Sunday, 4 November 2012


Ladies and Gentlemen, I know it's a bit late in the day, but I am very excited about my latest discovery... Filler!

My experience of filler hitherto has been of polyfiller, in a tube, putting in it in small-ish holes left by my inept drill-work.

Imagine my excitement when I discover that filler also comes in a big sack! You have to mix it with water but you can use it to fill ENORMOUS holes left by someone's over-enthusiastic hammer-work.

 Just a quick word of warning to those who are prone to getting over-excited... it's worth reading the instructions and concentrating when you are mixing it. If you forget that 1:2 means 1 cup of water to 2 cups of powder and blithely add 6 cups of water to your 6 cups of powder, you'll have to add more filler, make twice the amount you were intending to and end up having to smash a few more holes in walls just to use the damn stuff up.

Luckily, I'd made such a mess of my walls last year that that wasn't necessary. I'm already on sack 2

As with lots of things, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I am now, by virtue of having done it a couple of times, a fully qualified hole filler. And it doesn't stop there. This is crepi. It's meant for the outside but used indoors will cover a multitude of sins... especially if you buy the 'rustique' finish.

I had someone in to tile the hearth, he had lots of tile cement left over and let me tell you, it's mighty useful stuff. It may be intended for tiling but it goes on wet, sets hard and although it's not as easy to use as proper filler, I'm not about to waste a sack I've paid for waiting for some tiling jobs to come up. I'm getting quite handy at this now! The trick is to slap it on and smooth it over, pretty much just like icing a cake.

Quick aside: If you REALLY want to know how to ice a cake properly, you should ask my mate Maz. She writes an excellent blog on all things culinery (and more) and has just written this book. On how to cook with truffles. Like you do.

Before I sign off, a word of warning for the terminally stupid: If you use filler (or crepi or tile cement) to ice your cake, you will break your teeth. If you use icing on your walls, the repair won't last long, but they will taste nice when you lick them.


Monday, 15 October 2012


Well those seven months flew by!

The nicely baby is now nicely crawling, nicely standing up and nicely marauding everything in sight. He's also starting to talk, well kind of. Shouting is really what it is. Today we had "MAMA!" for the first time. His very first word was "DOG!". Poor Dog. The wee one chases him all over the little house.  He looks at me helplessly with a "Please DO something!" expression. This is what he's up against:

The Little House has morphed from a building site into my home without me really noticing. It started when I stopped trying to force the living room into what is definitely the kitchen. I know that's where the wood-burner is but honestly, having spent a winter huddled on a tiny sofa in front of said wood-burner, I can tell you, a living room it aint. It's the M1 from the front door to the upstairs. Not cosy. Unless you plonk a bloody great kitchen table in the middle of it, like this.

The attic is looking lovely. I agonised for literally months about whether I should adhere to the regulations and ask permission from the Architect de Batiments de France to change my metal framed sky-lights for velux windows. I am opposite the church. I am supposed to consult the ABF on everything. If I write my name in the condensation on the windows, they have to approve the font. That said, the roofs around me are peppered with veluxes and apparently none of them have gone through the proper channels. The only person I know who asked for permission had her application rejected.

I am not brave enough to openly defy the Marie who told me in no uncertain terms that a declaration preleable was required so I asked the advice of the Conseil d'Architecture, d'Urbanisme et de l'Environment and after a bit of back and forth a REALLY nice man told me, in writing, that if I intended to keep the attic as a storage area, permission was NOT needed. Of course I plan to use it as a storage area! Have you seen how much stuff a baby generates? And I definitely need somewhere to store my guest bed...

We have had a wonderful summer drinking rosé, swimming in the lake, spending time with the various lovely visitors who passed through and now a new chapter is about to begin. The tall one was made redundant from his work 'for financial reasons'. A tip out there for all you who want to continue with your current employment:

When your boss asks you where you see yourself in 2 years time, do not, repeat NOT say "Well frankly if I'm still working here I'll chew my own arm off." It doesn't go down well. Hence the redundancy.

However, what we were not expecting to discover is that the company haven't been paying any tax or social charges on his behalf since January, and when it came to light, they cobbled together a retrospective letter pretending they'd fired him at the beginning of the year for unexplained absence. Erm... I think you'll find that's called paternity leave? Now if this was me, I'd see them in court. He has work emails, has received work cheques blah blah blah but no. He wants to move on.

So we are... to the Netherlands. He has been offered a nice little job as an account manager for a company that supplies oxygen machines for heavy snorers or people with sleep apnea. My mother is VERY excited. I'm excited but for different reasons. We'll be living somewhere near Amsterdam. Theatre, cabaret, galleries. A support network.

It wasn't until I saw this poster in the salle polyvalente in my village that I realised how culturally deprived I have become.

I'll miss France. Don't get me wrong. And I'll miss my little house. But we'll be back. Keep the rosé in the chiller.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012


This is the verdict of Dr Royere of St Germain les Belles following Rufus's 2 month check up. If anyone has any doubts about their parenting abilities, I recommend a visit to him, its a great morale-booster and well worth the trip.

He is VERY enthusiastic about how healthy Rufus is. He tells me I'm a great mother, that my breast milk is obviously of the highest quality and that everything about Rufus is 'impeccable'. He almost applauds when Rufus cries briefly at his vaccinations but immediately stops when I comfort him. He performs a little jig when he discovers that Rufus is 5cm longer and 1.3 kg heavier than his last visit.

We love his enthusiasm, we love his compliments, we love that he tries to speak English. We wish he wouldn't park is car in front of my house. Oh well, better him than the Belgian.

Saturday, 3 March 2012


I have the most amazing baby boy who smiles and coos (and shits and cries but let's not dwell too long on that).

When the trauma has faded sufficiently I may write a post about my incarceration in the Hopital de la Mere et de l'enfant in Limoges, but for now the important facts are as follows:

Midwives' doom and gloomery all proved to be bollocks as 'tiny baby' Rufus storms up the baby size charts from the bottom three to the top twenty five in a matter of weeks.

I seem to have to lucked out on the caesarian front. Despite having to be stapled together thus:

my stomach muscles seem not to have been affected too badly. In fact immediately following my 'op' the only thing that stopped my chasing one of the midwives down the corridor and giving her a good kicking was the fact that I was tethered to the bed by my drip and a catheter tube. Ouch.

DIY is taking a back seat as I mostly have a baby attached to me in some form or other. However, he is conveniently undisturbed by the noise of the chain saw and sleeps through it. Did I mention that the Tall One bought me a chain saw for Christmas? All the better for sawing up this lot:

Mr. D-the-lumberjack from whom I bought the wood suggested a bow-saw was sufficient. It would be. But it takes much MUCH longer than the chain saw and isn't half as much fun.

My sis in law gave me a novel for Christmas on yummy-mummyism. "Take some time for yourself" it advises. "Have a pedicure". Not in my world. "Take some time for yourself. Play with power tools"

Sunday, 1 January 2012


So effective was the distraction that you may have missed key information hidden deep within my last post.

My amniotic fluid is stable, my placenta is winning beauty competitions but they still want to induce me. Tomorrow. At least, I have to go to the hospital tomorrow, with my cases, one for me, one for Rufus, who already needs more stuff than me and he's not even out yet! Whether they actually get around to giving me the drugs tomorrow is anyone's guess. It may be the following morning.

Anyway, enough of my yacking! (Anyone who can tell me the source of this quote wins a pair of throwaway hospital pants. Used or unused. Your choice.)

I never got around to showing you my €10 bargain from Le Monde Allant Vers, the depot vente where I go for all my €10 bargains. This time it's une commode. Not as one might suspect a grown-up potty for the incontinent (or a shit-chair as the Tall One so succinctly puts it) but a chest of drawers.

It is made of plywood. It was brown and really quite nasty, although rather... erm... commodious which is what attracted me in the first place.

On the excellent advice of John Wallace, I covered it in sous-couche (undercoat) then used a water-soluble, quick drying wood paint in blanc cassé.

A bit of artful trickery with some sandpaper to make it look distressed and you have something that could, possibly, be in the same room as THIS (see below) without blushing. Check out the posh Scandinavian crib in the background, courtesy of the Tall One's lovely sister.

Please don't focus on the last piece of grey and pink rose-motif wall-paper behind the posh Scandinavian crib. Blame the medics. If they'd let me go another few days like the Clark Kent look-alike intern that did my scan suggested, we'd have had that mirror down and that wall paper off before you could say "nesting instinct". I have a fantasy that if things start to go wrong, the intern will shed his glasses, turn into superman and rescue Rufus from my womb without the need for surgery. Do you think it would be cheeky to ask him to sort out the wall-paper too?

THIS is my gorgeous antique 'shabby chic' French armoire that I paid a fortune for in the UK (Ah... those bygone days when I had disposable income) that JL kindly repatriated for me when he came to collect Ash. Although it looks gorgeous, it was never really much practical use as a wardrobe as it is too shallow to allow a full adult-sized coat-hanger to sit sideways in the manner required by 21st Century life.

However, as a baby storage unit it's perfect. And I should add that it is extremely practical in that it is what's described as a "knock-down" wardrobe, i.e. it comes to pieces and is held together in the most ingenious fashion by 2 bolts and 2 wooden brackets. Nothing else would get up my cute French stairs.

That's your lot. Distraction over. Tick tick tick...

Oh my. DO you think there's ANY chance I'm going to sleep tonight?


I am sitting at my computer watching the excellent and hilarious Flight Of The Conchords on youtube in a bid to distract myself from my impending (and probably painful) induction.

If you'd like to be distracted from thinking about it too, I'd recommend "Albi The Racist Dragon"

If you don't like Flight Of The Conchords, how about an update on the Belgian? I saw him the other day. He was explaining to one of the locals that Pascale had been 'working' on his roof for 2 and a half months and had yet to lay a tile.

If you have been losing sleep over what happened to Pascale's scaffolding, this is for you: Neatly laid out against the side of the Belgian's house by the johnny-come-latelies. One of the excuses Pascale gave to the Belgian was that he felt too "faible" to do any work, so the Belgian probably doesn't want to risk him falling off. How thoughtful of him. Notice they cleaned up all the old laths and off-cuts before I could get there, dammit!

I commiserated with the Belgian and offered my assistance should further roofing assignments be undertaken. We exchanged email addresses. I don't think he suspected for a minute that I was an undercover blogger and nosy neighbour.


Thursday, 29 December 2011


There obviously is no code of honour among the French roofing fraternity.

I got terribly excited this morning when I heard hammering and male voices coming from the Belgian's roof. Could it be Pascale, returned from a fortnight of festive frolicking, determined to make the Belgian's roof an accomplishment of 2011?

Alas no. When I went out to check my post box, I recognised the johnny-come-lately roofers who only yesterday finished a repair to the house across the square. The Belgian has obviously decided enough is enough. Poor Pascale.

According to Michelle (the toothless one-eyed cadger with a speech impediment) Pascale has been in the grip of la grippe for the last 2 weeks. I tend to take most things Michelle says (when I can decipher them) with a pinch of salt as it's usually a meandering prelude to trying to borrow money from me; however... In this instance, when I think back to the horrendous weather, and the poor little Frenchman being lashed by torrential rain trying to nail down laths and insulation in the teeth of a fierce gale, I wouldn't be surprised if she is right.

Will the Belgian's roof ever get finished? Will Pascale ever get his scaffold back? Will anyone notice if I sneak out under cover of darkness and collect the old laths and off-cuts for kindling?

Twitch Twitch!!