Probably the most rewarding part of the clear-out was demolishing the kitchen. Lifting tiles and breaking out cupboards with a crowbar on our own, then, with the help of the builders, smashing out a poured (and reinforced!) concrete worktop (why would anyone build a kitchen out of concrete??) and a huge chimney which took up a disproportionate share of the small room and blocked the light from the door. The builder suggested stealing a metre from our bathroom next door to extend the kitchen a bit and it made a huge difference to the light and space in the room.
All that was done in the first week and we had a real sense of achievement.
At the end of that week, our first set-back. Andy opened the door to the strongbox cupboard and was faced by what was clearly a better established resident than us, furry and fist-sized, eye-balling him in a cool and collected manner. Subsequent openings of the door over the next few days revealed the same scene – it seemed that the fella was a bachelor who had lived in the house alone until our arrival and was not familiar enough with humans to exhibit anything but nonchalant curiosity. To test this theory, we bought and placed €100 worth of bait boxes in different places around house and garden and two weeks later, the good news is, he indeed seems to be a loner, who may have got into the cupboard from outside when he was smaller and then got stuck there. He was a greedy loner, which was helpful. Gone to greedy loner heaven now. And we’ll be getting a cat in August.
In week two, more unwelcome intruders into our lives – unplanned expenses. These little critters started to sneak in and stamp all over the budget we’ve been keeping so tightly and proudly. Air conditioning units that need to be moved to accommodate the en-suite bedrooms; the main soil pipe under the house uncovered and found to be broken – so waste needs to be re-routed into new pipes. We’ll have to save by scrapping the wooden floors downstairs, or maybe putting them in ourselves at a later date. Any volunteers??
Our life has turned into marathon days in huge hardware and DIY shops, tile and furniture warehouses, electrical stores, comparing dimensions, prices, guarantees and styles of the entire contents of a house. Both of our brains are so full of detail we are completely addled and can’t remember where we have written anything down.
Things seem to take much longer in France. But that may just be down to us not having a proper schedule. We, sort of, have all day to do things, so they sometimes take all day. And most places close for a long lunch here so it helps to get started early in the day. Which we haven’t really got back into yet!
And while we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, I’ll just mention that the heat, humidity and mosquitoes are unrelenting. We’ve both been having tantrums and threatening to go back to the cool, refreshing Irish drizzle. Is it human nature or are we just cantankerous? We’ve had to remind each other how lucky we are lots of times. And, luckily, friends have been over and re-opened our eyes to the warmth of the water, the beauty of the mountains, the deliciousness of the food, the laid-back buzz of our pretty town and the pleasure of being outdoors.
We’ve been discovering Nice (who would have thought of building a beautiful park six stories above the Promenade des Anglais?) and the many picturesque hilltop villages near us – La Gaude, St Jeannet, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, St Paul. We’ve conquered one of the four mountains overlooking our town – les baous – and we’ve discovered lots of shady forest running trails and stunning mountain-side cycling routes. We’re getting excited about showing them to others, helping people to plan a great outdoor getaway in this beautiful area.