Episode 15- BANG!

Spring 2009-

063renovation, restoration, devastation-

We loaded up my old Kia Sportage for this year’s first trip to France. I should get a medal for how much I can stuff into the back. Paying for car hire there is silly and we need to save money.

I led rather a gypsy lifestyle when I was younger, hence my my ability for  packing up at the drop of a hat and hitting the road. (Trevor , if you are reading this, we have now stuck together for 20 years so there is no further need to hide my passport!)

We take down the back seats and my daughter and grandson help us squeeze a huge load into the car, irreplaceable stuff and things we can’t get easily in France and more tools etc.

My grandson, who never misses a trick, notes that we only have the two front seats available.

He turns his big blue eyes up to me and says “where am I going to sit Nana?”

My daughter gently breaks it to him that they are only here to see us off. He is absolutely hysterical ( bad Nana, bad Papi, bad Mummy) and we feel awful. Apparently he cried all the way home and could only be placated with promises that he could visit France soon; I am torn in two between wanting to live in France full time and wondering how I am going to be able to leave my family.

We have a good run through France. Just a quick kip whilst we await the ferry at Newhaven (nice route, less vehicles and the formalities are less frenzied than at Dover) and Trevor insists on doing all the driving “just because”. He’s a man.

It’s a long trip , at least 15 hours door to door, (excluding ferry crossing). This time we make a detour via the Loire to pick up one of my ebay bargains, a vintage stove.

We do see some nice bits of France,none as lovely as the Languedoc of course! We are greeted in the village by one of our very elderly neighbours, who seems genuinely pleased that we haven’t given up on our project and chats away…. I do at least get some of it but it’s hard when they have a Aude accent, laced with a spot of Occitan and spoken at high speed.

We go through the usual ritual, electrics on ( big switch in toilet cupboard faintly reminiscent of the one that animates the lady robot in “Metropolis”) open the doors, open the windows and shutters, dislodge nesting birds, check for water leakage from roof, look with alarm at four month weed growth in courtyard, lighting the Beast.


The Beast- we have inherited a big free-standing monster of a boiler  and it always takes ages to light ( achieved by pressing one’s thumb down on ignition for up to an hour- usually Trevor’s’ thumb as mine goes numb more quickly) It lurks in a big cupboard half way down the cave.

I get the kitchen stuff out of the only dust free area in the place, the big cupboard in the sitting room, and make Trevor a cup of tea to get the circulation moving as his thumb is turning white.

I wander back up to the sitting room, saying hello to the house, as I do, and notice that the cheap lampshade I bought to cover the bare bulb in the sitting room to make it look less like an interrogation suite is at a drunken angle.

I like things either nicely level or artistically angled and this is neither. I gently level it.

BANG……………………most of the electric lights in the house go out and the fridge goes kerklunk.

I clatter downstairs in case the bang is the boiler blowing up too, but no, the beast is alight.Trevor raises his highly expressive eyebrows???

“I don’t know, I touched the feed for the salon light fitting??”

We have now lost light and power in part of the kitchen, the sitting room, the dining room, the upper stairs, the bedrooms and the shower room. ******g great.

I have tried to take a photo of the interesting electricity /fuse boards in the cave but it’s not easy with no light(!?) Basically there are three boards with everything from twisted fabric covered 19thc wiring to mid 20th Century and everything in-between. None of it looks safe and as French wiring is very different from the UK rules, regs & procedure, we had decided that we would leave the extensive total rewiring required to a French electrician.

We had no idea which switches/boards/service which rooms. We turned a few on and off but it failed to add to our limited lighting/power, so we left it for now.Unfortunately ( see earlier post) the electrician we had tasked with this rewire appeared to have disappeared.

This hadn’t really been a pressing issue whilst we still had some electrics in most rooms, but we were now regretting not making this a top priority.

It’s difficult though because until you absolutely do know exactly how you are going to use a house to identify what is needed where, switch and socket wise, and we weren’t 100% sure at that point as there were decisions to be made about the rest of the structural work, particularly in the cave. The house and I are slowly setting the agenda between us.

In daylight it wasn’t an issue anyway and we had great weather for so early in the year. Trevor became fascinated with the huge birds performing hunting circles over the hills around the village and clearly they had a base/eyrie/nest behind the ridge we could see from the terrace.

He speculated that they might possibly be eagles, or even Pyrenean vultures.

The week took a very ornithological bent in general. The English lady in the house behind us had an established colony of hirondelles (martins) enjoying her loggia in her absence and these were certainly taking their time in getting acclimatised to the fact that they now had our roof terrace on one of their major flight paths! Clearly this did not exist previously in their collective unconscious and they were a bit confused.

With a big storm pending, we noticed that they were gathering on the climbing rose across the street and loudly jostling and fighting each other for the best branches. We did wonder if they were being filmed for the Guinness book of records as their numbers increased.


Occasionally they would swoop off en mass to perform a spectacular aerial ballet above the roofs and then return to fight for poll position on the rose again.

Better than television, which I plan to resist for as long as possible anyway.


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. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Episode 15- BANG!

  1. Pingback: Episode 24- More luxury guest accommodation | Blog-sur-Aude

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