work out why as personally I thought the new lay out was much better, but the figures can’t lie, the views have gone back to over 200 hundred again. I would appreciate anybodies views on this.

Top tips
1.       Remember which walls you plan to remove
2.       Take your mobile phone with you
3.       Beware slippy floors