Thursday, 23 July 2015

The 'Book' of the House...

A photo we took before I climbed in the window for the impromptu 'viewing'.
When the plot was first hatched for us to buy a house in Brittany it was inspired by friends who had done just that. The subject cropped up on two occasions... firstly when we attended a Freelancers' Christmas Bash... (like a firm's Christmas Party but without the 'firm') where it seemed to interweave the conversation... Well, I do remember being very interested and wanting to know more... And then, at their Boxing Day "Let's eat all the leftovers" get together... another brilliant idea - when everybody takes a plate of something made up from some of yesterday's ingredients (preferably not turkey) and I think plenty of people went the extra mile because I remember the food being great and very un-christmassy.
It wasn't long before the roof came off... and a dormer window was added to open up the loft space
 Anyway, at this event you know most of the attendees and at this time 'the book' of the house was doing the rounds. I can remember being fascinated at seeing it on the other side of the room and was engrossed when it arrived where I could crane over someone else's shoulder as they flicked through... The area map... the cadastral plan (this shows the house on its footprint in relation to the neighbouring properties and plots)...

This was the part of the garden that had been 'looked after'
Quite naturally, whether you intend to have one or not... you do find yourself compiling stuff that needs to go somewhere - so, of course a book does evolve... Those first photo's of the project as you remove years... sometimes centuries... of detritus and other people's ideas of what will do as their future surroundings...


At our own place it soon became obvious that Madame LeRoy had a family friend (or was he really a saboteur?) who masqueraded as the local 'dab hand' at removing the old and ushering in the new... such as the taking out or bricking up of original Breton fireplaces... flatting off stone walls with a flat plaster finish. A spiral staircase had even been removed and replaced with a straight up and down job which finished too close to the back of the house to provide an adequate landing space.



We've all seen Victorian houses where those lovely old cast iron examples were replaced by what I've always called 'Reginald Dixon' tiled jobs that always remind me of the organ that rises out of the floor at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. More recent purchasers of the same property have promptly got stuck in and put in retro copies of the old stuff and set a trend for reversing the process. And so it goes...





In our own case, sadly, some of the very first photo's that should have been taken, the 'befores', were omitted... but you will never know and I will only regret it for a little while... Suffice to say that we have been beavering away intermittently in bite sized, 2 week chunks for over 15 years... And, whilst the end is in sight... so is the beginning... of the second time round! Anyway - the first time was never designed to be permanent and... there are other elements to the place...two barns and a bread oven for starters that are just begging to be given so much time and attention.

 

Plans?... Initially just finishing the top loft - We have topped out the spiral staircase, insulated the ceilings. We've had two new Velux windows fitted in the roof and it's all going well...
Still to do? Plasterboarding the ceilings and then we're eager to tackle the kitchen - 'for real' this time as opposed to just creating somewhere to cook and wash-up - done in the flurry that was the first month or so of ownership...at a time when everywhere you turned there was a nightmare scenario.... which fire to put out first!

The last loft to convert
The important thing is - that we're still enjoying every single minute we spend there... In fact the plan is to be in Brittany less often but for a month at a stretch instead of two weeks 6 times each year. Taking a longer run at the next stages of the game. Creating a floor and laying pavers in the bread oven... adding the timber work to sit the roof on, then - making a window (and  door) and, of course knocking up the first loaf!... Can't wait!


There is a proper old style 'Book of the House'... It takes up 3 Volumes contains about 200 photo's... and so transferring it to any short form on here is right out of the question... But there will also be a proper book... I'm just going out to the shed to get stuck in to the next chapter! Cheers - CS