Monday 18 April 2011

18th April 2011

Another week of beautiful weather! It has been a pleasure to continue working outside in the sun, in temperatures that are not too exhausting! We can happily tick a few more jobs off our list. Dave has laid the Pyrenees Suite patio, and the plumbing is also done and dusted. After several more days of digging and preparation and the promise of a few more dry days to come, the pool was finally ready for its screed. Neil (screeder extraordinaire!) came to help us today, and Jean Paul helped with the mixing of the mortar. I was the wheelbarrow girl!

It was very satisfying indeed to be able to cover the mud base and finally see the pool taking shape.

Yesterday, we were thrilled to be able to welcome Sarah and Simon Cobb, our friends from New Zealand and Simon's parents to La Maire. (photo above!). It was lovely to see them all and a real treat for us to take a relaxing afternoon off! It was also an incredible coincidence to discover that they are staying at Claire and Tim's gite, 'Le Marin' at the village of Bellegarde near Carcassonne. This was where we spent two very happy holidays a couple of years ago before househunting in the area. We discovered that Simon and Tim's parents had been friends for years. It really does seem like a small world at times!

Sunday 10 April 2011

8th April

Well it has been a mixed week! On the postive side, we very much enjoyed having Lucy and Andy here to stay for 5 days and they were lucky enough to have the most wonderful weather. Hardly a cloud in the sky all week and temperatures in the upper 20's. They enjoyed the rest, but also helped us a lot by digging over the vegetable patch and lugging a load of earth up from the pool area to create a new flower bed behind the patio. They also put together our new garden bench - see above! We also had a very French/English evening when Jean Paul and his daughter Marine joined us for dinner. The girls and Andy managed to understand each other very well - in fact both Lucy and Andy spoke more French than they have done since leaving school!! We ate roast chicken and sticky toffee pudding, then managed had an entertaining game of Pictionary with the help of a dictionary!

We had hoped to lay the screed on the base of the pool this week, but despite the hot weather, the soil in the pool is just not drying out enough. We realised we would have to put in a better drainage system, so we (actually, mostly Dave!) have been digging more trenches around and inside the pool to allow the water to escape. Thankfully this seems to be working, so now we just need a few more dry days to finally lay the screed. We almost a had a problem when the sand for the screed was delivered, but it was happily sorted out in a typically Ariege way. We asked the lorry driver to dump the sand down by the pool which he was happy enough to do despite a bit of shoulder shrugging and hand waving, but sure enough the lorry got stuck in the soft earth! However, the driver just smiled, shrugged his shoulders a bit more and suggested we get Denis from the farm with his tractor-whom he just happens to know well. Denis was more than happy to help - so after several minutes of hand shaking and discussion of 'boys toys', the lorry was hauled back up the garden and everyone got back to work.

As for the garden, the grass and everything else is still growing rapidly. Dad's rockery now looks a picture with the tulips out and the snowy Pyrenees behind (see photo above).

We don't feel we have made much progress this week with the pool saga, but in fact we are still moving on with the Pyrnees Suite and laid the concrete base ready for the patio this week, so hope to get that finished very soon - again, weather permitting!

Sunday 3 April 2011

3rd April 2011

Friday felt like the first day of summer - hot and sunny and light well into the evening. It was also the day of Jean Paul's English lesson so he decided that we would find more to talk about if we went for a walk rather than sitting in front of the computer. He drove me up into the mountains just the other side of Tarascon for a 'hike'. We ended up just past the 'Barrage (dam) du Riete' - see photo above, where there are numerous walking possibilities. The lying snow is still making most of them impassable at the moment but we had a bit of a climb and appreciated the wonderful views. Jean Paul learnt several useful (?) new words, such as 'cattle grid' and I learnt (in French!) about when it is safe to drink water on the mountain, types of rocks, species of wildlife etc!!

At La Maire, we are still making progress in the 'Pyrenees Suite', finishing off the electrics, skirting board and bathroom tiles this week. Up until Friday it was a bit wet, so a good week to work indoors. This lunchtime we were invited up to the farm for the annual 'hog-roast'. All the men who take part in the hunt over the winter help Denis fell and chop the logs that he sells, so he thanks them at the end of the hunting season by roasting a small wild boar. We were delighted to be invited as well - everyone was very friendly and the food was excellent. Neither of us had eaten boar before - it was very tender and tasty, and quite different to any other kind of meat that we know. Anne cooked a dish of flagelot beans to accompany the meat, and this was preceeded by home-made pork pate, smoked bacon, salad and fresh bread. Dessert was 'creme anglaise!' (cold custard!) with cake, all accompanied by wine and champagne. The event also started with drinks and nibbles on the terrace.

Next weeks project is the pool! Also, Lucy and Andy arrive tomorrow for a few days, so we are very much looking forward to seeing them. France meteo is suggesting warm sunny weather as well, so maybe they will be lucky!