Category Archives: brico depot

Monday 25th June 2018 – ONE OF THE THINGS …

… that I have to avoid is stress. I’ve been told that many times. That’s going to finish me off quicker than anything else. All stressful thoughts need to be banished immediately from my mind.

And so after yesterday afternoon’s issues, there I was lying on my palliasse watching the clock tick round. And I definitely remember 03:44 at one point in the morning.

But I must have gone to sleep at one point because the alarm at 06:20 dragged me out of my slumber.

And out of a nocturnal ramble too. I was back in Canada picking up Strider who had been parked by the side of the road since I left him last year. And people had been using him as a rubbish skip. so he needed to be emptied. I also put my hand inside the rear door behind the rear seats (which he doesn’t have of course) and started to pullout loads of rubbish – dirt, paper, leaves and so on. And I wondered how it had come to be there. The answer was that the rear part of the cab roof that folded over down to the rear window was made of plastic (which it isn’t of course) and the plastic had rotted, allowing the weather to get in. This needed to be replaced but I wasn’t sure of the best way to do it. Meanwhile Darren was there calling his friends over to have a look at the rubbish in it. When I said something to him about that he excused himself saying that he meant come and look at how old it is. But, as I reminded him, he himself is much older than Strider.

b&b hotel moulins franceA shower didn’t do much to revive me and my spirits, and neither did breakfast, seeing as I had chosen decaffeinated coffee by mistake.

So I came up here to pack instead and headed downstairs to load up Caliburn.

First stop was the Brico Depot just across the way, where the automatic sliding door knocked the free coffee right out of my hand.

With not being able to get into my house, I wasn’t able to pick up my hole saws so I bought a cheap set from there. And “cheap” is certainly the word. They might get through the hardboard but not very much else.

From here, the next part of my route should have been pretty much straightforward, but an accident on the N79 had closed off a section of that road and we ended up being diverted through a delightful rustic rural route that meandered for miles behind a whole series of heavy lorries. To cover what must have been a 5-mile stretch of road took us 45 minutes and added 25 kilometres to the route.

There’s a LeClerc just down the road from here and so I stopped to stock up the supplies for the next week or so, as well as to buy a few things that I had forgotten to bring (and to forget a few more things that I wanted too).

Dodging the roadworks, because the whole place is being dug up right now, I pressed on.But running rather early and feeling rather tired after last night, I found a little place to stop and rest for 10 minutes.

And 10 minutes, did I say? When I awoke it was 13:52. I’d been flat out for almost 2 hours and as a result I’d missed my lunch.

But I hadn’t missed going on a travel though. In some kind of university where some kind of official woman – might even have been the Dean – informed the students that because of some kind of irregularity in their conduct, a certain order for their new hats had been cancelled. I recounted this (with a few embellishments) to a group of other people there, one of whom noticed that her order of hats for her students had been cancelled too. So at the following meeting, the lady concerned raised the issue, stating that the order had been cancelled by a majority vote of just one. Her friend hastily corrected her, so the first lady returned to the original story, and asked why her order had been cancelled too. The Dean or whoever she was replied “well, I don’t know” in one of these stage remarks where the tone of voice conveyed more than the message. “I bet I do” was the tart reply from the lady raising the complaint. Of course, I exploded into laughter – a stage laughter too – which left no-one in any doubt that I was fully aware of what was going on.

Having been startled into awakening myself, I hit the road immediately. Due to my running a day or so early, Jean-Marc and Jacqueline had changed all of their plans to fit in with mine (which was nice of them) so I didn’t want to disappoint them.

maconnais franceThey live in the mountains at the back of Macon in some of the most beautiful countryside that I have ever seen, where Jean-Marc had his own vinyard and made his own wine before he retired.

We’d met on a student exchange programme almost 50 years ago but lost touch with each other afterwards until 4 years ago when I bumped quite by accident into his aunt in a village where his grandmother owned a café, as regular readers of this rubbish might recall.

It just goes to show you exactly how small the world is these days.

maconnais franceThreading my way through the hills and the vinyards of the Maconnais, I ended up chez them where I duly presented the newlyweds with a bottle of champagne.

We had such a lot to talk about, seeing as the last time that Jean-Marc and I had seen each other, I was stretched out in a hospital bed having just been brought out of an operating theatre in the hospital in Montlucon.

On eisn’t at one’s best under the circumstances

roche de solutre franceJacqueline had to go out later so Jean-Marc took me on a drive out to the countryside to revisit some of the places where we had been in 1970.

The obvious place to visit at first was the Roche de Solutre, the most prominent hill in the landscape for miles around. We’d climbed to the top of it (there’s a path) back in 1970 but that was a long time ago and I’ve slept since then so I don’t remember much about it.

He remembers that we cycled here all the way from Macon, but again I don’t remember a thing about the journey.

Jean-Marc told me that we had met all of the other exchange students at the foot of the rock and had a picnic but I don’t recall anything of that. Old age is definitely creeping on.

roche de vergisson macon franceThe next rock is the Roche de Vergisson and so we walked a little way along the track towards it.

Not all the way, of course. I might have done that in 1970 but I’ve no intention of doing it now, thank you.

The track is called La Voie Romaine by the locals and there’s no reason to suppose that it isn’t a Roman Road, although I do know of a Pont Romain – the Roman bridge – in the Auvergne which wasn’t built until the 13th Century, as do listeners of our former radio programmes.

roche de solutre macon franceThere are several good views all over the Saone valley and up in the hills.

There are only so many of them that you can see when you are on a pushbike or an old Mobylette, so Jean-Marc took me all around the hilltops to see the things that I had missed all those years ago.

And it certainly made a great difference being able to get about in a car.

macon franceMind you, I’m not as young as I used to be so I couldn’t go galloping up to the top for a better view like I might have done at one time.

And so you’ll have to make do with a photo of Macon taken from half-way up a hill at the side of the road.

And I don’t think that it loses anything in the view. It’s still quite impressive.

While we were waiting for Jacqueline to come back, Moonn the long-haired cat was sitting on my knee. And when she returned, Moonn leapt off me, leaving behind most of her fur. I ended up looking like a snowman.

ambroisie restaurant macon franceJacqueline and Jean-Marc offered me a bed for the night which was very kind of them, so in return I took them out for a meal in Macon.

There wasn’t a great deal of choice for a vegan meal with it being Monday and everywhere being closed, but we did find somewhere.

My vegan soup and couscous with vegetables followed by raspberry purée was totally delicious and I’ll be going back there again some time in the future.

Jacqueline drove back and when we arrived, I declined a coffee went straight to bed.

It’s been a long day and I’m thoroughly exhausted. I’m not used to all this effort.

Saturday 18 July 2015 – THIS IS NOT SMOKE FROM A FIRE

hanging cloud forest valley les guis virlet puy de dome franceOf course it isn’t. This is one of the typical Auvergnat weather phenomena that one encounters around here – a hanging cloud. And it’s blowing up the valley through the trees in my forest.

That’s right. We’ve had a storm here today. And much to my (and everyone else’s) surprise, the weathermen had it right too because they forecast it for today. The first time since I don’t know how long – at least 25 days – that we have had rain apart from two small showers. 12.5mm of rain fell during the hour that the storm raged late ths afternoon.

This morning, I crawled out of bed with some difficulty and hit the road straight away. I Was at Brico Depot by 08:45, in time to have a couple of mugs of coffee. And buying the tongue-and-grooving (and a bag of 8mm nuts bolts and washers that I can’t find around here) didn’t take long.

So why did it take until 10:00 am to leave the car park?

There was a white Ford Ranger, just like Strider, on the car park. British plates too, and while I was admiring it, the owner and his wife appeared. He’s from Devon, a new arrival and a footballer. His wife is from Belarus and knows Minsk, which was one of my old stamping grounds behind the Iron Curtain in my Salopia Saloon Coaches days. Consequently, we had an enormous amount to talk about.

Off then to LeClerc and shopping. And that was supposed to be a quick visit where I was going to buy everything regardless of price in the interests of speed. But as it happened, while I was being dealt with by the cashier, I realised that I had forgotten to weigh my fresh veg. Dashing back to the scales, there was only one working and the queue was a mile long. I was obliged to abandon it all and ended up going to LIDL which was disappointing, because I could have saved a pile had I bought half of the rest of the stuff in LIDL anyway.

Back home here for midday and bumped straight into Lieneke who is now here. And then I came back and watched the weather change, doing a pile of tidying up in the attic too.

And today was the first day in I don’t know how many weeks that I had to heat up the water in order to do the washing up. That tells you how bad the weather was today

So tomorrow, I’m having a lie in and a day off. Recharge the batteries before I start back to work on Monday. It’s going to be a hectic week.

Saturday 4th July 2015 – NOW THAT WAS A REALLY NICE …

swimming baths piscine commentry allier france… afternoon at the swimming baths in Commentry. Glorious hot weather, I was all sweaty, what more could I say?

The sides of the pool were open and people were disporting themselves on the terrace and on the lawn (picnicking allowed) and the pool was packed out. So much so that I was going up and down the pool in one of the swimming lanes.

I was there for well over two hours too which is something of a record. But then again, there was so much to see. Ohh yes – I can still chase after the women at my age. I just wish that I could remember why.

tiles for shower room les guis virlet puy de dome franceAnd why was I all hot and sweaty? That was because I’d been mauling about half a tonne of tiles and cement about.

Caliburn is now loaded up with tiles for the shower room. You can see in the photo what I’m having. I’m not having those joining pieces though. I’ve bought some “different shades of grey” mosaic tiles, the type where you can cut the string with scissors. That way, if I start from the bottom with the darker tiles and start from the top with the lighter tiles, the gap in the middle can be filled quite easily without the aid of a tile cutter.

Quite astonishingly, I’d been around all of the usual places, done two laps around Brico Depot and loaded up Caliburn by just 11:45. Having the Dawn Chorus wake me up in the morning is an excellent idea. I even had time to go and buy the glass for the window above the shower room door before they closed for lunch.

A trip around LeClerc (where I remembered to change the empty gas cylinder for a new one) and round the Auchan, and I was away from there by 13:45 and in the pool at Commentry by 14:30.

old cars unic pick up montlucon allier franceI’d seen a few old cars on my travels too. This is a Unic pick-up that I saw at a tyre-fitting place in Montlucon on my way around.

Unic was a popular French car-maker before World War II, and many of the taxis that took the French troops to fight at the Marne were Unics. After the war, the company was taken over by Simca, for whom it was the commercial vehicle arm.

old cars unic pick up montlucon allier franceIn 1968 the marque was sold to FIAT and in 1975 was incorporated into the IVECO mark.

You can tell by the FIAT- like badge that This pick-up is from the period 1968-75 and so it’s doing really well to be still on the road and working. and I do have to say that I was impressed by the bodywork repairs on the cab corners, but you have to resort to tricks like this with such a vehicle, as I imagine that body panels are almost non-existent.

Chenard et Walcker peugeot D4 durdat larequille allier franceThe second interesting vehicle that I saw today is almost certainly older. This is one of the Chenard et Walcker vans that were sold by Peugeot as the D3 and D4 series from 1950 to 1965 when the model was replaced by the J7.

This os one of the later ones, as you can tell by the snout at the front. The very first models were powered by a 2-cylinder flat-twin two-stroke motor but that quickly gave was to the 4-cylinder four-stroke engine out of the Peugeot 203 and later the Peugeot 403. The 4-cylinder engines were too long to fit in the body, hence the snout.

It is possible to tell whether this is a D3A, a D3B, a D4A or a D4B, but not by me at this distance. Still, it’s pretty old and quite an interesting curio.

market hall commentry allier franceAll of the roads around Commentry were closed for repair and so I had to come back through the town. This took me past the Market Hall, the first time for ages.

I remember the market hall as being a dreary, dingy place when I first came past here years ago, but they seem to have done it proud with a programme of modernisation. It looks so much better now that ever it did before.

So that was my day – another expensive one, but loads of interesting vehicles and a lovely day at the baths. i’m off for an early night now to make the most of it.

Friday 29th May 2015 – THIS BACKING-UP …

… of my new laptop wasn’t as straightforward as I had thought it might be. And when I finally did go to bed – at 03:45 in the morning, it was far from finished. Mind you, I was. Keeping my eyes open at this time of night was not as easy as it used to be.

And I was up early to – a good few minutes before the alarm clock went off, and I even had time to make myself some breakfast before setting off to Marcillat-en-Combraille and the radio recordings for Radio Anglais.

Everything went according to plan and we were away quite early too. And that was just as well as I had to go to the garage at St Gervais d’Auvergne with Caliburn. Liz ran me back to her house for lunch afterwards and then Terry and I went down to Riom to sort out the tax payments on his van.

THat was quite straightforward too and we even had time for a run out to Lempdes for Terry to buy a new ladder.

It really was a gorgeous day and we made the most of it, sitting outside having a coffee in the sunshine, and then Liz ran me round to the garage to pick up Caliburn.

All of the mechanism on the brakes is working fine, so the problem isn’t there. If I take Caliburn back on Monday they will strip it all down and check to see exactly what is going on, and why the rear brake isn’t doing what it is supposed to.

The good news is, however, that according to them, there is nothing wrong with Caliburn in the grand. I dida sk them to check it over and their opinion is that he is in good condition for his age with nothing to worry about. The conclusion that I have drawn from all of this is that Barrat Ford in Montlucon will not be able to rely on any more of my custom.

Back here, I carried on with the backing-up and the re-installation of my 3d Program. However, I didn’t get very far. It’s 22:00, I can’t keep my eyes open, I haven’t even done the stats and I don’t care. I’m off to bed before I ……. (zzzzzzzzz)

Saturday 2nd May 2015 – I WON’T HAVE MUCH …

… of my mind yet at this rate, the amount that I have been giving out to other people just recently. And today was the day that capped it all and they will remember me in the Orange telecom boutique in Montlucon for quite a long time.

For in there today, I have had customer service of the kind that makes Belgium look impressive.

It all started when I arrived at the place and there were two assistants on duty (on a Saturday morning!), of which one of them sat there all morning just tapping numbers into a telephone, making no attempt whatever to deal with the huge crowd of people in there.

I’ve never seen anything like this at all.

I had to wait there for a good hour before I was finally seen, and we started off as we meant to go on when the assistant refused to take back the television decoder that I have mysteriously been sent.
“You can do that at the other shop” she said.
“So why not here?”
“Because you do it at the other shop”.

And then we finally had to deal with the issue of the contract for the new service. Despite my asking for hard copy stuff because I don’t have a printer, Orange still managed to send it to me by e-mail. So I needed them to print it out.

She could manage that fine, and so I suggested that I can fill in the papers then and there and that would be fine, but …

Ohhhhh Noooooo –
“you did this by internet”
“yes I did”
“so you need to post this off”
“Because you sis it on line”
“But this is an Orange shop?”
“So why can’t i just do it and hand it in here?”
“Because you did it on line”.

It was at that point that I exploded and, as I said, they won’t forget me in a hurry in there. It’s a long time since I’ve reacted like that. And even though it won’t solve anything, I felt so much better afterwards.

And I haven’t finished yet, by any means.

Apart from that, I’ve done the rounds of the usual shops in Montlucon and bought a pile of DVDs and also some new cotton bedding in the sale at Auchan – some nice dark brown cotton pillow cases and a quilt cover and a light brown cotton sheet.

I’ve bought the stuff in Brico Depot that I need to finish off the beichstuhl and the lights in the bedroom, and probably a few other things besides. There was a nice wooden toilet seat that will fit nicely on the beichstuhl too. But not the worktop – I’ve seen something that might provide a solution for this.

It was also a day for meeting people too. I had a coffee with Liz and Terry, whom I had met at the Orange boutique, and then bumped into Pascal, Marianne’s son, at leClerc. In the Auchan it was the turn of Michel, who used to be associated with the football club at Pionsat and he told me few things that answered several but by no means all) of what has been going on at the football club.

But no football this weekend, so tomorrow I might even have a blast at the radio programmes.

Wednesday 25th March 2015 – I DID WELL …

… to light a little fire up here last night. I awoke to a relatively balmy 16.2°C and yet outside we had 5cms of snow. So much for Spring, hey?

And I’d been on my travels during the night too. I had aroused the antipathy of the factory bully who ended up chasing me around the factory brandishing an enormous club. He was intercepted by a few of his colleagues who persuaded him to use a slightly smaller club. But it all ended happily ever after as I ended up walking across the park towards some buildings in the distance, hand in hand (and later, arm round the waist) of a girl who, over the past two or three weeks, has appeared out of nowhere to accompany me on several of my nocturnal adventures. I’ve absolutely no idea at all what has prompted the strange inclusion of this unexpected companion, no matter how sweet many of the people in the park described the pair of us last night.

After breakfast I used up the rest of the cheap varnish on the window and the shelves in the wardrobe, and then I varnished the floor with the first coat. After that, I went off to Montlucon as I predicted.

First stop was Pionsat to sort out the boulangère. Sophie, the regular Friday livreuse, is off sick and so they’ve been taking on anyone that they can get. That explains all of the confusion about the delivery of Friday’s bread, and I hope that we’ve managed to sort it out.

At the LIDL I witnessed a very disagreeable incident of a young guy verbally abusing the young female cashier over the price of an article (but he cleared off before I could have a word in his shell-like) and then at the Auchan I stocked up with the next month’s major supply of food.

At Brico-Depot I managed to forget the floor-join and the brush for the bedroom door but I managed to fix myself up with some tackle to make a couple of Heath-Robinson hanging rails for the wardrobe, as well as a couple more 4-watt LED light bulbs. I also bumped into Pete Marsh and his friend, who were stocking up on supplies for their next contract.

I was disappointed though – the cheap but good varnish is no longer carried. It seems that the supplier has closed down. So to be on the safe side, I bought another large tin of the expensive stuff just in case. If I don’t use it, it’ll come in handy for the ground floor.

Problem solved though over the road at mr Bricolage. They had big tins of cheap clear varnish on offer so I bought one,as well as the glass that I need to do the window over the door. I’ve managed to bring that home in one piece – it’ll be interesting to see if I can manage to get it into the doorframe without dropping it.

NOZ came up with nothing so I came home, crashed out for an hour and then made myself a Heath-Robinson meal of a handful of pasta, sone peas, carrots and green beans, and some olive oil and mustard sauce. Cooked on the oven because I’ve had the fire on again tonight. The left-over wood from last night-s fire and a floorboard offcut and that was sufficient. It’s amazing what you can do with a good fire.

Saturday 14th February 2014 – WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME …

… that I had a severe attack of cramp during the night?

It’s a good while ago, and so I was quite surprised to have one last night. Severe was not the word, and to make matters worse, there’s one position – my “recovery position” – where I can take the strain and ease the cramp a little, and I had an attack of cramp in that position too as soon as I eased myself into it.

It was absolute agony for a good 15 minutes before it eased off.

What was sad about this is that I was in the middle of a big discussion with Sir Winston Churchill and we were inspecting a couple of VW Beetles, having to be very careful about opening the bonnet of one of them in case the two kittens underneath escaped.

It was cold, wet and miserable this morning, raining in torrents. But I still set off for Montlucon and the shops. The only exciting items purchased were the 2nd and 3rd series of the Hercule Poirot TV series. Of course, they came from NOZ as you might expect. It seems that they are some kind of weekly or monthly offering in the French press and NOZ gets hold of the unsold copies.

But it’s really quite funny llstening to Poirot in French. 90 is translated into “Quatre-vingts-dix” as you might expect from a French TV station, but as everyone knows, Poirot is actually a Belgian and so he would never say “Quatre-vingts-dix” but “nonante”. In fact, all of the slang is translated into Francais de Paris rather than Francais de Bruxelles and it makes a complete nonsene of Poirot’s insistence all throughout the series that he’s Belgian, not French.

Mind you, who am I to complain? Any moral high ground that I might have had went right out of the window when Professor McGonagall said to the students of Hogwarts “I’ll be with you momentarily” in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I died of shame when I heard that, and it still makes me cringe even now.

At Brico Depot I bought a pile of floorboarding, some more beading, the missing hinge (about which much has been written) and all of the hardware for the wardrobe doors. I’m set up for next week now (I hope).

On the way back, I stopped off at Ice Station Zeb … errr … the swimming baths at Commentry. It was freezing although the water in the smaller pool where there’s the bubbling spa was warmish. I had a shower (which was the whole point of going) and tonight I’m going to treat myself to clean bedding.

Saturday 17th January 2015 – I’VE BEEN SPENDING MY MONEY …

… again today.

Last night I looked at the weather forecast for the next few days and apparently the snow is going to arrive on Tuesday night and stay with us for quite a while. Around here of course, no-one goes anywhere in the bad weather unless they really have to, and so I made a decision that I would go to Montlucon today instead.

For once, I was up and about early and in Montlucon for the opening of the shops.At Amaranthe I bought the usual vegan cheese and some vegan paté, and at Noz I merely bought the usual rubbish.

I struck the jackpot at Vima though. You may recall that I bought a soot sucker – a 500-watt vacuum cleaner thing usually used for sucking the ashes out of a woodstove – and I’ve been using it as a vacuum cleaner. It works but not as well as it should as the dust clogs up the filer and thus it needs a few moditications. However, in Vima, there was exactly the machine for the job – a proper 600-watt vacuum cleaner especially designed for dust-sucking and complete with the correct bag filter and all of the attachments. And just €14:99 as well, seeing as it was an ex-demo machine. How can you refuse at that price?

At Brico Depot I spent €170 – and that’s without the tiles. I would have had them too but the server I spoke to promised to come back to me “in a minute” – and half nn hour later, I was still waiting.

However, I now have all of the skirting board, the glue to fit it, the interior crepi for the wardrobe, some more wallpaper glue seeing as how I’ve run out, all of the beading, and tons more stuff besides.

But it was here that I really did hit the jackpot. An electric 600-watt belt sander for just €20:00 was the first thing and that will speed things along here, that’s for sure. But the highlight, at just €0:95 each, were the clip rings for holding the capped halogen (or in my case, capped LED) bulbs into the ceiling. If you remember from reading this rubbish from ages ago, I’m having issues about the weight of the bulbs pulling themselves out of the sockets. Now I can set the bulbs in the false ceilings and clip them in. And where there’s no false ceiling, I can use these plastic junction boxes.

On the way back I stopped at the swimming baths at Commentry and went for a swim and a really good shower. Now I’m set up for the next couple of days.

Back here, I had a little snooze and then did the script for the rock radio programmes that we do for Radio Anglais. Tomorrow, I’m going to be doing some more radio stuff. I’ve been letting it drag for a while.

Saturday 27th December 2014 – I DID MENTION …

… that we had some wind last night, didn’t I?

tree blown down by gale virlet puy de dome franceI wasn’t joking either, as you can see. Here’s a tree at the back of Virlet that has been blown down overnight by the gales that we had.

I went off to Montlucon today to do some shopping, and in particular to buy the stuff that I need for the stairs and so on. I didn’t feel much like it this morning, listening to the icy rain clattering down on the roof. However, at about 09:00, a small amount of sun broke through the clouds temporarily and that was the signal for me to get on my way and not miss the gap in the weather, seeing as we are about to descend into deep midwinter.

And I’m glad that I did because not long after I returned, the weather broke and by 21:00 we were having heavy snow. Now, at least, I’m set up for a week or two.

In Montlucon I was able to buy most of the things that I required. No wood for fairing off the ends of the plasterboard though. The good pine planks were in Brico Depot but they don’t cut, and in Mr Bricolage, where they do cut, the pine boards were rubbish. I’m going to have a go at cutting the pine boards that I have here, and see how I do.

I couldn’t find any paint that I wanted either. So in the end, I bought a 10-litre tub of white emulsion and a tube of yellow paint dye. I’ll have a go at mixing that up and see how it turns out. One of these paint mixers driven by a portable drill should mix it up nicely I reckon, and I have one of those somewhere.

I didn’t buy much that was special, although I did stock up with the usual stuff. And in Amaranthe they had some Edam-style vegan cheese so I’m going to give that a try over the next few weeks. They had jars of Tajini -at quite a price, it has to be said, but I bought another one. At least I can keep my supply of home-made hummus going.

And diesel at €1:09 per litre. It’s not been that cheap since about 2006. I fuelled up Caliburn and now here I am – with no plans to go anywhere until Spring.

Saturday 13th December 2014 – WOOO HOOO HOOO!

Yes indeed. after many many years of Yours Truly’s canvassing and campaigning, the “Amaranthe”, the local health food co-operative in Montlucon has now started to sell vegan cheese.

And it’s “Cheezly” too, which is even better news.

It is at “a price” however, but that’s only to be expected. It’s a big deal that it’s now available in the vicinity and that should ease the minds of my friends, who each time that they travel to the UK they are buried underneath a pile of mails from Yours Truly soliciting orders for vegan cheese.

As you might have guessed from all of this, I’ve been to Montlucon shopping today, buying all of the special items that I need for Christmas as well as doing some normal shopping.

I spent a fortune there, and I should have spent even more but I forgot half of the stuff that I meant to buy. I did fuel up Caliburn though – at €1:12 per litre which is astonishing. I also took the oportunity to give Caliburn another good wash. You’ll remember that I washed him a couple of weeks ago, but then almost immediately I ended up right up that field in the deep mud towing that old abandoned Transit out of that shed.

I’ve bought myself a couple of presents too, but I’ll have to wait until Christmas until I can see what they are. And at Brico depot, I bought, inter alia, the catches that I need to complete the power board in the barn.

Finally, I went to the swimming baths just down the road from Brico Depot and had a good swim around in the water for an hour, followed by a warm shower – nothing like as good as the shower at the swimming baths at Commentry but a shower nevertheless.

Tonight, I’m going to change the bedding and put my nice and clean body into some nice clean sheets. it’s Sunday so if I’m lucky I might have a really good lie in. I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.

Thursday 20th November 2014 – I’VE BEEN TO PARIS TODAY

And Terry came with me too.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have recently bought some huge 200 amp-hour batteries for my solar system here and I’ve been rebuilding the battery box and I’ve gradually been installing them one by one as the battery box takes shape.

I’ve been so impressed with these as you know – almost as impressed as I was with my galvanised steel dustbin. But anyway, my wholesaler sent me a circular the other day to tell me that they were having yet another battery sale. The price for the 100 amp-hour batteries was extremely interesting and my ears pricked up, especially as the batteries in the barn are struggling along on their last legs as you know.

Having a decent secondary solar system in the barn is of course very advantageous for many reasons, and so I bit the bullet and placed an order.

There is also a new range of data loggers that look much better than anything that I have around here and so I ordered two of those so that I can give them a whirl.

I would have had all of this delivered, except that the company is now starting to sell solar water heaters and they had an exhibition model on display. This is what I want for here, and Terry is very interested too, and so we decided that we would go, pick up my batteries and so on, and have a lengthy chat about solar water heating.

And so at 06:00 Terry phoned me up to wake me, and at 06:45 we were on the road to Paris.

We arrived on the edge of Paris at about 10:00 and then spent 90 minutes covering a distance of just 20kms to our destination. Not traffic queues and not roadworks either, but my satnav has a fetish with the A86 autoroute. No problm with that in itself, but there’s a height limit of 2 metres on that road, and Caliburn is 2.17 metres. Every road that we took brought us back to the A86.

After a wile I gave up, headed for the centre of Paris and then the road out underneath La Defense. But of course the sat-nav can’t pick up a signal in the La Defense tunnel and so I missed the exit. It was certainly not my lucky day today.

Eventually we arrived and spent a good hour or so there. And the upshot was that I have now come home with a solar hot water system. I couldn’t miss out at this price, even if I don’t have any running water yet.

On the way home, I took a different way and of course in the end after much binding in the marsh, we came to the A86 – not once but three times. This was totally beyond a joke and so I headed west on the A14 to Le Havre and came home via Rambouillet. And if that wasn’t enough, I hit a part of the kerb with a hell of a whack at some speed and I’ve smashed a wheel trim (and probably a few other things too)

The rest of the journey was incident-free but we did come home via Brico Depot in Montlucon, where I bought the insulation for the battery box and a few other things, and then the LeClerc for a bit of shopping.

So, what a day! Nearly 900kms and spending all that money but my renewable energy system will leap ahead in spades if all of this works out.

But I do need to work out this route. It’s doing my head in.

Thursday 19th June 2014 – I HAD A DAY OUT TODAY

I mentioned yesterday that I had to go to Montlucon today for some more grillage for the concrete that’s coming tomorrow.

As it happened, Rosemary rang up and so it came to pass that we met up this morning at the Texaco garage outside Montaigut and she came with me to Montlucon.

We didn’t spend too long in Brico Depot but I bought the grillage, some more pylons, a few other bits and pieces and so on. I now have everything that I need for tomorrow, especially as Terry has remembered to put the bolt cutters into his van.

Rosemary and I then went to the garden centre and a few more shops before lunch and then afterwards, with the weather being so nice we went for a walk around the lake at Premilhat, stopping for a cold drink half-way round.

We came back via the Gorge de la Cher and, strange as it is to say it, at the tinky village of St Therence, miles of the beaten track and far from anywhere, there was a barrage. Half a dozen gendarmes, a dog handler and a dog were stopping all of the traffic, namely about one vehicle and four cows per hour. I don’t mind these at all, especially these days as Caliburn and I are all totally legal, but it’s still totally bewildering as to why they should have a barrage in such an out-of-the-way place.

Back home, I finished off the shuttering and backfilled with soil and stones ready to lay the grillage. But what a weird place to have a barrage.

Saturday 14th June 2014 – I WAS UP EARLY AGAIN …

… this morning and after a quick breakfastI was on my way to Montlucon. I wasn’t there long and I was back home by 13:45.

Most of the time I was at Brico Depot, firstly cashing in the pallet that we had loaded with breeze blocks the other day. A lap around inside where I bumped into Christophe and his wife fron FC Pionsat St Hilaire, and I bought all of the fittings for the guttering at the back of the house (for when the cattle have gone from the field behind the house).

as well as that, I bought a submersible water pump. They were on offer at €20:00 and with a 7-metre lift and just 250 watts consumption, it will drain out the pit if it fills with water and also do any amount of pumping of water around here.

Outside, I picked up 8 sacks of cement. I don’t want to run short of that with everything that I have to do around here. As well as that, I bought 45 of these concrete cubes that we use for building pillars. These cubes have no bottom and no top, and you fit them over the metal reinforement that I’ve been buying, and infill with concrete. There you have some ready-made concrete pillars that will support any roof that I want to fit.

I went to Auchan and LIDL afterwards and then came home. Back here, I crashed out for a couple of hours. I had another really late night again last night. I’m still having difficulty sleeping, but I’m off to bed in a moment to see what good an early night will do me.

Wednesday 11th June 2014 – THIS PLACE REALLY IS THE PITS

inspection pit les guis virlet puy de dome franceAnd it is too. This is the start of the inspection pit just outside here.metal

You can see how it’s being built. There’s the plastic lining and the breeze blocks that will be built up, with the reinforcing metalwork in the corners.

You’ll also notice the sink in the far corner. Anyone who has ever had an inspextion pit will tell you that even in the best circumstances an insection pit will be infiltrated by water and we were forever baling out the pit at Davenport Avenue in Crewe. This way, the water will sink into the sink and I can pump it out with one of those rotary pumps that you fit on an electric drill.

So Terry came round this morning and we went stright off to Montlucon and Brico Depot. A pallet of 70 breeze blocks went into the trailer, along with another 18 breeze blocks with the round corner-holes for fitting the reinforcing metalwork. 88 breeze blocks – cost €105. And isn’t that an improvement on €2.14 plus VAT of 20% per block?

Back here we unloaded the trailer. And I’ll tell you this – the Kubota is a marvellous tool for this. No messing about – we left the van and trailer at the top of the hill and ran a shuttle with the Kubota and Sankey trailer. Three trips and we had everything exactly where we wanted it. That’s better than carrying the blocks one at a time down the hill. It’s a superb little thing.

We lined the pit with the plastic and fitted the sink, and then Terry mixed the concrete while I was down in the pit tamping down the concrete and fitting the breeze blocks. And once more, the solar panels powered the little concrete mixer to perfection. It’s amazing what I can do here with my solar panels.

That took us up to 18:00 and so Terry went home and I tidied up, and emptied the beihstuhl. We’ll put some more concrete in tomorrow and then build up the walls.

However, that depends on the weather. We’re having a thunderstorm right now.

Tuesday 10th June 2014 – I MIGHT HAVE GUESSED …

… and indeed, to such an extent, that I told Terry that it was bound to happen.

And I was right too!

It’s been a year or so since the farmer who rents the next-door field has been here to bring his cattle to graze in here. And so today, for the first time that we have deposited a pile of objects in the lane in front of his gate, guess what happens?

Yes – the aforementioned farmer brings his cattle. It’s absolutely typical.

So this morning I was up early and went to St Eloy to buy the breeze blocks, but I came back empty-handed. In Brico Depot they are €1:15 each and I was prepared to pay a little extra for the convenience, but when Cheze wanted over €800 for 300, then they can forget that. Terry and I will be off to Brico Depot tomorrow to buy a van-load.

digging inspection pit les guis virlet puy de dome franceSo this is what we have been doing today. And while it’s a little short of the Empire Pool, it took about 6 hours of digging out with the digger, a pick and a shovel.

It’s not actually a swimming pool, but an inspection pit. All of my life I’ve been working on cars by lying on my back in the mud underneath cars on jacks, on axle stands or even propped up on bricks. But now that I’m settled here and can’t see myself moving on from here, I am going to treat myself to better working conditions.

I’ve always promised myself a pit, and I’m going to have one.

And this is it.

We had the power barrow here today as the floor is about finished in the Sankey trailer but i had to nip into Pionsat to buy some petrol. And while I was there I had to help a couple of young Dutch girls who were confounded by the petrol pump. Any excuse to practise my Flemish.

After Terry left, I had another shower and called it a day. Until the farmer came round.

But here’s a thing. And who says it never pays to complain?

You remember the Brico Depot incident the other day involving the trailer? Well, I left a polite but firm not telling them what I thought about my experience. And today, I had a phone call from the manager, something that I never expected. He gave me the usual platitudes, even telling me that he had rung round a few other branches to see if anyone else had a trailer left over.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that he’ll put my name on a trailer whenever the next batch is issued, and you can’t say fairer than that.