Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Renovation project - Proud grandmother

Renovation project - Proud grandmother

I have finally recovered enough from my traumatic experience yesterday to continue writing, my daughter recovered enough to talk to me, apparently she wasn’t as calm as she seemed and took a little while to get over being stranded at the airport with the baby!

But all’s well that ends well and it is amazing to have them here, my baby granddaughter remembers me, this is my biggest fear that she will forget who I am, but she hasn’t. She is a little bundle of joy and a good flyer; she slept for almost the entire flight!

When we arrive at the house my daughter cannot believe how much we have done, the shock on her face as she looks around is fantastic and she loves the house, the last time she visited, she only spent a few minutes in it as it was so dirty and derelict.

They settle in well and I get to give the baby her first French dinner, I am going to get to see so many firsts whilst she is here, there is the first holiday, the first beach, the first French food (yes I know baby mush is baby mush, but the writing on the jar is in French so I am counting it as a first!!!!!).

We go for a walk around the town square and the lake and I get to push the pram, I can finally do my proud grandmother bit, and I love it!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Renovation Project - Roadside assistance in France

Renovation Project - Roadside assistance in France

Well today is the day, we are going to pick up my daughter and baby granddaughter from the airport, I could burst with excitement at this moment, I don’t think I have ever been happier!

The plane is due to arrive at 11.15am, she has had quite a journey as she has to be at the airport in the UK at 8 am which means setting off at 5.30am, it’s going to be a long day for her and I hope the baby is good on the plane.

We set off at 8.30am, this will surprise her not only will I be there on time but we will be early, she will get a shock at that, I want to be able to see them walk through the arrival gate.

We check the diesel level and have 280 miles in the tank so no need to stop on the way.

The journey is lovely, there is still mist as we drive through the forest and the scenery is gorgeous, the journey goes without any hiccups and we are still set to be early, the sat nav says we have 8 miles to go when John starts to pull over on the motorway, I ask what is the matter and John explains that the car has just died!

I think there must be just a slight problem as this really cannot be happening, once pulled over John tries the car again and it is as dead as a dodo, OMG this really cannot be happening the plane is due to land in 20 minutes, John lifts the bonnet and cannot understand what is happening, the battery is fully charged, there is diesel, the oil is fine what the hell is happening? John puts the emergency signs around the car; you have to have these in France by law. We get the car paperwork out and john asks me to ring the breakdown recovery, I am starting to get a bit hysterical, what do we ask them to do if they can’t fix it by the road, tow us to the airport or tow us to a garage????

I speak to the break down recovery and explain that we are in France (we are still covered by the UK company as we travel there so much, we just have to call and let them know when we are in France, but we forgot to do it when we came back!) we are not covered!!!!!

I am now quite hysterical, I am crying down the phone explaining the situation to the breakdown company and they say that they can cover us there and then but it will cost £400 GBP to set up and then what ever we are charged will be in addition! They then suggest we ring our insurance company, I do this and become even more hysterical, the girl on the phone says she will speak to her manager and call me back. The plane has now landed and we are stuck on the motorway, I try calling my daughter and can’t get through, I try texting her to explain we have broken down!

I am beyond distraught, we are left with no option, John calls Brian and Sheila and asks them to come out to the airport, John also thinks the car may have ran out of diesel, they agree to come I am so relieved but they have almost a 2 hour drive and I still can’t get hold of my daughter.

I try ringing her partner to get a message to her and it goes to answer machine, I am left with no option I have to ring may parents and ask them to try to get hold of her, I do this very calmly pretending there is no problem as I really don’t want them to worry (they will now freak when they read this!).

An orange van pulls up behind us, and for a brief moment I thought it was the AA, but it wasn’t, it was a highways van, the two guys are great, we discuss what is wrong and they ask if we have roadside assistance, and we explain that we do but they will not come, they then offer to call the police as it is illegal to be on a national road without break down assistance, the police can arrange to sort the car out. We explain that we have assistance on its way but it will still be an hour before it arrives, John explains that he thinks it may just be out of diesel and they offer to take our petrol can and go to get some for us, OMG they are knights in shining armour!!!!

The insurance company call back and offer to pay 50 percent of any costs, but this will be after we pay upfront, we are looking at possibly a 1000 euro bill for what may be just no diesel!!!
The highway guys help us to get the car as close to the verge as possible and then cordon us off with cones. Please let them come back soon.

We have now been here for an hour and I still have not been able to contact my daughter, I don’t know if she has brought any euro’s or enough baby milk, as now you cannot bring liquids on an aeroplane, allsorts is going through my mind. I then have a brain wave and call Theresa (another friend in France), I explain what has happened and ask if she can call the airport and get a message to my daughter, please let them be helpful!!!!!

She calls back and the airport were unbelievably helpful, they went to find my daughter and passed her the phone, apparently she had got the text messages so knew what was happening and wasn’t too worried. So I feel a bit better now.

We wait for the highways guys to come back and am so relieved when we see them, they come with the diesel and fill the car, John primes the engine (apparently you have to do this with a diesel) and it kicks over, it was out of diesel, but as it kicks over it splutters, the stuffing battery has died now, OMG can this day get any worse? YES because now I am bursting for the toilet, I am in tears again, I am beyond distraught now.

Brian and Sheila should be here in an hour so the highways guys leave us with the cones and ask that we put them on the side of the motorway when we leave. We just hope that Brian pulls up behind us with the jump leads as the battery is in the boot of our car.

We wait and we wait and we wait, time goes so slowly when you are desperate, and then Brian pulls in, in front of us, how did John not see him to wave him in?
Brian has the can of diesel but not the jump leads, he took them out of his car last night!

We go to the airport and say we will find a garage to buy some jump leads from and come back to rescue John. I realise that whilst we are driving we have come a different way to the normal route, and I wonder how the hell we are ever going to find John when we leave the airport, but at this moment all I can think of is getting to my daughter and baby granddaughter.

When we arrive they are sat happily in the airport cafe, my big happy reunion is ruined, I am now just so relieved to see them, also a bit worried as I expect her to go mad at me, but she doesn’t she is so calm, and just says these things happen!!!

We drive to a large supermarket and manage to buy some jump leads (very expensive jump leads but at this point who cares!) and now we have to try to find John, luckily the sat nav shows a blue line on the screen for recent journeys, so we are able to retrace our steps.

We find him and the car is charged, it works thank goodness! My daughter and the baby stay in Brian's car so we don’t have to get the baby seat out on the side of the motorway and we drive back in our car.

We now realise that our car computer is not working properly as when the car started up it still said that we had over 200 miles left in the petrol tank!

We arrive home and only now do I get to give them a proper welcome, it is so good to have them here!

I am exhausted now and a little emotional so I will finish off by giving some tips for driving on French roads

Top tips

·         You MUST have breakdown cover/roadside assistance
·         If you travel between two countries often make sure you read the small print on your cover
·         You must have the breakdown triangle in your car at all times
·         You must have high visibility jackets and wear them if you break down
·         Fill your car with diesel before you set off (no matter what the stupid car computer says!!!!)
·         Go to the toilet before setting off on a long journey!
·         Always have a can of cheap deodorant for priming the engine

And finally a very big heartfelt thank to everyone who helped today, the highways guys, the car drivers who pulled up to check we were OK, the old guy who couldn’t help but gave us a bottle of water, Theresa for putting my mind at rest and Brian for driving all this way and back with a smile on his face, you were all truly wonderful

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Renovation project - some beautiful sites and places to visit

Renovation project - some beautiful sites and places to visit

Carantec and my baby grandaughters first beach

Brest a fantastic city for shopping and over looking the harbour


Douarnenez Bay


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Renovation project - we are ready for visitors!

Renovation project - we are ready for visitors!

Today is so exciting my daughter and baby granddaughter arrive tomorrow, so today is spent cleaning everything and making sure it is all as perfect as it can be. The bedroom is all set up with the cot that we had managed to borrow.

The furniture is set up in the new lounge, the bedding is all laundered it looks like a real house!

I have the joy of cleaning the car, this is going to take some time as it has been used as a mobile tip and will now need to carry a baby, it takes a couple of hours and I then notice a warning that the battery is low, we try the engine and nothing! Bugger we have to drive tomorrow morning to the airport!!!!!

We give Brian a call and he pops up with some jump leads, the car gets going and we take it for a good drive to make sure the engine is in perfect working order for tomorrow.

When we get back John sets to work on the kitchen window, this still had the old lead paint on it and is really knackered, John wants to replace it but I really want to keep it. John starts to scrub the window frame ready to give it a quick coat of paint, but whilst doing this a pane of glass pings out, how he managed to catch it I have no idea, but he did and it is installed back in the frame.

John will be replacing part of the frame and installing some new glass and we have found that we can buy new handle mechanisms; I am really looking forward to restoring this window.

As John is working on the window I make a start on the front door, we had planned to re paint it but with a bit of sanding the original wood is revealed, and it looks fantastic, so I set to work with the heat gun, scraper and sand paper, the door looks really good, but its getting late so maybe I need to finish it tomorrow

Friday, 24 May 2013

Renovation project - How much is an oil change and new oil filter in France?

Renovation project - How much is an oil change and new oil filter in France?

Well we are up bright and early and head down to the garage for half past nine; we had almost forgotten what the world looked like at this time of the morning! The brother was still not at the garage and was expected to arrive at nearer to 10am; we are still a bit worried about the cost so decide to come back.

We meet the bother and though his English is not fantastic we manage to muddle through with my French and his English, the cost is only going to be 96 euro’s so we are really impressed and leave the car.

We go back to pick it up later in the afternoon, when we arrive the garage is open but there is nobody about, we have a look around but cannot find the owners, it is at this moment that we notice all of the car keys just hung on hooks next to the open door, we are struck by how safe this area is again, if this had been in Manchester, it would have taken approx 5 mins for the garage to be emptied and all of the cars to be gone!

I head to the petrol forecourt and the owner is in there, he comes out and says that the car is all sorted; we now have the fun of trying to ask for the car computer to be reset, no easy task in any country or garage. This takes a little while but is all completed.

As we are waiting we have a look around, the view from this garage is amazing, it is crazy to think that a garage has such a prime water front location, imagine working with this as your view from the door!

The rest of the day is spent discussing the kitchen, we are starting to change our mind about our plans, I had really wanted free standing units made from the old floorboards with a lot of chrome. But we realise that we now have to put the big electric water heater in the kitchen (this has moved all around the house, it was originally planned to be in the walk-in wardrobe in the loft, but we want that space for clothes, then it was going in to the small utility, until John went to install it and it didn’t fit, so it is now going to be installed in the kitchen).

This means that we will need a big cupboard in the kitchen, we also need to cover the consumer unit in the kitchen, so we decide to have two large floor to ceiling cupboards with the cooker and a sink unit in between them. John is worried that this will make the kitchen look small but I think it will look fantastic, as a compromise I agree that we can knock down the remaining wall in the kitchen, so this will give a bigger sense of space.

This is yet another example of where having fixed ideas is not good, as the kitchen is now going to be very different to the one we had originally planned on, but how exciting we are getting ready to do the kitchen, I can’t wait, the idea of being able to cook and entertain without moving around the piles of rubbish and building materials and not having anything drop on your head (I had a freak out yesterday because I felt something drop on my head, I’m still sure it was a spider!)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Renovation project - We are definitely getting there!

Renovation project - We are definitely getting there!

It’s been a busy couple of days, we have been painting and sanding, everywhere has had a 2nd coat of varnish and John has finished off the last bits of plastering the place is really starting to feel like a home (as long as you ignore the ground floor that now resembles a building site again!)

I set too with painting the window in the back bedroom AKA lounge, this is not an easy task, the window is a pretty cottage style and to make it easy to clean the wooden frames are hinged, yes so easy for cleaning but what a pain for painting instead of two windows I end up with six window frames!

We do not have any undercoat left but as they have already been painted we think it should be OK with just a coat of gloss, I have done one side and am just about to finish the last of the wooden frames when John says he is really not happy with it, the gloss has sunk into wood, due to not having enough undercoat, we have a discussion as to whether I should paint the last frame and he says no, it’s not worth it as they will all need undercoating and sanding down. I feel like I have just wasted the past few hours, but feel really peeved, when a few hours later they look a lot better than anticipated and will only require some touching up!!!! Now we have almost painted windows!!!!

In the evening I have a look through some of the photo’s to put on the blog and I am taken by surprise at how much the house as changed, when you live in it you really don’t see that much difference, you know it is getting better but you don’t really appreciate just how much until you see a before and after photo, so here they are. This is the landing to the bathroom when we first moved in and now!

We also realise that the car required an oil change and we didn’t have time in the UK, we see if anybody can recommend a local mechanic and we are told that a friend had used the garage by the lake.

We drive down and yes they can complete it but we need to speak the other owner for a price unfortunately they are not in and we have to come back later (we forget) but they can fit us in in the morning, goodness knows how much it will cost and we are a bit worried that there may be different prices for the English and French, we will just have to wait and see.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Renovation Project - Can you buy Cow and Gate baby milk in France?

Renovation Project - Can you buy Cow and Gate baby milk in France?

Oh wow today is a good day; my daughter has called to see if she can come to visit with the baby, we look around the first floor and it is almost ready, we will need to seal the floors and any walls not sealed but yes, she can come.

I am so happy I feel like I am floating all day, admittedly she will have to close her eyes and run to the stairs so that she cannot see the ground floor, but once up stairs it is like a different house.

She books the flights and will be here next week, now for the panic bit, can she buy baby milk in France, a very simple question and obviously there are lots of babies in France, but do they drink Cow and Gate, do they heck!

I try goggling all of the big stores and cannot find any, we try finding out who makes it and would you believe it is actually made in France!

I am advised to try the chemist so I go and attempt to ask for the baby milk, I surprise myself and actually have a conversation, yes it was very stunted and I still sound like a sat nav, but I managed, the fact that they do not have it and cannot get it is not good, but hey I had a conversation in French!!!!

I have a look around the different shops and the selection of baby milk and food is extensive but they are all different makes and apparently you should not change a make when they are used to it, this is the worst marketing scam I have ever heard, why on earth don’t they use the same name (they are probably the same stuff!!!!) or at the very least have a list of aliases on the side, now there’s a suggestion.

So now we are in overdrive trying to finish off the bits and pieces before they come, so can you guess what I will be doing? Yes that’s right more cleaning!!!!!!

Project renovation - Good Karma!

Project renovation - Good Karma!

We are moving upstairs today and turning the back bedroom into a little lounge again, this brings back some fond memories as this was our first lounge when we moved into the house. I spend some time emptying the room and yet again all the materials are moved. This time we can store many of them in the new wardrobe that John built which means my game of musical rooms will stop.

Once the room is emptied we bring down the settee bed that we had been sleeping on and assemble it as a settee, not an easy task as we no matter how we tried we could not make it resemble a settee, it turns out that we had put two of the hinges on the wrong way round!

Once the settee is resolved and assembled correctly and the shouting and swearing had stopped, we have our first settee, woo hoo!

The boxing in around the electrics has not been finished yet, which is a shame as it makes the rooms look not finished, but there is a reason and this is that we have not connected all of the plug sockets yet, the electrics should’ve been finished earlier but as we had set them up for a four bedroom house and before we had made all of the changes they do not look right or fit where we had originally planned for them to go. So now we have to decide again and until we do it is pointless fixing them in securely.
This is something we have found over and over again, whatever your initial plans were, they will undoubtedly change as the project grows and takes on a life of its own, if you do something like this be prepared to change your plans, if you stick rigidly to your initial plans you may lose the opportunity to have something better than you could’ve imagined, after all when we moved in it was a five bedroom shell and is now a 3 bedroom (about to be) luxury house!

John also assembles one of the new garden chairs it is almost like we have a little suite and the colours match! I take the TV upstairs to add to the room and hear John shout from downstairs, I ask what’s wrong and he shouts to bring the camera, when I get to him he is holding a tiny vole, it is so cute. I ask him where it came from and he said that it was walking across the ground floor. We decide to name her Vera the Vole

Renovation project - Vera the Vole

John takes her outside and releases her into the garden but she turns around and headed back to the barn, looked up at John, squeaked and then disappeared. John was sure she was saying thank you for not killing her; maybe we will have some good karma?

John continues with bits and pieces throughout the day and I go back to the kitchen floor, yes I thought we had heard the last of that as well, but today I aim to finish it, as we will be starting on the kitchen next!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Renovation Project - Dilemma's - We need your help

Renovation Project - Dilemma's - We need your help

The new bedroom is almost finished, the bed is in, the wardrobe has been built the floors are stained and varnished; the mirror is attached to the wall. All that is left now is the bits and pieces that can be done at any time, such as fitting new curtains, the last coat of paint and some plastic trim around the shower, the floor is that out of line we cannot do anything other than add some trim.

The curtains are the biggest problem as we cannot decide what to put there, we had planned on big draped curtains covering both windows but now that we have the oak beams we want to make sure that these are seen, John suggested curtains inside the reveals but that would mean the windows would not open as they open internally, I look at roller blinds but the reveals are angled so the sun would seep through at the sides, (they couldn’t  go next to the window as the window handles protrude too far) which would make blinds pointless.

I want to have wooden shutters but because the window sills are so low we are going to have to add metal rails at the front of the external sill (these are a must!)

For the time being John attaches some curtains and we will have to ponder this some more, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

The back bedroom is emptied and John plaster boards the wall by the window, we then sand the floor and give it a really good clean ready for varnishing.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Renovation project - An oasis of beauty on a building site

Renovation project - An oasis of beauty on a building site

I wake up refreshed I have finally had a goodnights sleep, oh the difference of having a real bed and one that is big enough for us both to fit in, how the hell have we managed for so long on a tiny pull out bed settee!
This maybe one of our biggest tips so far, get a real bed as 9 months without one is not good, I don’t ache and I don’t wake feeling tired and moody, I hadn’t realised how much of an impact not having the bed had made!

Today we have to fit all of the skirting boards to the landing; we are using the same type of skirting boards that we used in the bedroom.

You may be wondering what I have been up to over the past few days as obviously John has been doing many of these jobs by himself, well I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing, I’ve been cleaning, then cleaning some more and then cleaning once again, it really never stops as every job causes so much dust! I have also been moving tools and wood from room to room, yes I manage to get a space clean and cleared and then John destroys it!

But soon all of the tools will be downstairs and this floor will be our living space.

The back bedroom is almost emptied again and I am so looking forward to this being the living room.
Today I opened both windows wide and leaned out, I could still see the blossom trees and all you could hear was birds and the occasional baa from Edith and Amelie, stood at this window you would have no idea you are in a town, the smells, sights and sounds are the perfect antidote to any stress for your senses, I could be felicity Kendal on my farm (just with the added benefit of going to the butchers and bakers that are down the road rather than making my own meat and vegetables!).

It is the most incredible feeling and stood here with your back to the mess you can almost believe we are nearly finished, bugger I turned round and saw all of the crap, oh well back to reality but at least I know I have a little oasis of beauty in the building site.