Episode 8

DSC00210renovation, restoration, reincarnation??             Summer 2007-

I absolutely refused to even consider another trip to France until my daughter had safely given birth.

However, once my new grandson had arrived I was itching to get back to the village and get stuck in
There was a limit to what we could do as the planning permission hadn’t yet materialised and the house was literally a building site but I really wanted to take down the horrible tiled ceiling in the tulip bedroom, so called because of the remains of the floral wallpaper hanging on to the bits of wall that hadn’t yet been demolished

It seemed to me that half of our hybrid house was held up by three huge beams-DSC00184
The big wormy beam in the garage
The hidden, neatly plastered ( till I poked at it) beam in the sitting room
And, presumably, the invisible beam in the tulip room

As I suffer from rampant curiosity and an urge to knock things down I decided one evening that I really must have a look above the existing false ceiling

Trevor was drinking wine and reading his book by the gentle glow of the street lamp outside the sitting room window (free light!!)
Darling….” I said “I’ve had an idea”
Trevor dragged his eyes reluctantly from his book and looked at me resignedly, but slightly resentfully, with a world weary sigh and more than a hint of the “what does the mad bitch want to do now” marked on his furrowed brow
He shrugged his shoulders imperceptibly. As I have to read the signs ( see previous episodes- you haven’t been concentrating have you?) I launched straight in
I want to demolish the bedroom ceiling”
“ When? now?”
“ O.K. spoilsport, I’ll wait till tomorrow……………”

Now, if I have found that if you want a man to start a task for which he has no natural inclination, it is often effective to have a go yourself, make a pig’s ear of it, then come over all girly and helpless. Now I am no longer girly and Trevor has learnt to his cost that neither am I helpless so more subtlety was called for

The following morning I walked around conspicuously in my best builder’s mate outfit ( paint spattered tee shirt and crunchy crepie stained denim shorts) sporting a hard hat and plastic goggles. A claw hammer was stuffed casually but ominously into my back pocket
“How about it then?” I said

Trevor looked up from his coffee, yes he does spend a large amount of time sitting down relaxing, though why he would think he was allowed to relax on a working holiday is beyond me.. “I think I’ll just make a start in the tulip room”………………IMG_0073

We started innocently enough by taking down the grotty ceiling tiles (some kind of insulating fibreboard, and not, I was assured, asbestos based (too late I’ve inhaled them now ) which I carefully cleaned off and stacked for future use


We moved onto the lowest part of the pitched roof by the oddly walled off shower area where it was simply a matter of levering off the rough boarding and being showered by dead insects and old wasps nests and moderate muck, then as the pitch got steeper things got dodgier.
The walls of the house are the typical ancient mixture of local stone and big river pebbles , loosely mortared together several centuries ago

How loosely we soon discovered

With each piece of board we levered off, a shower of greasy, ancient, disgusting dirt showered down on us , a bit of a pain as it was necessary to look up as we hacked away, thank goodness for plastic goggles. Trevor had discarded his hard hat , and indeed most of his clothes as this was hot work in the eighty odd degree heat
He looked like an extra from the last days of Pompei, covered head to toe in muck with just the whites of his eyes showing.
Laughing at this apparition, I swung my claw hammer and levered off a bit more ceiling, the third and last structural beam being nearly in sight, then a chunk of wood gave way and with it came down more dirt and a HUGE river pebble that would have knocked Trevor unconscious had it not missed his head by a centimetre or two.

Tea breakIMG_0074

We returned to the demolition with a little more care, me standing at the top of the ladder shovelling dirt & passing larger lumps of rock down to Trevor to put in a sack and once the boarding was relatively clear, Trevor took down the rest in stages.
We came to a halt at the tabatiere (roof window) which was surrounded by an edifice reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was boxed in securely with loads of carefully and intricately jointed wood and like every other piece of joinery in the house, built not only not to fall apart but also not to be taken apart without extreme persistence. Trevor was developing massive respect for the previous owner, a clearly talented carpenter, tempered with massive frustration at the difficulty we were experiencing every time we tried to dismantle any of his joinery projects

“How many women have you known that would get their hands dirty doing extreme manual labour like this” I asked Trevor.
“None” he replied “you’re unique”

“In a good way?” I asked
He declined to answer……………………….


About coteetcampagne

Artist, period home maker, renovator, restorer, Francophile. My mission is to save the old stuff, one beautiful piece at a time
This entry was posted in Renovation and restoration diary- France, What we did, how we did it and what we used and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to DIY gets DAN-GER-OUS

  1. Lynda says:

    This (your story) is becoming all too familiar. I am enjoying reading it even though we had to quit our 175 year old project here in the states. Loving it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello & welcome,

      The house was 175 years old or you just feel it took that long?!


      • Lynda says:

        It was that old. It started as a log cabin in 1940 and was built onto in the 1920s; made into a “dogtrot”. Then a “lean-to” was added not long after. The outside was veneered and a front porch added to make it look like an old farmhouse. We loved it at first sight and had hoped to restore it… Sadly, that is not to be.


      • Well I hope whatever your new plans are going forward, things work out for you and your husband. I do think life sometimes changes the goalposts and I applaud your positive attitude to this.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynda says:

        Thank you! And I’ll be cheering for your successful finish.


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