I can’t get over that another week has gone by already, and find it even more surprising that it was only 8 weeks ago today that we took delivery of the first lorry load of building supplies
Even the last week has flown by, since Andy opened up that second new doorway and finishing the bulk of the heavy reconstruction work.
My thought though, that having got to this point, he may have a little more time to perhaps simply enjoy sitting for a while, spending an hour or so recharging his batteries, in this year’s incredibly warm November sun, was ill-founded. He has continued at a great pace this week, finding that the hours are really flying by, and that each day, he is almost surprised when he realises it’s getting dark, and he still has to walk Millie.
The week started with him working back inside the new kitchen, finally shifting the washing machine into its new home in the cupboard, checking the connections and doing a celebratory wash of the clothes he’d been wearing, which were so caked with dust and dirt, that they could almost have walked into the kitchen by themselves. I’m sure some people would have celebrated the first piece of equipment being fitted, with a glass of wine, perhaps a beer, but for Andy, washing powder and fabric softener was top of the list instead.
Happily the connections were sound (never in doubt) and Andy finally had clean clothes again, which you can probably imagine, was an absolute joy. They didn’t stay clean for long though, as the next task saw him spending a whole day, filling all the fixing holes and joints in the plasterboard, a long and finnicky task, especially with so many above his head, in the ceiling too.
Once happy that it was all filled and in place, he simply had to wait until it dried, before starting the worst task of them all…. sanding it all off.
The last time he had to do this, was when we had the rooms built upstairs – it is a truly hideous job, which takes a long time and turns Andy grey (in more ways than one). That first time, with a particularly cruel twist of fate’s knife, the water supply to the village failed and he was covered from top to toe in a thick layer of dust, with no easy way to wash himself off. At least this time the water supply was working well, so there was no excuse to delay it any longer.
He made an early start, taking Millie out for a morning walk, before the sun had risen fully above the trees….
Then slipped his mask on and set to work, and by the time he stopped for our mid-morning coffee over FaceTime, (now a delightful part of our daily routine) he already looked as if he’d been dipped head-first into a bucket full of flour…..
The blocks of white dust on his face, made it look as if he had been interrupted in the middle of making himself up as a Clown …… it was a quite disturbing sight that nearly put me off my coffee!
By late afternoon though, he was happy it was all done, and after a long shower, he looked and felt human again, happy in the knowledge that it was smooth and looking good – I suppose I could say, a bit like him, but that would be far too corny!
He’d now done as much as he could in the new kitchen,and in fact, the next step there will be to get Bertrand back to finish the electrics, fitting the plugs, lights and radiator. Then we will just be waiting for Pascal to finish creating the doors and porch to make it secure and fully weather-proof, before we get on with painting it and fitting new units (once we’ve finally decided what they will be).
The message I received from Andy, when I woke the following morning, was just a delight
‘I feel today is one of those important days, that when I started the construction I thought would never come. It’s lifting the table up day, which means I’ve done all the work that was needed to be done – if that makes sense?’
The thing is, it made perfect sense to me, this was a huge step forward and really did signal how much Andy had managed to get done over the last few weeks. It meant that it was finally time for him to lift the wonderful table that Pascal had created for us nearly 4 years ago, from the lower terrace onto the new one. The table, that so much of our ideas have been built around, the one where we dream of sitting with coffee or a glass of wine, just absorbed by the shadows shifting across our newly discovered view.
We had always said it wouldn’t be moved until the new terrace had been tiled and all the major works had been completed inside . If anyone had suggested that we would get to this point by mid-November, I would have very calmly told them that they were being far too optimistic – and that would have come from me, a person Andy knows to be a life-long optimist! If I’m honest I thought he may get to this point, perhaps just before Christmas, so this message just made me smile, as I knew how far he had come.
The problem is that this isn’t a small table, nor is it a lightweight table – it is over 2 metres long, at least a metre wide and a good 6 cm thick of solid, well-seasoned French Oak and lifting it over a metre up onto the top terrace (even with a group of helpers) was never going to be a simple task. Add in the complications of lockdown, removing any option of friends to help lift it, Andy was faced with doing it all himself.
I suppose the simple thing would have been to leave it where it was until help is available. That really wasn’t an option though, as the next stage of the work was going to be to start building walls on the upper terrace, both to finish it off nicely, and more importantly to create a safety barrier to stop us just tumbling off the edge. So the only possible course of action was for Andy to tackle it himself, using whatever he could find to support the table top as he did it, and he just had to get on with it, if he wanted to continue with the work…
Undaunted and after a little thought, his first job was to remove the legs, which unbolted easily, before he was able to start to haul the heavy oak top towards the upper terrace.
Using sturdy, old iron chairs to support some of the weight, he managed to shift the top…..
Until it was resting on the upper terrace, pushing it until it was safely in place…
Before carrying the iron bases up and re-fixing them…
Much quicker than I think, even he imagined, the table was in its new home, looking just as good as we had hoped…. if not better. The legs, with their elegant swirls can now be seen and it sits in pride of place on the tiles, waiting for the rest of the work to continue around it.
He had even managed to do it all before coffee, so we sat chatting with me in Exeter and Andy at the table, with the view that we have long dreamed of.
After an afternoon of tidying up, and getting things ready to start building the walls the next morning, he pottered off with Millie for a walk as the sun was setting on what had been, a wonderfully satisfying day.
Happily the next morning dawned bright, sunny and warm, with a glorious golden light, and no threat of frost for the next few days …… perfect weather for wall-building.
So Andy was back to the cement mixer, barrowing loads up the hill to the terrace….
Carefully selecting stones, from the now dwindling pile that had been removed from the house, and starting to build the new barrier wall along the front edge…
It’s always a joy to be working outside with the ever-present view of Caseneuve, and very quickly, the wall started to take shape….
By the end of that first day, the front wall was in place, the perfect height for us to add pots of geraniums and other flowers, without interrupting the view…..
And well-matched with the steps and walls that Andy had built a couple of weeks ago. By the end of the afternoon, it looked as if it had always been there.
The next day the work continued to bring the wall around the corner…
Before a final push, against the setting of the most vivid blue sky that I think I have ever seen at this time of year….
Building the final section of wall, creating an enclosed terrace that is now ready for the ironwork to be fitted.
I can’t help but be amazed by what Andy has achieved, by himself over these last few weeks. Our dream is really taking shape and it is everything we hoped it would be. Even a late rose came out in celebration
What’s been particularly lovely is that our neighbours, when they have walked past, have all commented on how good it is looking, and how much they like the transformation that is taking place, amazed that Andy has done it all, without even me to help fetch and carry things for him.
We know that there’s still some way to go, walls and more steps are yet to be built and the garden area to be planted… also the lower terrace to be tiled and refurbished too……
And of course the kitchen has yet to be finished and new units chosen and fitted….
But if you had sat us down, when that first lorry-load of supplies arrived, and said we would be at this stage by now, we wouldn’t have believed it in a month of Sundays. So we’ll enjoy the moment and look forward to the next landmark in the work, which will probably come when the doors are fitted!
In the meantime though, perhaps Andy can find a moment or two to enjoy the sun.
Although knowing him …… he probably will just get on………