Apologies again for not posting a blog last week. I was recovering from a particularly nasty stomach bug which laid me low for a number of days and meant I was unable to make any significant progress for the best part of a week. Thankfully, that week the weather was pretty damp and unpleasant so I would have been very limited in what I would have been able to achieve. Thank you to all the people who sent me their best wishes for a speedy recovery.
By last Monday I was thankfully back to full strength which meant we were able to honour our appointment at the prefecture and submit our dossiers in support of our Carte de Séjour (Residency Permit) application. We had applied for our appointment in early August last year and hadn’t had any further contact with the prefecture since so I was half expecting them to claim no knowledge of us!
Our meeting didn’t start so well as the address we were given in our appointment letter had evidently closed as an office some time before with no signage stating where to go and we had the first appointment of the day at 0830. Thankfully there aren’t many alternative options so we quickly found where we needed to be – was actually what used to be the driver and vehicle office where we had to register our car in 2015.
Our appointment was with a really helpful fonctionnaire who had evidently seen a lot of Brits come through the system and was very sympathetic our position. The Carte de Séjour process, while theoretically being controlled by central government, is administered at a departmental level and, if lots of social media posts are to be believed, each department is handling things very differently. We found Finistère’s approach very straightforward and a lot less paperwork-heavy than other departments.
Having submitted all that was required we were told that our cards would be ready for collection in 4 to 5 weeks. We are delighted to now be in the French system which should make the next step, whatever and whenever that will be with the Brexit process, much more straightforward.
Since our appointment I have had a very productive week. With my man shed nearing completion I am now able to locate things which previously may have been inaccessible. As such, I have completed a number of repairs and fixes on things which have been waiting for some time. All fairly minor stuff but very satisfying when done and things which haven’t worked for a long time come back to life!
There are so many projects which we want to progress, and some again dependent on the completion of others, but I have started to tick a number off and have taken the view to work on some of the bigger ones for a few hours a time to break them down into more manageable bits.
One task I have started, as much to use up material we have about as to get the project done, is to make a gate for the entrance to the back garden behind Granary. This will help make the rear garden more secure (more so as the yews we planted last year grow) to keep guests’ dogs in and our neighbours’ dogs out! Next week, these planks should be a finished gate.
I have created a concrete plinth on the east side of our main rear gate on which I will attach a gate lamp to mirror the one we wired in on the west side last year. Again, this should be finished next week. With mowing the lawn a couple of times and weeding the pétanque pitch to remove the winter growth the garden is starting to look great as it comes back to life as too is our mole although we have taken some early action to prevent the damage he caused last year to the lawn.
One of the tasks I have decided to do in stages is continuing to clear the old chicken run in the back garden. We have left this space to go wild since we moved here but I started clearing last November and now want to renew my focus on clearing it of the bramble, netting and chicken shed itself. This will give us a slightly larger lawn but, more importantly, will give us a space where we want to erect a serre (small poly tunnel) where we can move all of the wood which we have piled around the garden in various places. Slowly I am getting there.
One task that we have had done, rather than do ourselves, is to replace the back door of our own house. The previous door and frame was already in a poor state when we arrived. We didn’t assist by not maintaining it at all so the frame had practically rotted through at the bottom on both sides and it never stopped anything more than a stiff breeze coming into the kitchen.
We found an excellent artisan chippy who has made us a lovely stable door which we always wanted although we suspect the dogs are less impressed as the old door had glass almost down to the base. We like our chippy’s work so much we have commissioned him to replace the rear door and a window in Priory although they won’t be complete until the end of this year’s high season.
One of the events that we sadly missed while I was unwell, was the first Fest Noz at the Auberge du Menez, the excellent restaurant in the neighbouring village of St. Rivoal. Apparently it was excellent and there are lots of photos on their Facebook page showing the party.
However, this week has been fairly social too as we dined at our other excellent local restaurant, Au Lac, with some good friends. Mercedes, the owner / chef, had spent a number of weeks in Thailand at the start of the year and attended a couple of Thai cooking schools and has incorporated her new skills into this season’s menu and was interviewed on a regional radio programme about her experience. It was, as it always is, an excellent evening with some fabulous food.
Today, we were invited to our first BBQ of the year. This must be some sort of record, for us certainly, to have a BBQ in March and today was amazing weather so it was good to make the most of it, especially as the forecast shows something considerably cooler and wetter next week.
Lots more progress next week and potentially some news on a big step in Garratt’s life.
As I predicted in last week’s blog this week has been spent on the same 2 principal tasks of filling the man shed and completing our paperwork for our Carte de Sejour application.
The weather has been pretty awful all week and very windy. That said, Storm Gareth didn’t cause as much destruction as we had been anticipating and the strongest winds for us came on Monday afternoon from a mechanical source.
During lunch on Monday we heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter which, being close to the Naval Air station at Landivisiau isn’t unusual around here, but this one was evidently REALLY close. When it got alarmingly close I thought I’d better go outside to see what was happening and saw the local air ambulance, having scoped landing in our back garden, fly low over the new man shed and land in the field behind the Grange.
We haven’t been able to determine why the air ambulance was here and we hope, if it was for an emergency, that the patient has a speedy recovery. When it took off again, I was able to capture it from the games room in Grange before going to find the items it blew away when hovering over the man shed.
Filling the shed is taking, unsurprisingly, a little longer than I’d anticipated. This is partly because I am doing things in as thorough a manner as I can, but also because I have not concentrated on it uninterrupted for long periods with other things to do.
One of the first tasks of the week was to take Brandon back to the vet to have his stitches out. He was a very happy puppy when he could finally remove the ‘cone of shame’ and we were able to take him on a very long walk as soon as we got home. A spaniel that has had much less exercise than he is used to for a week becomes a very frustrated dog, and a frustrated dog runs around a lot in the forest so it is probably only a matter of time before he gets stabbed again by a tree!
Another additional task was to go shopping. Not an abnormal activity in itself but, now with a dry and lockable shed we have bought a chest freezer that we have wanted for some time. As it is much more efficient to run any sort of freezer fully laden, we made a special shopping trip to buy some items to fill the freezer so we could turn it on.
One of the reasons that we wanted a freezer is to start to offer home-made frozen ready meals to our guests. David’s catering has always been extremely popular with guests and has got a lot of excellent feedback. However, so we can source lovely local ingredients, we ask for 2 days notice to prepare a 3 course dinner which takes some planning for us and our guests. The advantage of having some prepared frozen meals is that, if our guests have a long day, return late to the gîtes, or simply would rather not cook one night but want to stay in, they can ask for a meal they can simply put in the oven and enjoy.
The man shed is making progress. Which also means that, finally, I am able to remove all of the DIY things that I have been storing temporarily in the kitchen! I have installed the old kitchen units we took out of Hayloft and Granary when we renovated in 2015 and bought some new worktop for them – I know it is just a shed but …! I have left a gap for some more units that I will use when Priory gets a revamp which, all being well, should be this time next year.
With the new units and worktop, today we have finally managed to give Mouse her permanent bed which we bought about 2 years ago! While poor old Mousey isn’t allowed in the house she has never had a permanent ‘home’ and has had her bedding moved around frequently depending on where was convenient – for us – for her to sleep. We installed the cat flap and moved her bedding into the shed just before our trip to the UK in February which, according to our neighbour who is kind enough to look after her while we are away, made her much more content than living in an unsecure space. We have noticed that she spends a lot of time in the shed and, since we gave her the new bed this morning, she has spent all day curled up in it and hasn’t left the building.
I have managed to make progress on clearing the garage bays and filling the new shed. However, this has been slow as it is probably my one and only opportunity to sort things effectively. While those who saw the old shed before it was demolished, or my desk in our own home, will find it hard to believe, I am usually fairly OCD about having things well sorted and now is my chance.
As everything has been stored in pretty sub-optimal conditions for a long time – the old shed was practically open to the elements – many of my tools had begun to rust and there was no order in the way things had been stored. Now I am able to clean up my tools, make a reasoned decision abiut what I need to keep and what I can throw away (a very hard choice!) and put things in a place I will actually be able to find them when I need them. This is NOT The finished state!
However, I have also been distracted in my effort to get things right, by making a couple of new things such as a shoe rack inside the door. This is partly one of my procrastination techniques but also as a template for a luggage rack that I want to make for Hayloft this year.
Not much achieved over the weekend as we watched the climax of the Six Nations Championship, and what a climax it was – a tournament we always enjoy – and welcomed back the start of the Formula 1 season, although remains to be seen how engaging this one will be now that there is only 1 live race available on Free-to-Air TV with everything else shown as highlights.
The forecast for next week looks fantastic so lots of garden work is planned – and finishing filling the shed.
Last week has been one of 2 activities. The minor (unfortunately) was in the man shed where progress continues albeit slowly while the major was administratively focussed.
Man shed work was principally me building a work bench. With the shed having been emptied the previous week I was able to map out the interior and decide how much space I could devote to a work bench – seems quite a lot! I was advised by a friend, who is far more practical than I am, that it would be best if I could build the bench so I have access from both sides rather than build it up against a wall. I also thought that if I did this it would be sensible to position it so that, if I work with long pieces of wood, I can have them partly on the bench and partly sticking out of the barn doors.
My initial thought was to make it out of breeze block and cement it permanently in position. However, Dave has convinced me that making something which could be moved, should that ever be required, may be the more sensible option. As such, I have made the entire bench out of wood and, while it is large, allows me plenty of space to move around when I have eventually moved in all of the shelving units I bought when on offer last year. Next week’s job.
The remainder of the week has predominantly been given over to paperwork and admin which, sadly, doesn’t make for good pictures! I mentioned in a previous blog that I had made a start sorting through all of the administration that I hadn’t filed pretty much since we moved here at the start of 2015! While I successfully weeded out the ‘things to keep’ from the completely useless that was as far as I’d got.
The reason I wanted to pick it up again now was that our ‘interview’ for our residency permit (carte de sejour) is at the end of this month, and we need to provide evidence of residency among other things, much of which comes from utility bills and tax returns etc. To do this I need to file all the bills we had received in order and give ourselves a bit of time to chase things down if we don’t have the right information.
The process of compiling our dossiers has, to some degree, reinforced my scepticism of social media. While the application process for a Carte de Sejour is, theoretically, controlled centrally in France by the Ministry of the Interior, it is delegated down to department (county) level to do the actual work. As such, each department approaches things in a slightly different way some, evidently, more effectively than others.
What it has also generated are numerous social media groups where people can share their views, comments and opinions of the process and, as you would expect, there is a wide variety! What social media groups never seem to be able to do is provide accurate, consistent or concise information about what is actually required. It seems that most of the, generally contradictory, comments tend to come from the aggrieved and angered sectors of the population leading to lots of passive aggressive exchanges of views – and some not so passive. There are always official French websites available to give me lots of contradictory information!
The process has also increased my frustration with technology generally. I always thought that nowadays things should be increasingly ‘plug-and-play’ and computers should talk easily to printers etc. David has been fortunate enough to have been given a computer which he has spent some time setting up and clearing of old information and accounts. When he tried to print some files from either of our 2, not very old printers, he had no joy.
I readily admit that I am not a technician and David is Kergudon’s IT department as he can generally work things out and get things sorted. It has taken him almost all day today to get one of our printers to work from his new laptop – I haven’t yet tried if it has impacted my ability to print from his previous computer – and the second printer looks to be a more technical issue. Not the ideal time when we are likely to need to print lots of information in the next 2 weeks.
Next week will be more of the same both in the shed and with the paperwork (printers permitting!) As the forecast looks terrible all of the many outside jobs which desperately need doing will have to wait …]
On the positive side, Brandon has his stitches out tomorrow and we can remove his cone so he should be very happy.
Apologies for no blog last week. As previous years, we took the opportunity of the quiet season here to go back to the UK and walk in the Lake District. While we said 2018 would be our last Lakes visit as we want to explore more of France, this year we were invited to spend the week with Dave’s family as an early event to mark his parent’s 40th wedding anniversary.
While we were away, Finistère, as much of the UK, experienced record temperatures and dry weather for February which would have been perfect for lots of progress in the garden which is springing back to life. The Lake District however, seemed, for the most part to be unaffected by this seasonal anomaly and while it wasn’t wall-to-wall sunshine while we were there it was considerably better than it could have been at that time of year – with the exception of Thursday.
On the Thursday, due to an improving forecast, we chose to climb and walk some of the Kentmere horseshoe which gets to above 2,700 feet. When at the summit, we were above the cloud base and almost getting blown off the hill! Unfortunately the promised improvement didn’t come until we were off the hill so, despite Wainwright detailing the amazing views we should be able to see, we never saw much more than 100 metres in front of us!
We got back to Kergudon last Monday with a long list of projects to attack – not least completing the man shed(!) but, while the fine weather lasted we did a few of the more routine domestic chores and, amazingly cut the grass at the end of February! Probably a first. As we hadn’t managed to cut it since early autumn it was long and thick and so was a 2-man job which took rather longer than usual and filled the trailer with cuttings. It looks so much better although continues to grow rapidly and is probably going to be destroyed by this year’s mole efforts!
One other issue we had to sort was a worrying lump that had grown under Brandon’s jaw. With typically great timing, we first saw the lump the day before travelling to the UK but thought that maybe he had been bitten or stung with one of the buzzy insects waking up in the warm sunshine. As with most things our initial action was to wait and see if it goes away. It didn’t! Brandon didn’t seem bothered by it as he was as hungry and active as always charging up the fells.
On our return we thought it best to get it checked out at the vets – you can just see it under Brandon’s left jaw.
Thankfully they were able to confirm it was nothing more sinister than an abscess which they were able to drain with a minor op. During which they found the cause – a tiny, no more than 5 mm long, piece of wood that had pierced his skin and become infected.
As a result of the op Brandon has 4 large stitches and must wear the ‘cone of shame’ until a week tomorrow. While he hasn’t yet quiet worked out the space he needs to manoeuvre around the house without knocking into things and is using his cone as a weapon!
I have managed to progress the man shed too and have, eventually, managed to empty it out of everything I can so I can now plan the space and … fill it back up again!
This may not look too remarkable until you compare it to how it was a couple of weeks ago.
Looking too at all the ‘stuff’ which is currently resting in the garage bays, as well as the mowers in the bike shed, it really is going to be a case of getting a quart into a pint pot – I may have mentioned before that I am reluctant to throw anything away that may be useful in the future!
Finally, last night we were spoiled with a dinner at Au Lac, although the restaurant doesn’t open for the season for another few weeks. However, Mercedes spent a few weeks in January and February in Thailand, a country she knows well, travelling and attending cookery school to hone her Thai cuisine skills and she wanted to show off her new recipes – it was fabulous and a really fun evening with lots of friends old and new.
Sadly, the amazing weather of February has definitely given way to a more usual late winter / spring feel – we are sitting now in the middle of Storm Freya blowing through and hopefully won’t cause too much damage. This means that progress outside next week may be minimal but at least I can make a start filling the shed!
Why is it that I make these wild claims in my blogs about work I expect to complete during the week? Again, last week, I finished the blog with the claim that, by now, the shed would be complete and ready to stock. Of course it isn’t.
However, I did also promise some photos of the progress so far and I can do that. What I hope you can see is that there has been progress.
The pictures here are a few days old although there hasn’t been so much progress since. There has also not been so much clearing out, other than the cut up beams and posts of the old shed frame which has allowed me to finish the central support post and wire in the sockets.
Following the electrical hiccup of last week causing me to remove and then replace some of the ceiling lambris, I have now been able to focus on cladding the internal walls for which we are using OSB / sterling board. It’s starting to look like the posh shed I have wanted.
One significant change I have noticed with the cladding, and insulation I have installed, is that it feels much warmer on the inside than our own house! It will certainly make it much more comfortable to work in during the chillier months.
Sadly, wanting to keep costs down and minimise waste, with my evolving ideas about what I want to do, I haven’t bought enough OSB and need a few more sheets – but the result will be worthwhile.
Having missed my, self-imposed, deadline of mid-February to complete I am now aiming for early March to have it 100% done. That said, there will be no blog next week but the week after – there should be one with real change and, who knows, perhaps a completed shed.
Again, this week’s principal focus has been working on the man shed but I have made a lot less progress than I would have liked. My desire to have it totally complete and stocked by mid-Feb (middle of next week) is unlikely to be met. However, I am very close to finishing on the inside so I won’t share any photos this week but hold off until next Sunday when it should all be done.
This blog will therefore be pretty short.
The reason I haven’t made the progress I wanted has been very frustrating. Last week’s blog, foolishly titled ‘Wired’ said that I had completed the wiring and had taken a bit longer on it to get it right. This allowed me to start hiding all the wires behind the lambris on the ceiling and OSB boards on the walls.
Then I wired the switch to turn on the lights (LED tubes) and – nothing! My big ‘Ta-Dah!’ moment was more of a ‘Ta-D’Oh!’
Knowing how careful I had been putting the wires up, I hadn’t tested the circuits before hiding all the wires away. Knowing too that all the connections were good I was completely stumped as to what could be the problem so I called on a friend who had recently re-wired his house and, while no sparky himself, knows a lot more about it than I did. And he too was, initially, baffled.
All the readings from his voltmeter showed that the circuits were good and there was power getting to the switches and the lights, albeit just below 220 volts, but they didn’t want to work.
After a few hours, and some trial and error with random bits of wire, a solution was found which was to wire the lights in parallel rather than series. Why this is the case I still don’t completely understand but it worked. What it did mean was that I had to remove about half of the lambris from the ceiling and some of the internal cladding so that I could change the wiring – an additional day and a half worth of work to remove, amend and replace.
Now all done so I have been able to progress with the remainder of the cladding which I will show next week.
During the week we also received some new collars for Mouse so that we could attach the magnet which acts as the key to her new cat flap. Mouse had got used to walking through the hole in the door before I installed the flap and then through the fitted flap as we had taped the door open. However, despite moving her food and bed into the shed, she was initially very slow to experiment with the flap once we had closed the ‘door’.
Thankfully, eventually, her curiosity, or possibly hunger, got the better of her and she has started to use the flap to get in and out so she has a nice warm, dry house safe from other cats – and especially her mother.
Photos next week – promise – and the shed should be finished and ready to stock!
Where has January gone?! It seems like only a few days ago we had the Christmas decorations up. Thankfully however, we have avoided the very cold snap and snow that we see the UK has been experiencing last week and today has been almost warm.
Last week’s blog was the first of the year that started with the ‘wasn’t a very productive week’ phrase. While this week won’t be the second, having set myself a deadline of mid-February to complete the project, I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked and I can’t lay all of the blame on the start of the 6 Nations tournament – and what a great start.
All of the above said, I have made some progress on the shed. I have now completed the wiring which I wanted to do before fitting out so it can be hidden behind the boarding that I will put up. This took quite a bit longer than I wanted as I wanted to make sure I did it safely and, while we are not demanding any more power than we did before, I will have more sockets and lights.
I haven’t made any further progress on clearing the space out nor have I managed to get rid of the old roofing sheets that I mentioned least week. Sadly, the quarry we were told accepted them no longer has a licence so we are investigating alternative methods of disposal …
Having completed the wiring I have made a start on insulating and covering the ceiling. As the garage bays, we have chosen to use white plastic lambris as it’s cheap and easy to install. The insulation is less to make the building comfortable – it is only a shed – but to minimise the condensation which occurs on the cold metal roof and drips into the shed. Half done.
During the week I have also started some major spring cleaning in our own house and began clearing my desk. The state of my desk has become a bit of a running joke among friends and family. While I don’t consider myself a hoarder exactly, I do admit that I don’t like throwing anything away which may come in useful at some point in the future – such as the old shower screens which we have used as windows in the new shed. I also wouldn’t consider myself a procrastinator normally, after a long day working non-essential admin often gets put off which resulted in my desk being lost under lots of stuff!
During one of the wetter and colder days I started to sort through the ‘stuff’ which would also assist me to compile our dossiers for our residency permit application and interview at the end of March. During the clear out I made an A4 paper sized pile of things to be recycled much of which were the vast amount of shop marketing material the French receive – at the end it was almost a metre tall! The shame! Phase 2 will be filing the ‘stuff’ which will probably generate more recycling (although not a metre’s worth!)
Otherwise the week has been other routine things. We did visit our new dentist in Morlaix who is a good friend of David’s who attends most of his gym classes. He is a nice guy and, I’m sure a good dentist, but (as this seems to be a blog of confessions) I also admit to being one of the millions who hates visiting the dentist. No matter how good they are it always feels like being waterboarded by Dr. Orin Scrivello D.D.S.
All being well I should be in a position to start filling the man shed by this time next week.
This week is going to be the first of, what I hope won’t be very many, blogs of 2019 that begins with my ‘wasn’t a very productive week’ statement!
My principal effort has been the man shed which is now completed externally and so is completely watertight. This has proven useful as the last week has been one of the wettest we had had for a while. Thankfully, as well as making it watertight I have also attached a gutter at the front. The north side of the Hayloft roof also drains onto what is now a larger shed roof. As such there is quite a lot of water which previously drained and pooled at the base of the new wall. The new gutter has now allowed me to divert the water away so the ground should dry out better.
We have also added some detailing at the front partly to hide and protect the wood but mostly to match the front of the adjacent Grange, albeit there is a gutter there hiding some of the slate detailing.
I have started to clear out the shed before I can fit it out although haven’t made as much progress! It took almost a day to cut up the old wood that I had been storing on the concrete pad both in and out of the old shed. Much of the wood was the frame of the old shed which I had stacked against Hayloft’s wall and built around – it is the pile now in the centre of the shed.
The things that will prove most difficult to dispose of are the old roofing sheets which are the old corrugated asbestos type. Unfortunately our déchèterie doesn’t take these, although others do, but we have been told of somewhere who accepts them. Difficulty of disposing aside, we needed to move them as I had stacked them against Hayloft and had protected the electrical supply behind them. Now they are moved I can progress with wiring everything else in.
I didn’t work on the shed on Friday as we were hosting a Burns Night supper. We can’t claim to have any Scottish ancestry or particular link to Scotland generally but it is always a good excuse for a party in darkest January and getting the posh dinner things out including the tartan table cloth and napkins that Dave made a few years back. Dave made a wonderful meal using traditional Burns ingredients but in a very imaginative and creative way.
The pheasant feathers we had bought for Christmas decorations also came in handy for the table. It did mean a night off our dry period which we have now resumed – you can’t have Burns Night without a wee dram. TBC whether we will have a similar temporary suspension next weekend at the start of the 6 Nations Championship – always a great competition.
This week we have also received the last proofs of some drawings of the gîtes that we have commissioned. We are really pleased with the pictures – some of the scans don’t do them justice as I have scanned them when they were already mounted in frames. We have ordered some copies for the gîtes themselves as well as some smaller black and white, and some colour, cards. The perfect memento of your stay with us or to send home to friends and family.
Next week will be continuing with the man shed – I have set myself a deadline of mid-Feb to complete the whole project. When I have the wiring, ceiling and lighting in I will be able to work later into the night – although it is already noticeable that the evenings are drawing out.
As my last blog, the last 7 days have principally been focussed on progressing the new man shed and getting it as close to completion as I can and, externally at least, I’m not far off.
By last Sunday I had managed to complete the cladding on 2 sides. Now, all of the exterior cladding has been fixed including the detailing around the windows and banging in annular nails to each board to match what we have done with Grange – although they do have a practical purpose as well.
This took a little longer than I had hoped (sound familiar?) but not as long as making the doors.
Because both are generally visible together, as you can see from the picture, I have attempted to make the human door (as a way to distinguish it from the machinery, barn-type doors) match the one made by Lee to access the games room. Lee made the Games Room door from the same construction timber we made the building frame. As such it is, thankfully, pretty basic and easy to replicate so I have done the same things with the small addition of a hole where we will put the cat flap to allow Mouse access to her new home.
The barn doors have also taken a little longer than perhaps they should although I use the justification that, again, these are the first that I have made. The biggest ‘problem’ has been working out how to hinge them so that they open outwards and, when closed, the cladding looks seamless and the doors are almost undetectable. The only way I can think of making this work would require a lot more effort than I can justify for a shed and would need a different sort of pivoting hinge.
I would be far easier if I wanted the doors to open inwards but, for a couple of reasons, that isn’t practical.
As such, I have done the best I can while keeping the hinges hidden behind the cladding – although, when I do eventually get around to putting doors on the Grange garage bays the hinges will be on the outside. I am pretty happy with how they have worked out and it will be even better when the wood has weathered so it is all one colour – and also to match Grange.
There are just a few things outstanding (including attaching the gutter and installing the 2 long windows) before the exterior is complete and I can focus on clearing it out and working on important things on the inside – like electrics and lighting!
I have been very fortunate this week that the weather has, mostly, allowed me to work outside. Thankfully we haven’t experienced the frost and cold weather of much of the UK, in fact it has been very spring-like with bright, mild, periods interspersed with heavy downpours and some hail. It does make for some good pictures if you’re in the right place at the right time – it’s just unfortunate this isn’t the prettiest side of Kergudon – yet. That’s another project on the list!
On the wettest day we chose to visit the Leclerc Cultural centre in Landerneau. This is an exhibition space that we have visited before but only for their summer exhibitions. These have been for some very celebrated artists (Chagall, Picasso and Henry Moore in the last 3 years) but we have never visited their smaller winter shows.
This year their winter event is of the American artist Joan Mitchell and the Canadian Jean-Paul Riopelle. The exhibition is titled ‘A couple in excess / Nothing in moderation’ and showcases their abstract art, mainly in large format, through their relationship.
Neither were known to either of us before but I found their work striking, Riopelle especially, and it is certainly worth a visit. We did ask if they could let us know who their summer exhibition would be focussed on but it remains secret. Apparently not everything has been confirmed and signed but they seemed very excited that it was going to be big. We will let you know as soon as we do.
The coming week will be continuing with the man shed, finishing the exterior completely; clearing the interior and starting to fit it out. I will be able to actually use it in the next couple of weeks and Mouse will be grateful of a new home if the weather cools down.
You may recall that when I summarised all of the projects we had completed in 2018 in the last blog of the year, I mentioned that many of my missives began by saying that we hadn’t had a very productive week. I am pleased to say that 2019 has started in the opposite vein and we have made good progress.
Last week’s blog ended by saying that I hoped to start cladding the man shed if the weather remained dry. It did (mostly) and I have!
However, before I began the cladding and as the temperatures have been unseasonably warm, I thought that it would be a good idea to render the block work to match Grange next door. Getting the rendering done now meant that I would be able to clad over the rendered blockwork rather than having to render under the wood after I attach it to the frame.
When we had all of the rendering done early in 2017 (all of the Grange and the dwarf walls behind Priory) I was very happy to leave it all to our friendly builder, Lee, while I was content with mixing the mortar and doing the smoothing off later in the day as it dried.
Lee was very quick at applying the mortar to the walls and getting a pretty smooth surface as he did it. He was particular about the consistency of the mortar I mixed and really didn’t like it if was at all gritty. I have never rendered before and always equated it to plastering, albeit outdoors, a skill I had always understood was a real skill that takes years to perfect so I was happy to leave it to others.
Now, having rendered this relatively small building, I can say with confidence that I don’t mind if I never do it again!* It was the first new job I have undertaken since living at Kergudon that I really didn’t enjoy. I completely understood why Lee was so specific about the consistency of the mortar – too wet and it just flops off the wall, too dry and it doesn’t stick easily and takes so much force to apply it to the wall. The problem being that mixing it is a skill in itself. I always started with a drier mix, on the understanding that it is easier to add more water than take it out, but there seemed to be the tiniest amount of water required between the point it goes from being far too dry to way too sloppy!
I also understand why Lee didn’t like a gritty mix as any small lump in the mix led to a large hollow in the render on the wall. Unfortunately, the lime I used I had opened in November when I was mixing mortar for the blockwork and, no matter what I do, I have found it almost impossible to keep an open bag of lime completely dry so it doesn’t form small lumps. That, and a particularly gritty sort of sand, led to lots of bits in my mortar mix that added to the challenge of rendering.
Eventually however, I managed to get a mix that worked and a technique that, while may not be textbook and wouldn’t allow me entry to the Guild of Master Renderers, was at least effective. The way I did it was pretty much rather than apply the mortar to the wall from a hawk, I just dumped it on the ground next to the wall and used my float to push it up.
Being so slow on the first day, with the days being shorter, I wasn’t able to revisit as the mortar dried and sooth it off perfectly as we had for Grange. As such it looks a little more ‘rustic’ in places than Lee’s work but, as my first, and would be happily last, attempt, I am pretty happy. By the end of my second day, when the entire shed was done, I was at least confident that I could do it again in the pond that we will eventually build to give a smooth(ish) surface that I can then paint (and will then be then hidden underwater!)
Rendering done, I could then start the cladding which, after the many square metres of Grange, I am much more familiar with. I have managed to complete 2 of the 3 sides, where there is less cutting required.
The west side (the back where I have moved the wall away from the boundary talus) is now completely watertight as, the keen-eyed will be able to see on a previous picture, I have also installed the windows we bought via Facebook Marketplace.
The windows do need a bit of TLC and a new coat of paint but they were a much better bargain that what we spent most of today collecting – more of that in a future blog but let’s say that today hasn’t been the best use of time!
The coming week should see a lot more progress on the shed and, maybe, get it to a point of completion so I can start emptying the garages and actually using it …