restoration, renovation, humiliation
I try, I really do try to be organised.
I may not be the best project manager in the world
( although I am undoubtably better equipped for this role than Trevor) but I need to accept that there WILL be things that I just can’t control and I need to learn to deal with that or I will self-destruct.
You may remember (episode 5) that we had bought a wood burning stove in 2006.The guys in our local hardware store had no problem understanding that we weren’t quite ready to install this ( understatement of the century) and said they would be happy to keep it for us until we were.
When we visited the store in autumn 2007, our stove was the centrepiece of an elaborate display and that was not a good time to arrange delivery, so we merely gave the nod to one of the guys and got one of those typically Gallic shrugs that means -fine, no problem, whenever suits you……………. Then we sort of forgot.
We returned in summer 2008 and went in search of Laurent, the guy without the moustache, to say that although we STILL weren’t ready, now would be a as good a time as any to get the stove delivered. Laurent was quite surprised to see us ,well as surprised as any southern Frenchman ever is, and explained that he had sold the stove. I guess he simply assumed that we had “bolted” like other incomers who had bought property there and changed their minds for many reasons.
How often does this happen if DIY shop proprietors deem it normal behaviour!?
He was mortified that we hadn’t run off and sold up and assured us that he would order a new stove ASAP and get it delivered next time we were over.It turned out for the best because the stove we had picked had been close to, but not exactly what I wanted and this was a chance to get it absolutely right.
Hand hint- Get it right or you WILL regret it…………………
We picked out a heavy cast iron black Franco-Belge model which costs more than the one we had ordered but still a damn good price and it looked perfect. Earlier blogs tell the story of our mad layout, and the half fireplace in the corner of the sitting room was not the right place for a stove – it would melt the curtains for starters! and once we began to spend time at the house and think about living there, we realised we could improve on the existing layout.
We had noticed that there was what was clearly a stove pipe shaped hole in the ceiling between the doors to the lower & upper stairs and once we had started taking down the dodgy ceiling in the tulip room, we found clear evidence that a pipe had been run up though that room and out via the roof.
If we located the stove underneath this existing outlet, it would literally be in the dead centre of the house and, as we were removing the door to the upper stairs, it would allow heat to rise up there to the terrace bedroom whilst the stove pipe would act as a radiator in the tulip room above, and circulate through the now open plan layout of the first floor through the sitting room, kitchen and dining area.
We checked out the wall behind what would be the new stove location and it is made of terracotta bricks ( French version of breeze blocks and used for similar applications ) and was therefore non-combustible.
We had bought some classic terracotta quarry tiles that looked old and authentic and we used these to create a basic hearth and back plate for stove.
Tiles also retain & radiate heat and these would help circulation too.
We asked Laurent about the viability of the stove in a first floor sitting room with a wooden floor. He thought that if the floor was solid and with a tiled hearth and insulation around the pipe as it went through floor above it would be fine. After all this is common practice in French houses.
I investigated the clearance tolerances associated with our stove and installation guidelines and we decided to buy the necessary special flexible rope which should be wrapped around the pipe to insulate and stabilise it whilst going through the tulip room floor in the UK as we could not find it in France (enquiry after this having prompted more shrugging- I love this anti health and safety attitude!)
We stayed up till the early hours the night before, gluing and grouting ready for the stove. The following morning, Trevor set off 30 minutes before the expected delivery to get the cash balance out of the nearest hole in the wall, whilst I cleared the hazardous route up to the sitting room from the front door.
( see left for the straight bit of stairs, with air raid siren and ironic fire extinguisher)
Laurent arrived, early, ten minutes after Trevor left, and I wasn’t unduly alarmed, until his “helper” climbed slowly down from the van. I had seen him in the DIY store before and guessed he was either dad, grandad or uncle. He looked at least eighty. Then again, blokes of a hundred look eighty around here.
I assured Laurent that Trevor was due imminently with the cash and persuaded him to wait until he came back and could help.The minutes ticked by, Laurent had more deliveries and needed to get going.
I tried to call Trevor, who never takes his phone with him, even if he has one …GRRRRRRRRR!) I was quite convinced that Laurent thought this was all a con and Trev had gone out (a) to avoid paying him and (b) to avoid helping to get the thing up the stairs.
As usual my mind went into imagination hyper drive, had he been run off the road? mugged at the cash machine? arrested by the gendarmes ?( all fairly unlikely in our little corner of semi-rural bliss) but I have an overactive and fevered imagination.
Eventually Laurent announced that he and “dad” would get the stove upstairs
“Pas de problem“ and overroad my entreaties to wait a bit longer.
I watched with horror as they heaved and staggered the big heavy thing up the unforgiving twisty stairs and dragged it into place, convinced that at any moment “dad” would collapse and have a heart attack there and then.
The deed was achieved, Laurent looked briefly around and raised his eyebrows
“grand projet, n’est-ce pas?”(big project isn’t it) Don’t I know it
Trev, materialised magically just as they were leaving, of course. He had been obliged to go further afield to find a cash machine with any money in it. I was beyond embarrassment and now convinced the locals would certainly bracket us as mad Brits.
I know we are, but was hoping to keep that from our new neighbours.