30 Jan 2007

Fig Trees and French Lessons

The lovely fig tree in the courtyard, seen here in September -

And seen here on Saturday morning

Sadly is no more.

It was in the wrong position, and not only would it have turned into a monster (the roots were already cracking and lifting the concrete of the courtyard), but the leaves in summer blocked out a lot of light from the barn. And the architect said it needed to go.

So that was Saturday’s work – and by putting the front passenger seat and two rear seats of the car down, and cutting all the minor limbs into box-size pieces, I managed to get the whole lot packed in. An interesting trip to the tip, with fingers crossed I didn’t need to hit the brakes at all. And it was with great delight that I was able to understand the tip attendant’s [simple] instructions that I had to take that type of rubbish elsewhere – to St. Nazaire a few kilometres away. Straight ahead, over the bridge, and first right. Voila.

Yesterday I had the second visit from Bruno the architect. He outlined the processes involved, the permissions required etc. Realistically, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be lucky to start work on the barn in 6 months. Ah well, plenty to go on with here. And the budget is tight – especially after we discussed the fact that the roof of the main house at the rear probably needed a little work. He got up into the attic and confirmed that yes, it was in need of work – and to keep costs down, perhaps incorporate it into the barn renovations while the builders are here. That made sense, especially when he mentioned the amount of 10,000 euros. I should have asked if that was the price for a stand-alone job, or the extra amount I could expect to be added to the main build. Frightening. Even though I knew things in France were not that much cheaper than the UK for renovation work, I really have had my grand plans (?) for the barn reined in somewhat. A much more modest abode indeed is in the planning.

But so far I like the things he’s suggesting – he’s very environmentally aware and this shows in his thoughts for the design. It will have solar panels for hot water, with a backup system of gas (bottles, not mains) fuelled UK-style radiators for winter heating. As much as I would have liked a wood fire, I weighed up the amount of time of the year it would be needed, the wood storage issue and the heating and cost effectiveness. And how long the novelty of lighting a wood fire each day would last. I’ve grown up with wood fires and in my first built house in Albany, I opted for a wood-fired furnace for the water heating. But in the end, the radiators won out.

And speaking of environmentally aware, I noticed after he’d left that his business card is printed on both sides – he apparently is also a ‘vigneron biologique’ – a producer of organic wines. So I’ll have to find out more about that. With Nic and Duff visiting in August, that will be something they’ll be interested in.

And the French lessons – well, yesterday was our first French lesson with Dennis (Den-ee!) the local resident artist. There were only three of us – myself, Sandra and Thiego, a friend of Miki’s and recently arrived from Brazil. His English is very good, but we are all at about the same level with the French. It’s very informal – we’re going to be at a different person’s house each lesson. Cups of tea all around, and some very simple conversations. In fact the lessons are going to be twice a week – the more at the lesson, the cheaper the cost. But we figured 4 was the best number, so Sandra has enrolled Patrick her husband, who will attend when he can – his work commitments permitting.

This morning the notes from the yesterday’s lesson were put through the letter box. Later, the door bell goes and it’s Dennis on his bicycle – Did you get the notes? Have you done your homework? Have you memorised it all? Err, yes, no, and no. But before the day is out, I definitely will have a crack at it. I don’t want to be the only one on Thursday not up to date.

Oh, and here’s a picture of Susie and Bruce – my first dinner guests in the house. As you can see, they paid heed to my advice to dress warmly for the evening!

And for a bit of trivia – here’s a video clip Nic found on YouTube relating to the village. It’s different!

Moving sideways

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