Last week’s blog said that I anticipated a productive week and I think I am happy with what I achieved. I am certainly happy with the outcome of the jobs.
With the weather having been pretty good for most of the week, dry at least if not as warm as we’d like, we have managed to do a number of outdoor tasks and Dave has continued the dreaded weeding required. However, my major jobs were both inside but were both useful to do and have allowed me to use up some of the wood which takes up space in my new atelier.
At the end of last week I was adapting the large and extremely heavy kitchen island that we had bought to use as a bar in the games room. I am pleased to say that this is now complete and looks great.
Despite our initial regret at having bought the island, now that it is done I think it has helped an awful lot. Even having bought a number of other materials to complete it we now have a bespoke bar, which incorporates the (lockable!) beer fridge we wanted, at less cost than had we bought something commercially, and, I hope, it will prove more robust. We are really happy with how it has turned out. We want to add some baronalia (if that’s a word) such as drip trays and any suggestions would be appreciated.
The second task I am pleased I have managed to tick off, is (another) one that I have meant to do for some time. When we converted Diary (the building with Dave’s gym) the plumbing for the sink and washing machine in the boot room had to pass through the bike shed. Both the pipes were left exposed underneath the bike hooks and I was convinced that, at some point, they would suffer with a bike being dropped on them or someone standing on them to access the bikes.
As this hadn’t happed up to this point meant that I was convinced that we were living on borrowed time. Now with the man shed complete which will also house the lawnmower, I have the opportunity to sort the bike shed out properly, remove the risk to the pipes, fill the holes in the floor with some concrete and make access to the bikes a little easier.
The principal task was to box in the pipes underneath the bikes and generally tidy up. Again, I am very pleased with the finished work.
We are really happy that we have our 3 main gîtes occupied and it feels like the United Nations. We have an Australian couple staying in Granary, a British couple in Priory and, in Hayloft, an American couple who are half way through their month-long stay with us. As Americans, Minnesotans to be precise, they are proficient with a BBQ and kindly invited us for dinner on Friday which was both very kind and very good. It also helped David who was catering for our Australian couple that night with a meal which was very well received.
Finally, some disappointing news. You may recall in a previous blog that I listed a number of the events happening in and around Sizun in the coming months including the biennial Grand Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. This was a great fun event when the centre of Sizun is closed off and becomes a race track for some fabulous vintage cars.
Sadly, this year’s event has been cancelled. We understand that one of the many bodies which have to give their permission for the event, is one which controls all motor racing in France from Formula 1 down and they have determined that all events run through towns have to abide by the normal speed limits! I’d like to see that work for Monaco but, regrettably, it has meant the cancelation of this year’s Sizun Grand Prix. We hope not future events but we’ll keep you posted.
One day this week we went back to Brest to buy lots of material for work we want to do in our Chambre d’Hôte, Stable, which will be the focus of our efforts next week – and probably beyond! More of that next Sunday.
Last week’s blog said that my efforts would depend on two things – the weather, and the decision we make regarding my duff chainsaw.
In the end we did as we thought we might, in that we have opted to buy the same, cheaper, brand of chainsaw rather than fork out a much larger sum for something from a better make. It is not an ideal situation as it does add to the ‘throw-away’ society concept, but when the price is less than 1/3 what we would have to spend to get something of a major brand, at this stage it just makes sense. We will endeavour to get the old saw repaired anyway so we have a spare and not just ditch it.
With a new saw I finally managed to section up the trunks of the ash trees we had felled (which is apparently called ‘bucking’ according to the handbook which came with my new chainsaw) and clear them away. Next step for the old chicken shed is to have another bonfire (yay!) and then find a man with a mini-digger.
After Monday the weather changed to much colder and wetter and prevented me from doing much more outside. As such, the remainder of the week has been another one of small and bitty tasks.
Despite the chill I did manage to summer-ise our own house and gave our poêle (woodburner) a new coat of paint, what looks like it is likely to become a biennial task. It certainly looks better for it and will make the lounge more attractive for the summer!
Much of the rest of the week was spent in my man shed which is almost totally complete and looks great. I have even started using as an atelier and building things! The first I have begun is a bar for our games room.
We have always had in mind to have a bar for guests to use when they are playing pool, babyfoot or watch a movie but it had never got to the top of the to-do list. In an effort to get a bar more quickly in February we found one on Leboncoin (French Gumtree) that we thought was ideal. It was effectively a large kitchen island and was located just outside St. Malo which is 2½ hours from us so we wanted to be sure it was right before making the journey.
Having emailed the seller and did a quick visualisation in the games room we thought it would be OK, or could at least be adjusted so we went. When we saw it, it was much bigger than we had thought, and very heavy, but we convinced ourselves that it would be OK. It was so heavy and unwieldy that there was no way we could have got it into the games room without breaking it up and generally damaging much of it.
Ever since bringing it back we have regretted buying it and thought for a while that we would cut our losses, ditch it and start again. However, I thought that we would try and recover some of our investment and on Friday, I started planning how we could use the island and adapt it to our needs. Having visited a couple of brico (DIY) stores to get some bits I saw that, had we wanted to start afresh but use the same materials, the solid wood worktop that the island had would have set us back more than 3 times what we paid so I was a little happier with our purchase.
That said, this is my first major carpentry project where I have had to adapt something which already exists in some form and I have found it far harder than building from scratch so it has taken a bit longer than I’d anticipated.
This is how it looked this afternoon – it’s coming on – which I think is probably about half way through the job. Should be finished in the next week though and ready to use.
Mouse continues to appreciate the man shed as her secure home but, as such, she has on a couple of occasions brought dinner in which she has caught outside and I have found the bits of some poor creature which she doesn’t care for the taste of! Thankfully I don’t think she has brought anything live into the shed and released to run around.
She has however, cottoned on that we have a new stable door into the kitchen and, when it is warm and we keep the top half open, that she can jump in very easily and make herself at home! We haven’t yet found her upstairs …
Finally, thanks to those who relied to my request in last week’s blog and assisted us locate some new outdoor lights to match our existing ones. We have managed to find some – albeit on a US website – but we have a very good friend there who has managed to get a good deal on them. We just now need to find the most cost-effective way of getting them to us!
Next week the forecast looks fantastic so I think it should be a productive week – and we should have some nice cold beer in the bar to relax with at the end of it!
Having said goodbye to Dave’s parents on Wednesday another week has flown past. This week has been at least a little more productive than last as I haven’t been hampered with a cold, and I have done lots of smaller, but worthwhile, tasks including continuing to clear the garage bays – slow progress!
In last week’s blog I mentioned that we had started felling some of the trees that we wanted to clear on the boundary but that I hadn’t managed to log them as yet. I did manage to make a start on this at the start of the week only to be hampered then by a chainsaw that didn’t want to play.
To be honest the saw didn’t really work when we felled the trees and I was kindly lent another by a neighbour so we didn’t leave a tree in a perilous half-cut state. Having looked online for all of the obvious problems that may affect it and tried a number of things to get it going, I asked another neighbour if they could take a look. Their conclusion was that the carburettor needed adjusting but, unlike a number of other brands where you can make an adjustment with a screwdriver, my saw needs a special key which isn’t included when you buy it.
Having visited 3 repair shops it is evident that this time of year is when everyone takes garden equipment in to get repaired! The first store, and most convenient as it is near David’s work, took some time to show and explain what the problem was likely to be with the carburettor and said it should be a relatively quick and simple job. However, they then said it would be at least 2 weeks before they could even look at it!
The second, more of an ‘old-school’ repair shop, made an adjustment in their workshop there and then. It took 5 minutes, they made no charge and looked to be working fine when in their shop but, having bought it home after 5 minutes the same problem occurred! The third shop looked at it and said that it wasn’t a make they dealt with and that they were likely to struggle getting parts.
The saw is admittedly a cheap brand that we brought from a DIY-shop of the same company as B&Q and ScrewFix so one that you could get in the UK. However, it has last a couple of years so was a reasonable buy but now we need to consider what’s best. As we have lots of wood to cut over the years we need to decide if we spend more on a better make of saw. Current thinking is that we try another of the same brand, as it is cheaper to keep replacing then if / when they break, and we have the added advantage of having spares assuming different parts break!
I have managed to cut as much of the trees as I can with my trusty bow saw (pretty effective with a decent blade) but now need something powered. On the upside we will need another bonfire soon!
The rest of the week has also been spent outside as the weather has been pretty decent. One thing that I have been able to do for the first time is to cut the buxus plants we put in the champignon beds behind Priory. We created the beds at the end of 2015 (our first year here) and early 2016 to give some definition to the private area for Priory. To further do that we thought we would plant some formal low hedging and make it look formal!
Unfortunately I don’t seem to have got a picture when they were first planted but I do have one when they were laid out in their pots. Here you can see that they have some growing to do before they become a proper hedge (not to mention the changes to the old fence panels) but this year they were in a position to start trimming.
We hope by cutting the sides it will encourage them to grow taller and, where the still need to join sideways, they can put their energy in this. Hopefully you can get an impression of what it will look like in years to come when they have gained a little height.
The old photo also shows that there used to be a couple of choisya plants in the beds (the small very yellow ones) but these are not in the current state photos. For some reason these plants were never very happy here so we have dug them up, have put them in pots and when they are stronger will find a new home for them. We also need to think of some other plants to put in their place – any suggestions will be gratefully received.
The choisyas weren’t the only plants I moved this week. You may recall that we got a lot of our plants in a sort of lottery at a Morlaix school fete held each June. As such, we don’t always know what we get – or how large the plants may become. One such was a heather that we planted next to the Hayloft terrace and it evidently likes its spot as it grew and grew and started to smother the azaleas that were already there.
We have moved this to another area behind Hayloft which has forced me to start to clear this area of the bed which, other than chopping down some overgrown hawthorn a couple of years ago, we have never touched. Hopefully, having had a trim, it will recover and enjoy it here, more so when we cut back lots of the other plants next to it after the rhododendron has flowered.
One of the other smaller but worthwhile tasks has been to attach a couple of the nameplates to our new buildings. Having had the garage (Grange) and my man shed built we thought it would be good to give them the same name plates as the gîtes. Despite living in a slate area here, these plaques come from a slate mine in the Lake District. We ordered the Grange plaque when we were walking in 2018 and the man shed plate this spring. While we have given the gîtes English names these new buildings have French plates which we think is more appropriate (Grange being the choice of blog readers last year).
We have put the man shed plate below where we want to attach an exterior light. When we were renovating the gîtes for the first time in 2015 we bought 5 lights – 1 for each gîte and one for our own home. We didn’t attach the light to Stable immediately so we were able to use it on Grange but now we need 2 more and, of course, 4 years later we can’t find the same style! If anyone has seen a light as the picture below for sale anywhere please do let us know – it would be good if they could all be the same.
Next week will depend on the weather – we are due a few wet days – and if I get a new chainsaw – but there is always something to do ….
I mentioned at the end of last week’s blog that David’s parents were to arrive with us on Easter Monday. This they did bringing lots of gifts and things that we wanted (items we had ordered from the UK, such as new forks, which they kindly take delivery of, store and deliver during their visits) as well as something we didn’t – a cold virus!
David has been fortunate not to have been affected by the virus but it hit me so I haven’t had a terribly productive week other than one task.
We have however, despite the more spring-like weather than we have recently enjoyed, had a good week getting out and about to some new, and some familiar, places.
Easter Monday was dry and the hottest day of the week and the day the annual Marché sur l’Eau. Normally held in the car park next to barrage of the Lac du Drennec, this year they found some other water and for the first time it was held at the Maison de la Rivière in Sizun.
The Maison was a good location as it afforded a little more space for the stalls and dining tables to spread out and the decent weather ensured it was well attended. This region and area are proud of their local food, crafts and produce, many of which could be bought on the stalls, but a main focus of the market is lunch of local food enjoyed together.
Tuesday, before I got struck with cold, we started the tree felling I spoke about last week. We are fortunate to have lots of trees around the garden boundary although the majority are self-set ash and sycamore so were not planned and some are not in great shape or health.
The first we felled are the ash trees just behind where I cleared the chicken run last week and the reason we chose these was we could fell them before building a serre in the space in the next few months. Sadly, they are still lying where they fell as the weather, and my cold, has meant that I haven’t been able to cut then up. A task for next week.
While David’s parents have been with us we have visited a couple of places we haven’t been to in our 4 years here.
On Wednesday we travelled out to Cap Sizun and the Pointe du Raz. While this is just over an hour and a half from us, it is a very dramatic spot to visit especially so in a stiff wind. With all the interesting towns around such as Audierne, Douarnenez, Locronon and Quimper, it makes for a great day out.
A place we have visited often before is Morlaix but, amazingly, we had never been to their acclaimed Saturday market held in the old market square. Sadly I didn’t take any pictures but the market was excellent and, focussed mainly on fresh produce, there was lots of fabulous fruit, vegetables, fish, cheeses and meats. Delicious.
From the market we continued north to the pretty seaside town of Carantec on the west side of the bay of Morlaix and for lunch at a restaurant we have been recommended a number of times – Chez Gaby. Finally we made it and it is definitely worth a trip. Chez Gaby is one of 3 restaurants with an excellent location facing one of the white sand Carantec beaches and has a great menu and atmosphere.
Last night was back at one of our favourite restaurants, Au Lac, on the lake, and tonight at the Auberge du Menez in Saint Rivoal. It’s tough having guests!
With me being laid low Dave has done the majority of dog walking and one of his favourite routes at this time of year is through the forest where the bluebells are at their most lovely where he got these pictures.
Next week, back to full strength and with a promising forecast it back to work!
Happy Easter. We hope that you are enjoying the long Easter weekend especially with such fabulous weather. Today we have rewarded ourselves with a day off and enjoyed a cheeky drink on the terrace of Au Lac overlooking the Lac du Drennec in 20+ degree heat but we have had a productive week.
A couple of weeks ago I said that I intended to break the largest job I had on, clearing the old chicken run, into more manageable chunks of a couple of hours. Having done that, this week I did all those couple of hour chunks consecutively so that now, the run is completely clear.
There were a number of reasons for the change of plan. Primarily as the weather last week was absolutely fantastic and I wanted to make the most of being outdoors. Also, we thought that the sooner the run was cleared, the sooner we could level it off, build the serre we want to get and then start clearing the random piles of wood we have lying around as well as in the garage bays.
I also thought that the 3-tined fork I was using would eventually break in some way and I would have to change jobs anyway. Amazingly, the 3-tiner has proven more robust than any other fork I have had (with the obvious exception of the snapped tine!) and saw the job to completion. However, a friend who reads the blog took pity on me and has kindly gifted me a couple of UK spec forks for which I am very grateful. Honest, my comments weren’t there as a plea!
Clearing the old run generated a lot of burnable waste which gave me the perfect opportunity for a bonfire – I enjoy bonfires! So as not to upset too many of our neighbours, I wanted to find the best day with the least amount of wind which, according to the forecast was either Good Friday or today – another reason to press on and get the run cleared.
Dismantling the old coup took a little longer than I had anticipated. The previous owners of Kergudon had built it in April 2008. I know this as they were so pleased with it they had named and dated it. In the ensuing 11 years it had become increasingly rotten so, while we had offered it to a neighbour they kindly declined and I had to take it apart. One of few things that I have yet to locate in the move of items from garage to new man shed is the charger for my cordless drill so I had to unscrew everything manually. While this has given us a lot of wood to use in the chiminea for this coming barmy summer(!) it has also given me a blister!
This delay meant I didn’t light the fire on Friday, which was windier than forecast anyway, and as we thought it best not to do it on Easter Sunday, we put a match to it yesterday which was pretty breeze free. Having been so dry the fire burned fiercely and the enormous pile was rapidly reduced. Sitting here now, writing my blog in the garden, I can see it continues to smoulder so there should be very little left in the next couple of days.
The weather has been so amazing we have spent most of the week outside and had our own BBQ last night and lit the chiminea for the first time this year so we could sit outside until very late and watch the amazing starlit sky. I may have mentioned before that the chiminea is one of my all-time favourite things – I am easily pleased – but with that and the fire, it did mean that perhaps yesterday we contributed more than normal to climate change!
A couple of weeks ago, when I was tidying up the orchard bed, I mentioned how pleased we are with how the garden is changing. With the chicken run being in the back garden means that we have spent more time looking at that and it too is looking excellent. We have a crab apple tree in one of the champignon beds we have created behind Priory, which has the most spectacular spring blossom which was at its peak this week. Sadly it tends to only last a few days.
We stumbled across this photo we took when we brought Garratt home for the first time in 2015. While these 2 are not taken from exactly the same place it does remind us how much has changed!
With the chicken run cleared we have plans to fell a few more trees, some potentially next week but not all this year, and replace them with some more interesting and attractive varieties.
David has been busy this week and prepared his first 3-course supper of the season for guests. David has refreshed his summer menu to make use of some fabulous local ingredients but the goats’ cheese tart and beef in Coreff stew are perennial favourites. The guests thoroughly enjoyed it.
As we continue to invest in and improve Kergudon, this week we have also taken delivery of 4 new single mattresses and 25 new pillows. When we arrived we replaced all the double mattresses and some of the pillows which were well beyond their useful life. Now, we have been able to replace the remaining single mattresses which are starting to get tired and the rest of the pillows so we hope all of our guests have a comfortable night’s sleep.
David’s parents arrive with us tomorrow morning for a holiday so, weather and activities will determine my activities for the next week – although the list doesn’t seem to get any shorter!
Last week’s blog spoke about a weather-affected ‘bitty’ week of jobs with a lot of weeding having been done. This week has been very similar.
It ended saying that some of the gardening, principally continuing to clear the old chicken run, was dependent on finding a new fork that I liked. I have – inevitably on a certain website and, sadly, in the UK so I won’t have it for a few weeks. There are many little things where France and the UK differ and even garden implements are one of those areas. I am used to UK tools that have a grip or handle on the end of the shaft. In France, tools just have a long shaft which I don’t find as easy to use or drive into the ground – perhaps that’s why I have broken so many!
As such, I have had to resurrect an old fork with 3 remaining tines of the original 4 – it isn’t just handles I break – and have put in a number of hours continuing to clear the chicken run brambles. The photo doesn’t show much progress, and it is slow work, but I am pleased with what I have managed to achieve and think (hope) that the task will get a little quicker soon.
I did manage to wire in the gate light on the east side of the rear access – a task that has been outstanding for a number of months – and we are really pleased with how the back gate now looks. We have planted a number of loniceras on top of the wall I completed last year and, if they grow as quickly as the plants on the west side, we should have a great hedge in a couple of years.
I have tried to find a picture of how the rear gate looked before we started the work. Other than one of the west side on my blog of 27 November 2016, which coincidentally was when I broke the tine off the fork I have been using, I can’t find anything to show it in all its horror. Nonetheless, we are really pleased that the back gate is now finished as we had planned, all looks very formal – we just need to make the front entrance as neat!
The rest of the week has again been more bitty jobs which has included re-staining a number of the fence and gates I made a couple of years ago to make sure they still look good and last as long as they can; lots of lawn mowing and, almost a day’s worth of splitting wood into kindling. With all of our building we have amassed a large amount of wood pieces and offcuts which, with that hoarding instinct I have mentioned before, we have hung onto but done nothing with. Now that we are clearing out the garage bays I am going through this large pile and we will have enough kindling for the stoves to last most of next year (hopefully!)
Finally, I thought we would include a few dates that you may be interested in for activities in the village and commune if you’d like to come and see us and take in some Breton culture.
The weekend of 1st and 2nd June is the biennial Grand Prix Arc de Triomphe in Sizun. This is a fantastic event where the centre of Sizun becomes a race track for some classic sports car and you can get up close with the action.
The 8th – 10th June is the Assomniak Associations 3rd Fête du Bourg in the centre of Saint Cadou. For the 3rd year this active association are organising a number of music and cultural events in and around the centre of the village which is always popular.
The weekend of 21 / 22 June is France’s annual Fête de la Musique where every town, village and hamlet arrange some sort of musical entertainment which Saint Cadou combine with their annual tantad / bonfire for the Fête de St. Jean.
Sunday 30th June is the annual TriBrezh on the Lac du Drennec which is always a spectacle and good opportunity to have a beer on the terrace of Au Lac and watch others exerting themselves.
Saturday 21st September (tbc) is the annual foire a l’ancienne (horse fair) in Commana and Sunday 29 September is Saint Cadou’s annual pardon and pig roast – a great event.
With the many and frequent Fest Noz and Fest Deiz events in our, and the surrounding area, there is always something going on to be enjoyed. We’d love to welcome you here.
At the end of last week’s blog I said that I would update something major in Garratt’s life and not his weird, and you’d have thought very uncomfortable, choice of seating position in an old stone sink outside my new man shed!
Two and a half years ago while at the annual Horse Fair in Commana with the dogs, we were stopped by a man who said he had a chestnut and white springer spaniel and remarked that they were unusual in this area. He mentioned that his springer was female and that, perhaps at some point in the future, he may want to have a litter of puppies and he wondered whether we would be interested in using either Garratt or Brandon as a sire.
We hadn’t heard anymore from him until a couple of weeks ago when he telephoned and asked again if we would be interested in breeding from one of the boys. Assuming that he was speaking theoretically and planning for some date in the future we told him that we would discuss it and give him a call back. However, before we were able to call him he turned up at Kergudon with his dog which was on heat and it became obvious that his request was rather more immediate!
After a quick discussion between David and I we agreed that we would be happy to use one of the boys and we thought that Garratt would be the better choice – which was handy as it transpired that Brandon didn’t have any idea what to do, thankfully Garratt did – eventually! Three further visits in the following week to maximise the chances of conception and now we wait to see if Garratt will become a Dad!
Sadly we haven’t got any pics of Garratt and his new partner but, if successful we will get some. Then we will need to be strong and, while it will be tough, stand firm not to have an new puppy addition to the family – 2 spaniels is enough for us.
Brandon had his own milestone in the week too, as it was his third birthday last Monday.
Work wise, it has been a bit of a ‘bitty’ week principally due to the very changeable weather which, on at least 2 occasions brought snow flurries and many more hailstorms. This has meant much of the garden work I began was progressed when diving in and out to avoid the showers. Despite saying last week that I was going to break up one of the larger jobs of clearing the old chicken run I haven’t done any more. This is partly weather related but also because, while doing other work I managed to break yet another garden fork!
Equally, I haven’t finished the light fitting on the rear gate but I did manage to take the planks I painted the previous week and have built and installed a gate to the garden access behind Granary. This photo isn’t ideal as the sun this morning was brighter than I’d expected. With the gate added the area is almost finished and so much better than it looked in November 2015 when we started clearing the bramble and knot weed – just need our hedging to grown a bit more.
Most of the other tasks were smaller jobs that had needed to be done for a while. Some of these were replacing a couple of hanging basket brackets that had come off in the high winds; hanging the lovely drawings of the gîtes our friend has done in the relevant cottage; suspending a punch bag David had bought for his gym and doing some repainting in Priory before we had guests arrive yesterday.
When it wasn’t raining, hailing or snowing I did manage to get a lot of weeding done. We are really pleased how the garden is developing and growing. The orchard bed looks fabulous, mainly in the sunshine, although this picture, taken mid-weed, doesn’t do some of the colours justice. Sadly the cherry trees we planted last year haven’t blossomed this spring although we understand this isn’t unusual as the trees become established. It does however bode well for future years as the trees mature and the pieris shrubs get larger.
The jungle bed is also coming back to life and looks great with last year’s growth cut off. This had helped protect some of the jungle plants over the, albeit mild, winter and it looks like both our bananas have survived. With luck, we should have a fabulous display again in the summer.
Next week’s efforts will continue to depend on weather, whether I manage to find a new fork I like!
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.