Episode 140 – the phoenix will rise, eventually

cave ground floorI have been prompted to post today by three things really- after reading about  Poshbirdy’s mammoth work on “de-guano-ing” her attic in her recent post on 23/05/16 “L’Air de Pigeons“;


I had also been looking at the photos on the 21/05 post from JP.


That room on his post could easily be an early shot of our salon or the tulip bedroom with ingrained builder’s/demolition rubble on the old floors, semi-stripped walls and piles of stuff in the corner.

Top left- Our cave; no pigeon poo , but smoke blackened ceiling where the boiler was not attached to the flue(!) , we have the same in the atelier, but in that case it is greasy black and burnt dirt where the old open kitchen fire was. I don’t know how we are going to clean off all that.

Ancient ingrained dirt between your floorboards and on your stone work takes some shifting too.

No, our default choice is not just to  plasterboard over it , or to destructively sandblast our already historically both neglected and abused stone walls and beams.

Because both budget and choice meant we have had to do much of the restoration work Chez Nous ourselves, we have lived and worked through conditons like P & JP for a very long time.  I’ll admit I was a little stung by a comment on my last post that kind of suggests that I am unaware of the realities of owning old houses and I  care too much about clean.

Well, believe me  guys I know ALL about the positives and negatives of taking on an old French house.

My current preoccupation with “clean”  is , in  many ways, a backlash against  what we have had to deal with and are still dealing with in parts of the house.  Arriving in France to what was ,when we last left, a clean  washbasin & shower, now  full of rubble that’s dropped from the exposed underside of the roof above. Having to cover everything new or clean in dust sheets because the detritus from the still ongoing work just gets everywhere.

So you clean when you arrive, you clean when you leave, you clean (losing the will to live) again and again whilst you are in residence.

If you leave people working on the house when you aren’t on site, it’s a complete lottery what you will return to; some of them will make an effort to tidy up after themselves, but none are going to get out the rubber gloves and the Cillit Bang. Most of them will look at the inevitable dust & chaos around and figure that there really is no point in clearing up after themselves anyway because it’s still a building site.

So, leave the cigarette butts and the fruit peelings in the courtyard……………….

Or maybe they think we live like this because we don’t care??

Believe me, oh commenter who thinks I would rather clean than cook, I would like to do both  and have the luxury of choice.

I know it’s not all about dreaming of high style, decorative finishes and sourcing textiles.

For G**d’s sake let me at least have these perfectly justifiable aspirations amid the brute reality of our ongoing project.

OK, rant over……………..


About coteetcampagne

Artist, period home maker, renovator, restorer, Francophile. My mission is to save the old stuff, one beautiful piece at a time
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15 Responses to Episode 140 – the phoenix will rise, eventually

  1. Lynda says:

    I bought a 6 foot, claw foot soaking tub and had it refurbished. I asked the builders to bring it inside to get it out of the weather and the set it into the master bedroom. The bathroom was a very 50s style with pink tile on everything and a cast iron boxy looking tub that was slowly sinking through the rotten flooring underneath. The new configuration had been plumbed and tiled and I was ready for that lovely tub to be placed… I pulled back the protective plastic I had put over it to find that the builders had been using it for a trash receptacle and it was now scratched and stained! I had a blowout with the contractor and he tried to say that he had no way to know that the stains weren’t already there. I told him to wait and came back with pictures of before the trash and with the trash. He had nothing more to say and I made him pay for the tub to be refinished again. I understand your need for clean.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Noel G20 says:

    “De-guano-ing” You have added to my vocabulary. Perhaps I could use this as a quote 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may, but link to my blog please so that your innocent followers can witness my meanderings. I am dying to know how the hell you are going to work my newly invented verb into your nuggets of wisdom?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Noel G20 says:

        The link will be a pleasure. Though that is likely to be the easier part of accepting your challenge. But courage: I shall think of something. Watch this space 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Osyth says:

    The good, the bad and the ugly exist all over the world unfortunately. And it is not budget that decides it its a mysterious air of decency that inhabits some and not others. A decency that remembers this is your home and should always be treated as such. I’m sorry you have a few ugly bugs amongst the good fellas who have been helping you so well. Stay strong Mrs – you are inspiring in your efforts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gabriele says:

    No more musical suggestions but have been thinking about what to do with the liquid from the lye-water mix….perhaps one of those shop vacs that suck up water? I think the water goes into a plastic container.
    Lye hints: http://www.castironcollector.com/lyebath.php
    This discusses bleaching wood and cleaning items of natural materials:
    (can’t wait for the performance….)


  5. poshbirdy says:

    Great post, Gill. You have worked so hard (and it shows) and all for the love of your home. I noticed some useful tips here in the comments regarding the soot and oil, so pls let us know how the lye goes. Could be a lifesaver

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bizzyella says:

    Someone actually suggested that you live with the dirt? Is that their idea of a joke? Are you sure it wasn’t one of your sloppier contractors? I am blessed to have a contractor who cleans up after everyone else. I just hope that all the dust that collects is construction residue rather than some sort of permanent condition.


    • Most of our workmen do sweep up and get rid of the rubble. It’s the odd one out that bugs me. Like who left the cigarette butts in the petit cour?
      That and the fact that living with the ongoing dust and debris inherent in any project that involves demolition moving & materials around like this that sometimes drives me crazy. But I’m not OCD clean, just want a state of order and a reasonable level of this now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Colin Bisset says:

    A year after our renovation, I’m still finding Red Bull cans stuffed in bushes in the garden or behind pots. We occasionally use an electrician whose van is so clean and tidy, and who vacuums up so thoroughly after him (and, I suspect, does the rest of the room while he’s at it) that I always feel slightly on edge when he’s here – as though he might tidy me up and chuck me in the bin.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. gabriele says:

    For the greasy smoke, and old fashioned approach, but one which will require protective clothing:
    When I had a shoe repair shop with old equipment and much oiling, the floor under it needed more than just a good floor cleaner.
    Sometimes culture comes through when reason fails. I used to (long ago) listen to Oh My Word (I think that was the name of it) and each panelist would have to come up with an explanation for a phrase that had nothing to do with its actual usage.
    The two that were indelibly imprinted in my memory were It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and the other Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I’ve Found Thee. It was the latter which provided the needed insight. The explanation had to do with someone noted scholar who was trying to create the right balance of ingredients to make soap, and when he found a woman who could help him with this matter, he exclaimed “Oh, sweet Miss Terry of lye-fat at last I’ve found thee!”.
    So if lye and fat made soap then lye water and grease on the floor should make a soapy solution and yes, it worked a charm. I bought cheap cotton mops (although they did last quite a while) and every Saturday I had a very clean floor.
    Later, when I bought an old gas stove (circa 19-teens) I got a baby bath tub and soaked the gunked up parts in lye water, occasionally scraping layers off as they became removable and didn’t have to use the smelly nasty oven cleaner that so many well-meaning friends suggested (the parts weren’t from the oven, but grates and such).
    I don’t know what they’re called but there are masonry bristle brushes which you should be able to find an equivalent in France…they’re made for use with acids so they won’t fall apart and they take a handle so you can work away from the surface:
    And if it works (I know you’d do a trial section first) you can sing to your house:
    “Ah! Sweet mystery of life
    At last I’ve found thee
    Ah! I know at last the secret of it all;
    All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning
    The burning hopes, the joy and idle tears that fall!”
    and write your own house-centric lyrics for the rest of the song.
    And from me, a tip of the hat to BBC!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. We are so lucky with our painter, Jacques, who covers and protects everything (not just from paint but also from, say, electricians drilling holes through two-foot-thick stone walls) and who cleans meticulously. Our house was all stuccoed inside when we arrived and we had him sand it off and paint a few years ago. We left on vacation during this, BTW. He did a fantastic job, which is why we rehired him for the apartments.
    At the same time, the plumber makes messes and never cleans up. And the mason, who was hired to knock down a wall, was unhappy that we wanted him to cart the rubble out (it was in the contract). Jacques has cleaned up after them because he doesn’t want the dust messing up his painting!

    Liked by 1 person

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