Entry to the 21st Century

Sorry to bore you if you have read my Instagram or Facebook, but I have to share here as well …. WE HAVE THE INTERNET ūüôā and I cannot tell you how pleased I am.¬† I can update things while here rather than waiting till we go back to England;¬† where life gets in the way and it takes me ages.¬† In the summer I spent 17 weeks waiting for the local landline company to install a line to our house.¬† They agreed they would, did all the preliminary work, and we thought it would be easy, as our neighbours have landlines and ADSL internet and one is only 10 metres from our house!¬† But no luck, we spent yet another summer wandering round with our mobiles trying to pick up a little 3G/4G or sitting outside our neighbour’s house picking up on their WiFi, when the signal was strong enough.

img_1740

John hoping for an WiFi connection – no comment about the socks please!

In the end I cancelled as they told me my online file was so large it took them too long to read, yawn, yawn and confused employees, ha, ha!  Yes, I admit I did make a lot of phone calls asking why they never met promised deadlines to contact me, or to visit, but hey what is a girl without a connection meant to do.

So now we have a 4G router (works on mobile phone signals) together with an exterior 4G antenna that boosts our very poor mobile signal.  It is wonderful to be able to sit in bed or at the kitchen table and be in touch with the rest of the world.

At the moment it is a little temporary and the router is balanced on the bathroom shelf, but I don’t care as it works, and provides a pretty good speed.

Also I am a little excited as our Department in France will be the first area after Paris to provide a very high speed fibre optic internet to all during 2021.  So at some point I will need to get a landline,  but not just yet.

IMG_2505

A liveable house!

Catch up part 2 ūüėČ

With four months of hard work the house slowly became more liveable.

First the kitchen, it now has running hot and cold water, a hob, oven and wood burning stove that will heat water and, in winter, provide underfloor heating and upstairs radiators. In addition we no longer need a ladder to get upstairs.

With the help of Peter, a lovely friend, who came for ten days to help and offer knowledgeable suggestions, we now have ceilings, studding and plasterboard  in much of the upstairs.

Downstairs we have a new window in the living room and the second window, that was once a door ,has been taken out completely to enable John to get the original floor and excess earth out, then sand in to level the floor, before we lay a waterproof membrane and a new floor on our next visit.  We also cleaned and pointed the fireplace back which looks so much better now.

We also continued to work on the outside.

Summer in the garden

Catch up time, part one ūüôā

So after the rain the sun …. and we got plenty of sun over the summer.¬† I seemed to spend days just carrying buckets of water around, it must have improved my upper body strength.¬† However it made a difference and despite searing temperatures for weeks on end, we had so many beautiful flowering plants , fruit and veg.

Some of the veg.

September views.

The solar panels which provide all our hot water on warm sunny days and, we hope, provide a top up on sunny days throughout the year.

A Whole Summer at Geray …. Yipee

I use the term summer lightly, referring to the months of June to August rather than the weather!

We’ve had some lovely sunny weather, but at the moment we are stuck in a cycle of misty, rainy or thundery days and nights, and the stream that runs through our neighbours’ garden has flooded several times.

However, a few raining days are not important when we are here for the whole summer, May till September, to get a move on with the house renovations.  And the first job for John was to tile the kitchen floors.

IMG_1287To make eating in the kitchen more comfortable I have painted and reupholstered one of the two bench seats I bought earlier in the year.  As you can see, they are pretty gross restaurant seating, but very comfortable to sit on and with a couple of coats of paint and new fabric they will look great in our kitchen,

JXGC5710

IMG_1219

IMG_1294and the cats appreciate a comfy place to sit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belle has been rewarding us with lots of mice and shrew pressies, today’s pressie was still alive so he got a second chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we have been able to buy the extra land we have been after, and John can start planting the trees seedlings he has been propagating.

After signing the final purchase contract for the land  we headed off with our neighbours to celebrate at this lovely traditional local restaurant.

We now have a cat flap (a temporary measure, excavated through a half metre wide wall) so no longer having to leave a door open for the cats, but unfortunately it does not have a dead mouse detector and we have daily presents as the garden is full of fairly dozy mice.  We are also now the proud owners of a gate to keep dogs contained in the garden when they come to stay.

I then popped flew to England to pick up my mum and bring her back for a week’s holiday to celebrate her birthday.¬† It was lovely to fly back from Rennes to Southampton with Flybe, so easy, at both ends it is possible to be out of the airport within 10 minutes of landing.¬† Despite the rainy weather we got out and about to visit local gardens, the village of Chailland, Fougere Chateau and our largest local market at¬†Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcou√ęt.

IMG_1224IMG_1247IMG_1249IMG_1248IMG_1254IMG_1261IMG_1267IMG_1268IMG_1260IMG_1301

 

 

A Quick Catch Up

Wow it has been so long since we updated the blog!  Anyway we are now in France for the summer  and so excited to be here and  be able to get fully stuck into work on the house and the garden.

This time we brought the cats with us, and were not looking forward to travelling with them, as Whizzy the Bengal does not like travelling, and lets us know in no uncertain terms;  screaming and trying to claw his way out of his carrier.  Thankfully it was not as bad as we feared, he calmed down quite quickly when the car engine was off, so the longest we had to put up with his screams was the 1 hr 45 minute drive through France.

A car full, with just enough room for the two cats in their carriers.

As we expected, after a slow introduction to the outside on leads, they both love life in rural France and are not phased by our neighbours’ cat Minimog.  Belle is helping to reduce the mouse population and Whizzy patrols along our mowed footpaths, as the grass in the fields has not been cut since the tenant farmer vacated the fields 18 months ago, and is way taller than him.

I’ll begin with a quick recap on developments at Le Haut Geray over the past few moths. John has been out more than me as I swanned off to Australia for a month then had to do some work to top up my ailing bank account.

We have an amazing new front door, made with oak felled in a field near the house. ¬†It has certain ‚ÄėHobbit like‚Äô qualities being rather wide and only 1.75 metres high;¬† finally we have a wind and water tight front door that opens and shuts with ease.

John’s main focus during his recent visits has been the kitchen and utility room, lime plastering the walls and preparing the floors for the 49 sq metres of tiles we recently bought.  The idea is that we live in this end of the house; with the bedroom and bathroom directly above all of which are sealed off from the rest of the house so we have a relatively dust free living space while work goes in other rooms, but that is a way off yet.

A few photos above of the kitchen as John left it in April.  Not having been in France with him I was so excited to see photos of it beginning to look more like a room we could live in;  even if everything was just propped up in probable future positions, still with only half a staircase and ladder, and garden chairs to sit on.

A little snow

It was cold when we arrived and then it got colder,  with a mixture of rain and then snow.  Watching France 2 news updates it was reassuring to see that, as in the UK, in Paris road systems ground to a halt, children got a day off school and flights got cancelled.

IMG_0287

DSCN3922

The snow was enchanting, all we need to go with it is a warmer house.

We kept feeding the woodburner from our large woodpile, with the aim of keeping indoor temperatures in double figures, at least some of the time.

It was worth braving the cold to stumble around outside and take photos.

I love my miscanthus grasses covered in snow, luckily I hadn’t got around to cutting them down before it snowed.

DSCN3926

From a distance we watching a fuel tanker get stuck along our road as the driver tried to reach the top of a small hill and slide sideways into a small ditch, we decided that we had better leave plenty of time for John to drive me to the ferry and I returned to Sussex leaving him to keep the fire going by himself.

Février fait froid

I had not been to France since September.¬† Work, a short visit to northern Spain and skiing in Italy got in the way.¬† ¬†So I was excited to return just three days after we got back from Italy.¬† As usual we had so much to take – lots of insulation, insulated solar piping, a dishwasher (provided by our ski buddies John and Jane, as a new kitchen replaces the old one), plants …..

IMG_0239

After three years of house ownership we have moved out of our caravan and I finally got to sleep in the house.  The bedroom is an amazing oasis of calm and comfort Рdust free, almost warm, with the softest, warmest brushed cotton duvet  cover ever.  It made it such a treat to go to bed.

IMG_0246

John laid insulation in the roof space making the room a little insulated box in our big old house.  All we need now are radiators and a warm downstairs to give us warm floors.

IMG_0250

John, wearing his head torch, in the roof space laying extra insulation to our bedroom box.  The space in front will be our main bathroom.

Downstairs who ever got up to make a tea in the morning lit the wood burner and we kept it going all day.  Old windows, lack of a ceiling in places, no insulation in the roof and an uninsulated concrete floor means the heat just vanished.   Much of the room never got above 10 degrees.  We brought the fridge down from the barn, but I am not sure we really needed it.

Our larder was a handy scaffolding tower and we cooked almost everything  on the wood burner.

IMG_0247DSCN3915

We had the luxury for a rug in front of the Jotul and we sat as close as we could without burning our knees.

IMG_0248

Some jobs can be done by the fire, relaxing with a glass of wine!

DSCN3918

Before the snow arrived we managed to prune the fruit trees, some to extinction, and John had a play in our little stream to decide where we will dam it to make a couple of small ponds to encourage wildlife.

One weekend we stumbled across a new local vide grenier, held in a huge warehouse in nearby Le Teilleul.¬† It was full of furniture (old and new), books, crockery, tools, music, wine, lights ….. As usual some rubbish along with interesting little finds.

I bought the art deco dining chairs to strip and reupholster and the bench seats to paint and recover as comfy kitchen seating.  Watch this space, fingers crossed they look better when I have spent a little time on them.

Our First Bedroom

Sunday September 10th, we have an almost completed bedroom, and after about 40 or maybe 50 years someone sleeps in our house.

IMG_4110 (Edited)

John has been plastering, painting and floor laying so we had a room for our daughter Leila to stay in when she visited us from Australia.¬† Luckily she is sure footed as we still don’t have a complete staircase.

DSCN3664

Leila had imagined sitting in our garden in sunshine, however this September that was not to be.  So we holed up inside and she took charge of much of the cooking.

We did venture out but the rain followed us, although Cancale in Brittany is an interesting place whatever the weather.

IMG_4083 (Edited)IMG_4078

Before we arrived John had be puzzling over how to roof the front of our ‘right angle free zone’ utility room and heighten the Hobbit sized door space.

dscn3666.jpg

After sleepless nights he gave up on the idea of inserting a dormer above the door frame and chose to increase the wall height.  (The grey frame is a regular door frame and the oak beam across the gap indicates the old door dimension.)   He also decided shock, horror, to use breeze blocks for the narrow space between the normal sized door frame and the main house wall.  Finding suitable largish, cut stones to fit the narrow space was the issue;  and no it wont be left like that, John has plans to clad it in oak.

DSCN3671

The next stage was deciding how to batten and slate a roof where no edge is at a right angle or parallel to another, and none the same length.

I think he did a brilliant job.  So now, at the end of summer number three, all roofing work is complete and the house is watertight.

John spent a fair amount of time puzzling over our thermal store;¬† what goes where with the inlets and the outlets.¬† All guidance is on a website and as we do not have an internet connection yet he goes across the track to our neighbour’s (thanks Chris) brings up the correct page, then comes back with his laptop and scratches his head as he fiddles around with all the fittings.¬† Slowly the valves and pipework are getting attached.

The next stage will be installing the tank, joining up the pipework and installing the kitchen stove with back boiler, hopefully in November.

 

 

Summertime

DSCN3645 (2)

Summer Рthe view from the back of our barns.  John is slowly mowing pathways through the long grass.

 

IMG_3978

Last summer August brought temperatures up to 37, this year on some days the temperature did not get above 17, such a difference.  At least we are not having to water the garden, unlike earlier in the year.

Everything is growing and flowering despite us not being around to look after plants on a regular basis.¬† The pink and yellow plants I have discovered are ‘4 O’clock plants that appear every year in the polytunnel with no care at all.

We now have a window in our utility room and a slated back roof.  Over the weeks John has dodged the rain and finally got it finished.

I managed to persuade John away from the house for a half day trip to Domfront.  A small town not far away, with a ruined chateau on top of the hill.

We visited on Assumption Day (another French national holiday), so our idea of having lunch did not work, as most restaurants were taking the day off.

I loved the church of Saint -Julien, an early twentieth century design made of reinforced concrete and neo-Byzantine in style with beautiful mosaics on all the walls.

Along with many other bits and pieces, the former owner of our house left an old Deutz tractor in our lovely ramshackle shed.

As a distraction from renovating John decided to have a play with it.  He paid a visit to farmer Jean Claude who is renting the fields around our land, to borrow a working battery and after much tinkering around, the tractor finally came to life and John managed to drive it down the track and around a field.  Success!

John also dug out an old rotovator we inherited, managed to get it started and had a good bash at making a new flower bed for our grasses and prairie plants.

Then towards the end of my week some lovely friends came to stay and we ended up eating inside, in our un-restored living room, as weather was not the best.  Luckily the room is large enough for a table and chairs among the tools, and materials and our uninstalled kitchen stove.  We lit the wood burner to provide atmosphere and a little warmth.

IMG_3954

Letting the Light in!

I’m off to France in a few days, to join John, who has been at Geray for the last three weeks. ¬†He set off with his car loaded with the three parts of our handmade oak french windows. ¬†Amazingly they just, just, fitted in with the front seats forward and ¬†everything else packed around them. ¬†I’m so impressed with the amount of stuff you can get into a Ford Mondeo Estate.

Breakfast while thinking about how to install the windows.

Being by him self, John needed a little help from our neighbours:  Terry as first mate and Chris as chief photographer, without Chris this blog post would not be possible as John is nearly always too busy to take photos.

I’m so pleased, after lots of debating, trawling websites for factory made windows, and discussion as to whether it was worth John chipping away at a huge granite block to make the window space larger, he agreed to take the excess away.

John tells me it took almost a day to get the bottom stone to size, but was well worth it.

DSCN2739 (2)

Having chosen to cut the granite back, we decided on ‘handmade’ made to measure windows. ¬†Carpenter Clayton made them in between other jobs, so construction took a while, it was so worth the wait, as they fit the space perfectly and look amazing.

windows

I am really looking forward to standing in the room, filled with light and being able to looking out and open them up.

The other key job for this visit is to strip and rebuild the final part of the roof.  It was a  store room, and is now our utility room.

The trench has been dug for the red corrugated plastic pipe that protects the mains electricity supply as it enters the house.

P1020817

The roof is now covered and ready for rain that is forecast.  Last year there were weeks and weeks of  hot, amazing hot, sunny weather.  This year, so far, August is wet and chilly.  Fingers crossed it warms up and dries up!

roof covered