We’ve finally got round to decorating inside – I say ‘we’ and I mean Steve! He’s stripped the wallpaper and done one coat of the ceiling paint. I’d decided to use trunking over the electric wires, rather than embedding them within the wall, which makes it easier to decorate without having done the electrics in the entire house first! So… the ceiling now looks like Steve’s long johns. It’s a nice look, but it’s definitely reminiscent of long john fabric!
Whilst he did that, I got around to unpacking some books – once the decorating has been done, I’ll be able to get a few bookshelves up in here; at the moment, they’re all crammed in the tiny little alcove with the stairs to the attic space. I managed to unpack them though. The books are a source of frustration for Steve. For me, they’re the accumulation of my knowledge over the past 25 years. I’ve got my first books, a box set of Winnie-the-Pooh, or Winnie L’Ourson as he’s known in France. I’ve got My Naughty Little Sister and Wind in the Willows. And then I’ve got A level books, degree books, Masters books, psychology, theatre, drama… you name it, it’s in my library! How men might feel about CDs or vinyl, I feel about books. Steve wonders why I had to bring them all with me – I’ve got over a thousand – but I had to. Suits can be sold, shoes wear out, make-up is used up, but a book is a treasure forever. So, they are double-stacked under the stairs on some very dirty and cobwebby shelves, and the dining room looks less like a book depository and more like a dining room. It’s been quite nice unpacking. I found my fridge magnets, my first money box, a box of letters smelling of patchouli (or Ji’er juice as a guy Steve once knew calls it. Jitter Juice. Not sure why. I don’t even know what a jitter is!) and Molly’s dog bandanna.
It had snowed another inch or so overnight and Molly has been over-giddy. She went out for a good hour this morning by herself, running about in the garden. By four, Steve was in need of a break from painting and the Moll was in need of a walk, so we took her out by the woods, where Steve did his woodsman-forager bit, coppicing hazel for our panels, and I took countless photos of the lovely sunset.
What we’ve learned is that you learn a lot about your house in the winter. You learn where the draughts are (and then where birds can get in, like the three blue tits we’ve had to remove from the lean-to. You learn which shutters need replacing, and which panes of glass. We’ve also learnt that butane turns liquid at 0 degrees! Our cooker has been extremely temperamental these last few days. At first, we thought it was running out, but the bottle was still heavy. It kept cutting out every time we put more than a tiny flame on. Plus, L’Eclerc hadn’t had a butane delivery, and it was unlikely to have come in with the embargo on motorway travel for HGVs. No multiple hob burners and the oven – one at once and the oven wasn’t working. You have no idea how much you rely on a cooker. We don’t have a microwave, so it’s that or nothing. Last night, I’d planned a meat and potato pie with jacket potatoes. It was not to be. I got the meat and potatoes done on the hob, but the oven was not playing at all. I put the potatoes in tin foil and put them in the fire. Improvise! The gas by that time was staying on for seconds before cutting out. This morning, I researched it. Seems the great and the good (okay – the British Caravanning society!!) say that butane, which we use, has a relatively high liquid point. The gas turns to liquid and then you have no gas. I did think about bringing in the bottle to warm up, but it was pretty much dead and for 30 euros, I thought I might as well try the propane.
Yay! It worked!
I boiled one of the Christmas puddings for six hours, leaving it on when we went out for a walk. When we got back, I tried to do tea. I put another pan on to boil. The gas cut out. So the seeming solution of propane wasn’t a solution at all, and I had to do tea one step at a time. Luckily, the oven worked and as long as I didn’t overload it, it was fine. You don’t realise how much you miss stuff that works and mains gas and mains plumbing until you don’t have it. It’s a very back-to-basics kind of feeling. At least we have some gas.
I’ve got a running list of stuff that needs doing, but with a bit of decorating, a bit of unpacking and a bit of cleaning, it feels more like home, rather than just a shell of a house we’re living in. I don’t put pictures up of inside the house – I’m saving it for ‘before-and-after’ shots, because you’d all be horrified if you saw it if you hadn’t already and we’d end up having Sir Bob Geldof doing appeals for us and making songs with all the popstars du jour in order to give us a Christmas. Honestly, it’s not that bad. I lived in worse places as a student!
Anyway, some lovely shots of the sun going down over La Rochette…