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!!!)

Playing musical rooms

It’s another round of musical rooms as we now have two good rooms and a third on the way.

The living room is now the living room complete with lovely working gas fireplace. With its new ceiling and beautiful Farrow and Ball paint, new door and new security grill (or as I’m thinking of it, metal curtains) it’s a very different room to four months ago.

Our other good room is now the master bedroom with a view to the back garden, bed reassembled without any swearing and dandelion chandelier which shakes quite alarmingly from the upstairs washing machine. Oh the joy of flat living!

The next room (undercoated today) is the small bedroom. One of my favourite rooms in the flat, the window is set on an angle to the courtyard and catches the morning light sending it into the dark hallway.

The little bedroom will become the box room temporarily when we relocate the temporary kitchen to the red room which perhaps one day will become the library.

It’s a little confusing remembering which room is which as we keep changing the names!

Six days later

After six days in the South of France it was time to head back to the other reality.

I had arrived grey, clenched, with gritted teeth, peering out manically through dark circles and layers of dirt. After six days, with some sunshine, good food and wine and the company of Big T and Agnes, I had started to relax.

I had enjoyed having a real kitchen and a bathroom with a proper shower. How novel!

I had enjoyed the feeling of cleanliness after four months of living in dust. Layers of skin or dirt washed off!

I had really enjoyed using a washing machine which didn’t require coins. And even better, things came out clean!

Ah, the novelty of normal life to keep me going for a little longer as I head back into the building site for a ten day stint.

Thank goodness it’s summer and my French weekends have started.

This year I think they’ll be sanity breaks.

All pumped up

We have switched from DIY in Maida Vale to opening up the house and pool in the South of France. It’s a first world problem but it does seem like the work never stops!

To start, we had to uncover the pool and get things up and running for the next six months.

We pulled back the cover and revealed the pool in her murky green algae-covered winter clothes. I had decided to try vacuuming the pool before sweeping and so with the waste valve opened, off I went.

Leaves, olives and algae were sucked up merrily until I’d had enough and all seemed well. Until I noticed the pressure seemed a bit low and perhaps I’d blocked something with my enthusiastic vacuuming. Much backwashing ensued.

From there we visited the Aqua Paysage, our local pool shop where we were advised to buy a selection of chemicals to get the pool up and running including a clarity tablet which had to be placed in to the pump basket. Hmm, where exactly was that?

We found the pump basket and blithely unscrewed the knobs. Water started gushing out and Big T was stuck in the tiny pool shed with his weight on the lid trying desperately to hold back the contents of the pool. It was like the boy and the dyke but somehow worse…

We couldn’t get the knobs back in and panicked slightly.

I went to consult the internet and in the meantime, Big T managed to close all the valves, perhaps something we should have done in the first place…

With the tidal wave abated, we were able to locate the screws, clean and replace the pump basket and put the whole thing back together. It was a huge lesson in what not to do (sort of like getting locked out with brand new Banham locks).  The level of stupidity was definitely a ten!

The second time around was much easier, what a lesson learned as the clarity tablet was carefully placed in the basket and the valves reopened. No floods, no drama, job done.

The pool is now a nice shade of turquoise and gradually clearing so it looks like we’re almost back up and running for the summer!



Easter Break

After a two and a half hour video conference last night, I finally disconnected at 11:15pm and my Easter break officially began. Hurrah.

It’s been a long time since Christmas and the work in between so being in France where the sun is shining, there’s a kitchen, a bathroom and a murky green pool feels like luxury.

Of course there’s work to do opening the house up after the winter but it all feels quite nice after our London living.

Six glorious days. And breathe.

Southern Migration

It was a hard old slog as we were pushing to get two more rooms done and time was running out.

The birds were flying south for the summer, that is, Big T and Agnes had planned their escape.

We almost made it. The living room was painted and with a great deal of patience, twisting and turning and a lot of huffing and puffing, we managed to get the sofa back through the door. That sofa will probably have to be sold with the flat when the time comes.

The fireplace was revealed and a lot of cleaning of the floor took place.

In the good room, the bed was reassembled (hopefully the last time for a while) and we now officially have two good rooms!

The little bedroom is waiting to be painted which will take us to three rooms and by my optimistic estimation, we’ll be a third of the way through.

We’ve finally got estimates for the kitchen and bathroom and are confident we won’t be able to do both in one hit. Looks like the handicapped bathroom will be staying for a while.

In the meantime Big T and Agnes skipped off down the platform at St Pancras early on Tuesday morning to enjoy another epic train journey to the south of France.

I followed closely behind having judiciously booked Easter flights in January and just have one work commitment before signing off for a much anticipated week’s holiday.

A Disobedience of Welsh Terriers

On Sunday Agnes and I set off to Hampstead Heath to meet three other Welsh Terriers.

Ralph (pronounced Raph), Edward Lear and Henry. It’s fair to say we’re all pretentious dog namers!

Apparently the collective noun for Welsh Terriers is a Disobedience which was coined by one of the other owners and of course, we weren’t disappointed.

I was armed with two balls and Agnes’ favourite treat of crispy dried sprats (little smelly fish which she loves) in case of the disappearing dog tail over the horizon. I was pleasantly surprised as she stayed close throughout.

It was a pleasure to see all four teddy bear dogs bouncing across the grass into a large muddy ditch and Raph swimming in every pond he could find.

It seems dogs like their own kind and the Welshies were no exception as they lined up for treats and no one could tell the difference.

Which one is Agnes?


(The good looking well-behaved one on the left…who’s biased?)

The dogs’ day out ended with a bus ride home for Henry and Agnes; tired, muddy and straight to bed for these tired little dogs.