Sunday, 6 December 2020

Corrèze in confinement

Just two weeks after writing my last post France went into confinement for the second time, scheduled to last for the month of November. Only essential shops and services were open and once again we were limited to one hour a day exercise and no more than a kilometre from home. It's fair to say we found it harder than the first one. In March there was an optimism, summer round the corner and the fact that many of these types of virus tend to peter out during warm weather. Covid-19 is more tenacious than most and it didn't disappear.

The view from the barn is ever changing

We have been blessed with some beautiful weather though. Crisp days with bountiful sunshine and hardly any rain. We were also allowed to travel in a car together and unlike first time round the DIY shops were deemed as essential so we could get supplies. The focus on the restoration has been on plumbing (Andrew) and window renovation (me). We both despair of the T.V programmes where everything seems to get done in a couple of months, in reality it's not like that. True we don't put in 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week but most days we are doing something renovation related. I think it's just that the scale of this project is really quite large. When we bought the Old Notaires House it was really a first floor 3 bedroom apartment with one bathroom, minuscule kitchen with an entrance hall, summer kitchen (room with carpet up the walls & a sink!) and offices on the ground floor. We've knocked the four offices into two large spaces which will become the kitchen and our suite (a.k.a. the servants quarters), the garage will also house a utility area and loo with the summer kitchen becoming a guest dining room. Upstairs two bedrooms have been combined to make one large bedroom with bathroom and a second bedroom has been fashioned from the old kitchen, a corridor and a loo. The third bedroom has had its entrance changed and the old bathroom (which was bigger than the kitchen) has become two en-suites. And we've managed to squeeze an office in too. So when I say Andrew is re-doing the plumbing it's not a case of simply replacing the pipes and a new shower.

The only loo is rather exposed at the moment

One of the joys of renovating an old house is being able to re-use original items. I'm working in the entrance hall at the moment which is the oldest part of the house, originally two rooms downstairs and we think one upstairs. It has two windows but we think one opening is newer than the other as they both have different fittings. I spent a happy few hours getting the layers of old paint and varnish off, then polishing with my trusty Dremel before a light wax. We really love the slightly industrial feel the polished steel has.


Once again we explored footpaths around our village to give us more variety of walks but it was a relief when President Macron said that we could exercise for three hours a day and up to 20 kilometres from home. We bundled Mortimer into the car and headed for one of our favourite destinations - Château de Sédières.  It's such a beautiful place to walk and it was a perfect autumn day.

Château de Sédières

We've been taking quite a lot of time with planning too. Although I had done concept boards for the bedrooms, I hadn't for the kitchen neither had I actually selected specific paint colours for rooms. I needed to get this sorted as radiators off walls gives me an ideal opportunity to paint behind them. A lot of negatives things are said about French paint but I do like Leroy Merlin's own brand Luxens and I've also just discovered that Liberon do a wall paint which is very similar to Farrow & Ball. Colours here can be quite, how can I say, primary and I want some subtlety so I ordered a RAL colour swatch so I can get some paint mixed. RAL is a European colour match system and at most paint mixing outlets you can specify one of the unique number and know that the colour is true. This system is so common in France that you will see a lot of pre-mixed paint tins with a RAL number alongside the colour names.

Kitchen concept board

My RAL swatches

Despite social media being full of images of people's Christmas decorations I have resisted being early. I just can't do it in November but will probably be a little earlier than my usual mid-December. I've also had to wait for the non-essential shops to open (particularly Emmaüs) as my Christmas decorations are buried somewhere under packing cases and it's too much effort to hunt them down. Inspired by an on-line video workshop I did on the subject of 'A winter table' I may take the opportunity of going for a more natural look this year. Watch this space!

Christmas is now just three weeks off and we will give ourselves a break from physical work for a week, that's not to say we won't be doing something. I need to re-cap on furniture requirements and we really need to nail the kitchen plans down and maybe even order it. I'm really hoping that we can see friends properly instead of doorstep conversations and chance dog-walking meets, after all we have a very large Christmas cake to share. Oh and I'm doing another online workshop this weekend baking two sorts of Italian biscuits. It's one where we bake as the we go but I'm definitely going to turn the camera off, no-one deserves to see the mess I'll be making!

I'm really hoping to show you some lovely progress shots soon but meanwhile if you would like to see what life in France is really like then feel free to follow/friend us here on FaceBook or on Instagram

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