Tag Archives: wood stove

Thursday 23rd March 2017 – COURGETTE LEEK AND POTATO …

… soup for lunch. Tea was lentil, pepper and tomato sauce for my pasta, all followed by a raspberry and banana dessert.

The Lap of Luxury, you might think, and indeed you would be right because I had a Meals on Wheels service today. Ingrid came round with a pile of goodies that she had made this morning, especially for me!

Last night, my bunged-up nose and me were in bed early enough and I was soon asleep curled up under the quilt. I had to leave the bed at one point, but here’s a thing – when I went back to sleep it was until the alarm awoke me. And it’s been a while since that has happened.

Pouring with rain outside and cold, wet and miserable inside. I held off for a couple of hours but there’s no point in killing myself for no good reason – I ended up lighting the fire. And it soon became warm in here too. I meant to do some more packing but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm (no big surprise here). I just sat in the warm.

Ingrid came round at lunchtime with my food parcels and in exchange I gave her the big vegetable steamer that I was intending to use on my woodstove. No point in my keeping that now – it may as well go to a good home.

After Ingrid left, I carried on with a little (just a little) desultory tidying up but not making progress, and at 16:00 I rang up to enquire about Caliburn. Apparently he’s still not ready and won’t be done until tomorrow afternoon. And so I curled up in the warmth again.

I had my tea, with grateful thanks again to Ingrid, and then a little relax before going to bed.

But I need to organise myself much more than this. It’s all very well saying that I have nowhere to put anything until Caliburn comes back, but while this s true, I could be doing other stuff. But the weather is getting me right down. I can’t do anything when it’s cold, damp and wet.

I need a change.

Saturday 10th December 2016 – I’M GLAD …

… that I went home.

I was dreading what I was going to find when I returned, and with a mouse loose in the attic I feared the worst. In the middle of winter too, and an Auvergnat one at that.

But I really must have made a pact with the devil or something because although it was cold at night, the days were like spring days – plenty of sunshine non-stop from morning until night and the batteries were always fully-charged by 11:00.

There was accordingly more than enough power to run the ash-sucker, and that made short work of the mess. I gave the table a really good scrub too so that looks okay, and with some of the tidying-up that I did, it looks much better than it has for a while.

The cold wasn’t a issue either because I had had the foresight to bring a huge pile of wood up last year. That was now nice and dry and the attic heated up in seconds once I fired up the woodstove. What a good buy that was!

All in all, while I can’t see me going back to live there full-time now, I had a satisfactory stay there and I’m glad that I did it.

But returning to our moutons, as the French say, I dunno what happened at all last night. I was in bed quite early as I said, and I was soon asleep. But I awoke again at about midnight when the alarm went off – I knew that it was a mistake to put new batteries into the clock here and I wish that I could remember now how to switch off the alarm. But I did notice that with the fire on last night the temperature in here reached 26.3°C. That’s not bad for December.

I must have gone back to sleep again, but it wasn’t for long. I’ve no idea what time it was that I awoke but after tossing and turning around in bed for ages and ages, I went for a stroll down the corridor and noted that it was 06:20. And that was that – I couldn’t go back to sleep.

It wasn’t as if anything had awoken me either. No beastie scratching away at the roof or anything like that. It’s rather a disappointment when I was hoping for an early night ready to hit the road this afternoon.

After breakfast I started to load up Caliburn and then tidied up in the attic and gave everything a good once-over. By the time that I had finished, it was just before 12:00 and so I thought to myself “sod it” and we hit the road.

An anxious moment while I couldn’t remember where I had put the key to my room in Leuven, but I found that and off we set.

A stop for lunch at 14:00 on a motorway service station near Cosne sur Loire, and then I drove on northwards.

bank of fog dordives franceNow here’s a thing.

We have had beautiful, glorious weather down in the Auvergne but suddenly, as I hit Dordives, a bank of fog came rolling across the motorway. And the temperature plummeted in minutes from 13.8°C to 7.1°C.

From then on, all the way northwards, this was what it was like, and I’m glad that it hadn’t been like this back at home.

And doesn’t Strawberry Moose take a good photo?

We hit the usual problems on the Francilienne, all the way along and it got worse because my hotel, the Akena Hotel which is another Budget chain at €46:00 that I have yet to try, is in the middle of a centre commerciale, a shopping centre at Claye-Souilly and I arrived at chucking-out time.

It was freezing here with the fog, and the receptionist told me that it had been like this all day here too.

It took a while to sort out the heating and after my pizza had come, I had a shower. And now I’m off to bed, ready for part II of my journey.

Wednesday 7th December 2016 – AND SO …

… as it cooled down here last night I snuggled up underneath my quilt on the sofa. and that was everything that I remember until the alarm went off at 07:00.

By 07:15 and the second alarm, I was taking full advantage of the comporting toilet. And seeing as how it hasn’t been used for over a year and there was some stuff in there from before I left, I had living proof that my comporting toilet really does work.

It took me a while to gather my wits, which takes quite a long time these days as we all know, and then I went off on the attack. There were a few clean clothes hanging around in the bedroom so I put them away. And then I sorted out some work clothes.

Downstairs, I checked over all of the tyres. Two of the winter tyres are really quite good but the other two were border-line and I have been thinking about replacing them. In the end, after much thought, I’ve left them back in the tyre pile and just fitted the two front ones. Caliburn is front-wheel drive of course and so if snow tyres are going anywhere, that’s the best place for them. I’ll buy two new ones next year.

I reckon that the two new Hankooks that I’m having on Friday – they can go on the rear and then Caliburn will really be set up. In the spring I’ll put the work Hankooks on the front and run the rest of the tread off.

Hanging up the spare wheel in its cradle was rather fun. It took me ages to work out how it went, which is quite a surprise. It’s one of those things that once you work it out, it goes up in seconds and you wonder where the difficulty was.

Caliburn has been emptied, everything has been sorted out and piles of stuff discarded. It looks quite good in there now. There’s plenty of food in there to tide me over for much of the time while I’m in Belgium. It’ll keep me out of mischief for a while.

I went down to the garage but … shock!… horror! … the hire care hadn’t come back in. I can’t leave Caliburn because I have no way of getting back home again. And so I’ll have to come back tomorrow morning. This is getting to be quite uncomfortable.

Back here I made a butty and then took downstairs all of the crockery and cutlery that I use regularly, and washed it under the water butt. I feel a little more comfortable about that now.

I had a little tidying session and sorted out a few more things to take back to Belgium, did a little work on the website and then lit the fire to warm me up and make tea. Pasta, ratatouille, vegetables and a bit of boulghour and I was well away this that. And for the first time in I don’t know how long, I watched a film.

Now I’m ready to bed and I hope that I sleep as well as I did last night.

Tuesday 6th December 2016 – SO HERE I AM …

… back home again to stay for a few days if I can last out. The first time that I will have stopped here since November last year.

And I wish that I wasn’t here either. The internet is down, the ‘phone isn’t working, the room is covered in dust, some animal has made it inside and made a mess that I shall have to clear up. It’s all so depressing.

I lit the fire and that immediately awoke a hibernating fly that has been buzzing around my head all night. I can’t find half of the stuff that I need for cooking so it was a very rudimentary meal that I had, cooked in the oven bit of the woodstove so that’s something, I suppose. But I can’t see me being here for long.

On a more positive note, all that I can say about these Ace Hotels is that they live up to their names. I’ve paid twice the price for conditions and facilities that haven’t been as good as this. I had a really good sleep and was off on my travels again during the night, although you are probably eating your breakfast this morning so I’ll spare you the details.

Breakfast was superb too. In fact, everything about it was definitely good value for money from my point of view.

When they threw me out I went to the Tax Office and found that my hospital payments are all up-to-date which is good news. I did a little shopping and then headed out to Evaux-les-Bains. I was early so I tidied up a little (yes, just a little) in Caliburn. The garage where I have to go is a body shop as you might expect, and he had an old Ford Vedette V8 awaiting attention.

These are copies of 1940s American cars sold by Ford France, and when that company was nationalised after World War II, Simca took over the plant and designs and carried on making them. Simca Vedettes are reasonably common, but a Ford is rare.

So we have a plan for the repair, and he’s going to have a look at the rust that’s appearing on the nearside sill while he’s at it. I’m entitled to borrow a car while the repair work is being done, so I may as well have everything done all at once.

From there I had a delightful meander through the countryside. The wheel bearing is by now driving me mad so I went to see the garagiste there and we had a chat. He can fit Caliburn in Wednesday afternoon and Thursday which is good for me – it means that I can hit the road Friday night. He’s going to find me a hire car for a couple of days while Caliburn is receiving attention.

I’ll nip into Montlucon tomorrow morning and take two wheels with me. If the tyres have arrived, i’ll have them fitted. If not, I’ll leave the wheels and go back for them in the hire car. That means that I’ll spend the first part of the morning fitting Caliburn’s winter tyres on the front.

That’s what I should have done in the first place.

Saturday 20th February 2016 – IT REALLY DOES COME TO SOMETHING…

… when I can’t think of anything to write.

I suppose that it’s all to do with what’s going on here right now. I’m not moving, not going anywhere, not doing anything, and the only excitement that I’m having seems to be going on at night.

Last night was no exception either. And the first part of it all was so interesting is that I didn’t even feature in it – either as a participant or a spectator. It took place back in the USSR – not in the John Lennon/Beatles era, but in World War II. There was a huge cinema there, a typical Soviet-era edifice, and a series of patriotic films was being shown. There was a young girl in charge of distributing water bottles in packs of six. These were given to different girls who acted as distributors during the show. One pack was given to a girl who was there with her friend, an officer in the Red Army, and her younger sister. This girl put the six-pack of water into a dustbin full of water to keep it cool so that she and her friends could sit quietly and watch the film. At the end of the film they prepare to leave but some official comes round to collect the unused water bottles. The girl in charge points out to him the other girl, who is on the point of leaving the cinema, so he shouts over to her. The girl whispers to her two companions to keep on walking and not to acknowledge her otherwise they would be sucked into this discussion. She walks back and the official asks her about these six bottles. She explains that they are a few rows back, stuck in a dustbin full of water, but the dustbin has by now disappeared. He starts to accuse this girl of anti-Soviet behaviour for having stolen these water bottles or else having been careless about their disposal. Suddenly, she makes a flash of recognition and dashes forward to where the first girl is sitting which is a kind of swamp (in a cinema?) and there’s a makeshift quay discreetly hidden amongst the seat bases. It unfolds to this officer that the girl in charge had been craftily going around and collecting all of the unused water, and someone had come along with a boat and taken it all away. Then she had dismantled and hidden the quay. He then turns his attention to the girl in charge rather than the other girl. But then a most extraordinary thing happened about that affair, in that the Soviets started to hush up the affair. It transpired that one of the people involved in this deception about the bottles of water was none other than the Queen Mother of the UK. This would not only cause the Queen Mother some alarm but the British Government some alarm too and if there was any estrangement between the two countries, the British would stop supplying war goods to the Soviet Union. The USSR needs to keep quiet about that.
After that, I ended up personally in a theatre attending what I reckon was a rehearsal for a play involving quite a few children. The producer was someone called Basil Blackwood – someone who really did exist by the way. As well as being a prominent barrister and civil servant, ha was an illustrator of children’s books and was killed at Ypres in World War I. But I digress. Blackwood had all of these children, some wearing the most extravagant costumes, all milling around and dancing. he was calling out all kinds of manoeuvres at a machine-gun pace, confusing them all but at the same time instilling some kind of discipline into them. And suddenly, he called a halt, and someone came in with a plate of sandwiches – little squares with the crusts cut off. Each child was allowed two squares but I was allowed three because, as he said, I had brought in the cheese and meat.

I managed to encourage the woodstove into action this morning, and that was exciting too. There were a few embers still in it so I gave them a really good prod and then opened the air vent. After about half an hour of simmering away, and a few delicate adjustments of the controls, it flared up so I quickly dumped a couple of logs into it and they caught quite nicely, and so we were off.

Liz and Terry left me alone for an hour and a half too while they went into St Gervais for the shopping, and left me to get on with a few things. one of the things that I’ve been doing is to continue where I left off before Christmas and catch up transcribing the notes from the dictaphone. It’s now grown to 146 files and I need to free up some space on there or else I’ll be running out. It’s not simply a case of transcribing them either but saving them to a hard drive and also copying them onto a CD as a back-up. I’ll be here for ever if I don’t put my foot down.

Some more home-made ice cream for tea tonight too and it’s tasting better and better. And now I’m off for yet another early night. I can’t last the pace these days with this hectic life that I’m living.

Friday 12th February 2016 – I’VE BEEN ON MY OWN …

… for much of the day today. Liz and Terry had things to do in St Gervais and Montlucon so they were gone long before 09:00, and I was left to my own devices.

Much of the time was spent trying to encourage the boiler. It’s a solid-fuel boiler burning wood and it’s one of those machines that if you know what you are doing and the thing is set up right, it burns away quite happily to itself. All you have to do is to load it up every hour or so. But if you don’t know what you are doing and the boiler is still a little on the cool side, it needs continual coaxing. And that was what was happening today – I had to be there for a considerable amount of time trying to make it warm up correctly.

Still, it’s all good experience.

Apart from that, I was doing something quite interesting. I’d been reading about one of the earliest “garden village” council estates in London, built at the turn of the 20th Century in Tooting. But doing some more research I came across the court case of the person why built it. He was borrowing money to finance the business (which was normal in those days) but the London County Council, not only “valued” the work four weeks in arrears, but then took another four weeks to pay up (which even the Prosecuting Counsel in the court case admitted was a “difficult way for anyone to do business”). It goes without saying that the builder fell into difficulties and the bank promptly pulled its financial backing, even though a distribution of his assets produced a surplus. He ended up adopting some rather questionable financial tactics to keep his business afloat and ended up with seven months imprisonment which, if you ask me, was quite outrageous. If they had left him alone, and had the Council paid up on time, he would have completed his contracts and made a decent profit for everyone concerned. But it does just go to show that aggressive banking and unsympathetic Official Receivers is far from being a modern phenomenon.

When Liz and Terry came back, they brought half the contents of the local chemist’s with them. It appears that the prescriptions that I had been given by the hospital are … errr … somewhat exaggerated. I’m going to end up with more stuff here than they will have in their stores.

We had a nice tea tonight – I had vegan lasagne with peas and chips – and then watched Chris Morris demolish the English bowling to win single-handedly the one – day cricket international. And now I’m off to bed for an early night.

And I need it too because I was off on my travels again. The first part was back in a hospital somewhere which had been invaded by an Arab fighting force. I’m not going to go into details because you are probably eating your tea or your breakfast or something and I’m trying to keep this site fit for human consumption and fun for all the family. But I was being chased around by a soldier and a nurse wielding a huge hypodermic syringe and I remember thinking to myself “just how am I going to get out of this?” – which I did by the simple expedient of waking up. And I remember saying that I wish that I had thought of that earlier.
From there I ended up back in Crewe, driving around the block formed by Middlewich Street, Badger Avenue, Broad Street and Coppenhull Lane. I needed to park up somewhere near the top of Middlewich Street to go into a shop to pick up something but there was nowhere to park. And so I cruised round and around the block hoping that something would free itself up. But nothing did. And then I noticed that at one certain moment, there was no-one behind me for miles so I would have had plenty of time to double-park to go into the shop, had I thought on. But a car pulled up and that was where my socks were, in the storage box between the front seats over the top of the handbrake. I nipped out of my car, pulled open the passenger door and dived in to retrieve my socks, and fell right over the passenger in the front seat – none other than the girl who has been on my travels with me on a few occasions now.

Thursday 26th March 2015 – ONE MORE COAT …

… of varnish on the floor and the varnishing will be finished. Every vertical surface has already had two coats of varnish, and every horizontal surface three, except of course the floor. And that will be done first thing tomorrow morning.

That new varnish from Mr Bricolage seems to be okay- it needs a really good mixing but then it spreads quite nicely. I’ll have to remember that varnish next time I’ll be varnishing.

That really is all that I’ve done today – as if that isn’t enough. You’ve absolutely no idea of just how much bare wood there was in that bedroom and it took ages to do. But it all looks so nice now and so it was well-worth the effort.

Tomorrow, once the varnish has dried, I’ll be fitting the skirtung board and then trying to install the glass over the door without dropping it. Putting the hanging rails in the wardrobe will be the final job and that bedroom will finally be finished. I can then move all of the clothes and the chests of drawers down there, and my attic will be so much emptier.

That’s not quite true. I need to sort out the lights in there. At the moment there are just some LED lightbulbs dangling from the ceiling and I’m not sure what I can do to make that look pretty. I have one or two ideas and I’ll have to see how they pan out.

I had yet another small fire in here tonight seeing as the temperature was just 14.9°C. That’s 2°C higher than my threshold temperature, but I made a huge pepper and chickpea curry tonight and that cooks nicely in the oven, so why not light the fire and be comfortable while i’m doing it? And it took the leftover wood from yesterday, a floorboard offcut and half a log. Talk about cheap cooking and heating.

Yes, this little wood fire with tiny oven is the best thing that i’ve ever purchased for here.

Monday 9th February 2015 – THIS IS IMPRESSIVE!

Yes, I’ve had 105 amp-hours of excess solar energy today. The temperature of the water in the home-made 12-volt immersion heater that I use as a dump load rose from 0°C (yes, it was really cold in the living room) to 41°C and on knocking off this evening I was able to wash my hands in nice warm water.

That tells you the kind of day it was today. Clear blue skies for most of the day with just a few clouds scudding by round about lunchtime. And I was able to extract Caliburn out from under hsi snowdrift and go into Pionsat and the Intermarché to stock up on the grub.

Mind you, that was rather problematical because, on arriving at the supermarket at 14:00 I discovered that it was exceptionally closed until 16:00 due to a bereavement, so I had to go back a second time. Anyway, I’m now good for another week if we are snowed in again.*

I’ve also been able to fill up all of the water containers, seeing as how for a brief period this afternoon everything unfroze itself.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I started off this morning by tidying out the bedroom. I’ve emptied tons of stuff and taken it downstairs and in doing so, I’ve …
1) cluttered up downstairs completely
2) made a few exciting discoveries of things that I had lost an subsequently forgotten.

But here’s an interesting thing. I took the gas heater downstairs and in order to move it easier, I took out the gas bottle. I had a look on the date on it (I date the gas bottles when I fit them so that I know how long they last) and this one was dated 10th November 2010, and it’s almost full. That means that it’s over 4 years since I’ve paid for any heating here and at €30 every three weeks for 18 weeks or so per year, that’s a saving of 88 weeks divided by 3 and multiplied by €30, that’s about €900.

The woodstove on the other hand cost me €279 and of course my wood is free, and there’s also a saving on gas for cooking in the winter too. So you can see that this woodstove really is the best thing since sliced bread.

So having spent all morning emptying out the bedroom, I can walk all the way around and reach all of the walls ready to start the filling. And after lunch and shopping, I made a start. But I stopped pretty quickly too because, looking at some of the plasterboarding that I had done back in 2010, I ripped a huge pile out and redid it, with proper bracing. It’s amazing how much I’ve learnt and how far I’ve come on since I started on this.

Consequently, I didn’t get much of the filling done, and I’m hoping for a better day tomorrow.

However, that’s going to be interrupted too as I’ve been summoned to the Mairie tomorrow morning. I told you that I missed the census the other week while I was on my one and only day out, and they came round today to catch me – the first day for well over a week that I’ve been able to leave the house.

Typical, isn’t it?

Saturday 7th February 2015 – IT’S BEEN JUST LIKE SUNDAY HERE …

… in the sense that I’ve done badger all today.

I was up early this morning though, but that was due to a need to visit the beichstuhl rather than a desire to be up and about, but once I’m up, I’m up, and that was that.

I’ve been outside twice today – once to fetch a pile of wood because I’ve had the fire on this afternoon a little, and once to take the stats as usual. And that’s my lot.

It’s hardly surprising though, because it’s been the coldest day of the winter today. The temperature hovered around minus 3°C and minus 4°C all day, 0.4°C in the living room and 3.5°C in the bedroom where I’m working. That’s why I’m grateful to be installed in my well-insulated attic with my excellent little woodstove. It’s 23°C in here right now. Best decision I ever made to transform the attic inton a little studio while I rebuild the house, closely followed by the decision to buy this stove.

But it’s not 23°C outside tonight. When I checked the stats at 20:30 this evening the temperature was dropping rapidly and we are on course to have the coldest night of the year.

Monday 24th March 2014 – THAT SNOW THAT WE HAD …

… didn’t last very long. It was already melting rapidly when I awoke (early, for once) and it had soon all gone.

Which was just as well, for we were radioing today. I recorded the rock music programme at Marcillat at 09:30 and then Liz and I did the current affairs programmes. From there we went round to Liz’s for lunch (and if you remember the car in the ditch from a couple of months ago, it now seems to have become a rather permanent feature of the landscape).

After lunch we went to Gerzat to record the Radio Anglais programmes for Radio Arverne and, having stopped to fuel up Caliburn on the way back, we were back at Liz’s for 17:00.

Just by way of a change, I spent some time helping Liz create a spredsheet and I showed her a few formulae. Long-term readers of this rubbish will recall that it was inter alia due to what I knew about spreadsheets that I had that job working for that weird American company in Brussels.

Back here it was freezing and so, seeing as I had a pizza to cook, I lit a fire – the first since February and cooked iton the woodstove. And now having eaten my fill, I’mm off for an early night.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday 25th January 2014 – OUCH!

Yes, “ouch!” indeed. I’ve just sat down and added up everything that I’ve spent today.

Yes, I’ve been to Montlucon today to do my shopping and I seem to have been considerably sidetracked. Mind you, I’m not quite sure what took me to go there because I was, once again, quite late in leaving my stinking pit. Despite having the woodstove going flat-out last night, itwas cold in here this morning.

And dark too. Not the weather for leaping brightly out of bed.I thought at first that we had had some heavy snow bit in fact we were having another one of the local Auvergnat weather phenomena – a hanging cloud drifting up the valley – and it stayed parked up on the top of the mountain all day, apparently.

Anyway, I grabbed a mug of coffee and hit the road. First stop was LIDL where I dropped a jar of tomato sauce all over the floor. Start as you mean to go on, Eric.

Surprisingly, I didn’t spend very much at LIDL, and neither did I at Amaranthe, the Health Food Shop – not the least of the reasons being that they didn’t have any of the buckwheat tablets that I like. So no breakfast for me.

It all started to go wrong at the Carrefour. I haven’t changed the gas in the kitchen for 18 months – it’s amazing what cooking on the woodstove can do – but nevertheless I’m sure it must be nearly empty by now. There was an empty propane cylinder around here so I took it with me to swap for a full one to have ready, and that set me back a massive €30:25.

When I was running the bottled gas heater, I was getting through a bottle every two weeks – that’s about €2:20 or so per day. Bearing in mind that my wood here costs me nothing, the €279 that I spent to buy this woodstove means that it’s paid for itself in just 125 days or thereabouts (and that’s not including the gas-cooking either). That’s about a year’s worth of heating and this is the third winter that I’ve been using it. You can see that it’s been a splendid investment.

Noz was another place where I spent a pile of money. Nothing of any significance, but it’s always a useful place to go for DVDs, cheap tins of food and the like. It’s always worth stocking up at Noz. And stepping out of Caliburn, I bumped right into one of Marianne’s friends, François Legay.

However it was at Vima where I really took a battering.

My old hair cutter is on its last legs and about to shuffle off this mortal coil. And there in the sales was another one, exactly the same.

Not only that, I’ve had my eye on a rechargeable LED worklight for quite some time. They charge up off the mains or off 12 volt DC, are quite large and powerful, and sit on the floor and chuck out an enormous amount of light. They were quite expensive but in the sales they were reduced by 50% and they had two left – didn’t that give me ideas?

But what was the final nail in my coffin was the mobile phone. The ‘phone that I bought in a hurry 5 years ago was the cheapest I coud find – a Nokia but a bi-band so no use in North America. I replaced that a couple of years ago with an ancient Nokia tri-band that I bought in an internet auction. The price was correct but the battery wasn’t at all and even with a new battery it’s not lasting for more that 3 days at most. And of course, it’s no use for surfing the internet at all (not that I want to but my phone plan gives me a free allowance of data and as I always run out of the time period rather than run out of credit, it’s a shame to waste it).

Anyway, to cut a long story short … "thank you" – ed … there in the sale was a Samsung Galaxy 3, the little brother to my Canada phone which is absolutely superb. Does everything that I need and even includes a 4GB micro-SD card so that I can use it as a music player. And the camera has a greater resolution than the digital camera that I took with me to North America in 2002 and in 2005. Quadri-band too, with bluetooth, and open to all networks.

And the cost? Just €75:00. I don’t suppose that I can complain too much.

Coming out of Vima, I bumped slap bank into Laurent Dumas, the President of the Canton of Pionsat (you saw him on this blog a few weeks ago). Just the man I want to see, as it happens. There are proposals to change the arrangement of cantons in the Puy de Dome. It’s something very controversial and so we want to do a radio programme on it. As it happens, M Dumas is very much parti-pris whereas Mme Daffix-Ray (who you also saw on here), the Vice-President (they cater for all sorts here) of the Departement, is very much parti-pris in the other camp. My idea is to ask them both to let me have a statement of why they have chosen their sides, so that we can present a balanced radio programme.

I didn’t spend very much in Brico Depot either. I had written out a list of stuff that I needed and then, totlly true to form, I had forgotten to bring it with me so no tongue-and-grooving for the ceiling. But they did have that “space-blanket” insulation on special offer so I bought a roll seeing as how I don’t know whether I have enough here to finish what I’m doing.

The French have a saying “jamais deux sans trois” and so while I didn’t spend too much money there, I did bump into someone from Pionsat – Marianne’s son Pascal. I can’t move anywhere these days without my movements being observed.

Anyone who thinks that I intended to go for a swim on the way home had another think coming. I came straight home and locked myself in. Winter seems to be back now.

Wednesday 15th January 2014 – I TURNED DOWN …

… a trip to Brico Depot this morning. You can see that I’m not feeling myself at all right now, which is just as well etc. etc.

Anyway last night I was playing bass with The Groundhogs on a revitalisation tour. Of course TS McPhee didn’t make it, and if that was me on bass, that only left the drummer as an original member.

A little later on, I was sent to work in Stockport and that cheered mr up because I could leave a whole pile of difficult post tobe dealt with by my successor, but on the other hand I was worried as I was bound to meet up with Nerina again.

Like I have said before … "and you’ll say again" – ed … I only with that my real life was half as exciting as my dreams

Meanwhile, back in the land of the living, by lunchtime absolutely everything that has no business being in the living room was elsewhere, and I had moved the old table to righht underneath the window.

This afternoon, I moved most of the tools downstairs and dismantled the temporary work bench. I also built a quick toilet room out of a piece of OSB and a piece of furniture out of an old caravan that I scrapped in 2007. There’s even light in there – of a sort.

I had Marianne on the phone too, but it’s soooo difficult trying to talk when I’m in this condition.

For tea I made a mega-lentil and mushroom curry – all cooked on the woodstove. It wasn’t half impressive

And there’s some left for tomorrow and Friday too.

Saturday 11th January 2014 – I was right …

… about the downstairs room lookng like it did for very long. Four hours down there this morning and it’s all disorganised again.

At least I’ve been finding new stuff, much of which I had forgotten about, and I’ve also binned quite a few items including the European carpet squares mountain that I accumulated. I was going to use those to cover the floor but now as you know, I’m going to be fitting a false suspended wooden floor down there so there’s no need to keep them.

I’ve moved the fridge and the water heater to under the stairs and the insulation that was there is now stacked up against the wall behind the table which is now parallel to the stairs with enough of a gap between to walk down.

Then apart from that, everything else is messed around and needs to be sorted out, and there’s still piles of stuff to

This afternoon I nipped down to Pionsat and the intermarche to pick up a few things that I had forgotten. And while I was checking the BIO shelves I noticed that their products were cheaper than Carrefour in St Eloy. Shame there’s no LIDL in Pionsat otherwise I’d shop there.

After lunch I finished off the outstanding radio programme for Radio Anglais and that’s up to date now. But there’s some good stuff in a little magazine that I’ve been sent so I’m okay for the next few weeks after.

Tonight I had a fire going – the first since Sunday – because it was a little chilly and I wanted to cook tea. Now I’m sitting in my shirt sleeves with the windows open. Not a very clever idea gicen the heat that my stove gives out.

Thursday 2nd January 2014 – AS PREDICTED …

… I didn’t do anything today. I had yet another day of rest.

And quite right too.

Mind you, it wasn’t so much of a rest seeing as how I had a very disturbed night with all kinds of weird dreams – I was with my younger sister, and then I was on a motorbike going through the suburbs of Paris although it wasn’t Paris, all kinds of things. No wonder I hardly had a minute’s sleep.

And awake before dawn too. Not very often that that happens, but it’s been happening too often for my liking juqt recently.

After breakfast, another couple of DVDs and then I finished the outstanding web pages for Les Guis. We now have pages for 2011, 2012 and 2013 all organised. But I’m going to have to do some more work on them as there is a pile of coding that needs updating. I really have been letting things slide.

Not the music though. I found a couple of old 1GB SD cards and I repaired a 2GB card where the locking tab had broken off, and then uploaded all the music. Now I can have music wherever I go.

I had a pleasant 75-minute chat on the phone to Trixi too. I haven’t spoken to her since we were in Greece together in October and there was a lot to catch up on.

And tea was boiled rice, steamed veg, and curried mushrooms with onion and garlic gravy, all cooked on the wood stove. I’m getting the hang of it now.

Tuesday 31st December 2013 – THE MOST ASTONISHING THING …

… happened today- so much so that it’s well-worth recording.

I have never ever talked about, much less photographed, the ground floor of this house. And for good reason too. When I bought the place back in 1998 I quickly dumped in there a pile of rubbish and since then the rubbish has been accumulating. Add to that a huge piles of damaged tiles, a couple of large piles of rubble from demolished walls and excavated floors, several bags of cement and plaster, and whatever else you can think of, then it really is a total disgrace.

On top of that, anything that doesn’t have a home anywhere else has been stuck in there to such an extent that moving around in there can definitely be a hazard to one’s health. I did once hear a story about someone who hoarded old newspapers and was crushed to death when a pile collapsed on top of her. Well, believe me, it’s not too far away from that on the ground floor.

Anyway, having said that, I was untangling a pile of cables from the equipment of the “Tower of Power” so that I can put that upstairs in the lean-to when, you’ve guessed it, I had an avalanche.

So that was that. I spent a delightful four hours this morning in the living room sorting out all kinds of stuff. New stuff into the lean-to, old good stuff ditto, plumbing fittings into the water room etc etc. That was followed by a couple of bags of paper waste into the old damaged water butt which will now be a paper receptacle, and a couple of bags of genuine rubbish into the back of Caliburn.

It doesn’t look like much of an improvement, for there’s 15 years’ worth of rubbish in there and I will need more than four hours to move all of that, but you would be surprised at the difference that it has made and now I can boldly go where no man has gone before since at least 1999. If that’s not progress then nothing is.

Another thing was that I had a bad night’s sleep. I was still wide awake at 03:00 and I was back awake again long before 07:30 when the alarm went off. Either there’s a lot of people talking about me, or else it’s my guilty conscience again.

And while it didn’t rain today, it was overcast and miserable with only the occasional glimpses of sun. We had high winds too – not like the high winds of the other day but high winds nevertheless.

After all of my exertions I knocked off for lunch at about 15:00 – late, I know, but I was on a roll – and then crashed out for a while and when I get my hands on the bank clerk from Pionsat ho woke me up with the telephone, he’ll be looking for a new set of teeth too. I was well away.

Tea was roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots, boiled potatoes, leeks, seitan slices, onion and garlic gravy with sprouts done to perfection, all cooked on the wood stove, followed by vegan Christmas Cake and “artisanal” mango-flavoured lemonade.

What more can any man desire (apart from Kate Bush and Jenny Agutter to share it with me)?

So now I’m off work for the next couple of days. And then, who knows? I might even carry on with the tidying up.