Three days later

This week I’ve been in New York for three days. I arrived on Tuesday afternoon and went straight to a meeting and here I am, three days later heading back to the airport. Surreal.

I didn’t go anywhere, didn’t do anything other than work and didn’t take any photos. It did rain though and the weather was quite horrible.

The three days were important as I was onboarding (a dreadful corporate term) a new team member who will be taking my late phone calls and giving me back my evenings.

What will I do with all that extra time? Or should I say, what will I paint?!

Respite in France

From Thursday evening to Tuesday morning (5am) I was in France.

The weather was mixed but it didn’t stop us from compiling the “Complaints List,” all the things a guest could possibly complain about and then we got on with fixing stuff.

From a broken dishwasher (still to be replaced,) damaged gates (now patched up so less shit than they were,) a rotten shutter and a cracked mirror. These are the details we felt the most discerning guests would complain about ie me.

Gardening, cleaning and general maintenance weren’t included although we did manage to invest in a new power jet and proceeded to jet wash almost everything. The result, everything is now covered in mud.

My pet succulents are doing well and the garden is looking quite spectacular. Once we tick off the Complaints we should be all ready for AirBnb.

The To Do List

As I’m gradually chipping away at things, my list currently looks like this:

    Fill, sand, undercoat and paint window frame in Little bedroom.
    Install curtain rod in Little Bedroom.
    Sand and paint exterior of hall cupboard
    Remove remaining wallpaper from hall for plastering.
    Sand and paint door frames.
    Fill, sand and paint front door
    Knock down kitchen wall.

(The last one is wishful thinking). I need to email the builder.

As I’m away most weekends and have a full time job, things are progressing very slowly.

Almost made it

With the third room almost complete, three coats of paint on the walls, two coats on the skirting boards and doorframe and several ailments along the way (who knew it was such hard work climbing up and down a stepladder?) I had to admit, I’d run out of time.

I hadn’t managed to finish the window frame and so the third room remains patiently waiting for the next ten days as I’m off to France and then New York. I’ll continue where I left off.

This is a very slow refurbishment!

It’s looking good though and when the scaffolding comes down, it will be a lovely room.

Along with the window frame, it’s time to find an old cast iron fireplace to plug up the hole in the wall.

The Ginger Weasel

The Summer of Scaffolding continues with the installation of a cage at the rear of our building. It seems that as soon as we finish painting a room, the upstairs neighbour (now named The Ginger Weasel) undersells (just one window) and then installs scaffolding which blocks five windows.

To keep things in perspective, Big T sent me a photo. It is an amazing likeness.

To keep things also in perspective the cage is apparently only going to be up for two weeks and I’m away for most of it but it didn’t stop me telling the builders off when they moved our furniture without asking.

Courtesy is always good and I’m sure if I went round to their homes and moved their stuff, well, maybe they’d understand.

It’s safe to say I’m now considered the Menace of the Mansions. I’ve taken over the role from the previous occupant who used to smoke cigarettes in the garden in her underwear…

I was tempted this morning!

On a positive note, Michael Bay Tree is looking better and is standing outside the only window the Ginger Weasel hasn’t installed scaffolding in front of (yet!)

The adventures continue!

Progress so far

Two coats later and it’s not looking bad (in my opinion!)

I will do a third coat and then tackle the woodwork. My goal is to be finished by Wednesday evening as other things will have to take priority.

Loving Farrow & Ball Cromarty, our paint colour which looks different in every room!

I am not Michelangelo

Today I am embarking on painting the Sistine Chapel, at least that’s what it feels like.

I am going to paint the third room.

I’m a very slow painter and for some reason, I find a roller hard to use especially when it’s on a pole but as our painter is in the South of France, I am taking over the paintbrush.

Yesterday I made good progress as I painted two doors, chipped the paint off the window frames where they’d been painted, cleaned and reinstalled window hardware and sanded and painted the inside of the hall cupboard, my pet project which I’m proud to say looks slightly less shit than before (so far!).

It’s been a lot of work as the walls were crumbling and needed rebuilding with polyfiller and half the cupboard had to be dismantled to get the shelves out so while it doesn’t look impressive, I’ve worked ridiculously hard on it. Most people would have knocked it out I suspect!

It’s not finished as it’s still a bit patchy and I haven’t touched the outside yet. I have four brass coat hooks to install and then it’s a coat and boot cupboard for muddy winter dog walking.

It’s certainly the ball on the end of the banister, a reference to the Little House Above the Boulangerie where Big T was obsessed with attaching a ball to the end of the banister but sometimes it is the small details which make the difference.

Right, onward and upward, up the step ladder…


A little bit Howard Hughes

I have become a little bit Howard Hughes by which I mean, obsessive reclusive.

I have eaten the same evening meal, and I mean exactly the same for five days. It might sound odd with scrambled eggs, black beans, avocado and a corn tortilla and spent my evenings chipping old nicotine-brittle paint off woodwork.

I’m trying to do something every day to keep things progressing, not matter how small, it means it won’t need doing again.

I hope this isn’t a permanent state. If I start going through boxes of tissues or washing my hands compulsively, I’ll have to stage an intervention!

Operation Bay Tree

For the past five years or maybe not quite that long, we’ve had a tall bay tree in a pot in London.

It’s fair to say it hasn’t been given much attention but has been able to survive on very little sun or nutrients, a bit like ourselves I suspect.

This week I discovered the Mansions are slowly killing the bay tree (also a bit like ourselves) as the poor leaves are dry and curled up and it’s a picture of misery. I can relate!

I have now launched Operation Bay Tree in the hope to save the poor thing. Plant food, water and a new location out from under a balcony so it can get the rain. I’m hopefully we can turn things around before it’s too late.

And a bit like ourselves, we are slowly inching forward with an end goal of Christmas for completion.

Summer commuting

It’s been a few weeks of summer commuting.

Back and forth between London and the South of France. Back and forth between a house with a kitchen and bathrooms, and a flat with a hot plate and a handicapped shower.

On one hand it’s nice to have the break, on the other hand, it’s harder and harder to walk through the front door in London.

Work has ground to a halt in London for the past few weeks but we’re hoping with new structural drawings for the removal of the world’s smallest structural wall, we can resubmit our plans and finally get things moving again. After four and a half months, I’m really ready to move on from the hot plate!

On another note things are progressing in France. We’ve been busy working in the garden, adding new plants, a new arch and my new pet project, a succulent garden.

We had a dusty, dead area under a balcony which was full of horrible spiky plants, the only thing which wanted to grow there. As it’s part of the walk from the drive to the garden, we wanted to make it nicer. And so the planting of succulents began.

To be fair, it’s not so much planting as sticking random plants in the ground to see if they survive.

We’ve discovered that we can rescue succulents as they grow “wildish” in the region so walking along the road and seeing an Aloe Vera is not an unusual sight. A few have been rescued for the garden and it’s coming along quite nicely.

We’re also on a mission to remove all ivy and generally get things looking rustic clean instead of rustic scruffy, no mean feat. Weeds are no longer charming.

There’s a stunning garden centre nearby which provides great inspiration and our catchphrase is “EGC” or English Garden Centre as we strive to achieve the same level of beauty and tranquility.

So it seems the summer of hard graft is set to continue as we have a couple of summer bookings for France which means we have more work to do.

The dishwasher has packed up so will have to be replaced. The carport almost fell down so is having to be rebuilt and we cut a hole in the bathroom ceiling so either have to remove the ceiling and replaster or patch it up. It all costs money and while we knew it would be a hard year financially, we’re haemorrhaging badly.

I have to say though that it’s not a bad lifestyle. Once we get through the refurb (by Christmas?) things will be brighter and perhaps one day we’ll look back and laugh at the trials and tribulations (or not!).

And then we’ll probably be looking for our next project (or not!!!)