Sunday, 28 January 2018

The little Correze kitchen

I don't know how big Rachel Khoo's Paris kitchen was, her apartment measured 21 metres squared so I'm guessing not huge. Neither is ours, in fact it measures 2.5 metres x 3 metres, a far cry from my last one at  Nelson House

Nelson House kitchen
When we bought the house it had just a ceramic sink and drainer plus an ancient oak armoire. Because we will be moving the kitchen downstairs it's not worth investing in, but we still need to live with it for quite a few months. Improvisation and re-purposing were the answers.

My old dressing table has become a worktop and cutlery drawer and two trestle legs from an Ikea desk hold the Nespresso machine and vegetable box. An emptied Christmas hamper is filled with herbs and spices. We had the foresight to buy a cheap Ikea wooden kitchen trolley which at least gives us a clean prep. area and holds our single induction hob. We also have a halogen grill and a slow cooker. The fridge is in the sitting/dining room which is also where the china resides in another armoire (we were fortunate enough to 'inherit' six of them). When Andrew returned from London he brought back a wall mounted drainer and utensil holder. Nearly forgot but we also have a freezer in the garage.

I've got quite used to it now, meals take a bit more planning and I use more tinned food than I have ever done but they are making life easier. I miss baking but with a boulangerie/patisserie two minutes walk away it's not a real hardship.

Thursday, 25 January 2018


... was glorious. The first dry day in ages, it was sunny and warm.

Morning walk in Correze
So did we get to play outside? Hell yes! 258 concrete blocks, 2 tonnes of sand, a couple of lintels and a few bags of cement all needed moving.

Welcome to a French renovation project!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018


The following few weeks flew past. The original plan was to sell Nelson House and stay in the UK with Andrew's sister, who had generously offered us a room, until we found somewhere in France. I worried that our sale would fail on survey (it didn't), that our buyers would pull out (they didn't) and that it would all go horribly wrong (it didn't). We had removal companies in to quote on a move out, storage for a few weeks and then a move to France. We finally settled on Britannia Appleyard and they were superb. Wayne and his team were courteous, sympathetic and very clean - not a mark was made. They even looked after my potted olive tree!

The French purchase was nothing at all like the French magazines had said. We thought we would be rushed to sign the initial paperwork and pay a deposit but this didn't happen. I think this was partly done to circumvent one of our requests. When you buy property in France you can ask for clauses to be put in, for example that planning permission has to be given before completion. We had asked that the purchase was subject to the sale of our property. Yes we had sold but the English system is loose and even exchange of contract doesn't guarantee a smooth path. We received the contract, 60 odd pages in French (thank heavens for Google translate) and a very patient Saturday morning telephone call from our Notaire who led us through it all. We pointed out that our 'clause suspensive' had not been included. It appears that French estate agents and notaries are now wise to the vagaries of our English sales system and are very reluctant to put the 'subject to sale' clause in anymore. But our Notaire had a plan (probably why the paperwork had taken such a long time up until this point). We had to sign the contract and send it to the seller's Notaire, who then would forward it the sellers, they would sign and return, and finally a copy back to us. We then had a 10 day cooling off period. As we were so close to our UK exchange we knew that if we were to delay sending the contract back for a few days then all would be well. And it was.

We completed the sale of Nelson House on the 27th October and moved to London. All the things that we thought we would do never materialised as we went to France on November 7th and got the keys to the Notaire's House on Friday 10th. We were staying in a small gite in the village for a week. Andrew then went back to London on the 14th, the day before the removal men came back with all our worldly goods. It was down to Mortimer and myself to get things organised and start to make ourselves known.

I think I became known as the mad English woman who was always walking her dog! We had sold 'my' car in England and Andrew had taken our car back to London (with a long shopping list) so I had to do everything on foot. Fortunately Correze has a small range of essential shops (how soon the weekly pizza van became an essential) so it really wasn't bad at all. It was very cold though with a night time real feel of -5C, fine during the day when I was shifting boxes but really chilly in the evening. We do have central heating but the house is granite which takes a while to heat up. There is no insulation, single glazing and window panes that only remain in place by a wing and a prayer! There were no curtains (poles were on Andrew's shopping list) and certainly no carpets. The sitting room has a huge fireplace and we had been left firewood but I had to construct a fire curtain out of packing cases to stop being smoked out. I did have the foresight to buy a hot water bottle which at least made the bed cosy. Mortimer and I did a lot of exploring, we had perfect autumn weather and I couldn't stop taking photographs.

Andrew returned at the end of November, to the relief of myself and Mortimer who had taken up sentry duty on the balcony, and we had heavy snow that night. It was lovely to go out the following morning and enjoy a winter's ramble. The scenery is stunning here and it is so nice to have a choice of walks from the village.


We decided to wait until the new year before tackling any of the renovations, apart from ordering a wood burning stove that will be fitted mid-February. Everyone has been so welcoming, genuinely pleased that we have moved here. There is only one other permanent English couple, who have been incredibly kind to us, and another couple who spend six months of the year here. My French is improving, still grim but people are patient and help me along. The lady in the bakery gives me a word or phrase a day to learn.

So what are the plans? We have started work on the attached house which we are turning into a gite. Desperate as I am to start on our house, apart from a temporary decoration for a guest room, progress will be slow. We may even finish the gite and move into that while we do the main house, we're very flexible with plans at the moment.

Now I've got you up to date, blog posts will be shorter in the future.  The Notaire's House page will be updated as we go along, in fact there are already some more photographs.

Thursday, 4 January 2018


Happy New Year! 

We can keep saying that until the end of January, because we're now in France and that’s what happens here. Finally after years of planning we made it, Mortimer and myself at the beginning of November and Andrew a few weeks later. Some of you will have followed our progress up to this point on our old blog but to new readers, welcome, and I hope you stay awhile. Like The Nelson House Diaries you can follow our progress as we restore two, yep we wanted another project but two houses!, and find our feet in France.

I left you hanging in October and all you knew was that we had bought a house in France. Everything happened so quickly that there were days I felt there was no time to breathe. We put our house on the market at the beginning of July thinking it would take a few months to sell and we’d have time to get organised, how wrong we were. Like most Francophiles we'd spend hours scouring the internet for French properties, rejecting dozens as they didn't meet our search criteria. Then we found an interesting one in Correze town, Correze. Andrew really wanted the blog to be called ‘Correze, Correze so good they named it twice ‘ (you had to be around in 1978 to get that Gerard Kenny reference!) We managed to locate it on Google maps, no mean feat as French agents rarely give the town let alone the address, and street walked it. All looked good. Research was done on the town and region and we were still happy. We emailed Carole Cusworth at Agence Newton about the property and she returned my email promptly but said it was getting a lot of interest and we hadn't sold our house yet.

That was on Thursday, and we had a couple of viewings booked for the weekend and I knew that Carole had two as well. Our viewings on Saturday went well, Carole's didn't but she had another one booked for Wednesday. Tuesday morning we accepted an offer on our house, three weeks after it had been listed. Thursday morning I phoned Carole, how had Wednesday's viewing gone? Too much work for them, I interrogated the poor woman over it's condition. We wanted a project but needed it to be habitable. Andrew and I took a deep breath and decided to see it. We have kind friends who at a drop of a hat took Mortimer from us, we booked the ferry, found a hotel as close as we could (it was an August weekend) and told Carole we would be there Saturday morning. Friday we left at 4 am and arrived at 6 pm exhausted.

Arriving early for the viewing we explored Correze which was lovely. Everything you needed for daily living and good mobile phone reception. We met Carole and spent the next 2.5 hours at the house. The woman is a saint and I would certainly recommend her, patient, a wealth of information on the area and a good knowledge of the property. The house, actually two houses, were definitely project material but we were smitten. That evening we sat in a bar number crunching, we thought it was doable  Carole had kindly said she would meet us on Sunday (her day off) if we wanted another look. We did and spent another hour and a half examining the things that had given us a sleepless night and decided that indeed, things did look better in the morning. An offer was made, which included some of the furniture, and on the drive back to England on Monday was accepted.

I’ll tell you how the move went next time and find some photographs which are currently scattered across various devices, but there are some on The Old Notaire’s House page of the blog. The good, the bad and the ugly!

Featured Post

Living the dream?

Living the dream. It's not a phrase I particularly like although it's been said to us regularly, especially in the early months of o...