I’ve been full time in France for one month now and it still seems strange, like a really long holiday, mainly as we’ve visited so often in the past, but it’s so hard to get used to not working.
Punch Brunch with Magali, one of the perks of not working...
We’ve been doing a lot around the property, including making a letterbox (read the blog here), making butes for our potatoes, weeding, creating a path around our assainissement (blog to come), planting seeds as well as visiting friends and family and doing different activities in the area. We've been busy so the days have flown by in some ways but it still doesn’t seem quite real that we’re here for good.
Cycling in the countryside, trying to find bathroom ideas and goats at the Segré exposition
The most exciting news is that the works have finally started on the house! After waiting so long for it, it’s surreal that it’s finally started. On Wednesday the 16th of April, the builders and roofers arrived early in the morning to get started on the house. The builders began removing all the brick and plaster from the walls inside the house while the roofers were destroying our four chimneys. It took the six of them one day to get rid of all the chimneys plus most of the walls and the roofers also put in some new slates to cover where the chimneys were removed. They came back the next day too to install our new gutters.
The empty walls and the frames we removed to reuse, plus the new gutters
The following week, the plumber came by to look at everything plus started to remove the copper pipes that he would be replacing and the builders came back over two days to remove the rest of the old bricks and plaster as well as the supporting wall for what will become our dining room/living room, which luckily didn't need a supporting H that we thought it would. It’s really starting to look great even though it’s completely empty (and a worksite), it’s definitely giving the house a new lease of life and we're starting to see our vision come to life.
The house with only one wall...
We removed the door frames (which were not as easy to do as first thought, extra metal holding them in place had to be removed first) as we want to keep them to reuse them for something else. We’ve also been keeping as much as we can to utilise in the future, like the copper pipes and cement bricks that weren’t fully broken but unfortunately, there's so much from the walls that we won't be able to reuse as there's just so much of it.
The bricks, plaster and cement that were once the internal walls and ceiling
We still need to remove the electrical cables for Jean-Guy who will be doing our electrical work (that’s on today’s list), then the builders should be back next week to build some new partial walls where we're changing the layout. We’re a bit delayed as our windows are three weeks behind schedule but we knew there would be some delays, as there always is in building works, but we should be in the house by mid-August if all else goes well.
Like I said earlier, we’ve been keeping ourselves busy by doing A LOT of gardening. We’ve built some butes in one of the fields to test different ways of growing potatoes to see which works best. We’ve also weeded another field and planted seeds to start trying to grow our own food. We’ve been working on our permaculture design for the property to see how it should all work together and I’ve been using a great app (PlantNet) to find out all the names of the trees and plants we don’t know (and theres’ a lot), so we can plot and remember what we already have (like apples, lilacs, cherries, pears, plums and peaches) to observe them and know how they behave.
Our butes and Magali weeding
We also started making a path around our natural water filtration system (assainissement) by digging out all the weeds and making it flat, then using the bricks that the builders had removed from the house and then adding broken slates to the top, it’s looking really great, we just need a few more slates to finish.
The assainissement path in progress
The cats are really getting used to it, even though the works may have scared them a little, they follow us on walks and seem to find the country life something that they're easily acclimatising to (Bowie more than Spliffou).
Bowie doing her Ziggy impression, evening walks and rolling in the grass
Bourg D’Ire had its Vide Grenier, basically a flea market/car boot sale, so we went with Magali’s parents to try and find some things for the house. We didn’t find everything we wanted but we at least found some wine glasses (which we were in need of) and an amazing wooden box that apparently used to be used to keep grapes so has an amazing reddish hue to the wood. We’re still not sure what we’ll do with this one but it was too beautiful not to get.
We’ve done some cycling too, first to Loiré (c. 15km round trip) and then to Le Tremblay (c. 8km round trip), as we were in search of a great shop called CarVrac, it’s a lovely woman who travels to the towns in the area by van and sells loose items (eg pasta, rice, flour, vinegar etc) so you bring your own containers and she fills them up to save on packaging. It’s a really great idea and cute van to boot!
We’ve been to Angers to check out A LOT of kitchen and bathroom shops to get ideas, we’ve already settled on a kitchen sink and tap after two full internet days of searching (I never want to see another tap again), but are trying to find inspiration for our worktop and cabinets, it’s so hard to find things that are made in France, good for the environment and actually what they say they are (how hard is it to make something out of wood?!). We did go to one shop (Biosfaire) where they do all environmentally conscious products so we bought some paint to redo our radiators in readiness for the plumber to reinstall and we’ll be going back to get paint for the interior walls when they’re up as well as oil for the wooden floors that we’re keeping in the bedrooms. So much still to do!
I’m still trying to get used to the life here, it’s so hard not having everything at your fingertips and being able to easily go anywhere, where you need to take a car for most things (no Ocado deliveries for us!) and it always takes so long (there’s no such thing as just popping down to the shops). We’ve tried to minimise it by always having a few places to visit at once so we’re not using the car too much but it's not the same. We go to the market in Segré every Wednesday and we’re already starting to be recognised, so it’s nice to have a bit of a community feeling but it’s also so strange (but kinda nice) that everyone says ‘bonjour’, no matter where you are or if you know them or not, it’s the complete opposite of London where you don’t look anyone in the eye, let alone say hello to them! It’s taking some getting used to after ten years of averting my eyes from people’s faces but I'll get there.
The hardest thing is that I feel like I’ve lost all my independence, I’ve become so reliant on Magali to talk for me, to help me understand and I can’t go anywhere without her (I’m still getting used to driving a manual car on the wrong side of the road to go by myself), I can’t easily walk somewhere and there’s not that many places to just cycle to on the countryside roads, there's nothing I can just do by myself. I don’t have a job so I’ve lost my daily connections with other people and I don’t want to be a burden in contacting my friends on an hourly basis just to say hello just because I need another person to speak to. So all that together, I've feel I've lost a part of myself and haven't found it yet. I’m also not really sleeping so I’m constantly tired, we went to Hubert’s for dinner the other night and found he goes out more than we do and he’s 72!
I knew it would be hard and was completely aware that all these things would be happening and how they would affect me, I remember telling Magali exactly these fears before we moved, but I hoped that it wouldn’t last too long. Maybe in another month, I’ll be more used to it and be feeling more like myself but until then, we’ll be busying ourselves with painting radiators, more gardening and hoping the works go smoothly...