Hard Work, Rewards and Some Laughs!
We spent the first couple of days after our arrival at our new home trudging back and forth with barrow-loads of wood, from wood pile to barn and back ...... It kept on raining - we kept on carrying, loading and stacking and we wondered if we were likely to fuse into our macs and wellies. The neighbours were very friendly, greeting us with cheerful "Bonjours" and comments about the continuous rain (it was mid-January 2004 and had apparently been raining for two to three weeks already!) They wanted to know if the house was to be a holiday home or whether we were going to live here all the time and seemed pleased when we said we were living here.
On our third day just as we were about to go out there was a knock at the door and the chap standing there greeted us with " Bonjour! I 'eard your engine!", accompanied by expressive and appreciative French hand gestures - this particular one always seems a tad rude to me - but perhaps I'm looking at it and interpreting how it looks wrongly!! This was Monsieur C and he went on to explain that he was the neighbour from the house down in the dip at the back of our long garden and he'd heard the roar of our MG's V8 engine when we'd been down searching for and buying the house. He was, surprisingly, the President of the local classic car club which was open to all marques. This was such a coincidence as Terry and I had run the local Folkestone/Dover MG Owners' Club (the 1108s) when we'd lived in Folkestone. Our new neighbour didn't stay long at that visit as we were clearly on our way out but left with a promise to show us his own classics when it stopped raining and we had a moment to go round to his house. We said we'd see him again soon - not realising how soon and for what reason -more later of that.
Our good friend, D (who had driven down with us to see the house in December) was due to arrive in early March to help Terry expand into the adjoining barn on the first floor level, so we had roughly six weeks to source and arrange delivery of all the building materials that we'd need, plus a bathroom suite.
Terry also needed to prise/dig/bash-out a large door-sized hole through the two-foot thick granite stone wall before D arrived.. It was hard, back-breaking and messy work and although I was only the "gofer" getting rid of the stones that Terry dropped down to me on the ground floor of the barn, we both worked 'til we dropped, staggering to bed at about 8.30pm, as we couldn't stay awake any longer.
When all the building supplies etc eventually arrived, the two of us had to manhandle much of it up to the first floor level. A partial floor had already been constructed by the previous owner who had obviously had some similar plans of his own once upon a very long time ago, which was a bonus. The lower part of the barn was remaining as a barn at that stage but an upper wall would need to be built to separate it from the rest of the barn.
The beams were double the thickness that we needed (we'd use the rest when we eventually renovated our little cottage) so I stood inside the barn manning our circular saw and balancing the uncut beam and Terry slowly walked backwards into the road taking the weight of the two finished lengths of each beam as I guided it through. The locals were very interested in what we were doing and often stood in the rain to watch our progress and nod approvingly! One of our neighbours later told us that all this work on our part earned us "respect" - very important in small communities.
D arrived at the start of March and they set to work. What with the endless mess in the house, the building noise and layers of thick white dust that seeped into the house everywhere - and the banter that the two chaps kept up - I felt that I would soon be driven quite bonkers! However, I survived it all.
D is a master carpenter and he managed to leave the old beams exposed as features in the two new rooms - an extra double bedroom and a bathroom. We also gained a new corridor - which was especially welcome as visiting friends no longer had to walk through our bedroom to reach the attic bedroom. I especially loved our new upstairs bathroom with an extra-wide shower, loo, two hand-basins and two windows allowing in plenty of light. The upstairs lavatory was a blessing as previously if we needed to "pay a visit" during the night we'd had to go downstairs, cross through the living room, into the hall and round the corner and negotiate a tiny cupboard where the loo was situated. I have often wondered why so many loos in French houses seem to be in similar tiny "cupboards" where you have to be careful not to bang your knees on the door!!
All that was left for Terry and me to do was to stain the doors, emulsion the walls that had been plaster-boarded - though they'd left a quite lot of the walls as raw granite stones to match the rest of the house - and to carpet and furnish the new bedroom.
I loved our new home. It was slowly coming together and to me it was beautiful. We were so pleased with it all.