The Thursday Three- Hand carved wood panels

So, I went to collect these two square panels yesterday.

I have bought them to put the right proportions back onto the lower part of the main door into the salon.

They are perfect, the motifs echoing those of the decorative corner carvings already in situ on that door. I like the fact they are simple, they are not a “pair”, that you can see the carver’s marks and they are clearly quite old.

When I arrived to collect, I expressed my passion for these old fragments and explained that they were destined for our French house.The seller asked if I would like to see other pieces she had for sale and took me out to her husband’s old workshop in the back garden.

Sadly, her husband can no longer ply his niche trade. He spent his working life building, restoring  and mending long case clocks; working on items brought to him from as far afield as America. My panels came from a pair of vernacular 18thc grandfather clocks.

The workshop was a memory, frozen in time. Long windows to capture the perfect light, the workbenches lined with carefully ordered specialist tools. shelves of mouldings, boxes of parts, stacks of carved panels. One clock sat alone by itself; clearly he had been working on that and had just stopped one day. And that was it.

She asked if there was anything else I would like to take. My decision making process was frozen by the step back in time, the achingly sad temple to a lost talent and the awareness that this stuff was going to eventually disappear, piece by piece on an internet auction site.

That’s how I found my pieces so who am I to judge? I seriously wanted to buy the lot, but the practicalites of where I would put it and what I could do with it, coupled with the thought of Trevor’s face if I did. So Practical Gill Kicked In.

He was sat outside in my small car unaware that I was mentally costing van hire prices!

I breathed in and dismissed it. I can’t rescue everything, though heaven knows I always want to. I paid for my pieces (peanuts) refused the change, met the husband who I can see  is no longer the person who built and toiled in that beautiful workshop, but he understood that his panels were going for a new life in France. He was amazed at this.

carved wood boiserieHis wife pressed the small panel on me as I left. “I could see you loved it” she said, refusing any more money.

This is the sad side of my treasure hunting bug. It always is. But I will always remember the artist and the story.


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entrée libre

Sescaliero, we need to address the last issue we have with the layout of the village house; the teeny, tiny entrance hall.

It’s not as bad as it was, at least it doesn’t have the door (opening outwards) to the only toilet in the entire house behind it any more-right & bottom right “BEFORE”

However, I am reminded of how snug this space is when I am standing there chatting to our French plumber & Trevor a couple of weeks ago. It’s all a bit cosy to say the least.

PS, the plumber says my decoration in salon is “jolie”, and I will happily take all the praise I can get!

So, the hall. Well we have a door –below-off it to what the Estate Agent called the garage; but it never was anyway. It was the original kitchen until a few decades ago, then it became the previous owner’s workshop. He was a menuisier (furniture maker/joiner- the titles/definitions of those who work in wood are complex down here)

Anway, I had one of my eureka! moments. Can we utilise part of this additional space off garage workshopthe hall without knocking anything down and find a way to combine it so we don’t have to be quite so cosy with any visitors?


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A new viewpoint 2016 – Leafless

IMG_20160121_095308Prompted by Osyth’s leafless trees- I have posted some shots from our January trip to France; the first time we have  been here at this time of year.

We have to check out the river. It pulls us like a magnet. How high is the mountain melt water? where are the fishermen? the ducks?

Is it a ranting, raging torrent or gently swirling along? The street bins are down there not far from the most secret of the village boules pitches; and makes even the obligatory rubbish trip a pleasurable experience!

A misty/moisty morning. Yes, it’s a little bare and this kind of weather would keep me housebound and make me miserable in England but it was still so beautiful out there.

Some shots of the same view in the summer from my archive posts.

Note the gratuitous use of Trevor as a reference point. below right – reminds me of a series of paintings I did with peripheral figures in the frame.

Compare & contrast










River Aude


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The Thursday Three – On mange!

French lunchA little lunch in Carcassonne at Brasserie Le Longchamp on Place Carnot. Recommended.

I noticed that there were a couple of mediocre reviews on Tripadvisor criticising the decor.

This is France for God’ sake!

Actually they have recently redecorated in shades of pale “marmotte” so of course it looks great.

House wine is so decent it’s hardly worth picking up the wine menu. Endive salad with walnuts and creamy blue cheese. Home made pasta is excellent and I recommend the creamy but not heavy wild mushroom/ oyster mushroom(pleurotes) sauce, just glimpsed here.

(Just had a thought.. pleurotes??? peyote??? no wonder it’s my favourite)

I can’t find a website for the actual restaurant ( I repeat, this is France!) but here’s a photo right-Le longchamp

So Trev had duck, on a base of deliciously flavoured lentils. Came with fork, spoon and knife, so obviously A Serious Dish.

Then afterward I went for my default dessert, the Café Gourmand. Why? because you get a little taste of 3-5 desserts of the day and it answers the “OMG it all looks/sounds delicious” quandary. cafe gourmand


I got the home made tiramisu (mmmm!) what I thought was a straight chocolate mousse, but was in fact fudgier in texture and laced with sharp salted caramel ( great balance of flavours), and a square of dark chocolate patisserie that I assumed would be really sweet, until I was smacked round the chops with the face pulling sharpness of the bitter orange gel sandwiched in the centre! MMMMMMMMM… thank you Le LongchampIMG_20160121_123940.jpg

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“After The Drill Is Gone”

Masonry Drills in France

After the Drill is Gone

You will have seen on an earlier post the harrowing story of my falling over in our street in France.

I reaffirm that no strong drink was involved as to cause this mishap. Maybe the pain would have been less if strong drink had been taken. Anyway, also on that day, so we discovered (11 days later when we got back to the UK), that Glenn Frey of The Eagles passed away.

Having seen The Eagles  a few years back, in what was possibly the best concert we have been to together, and listened to their music & solo material for more years than I have fingers, I include here as my tribute to Mr Frey a Useful Guest Post featuring  a selection of straight/twisted song titles that he has been associated with.

This tale today tells the story of the sad demise of many drills and drill bits during our adventures in renovation.
In the UK, domestic use only, we tend to buy from B&Q, Wickes etc drills/hammer drills to drill into brickwork, perhaps concrete, wood, and mostly the drills will cope with this usage.

The first time I came across anything that proved that there is a big difference between domestic and professional bits of kit was when I tried to drill out for a new electric socket in our big house in Stourbridge. I used the drill I had used for many a day without problem. It wouldn’t scratch the surface of this wall, even with a brand new masonery bit. Professional person who is fitting our new kitchen says “Let me try”. His drill goes through like a knife through melted butter. MORAL-Do not assume that the kit you have will always work when you Take it to the Limit.
In the Hovel, as you will know from earlier postings, we do not have mundane things like bricks. We have river pebbles, terra cotta blocks, unshaped lumps of stone as well as the usual wood, concrete. First time trying to drill this stuff with my trusty UK sourced hammer drill, lots of smoke, ragged drill bit, failure. Tried another UK sourced drill, much the same, motor burnout.

Desperado! That’s two drills down already. Also tried a battery power drill to drive screws into hard wood; worked fine when boarding out the loft in the UK house.

I Can’t Tell You Why but the wood we buy in France seems harder than the wood in the UK, but it kills your wrist if you try to drive screws by hand and it’s killed the battery drill.
So, that’s 3 drills Already Gone.
Get Over It!

What to do next.
Pebbles, by their very nature are not only ovoid, mainly, but are also rock hard. This makes drilling into them the source of some Heartache Tonight.They also tend to have a shiny smooth surface which makes getting a purchase with your drill bit difficult because All It Wants to do is Glance.
This in itself is not a problem when you can actually see the pebble you are trying to drill into. If you take a hammer and a spike chisel, position the spike where the drill bit needs to cut, you can chip off the shiny bits and get purchase for your drill.
If you can’t see the pebble because it’s hiding in a wall behind some nice lime plaster that you want to preserve, not bash up further, the problem is when you hit the pebble the drill bit will begin to slide up/down/sideways dependent upon where it’s hit.

Chances of trying a couple of spots and finding the weaker grout joint is virtually nil. A lot of holes and a lot of Wasted Time!

There are now two options. 1-try the hammer and chisel idea if you can get the chisel in the just drilled hole or 2- note which way the original drill bit skewed, fit the smallest masonery drill bit you have in the chuck and then angling the small bit in from the way the original skewed to start drilling very slowly and, assuming you get purchase, slowly drill a small hole and then angle the bit to match the original bit angle.Because it’s a small bit this slight squiffyness should be obliterated by the larger original bit which should now be able to get a grip.
The other killer I mentioned is the old Terracotta block. They may not look much but they kill drill bits. Drill slowly, and before you start make sure the drill rotation is the right way because these blocks will rip the edge of your bits.
I now have two drills, both bought in France at Mr Bricolage. 1- an Edelson mains hammer drill (above left) which I use for drilling into ordinary materials and for driving screws, and, 2- an SDS+ beast that I use to drill into our pebble strewn walls, but also can be used as a power chisel etc.

I have had this now for 7 years and it is still going strong, it’s only 850 watts but it produces a lot of torque and weighs a ton. We call it the Jugga Jugga drill. There was a photo of me nursing this beast whilst rocking the macho topless Russian leader look. For some reason Gill has never posted this gem.

In The Long Run you need the kit to get the job done. The Jugga Jugga beast is made by FARTOOLS (Marteau perforateur 850W multi-fonctions), and cost me 28 euros. Bargain. available still, at a bit more, here:-

I am still looking for a battery drill that will allow me the freedom to drive screws without having to drag power extensions and leads around. If anyone can recommend a candidate please feel free to do so.

And finally, RIP Glenn.

Feels like we are losing all our musical heros.


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I dream about French murs, or, how walls are my new obsession

I am obsessed with looking at options for  Our French Walls.

If they are flat, I will capitalise on that and consider  a little wallpaper or wonderful paint colours.I will judiciously introduce light and dark where aspect and proportions permit

If they are not flat, I will not try and cover their character; the walls at the village house have had enough abuse over the years.

Don’t get me started on ceilings…………………………..though that tapestry covered one middle left is very interesting. If I can’t have fun now, then when?

Nancy E. Hill

Nancy E. Hill



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The Thursday Three – Rondes et Chansons

sur le pont d'AvignonThe classic French song that most of us learned if we had school French lessons.

This is one of my 99p bargains, a disintegrating pile of French prints of traditional songs and rounds. Aren’t they great and won’t they frame up well and enhance my walls at the French village house?

Not strictly x three, I have about a dozen of these, but I thought “Ah! Mon Beau Chateau!” was amusingly ironic; and we do seem to have gone a-“round” in circles on much of this project……………

chansons francaisMaybe Trev can play these on the guitar whilst I sing (out of tune)

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