June 30, 2013

K-Day minus 1

That’s ‘K’ for kitchen, or should it be ‘C’ for cuisine? I’ve been readying myself for ‘the big one’ for the past couple of days or so, since I got the worktops home. In my last post I mentioned that I was very concerned about getting them safely off my car roof because of their weight. Well, I managed it on my own eventually, by sliding the top one backwards until it toppled over off the end of the bottom one so I could then lower it to the ground. I actually had to prop the end of the bottom one with a length of wood because it began to bend quite a large amount under the weight of the other one but everything went OK. Once they were standing on their ends, I found that I could just lift them alone, so long as I kept them vertical, and here they are eventually leaning up against my gutter. See what I mean about their size 😯

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My next problem, though, was that I couldn’t leave them like that as some light rain was forecast, and as I didn’t have a hope of getting them indoors without help, I thought I’d just use the old cardboard packaging that I’ve been steadily collecting to cover them up. Here they are and I’m glad to say that it worked a treat 🙂

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So what do I mean by ‘the big one’? Well, I can’t really do anything with the worktops, like cut them down to size, until all of the remainder of the base units are in, and to do that, not only do I have to take out the monstrosity of an old porcelain sink that is in the kitchen but I also have to modify the copper pipework for the position of the taps on the new sink unit and to connect the washing machine. To do that, I have to turn the water off and in view of the size of the job, it might mean having to lose the kitchen sink for more than a day. That’s not a problem as I can always use the hand basin in the bathroom, but I have to have everything ready so I can hit the ground running. So in the last couple of days, I’ve had to get together the copper tube and plumbing fittings that I need (in fact, I’ve still managed to leave myself short of a 14mm soldered elbow short, which I’ll have to get first thing tomorrow), take out the old wall-mounted gas water heater and get the remaining base units ready to install. I didn’t spend the whole day yesterday working, though, as I wanted to watch Wimbledon and like everyone else in Britain, I was on the edge of my seat watching and willing young Laura Robson to come through. And well she did, good girl!

But after today I’m now all ready for the big push tomorrow. Here’s a picture showing the dreadful old sink that I’ll have the pleasure of smashing out for the last time tomorrow 😀

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It’s filthy, disgusting and unhygienic. Whoever fitted it in goodness knows when left it low on its left front corner, so you can never empty it and water always lies in both bowls. As you can see from the marks on the floor, the gas cylinders for the water heater (and my camping gas stove) were originally placed on the floor under it and a fabric curtain was hung across the front to hide them. It would have been a curtain-too-far if I’d retained it so the cylinders have always been visible, dirty and greasy as they come from the supermarket every time, in all their horrendous glory. I currently plan to put them in the cupboard under the new sink but I’m still mulling over the idea of switching from butane to propane, drilling a hole through the wall for the pipe and putting them under the shelter outside. The only down-side with that is that when a cylinder runs out and I have to switch over, I’ll have to go outside to do it, which won’t be much fun if it’s pouring down. However, I think it might be a small price to pay for keeping the new kitchen tidy and clean. The only problem with it will be how to drill or knock a hole through a wall that’s nearly three feet thick, but I’ve overcome worse problems, I think 😉

June 27, 2013

We have a problem, Houston…

I received a note this morning from Leroy Merlin letting me know that my two worktops had arrived, so I drove across to Chancelade this afternoon to pick them up. A young warehouse chap helped me to lift them onto my car roof bars and it was immediately obvious that they are both heavy. Like really heavy! So my car is now parked outside my house with them still on its roof – and I have absolutely no idea how I’ll be able to get them off. And when I do manage to, how I’ll then be able to handle them so I can cut them down to size.

They can stay where they are for the time being as there’s no rain forecast for a day or so, although I have no idea what I’ll do if I have to go anywhere in the car in the meantime. Presumably as they’ve come all the way from the other side of Perigueux to my house without any problems, I’d have to take them with me 🙁

On a brighter note, I seem to have got the valve that I fitted to the inlet side of my electric water heater to stop weeping. The leak was around the valve stem and I’ll have to watch it now to make sure it stays dry. The valve on the outlet side is perfectly OK, of course. Why there had to be a problem with one goodness only knows 😕 I also found that the water was coming out scalding hot! When I checked the thermostat, it looked from the markings as though it was on the lowest setting. However, I turned it to a setting mid-way on the scale and my electricity meter didn’t indicate any jump in current, so I just have to assume that the settings are the other way round to what you logically expect them to be ie the red mark is on the ‘cold’ end of the scale. C’est la France 😉

June 25, 2013

Chauffe-eau electrique

At home, the last few days have been all about my electric water heater, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t managed to fit in a few microlight-related and social activities! During Friday, I finished putting the four fixings for the water heater up on the wall in the corner of my bathroom. The job took longer than I’d hoped because the fixings consist of ruddy great bolts screwed into large plastic plugs in holes in the wall and the last one had caused some plaster and a bit of rendering to blow off. So I’d had to make this bit of damage good before proceeding any further but everything was ready for my neighbour Benjamin to help me lift the water heater up onto its mountings on Friday evening ready for me to press on with the installation on Saturday.

I spent the whole of Saturday prefabricating the two copper pipe assemblies, for the hot and cold water, that were to replace the old, leaking pipework that I wanted to remove and provide the new connections for the water heater’s cold supply and hot water outlet. I originally planned to do the job using compression (screw) fittings because of my dislike of the French soldered ones but in the end I decided that I’d have to use soldered fittings because of the limited amount of space that I had to work with. So my prefabrication work was slow and painstaking because I had to make sure that each joint that I made was as perfect as I could make it, to avoid leaks. The pre-fabricated pieces had compression fittings at each end, however, to make joining up with the existing pipework as easy as possible.

I got nothing done on Sunday for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, and in fact I finally finished the installation today, after a very long day’s hard work. Here’s how the finished job came out.

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As well as putting in new copper, I also had to replace the leaking plastic waste pipe as the water heater needs a waste outlet so it can be drained if necessary in the future. The following picture gives an idea of what the finished job looked like – not perfect by any means, but it’ll be boxed in away from view, and a great improvement I think on what was originally there.

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I only have one little frustration. I am pleased and relieved to say that so far it appears that all of the soldered joints I did are holding up. However, there appears to be just one leak, and that’s in the most unexpected of places – on a cone fitting attached to one of the isolating valves I’ve installed. Of all places, that’s one of the last joints that should be leaking and I’m afraid it does nothing to persuade me away from my rather jaundiced view about the poor quality of French plumbing fittings. Poor quality AND expensive 🙁

Now back to Sunday. The weather wasn’t up to much for flying on Saturday but even though there was rain in the early hours on Sunday and the wind was still a little gusty, Victor and I went off to Cavarc in his 2CV in the afternoon. This week we were flying the Hurricane with the ‘carénage’ (body) and Victor wanted to get away from the airfield again in it if he could. For some reason Francis decided he wanted me to fly first, though, which was a bit unfair really, as Victor was keen to get a flight in as he and Madeleine were leaving on Monday morning and I’ll get other opportunities to fly over the coming weeks while Victor’s away. But Francis had made his plans.

If you fly out from Cavarc in a south-westerly direction, overhead the village of Castillonnès, pretty soon you come to a ‘piste privée’ called Ségalas. It’s privately owned by a farmer who’s well-known to ULMistes in the area and keeps the runway in excellent condition, not just for ULMs but for Group As too. You have to phone ahead for prior permission and that’s where Francis planned for me to fly to with him sitting quietly as a passenger in the back seat. Here’s a pic that shows where Ségalas is relative to Castillonnès.

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You can see the place quite clearly on Google Earth. The runway runs from the north-east to the south-west, literally, as landings have to be made uphill from the north-east and take offs downhill from the south-west. Google Earth doesn’t really show this, however.

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There were some nasty gusts aloft as we flew there and back but I’m pleased to say that the landing and take off at Ségalas went off without a hitch. Unfortunately we wasted a bit of time chatting to the owner after we’d landed and when we got back to Cavarc, Victor was champing at the bit to get airborne, not least of all because we had a dinner arrangement in the evening that we had to be back for! As a result, Victor was limited to some circuit work, but I told him that probably that was the best use of his time on account of the winds.

After we’d finished, cleaned the mud off the aircraft, as the runway at Cavarc had quite a lot of standing water on it still, we made a dash for home. A group of seven of us had booked dinner at Le Coq at Fleurac, which turned out to be a charming evening, with 3 courses with ‘unlimited’ wine and traditional French music from a small band thrown in. It kept spitting with rain and was a bit chilly unfortunately, but we were outside under an awning and had a great evening nevertheless. And when the bill came, I was gobsmacked that it only worked out at 30€ per head including tip. Now that has to beat Pizza Express any time 😀

June 20, 2013

Castillonnès

I shot a short video at Castillonnès last week-end, before I went for my flight in the Hurricane with Vincent. You can see it if you click on the following pic.

Cavarc

As you can see, as mentioned in my earlier post, we were flying the Hurricane that has no pod or enclosure at all around the pilot and passenger. Funnily enough, you hardly notice this when you’re flying, but the view from the front seat is spectacular 😀 The video ends with Victor flying off to Belvès with Vincent and it was on their return that I had my flight that ended up with Francis signing the papers for my French ULM licence. It’s been raining almost steadily since then but if we’re lucky, from the look of the weather forecast, both of us will be able to get another flight in this Saturday. I sent my paperwork off at the beginning of the week and if I get my licence in time, I might get the chance to fly solo. However, I doubt that’ll happen because as we all know, things don’t tend to happen that quickly in France 😉

June 18, 2013

Think positively

Experienced DIY’ers and people who do this kind of thing for a living know that when you’ve just finished smashing something out, things look far worse than they really are. Once you’ve cleared the debris away and brushed up all the dust, the job looks much tidier and more straightforward.

And so it was earlier this evening with my bathroom. Because of the leaking cold supply and washing machine waste outlet that I mentioned in an earlier post, I had to rip away all of the boxing around the base of my bathroom wall at floor level to expose the pipes. And lucky I did too, because the cold supply was soaking wet along a great part of its length towards the hand basin. I wasn’t really surprised, I have to say and it just means that when I make the connections to my new electric water heater, I’ll have to renew a bit more of the copper tube than I originally thought. No sweat. The only problem is that with my family coming to visit in about six weeks time, I doubt I’ll have time to make it all good again properly, but I’ll just have to see how things go. Anyway, here’s how it looked earlier this evening.

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As things stand, I would have preferred to bash on and re-do the whole bathroom, which is my long-term plan, but I don’t have either the time or the money to do so right now and getting the kitchen to a point where it’s usable for when my family arrives is my top priority. Now I can see the full nature of the task, I should be able to make some good progress tomorrow with re-doing the pipework as necessary and making the connections for my water heater. The rest of the week should also be available with little interruption as after the recent gorgeous weather and high temperatures, we’re back into a period of rain for the next few days. So no distractions, then, from getting the X-Air into shape even if I wanted too, more’s the pity 😉

June 15, 2013

Nice day and an excellent surprise

Victor can’t fly tomorrow so we went to the airfield today instead. Victor’s beautifully restored Citroen Méhari is due for its CT (2-year roadworthiness test) on Monday so we went in that so it could have a run and Victor could ensure that there are no problems that might prevent it passing. It’s more original than his 2CV so it hasn’t got the same power and zip but it’s a really fun car to drive in and draws quite a lot of attention as you go roaring past with that characteristic 2CV engine sound. Here are a couple of pics I took of it at the airfield… she’s a real beauty isn’t she.

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Victor was hoping to do a dual cross-country to Belvès but wouldn’t know if it was on until Francis, the instructor, arrived. In the meantime, we chatted to Jacques who had already got one of the Hurricanes out of the hangar and was almost ready for a flight. The club has two training Hurricanes, one with an enclosed body (carénage) and one without. The former is out of commission due to a damaged prop blade so only the completely open aircraft is currently available. Here are a couple of pics of it outside the club’s main hangar. Note the 4 blade Arplast pusher prop.

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Francis arrived shortly after Jacques had taken off and confirmed that Victor and he would be heading off to Belvès on his return, which wasn’t a long wait. I took a video of Jacques taking off and landing when he got back, together with a clip of Victor’s take off which I’ll edit and post as soon as I can.

On Victor’s return after an hour or so, it was my turn. I’d chatted with Francis, who speaks very good English, about my position and what I had to do to acquire my French licence. I said that I also thought I needed a couple of hours or so to get current as it’s been over a year since I’ve flown properly as PIC. He said, OK, let’s take off, turn left and right to avoid neighbouring gites, climb out to 750 metres or so and you can do a few steep turns to get a feel for the aircraft. So that’s what we did, and it was a great feeling to be back in the air again.

Then we did a few power off and power on stalls, climbing and descending turns and a fair bit more general handling. The only bit of the syllabus that I think we didn’t cover in quite a brief time really, was unusual attitudes! Francis then suggested flying back to the airfield, which I found for myself, for a landing but that I wasn’t to land. What I had to do instead was fly the length of the runway skimming the grass at flare height, a task which I found ‘interesting’ to say the least because at that height, my mind is programmed to land. It was made even harder because in the direction we were using, 33, the runway slopes upwards, so you’re not even flying straight and level but in fact, ascending. Tricky, but I did it albeit with a brief touch at the upper end.

We did several more circuits and on one Francis asked if I was happy to cut the engine on downwind. I said of course, and it didn’t occur to me that although I’d expected a familiarisation flight to get me current again, Francis had been subtly testing me all the time, and this was a kind of practice engine failure. It went off like clockwork, and after a final circuit we taxied in and parked up back at the hangar. I then received the excellent surprise that I mentioned in the title of the post, which was that Francis complimented me on my flying and said that he was very happy to sign the papers for my French ULM licence straight away! I was delighted, of course, because I hadn’t gone to Castillonnes today with any expectations other than getting back behind the controls and back up in the air. So to come away with my French ‘brevet’ was a great result, and it means that I can now start to make positive plans to get the X-Air fully rigged and across to Galinat. And that will mean that the final piece of the jig-saw for my life in France that I’ve been missing ever since I’ve been here, will at last fall into place 🙂

June 14, 2013

Wimp!

It’s just turned mid-day and I’ve just got back from the small garage at Rouffignac. After Russ’s suggestion to use an air gun to undo the nut holding the blade on my mower, I thought I’d nip up there and see if the chap would do it for me. I told him what the problem was and asked if he could do it with his machine that he uses for wheel nuts. He just took one look at the nut, got his hand-held socket onto it, held the blade with his other hand and undid it. Easy, just like that, in a few seconds. What a wimp I must be turning into, in my old age!!

Then he took the blade, held it in his vice and roughly straightened it, finishing off the job with a heavy hammer. The ‘piece de resistance’ was when he got out his small angle grinder and ground a bit off to match the blades up so it was in balance – all in less than 10 minutes. I was well pleased to hand over 10€ and having just tried the mower out a couple of times up and down the grass in front of my house, I can confirm that it’s working as well as it ever has.

So much for the ‘expert’ at Thonac who said it needed a new blade and in any case, the engine was probably knackered. I think he was just hoping to flog a new mower to another ‘wealthy’ (not) British ex-pat. I won’t be going back there again, that’s for sure – but I’ll be giving more business to my new friend in the garage at Rouffignac, though, when I need to.

June 13, 2013

Oh NO! Again

Rotten weather today – wasn’t supposed to be as bad as it has been, but a sudden squall blew up with a nasty sky and from then on it rained for most of the day. I thought I’d have a go at getting my bent mower blade off but I’m blowed if I can loosen the retaining nut. So before I took all its corners off, I decided to take it to the garden equipment repair workshop in Thonac and see if they could repair it or a fit a new blade for me. The guy there didn’t want to know. He said that he’d never seen a blade like it before, so the signs are not good. He muttered that with the damage it’s got, the engine is probably defunct but I don’t believe it. So it looks like I’ll just have to persist in trying to get the nut off myself somehow – if necessary I’ll cut it off with my angle grinder so I can see which way the thread goes and get a replacement from somewhere. It can’t be that special. I’ll probably end up having to find a compatible blade and fix it myself, but quite honestly I’ve got enough jobs on the go at the moment 😕

So I then turned my attention back to installing the wall-mounted water heater in the bathroom, and that’s what the title of this thread relates to. There’s always been a slight niff in the air in there and up to now I’ve always put it down to there being a gap around the washing machine outlet tube allowing odours to get back up. Up to today that is. I’m going to use the washing machine water supply as the supply to the water heater and break into the hot feed to make a connection for the outlet. The heater also needs an ‘evacuation’ outlet and the washing machine outlet pipe is ideal, so I thought the job would be quite straightforward once I’d broken the surrounding tiles away to give me access. As soon as I did that I uncovered the horrors that had been hidden. See the picture below.

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Initially I was just dumbfounded to find that whoever had installed the plastic washing machine waste outlet had not cemented the bend onto the horizontal section (see 2 in the pic), so for years, every time the washing machine has been used, the joint has leaked dirty water. That alone would have been enough to explain the smell. But even worse, when I checked the ‘T’ that connects the cold supply to the washing machine inlet (see 1 in the pic) not only was it soaking wet but it was also leaking quite badly! This is horrendous and rather worrying. Whoever did the plumbing was either incompetent, a butcher or both. Remember that the ‘T’ from the cold supply to what was the supply for the dishwasher in the kitchen is also leaking and leaving a damp patch on the floor below it – so that’s two faulty soldered joints out of the two that I’ve checked. Part of the problem is down to what I said in an earlier post – the French capillary joints are only available without solder inside them, unlike the ones used in Britain, so solder can only be applied from outside the joint when it’s been heated up to temperature. This is very hit-and-miss. Both parts of the joint need to be scrupulously clean and well fluxed and the plumber’s technique has to be perfect. If not, you get the result that I’ve now got to try and rectify and what worries me is how many more are there like the two I’ve now found?

Now I’ve broken the surroundings away from the washing machine inlet pipe, I’ll not be taking any chances tonight and I’ll be turning the main water supply off. There’s not a lot more that I can do for now, but I didn’t expect that I’d be the victim of someone else’s complete and unutterable incompetence in quite the way that I have been 😐

A note of optimism to end with though – after today’s rather depressing weather, the forecast for the week-end is even better than it was, with no rain and light winds forecast for both days, and temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius for Saturday and 32 degrees for Sunday. That may mean conditions becoming a bit thermic, especially on Sunday, but it looks as though I’ll be able to start on getting my French ‘brevet’ and Victor will also be able to continue with his training. We’ve both waited long enough and it’s about time!

June 12, 2013

It’s the wine

My friend Vin made a post on a forum where we’re both members about how much he enjoys Lacryma Christi red wine from Italy, the land of his fathers and it got me musing about the subject. This is what I posted over there….

Many years ago I worked in the wine trade as a marketing product manager, when we were trying to develop sales through supermarkets. This was nearly 40 years ago so it was a bit of an up-hill slope at the time, and the boom in supermarket sales came later, partly perhaps because of some of our efforts. But one of the best things that came out of it for me was that it gave me a chance to learn a lot about wines, as well as the opportunity to drink quite a lot of it too! That knowledge has come in very useful over the years and my enjoyment of wines of all kinds has increased as time has gone by. Funnily enough, although I have drunk and enjoyed wines from all countries, before coming to France I was drinking more American and New World wines and almost no French at all. Since coming here, all I now drink is French! Even the local Intermarche supermarket supports a huge range of wines (including foreign) and what amuses me is watching the tourists, especially the Brits, perusing the selection on offer. They have been used to the idea that you can’t get a half-decent wine back home for ‘under a tenner’ (under £10) and they invariably end up popping several bottles into their baskets, all at around 7-8€ a bottle and think what great bargains they are picking up in France.

Meanwhile, we ‘locals’ do things a bit differently. For example, today I picked up a 3 litre wine box containing AC Cotes du Tarn Gamay for the princely sum of 7.99€ that would have cost even less per litre if I’d gone for the 5 litre box. You can take my word that it’s a lovely full, fruity red with a smoothness that belies its age because it’s very young, of course. Has to be, to be sold at that price. It’s been a year since I arrived in France and one of my pleasures is being able to work my way through the Intermarche wine shelf. I’ve still got a long way to go though – but I don’t mind because I’ve got all the time in the world 🙂

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I added the above pic to the post a bit later and mentioned that I was then drinking the wine – which I still am. So Cheers all 😉

June 11, 2013

Oh NO!

Or less polite words to that effect, was my immediate reaction when I began to unpack the new water heater that I’d bought on Saturday, ready to install it today. The product itself couldn’t be seen until you began to rip the packaging off and it was only when I’d torn it down three corners and exposed the front of the unit that I could see there were several large dents in it, as the following pictures show.

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My initial reaction was that I must have caused them when loading it into the back of my car off the ‘chariot’ but I went out and checked and it was obvious that there was nothing on my car that could have caused dents like this. These were ‘penetration’ dents caused by it being struck by a sharpish object and it then occurred to me that as there was only the single layer of cardboard around the heater that would provide no protection to it whatsoever, the damage was probably done while it was standing on the rack where I’d picked it up from, right next to the aisle, and someone had probably run into it with one of the large ‘chariots’ heavily laden with goods. But in any event, I decided that as I’d paid for a good’un I’d take it back, even though I’ll probably box it in later and the dents will not be visible.

I thought that while I was at it, I might as well grasp the nettle and deal with all the hassles at once. One of my cupboard doors had a visual flaw in it, as the following picture shows.

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Now I know that oak is a natural product and that you have to expect some variation and minor flaws, but this horrible black colour in the grain of the wood stood out like a sore thumb against the other cabinets. So I thought I might as well see if I could get that changed too. I’ve also got one other potential problem, namely that the auto shut-off valve in my new toilet system seems to be leaking slightly when it has closed off the water supply. Originally it was letting so much by that the water was reaching the absolute limit of the cistern’s capacity before it was overflowing automatically into the toilet itself. Ironically, this was where I started from with the old toilet and the main reason why I’d replaced it, so I was pretty miffed about it. However, taking the valve out, disassembling it and rebuilding it seemed to have solved the problem, but I still hear a bit of dripping from time to time so the whole valve might need replacing. However, there was no time to deal with that one as well today, so after taking the door off and loading the water heater onto my trailer this time, I went over yet again to Brico Depot.

And they could not have been more helpful! They replaced the door instantly and agreed that the kitchen is of too good a quality to have such a flaw in it and then a young assistant came out to check the dents in the heater. He than made a quick phone call and passed on the message that Brico Depot would like to offer me a 50€ ‘remboursement’ if I wished to keep the heater, otherwise they would be happy to replace it. I accepted the offer of course, and once all the details had been dealt with, set off for home.

I just hope that the water heater has survived its trip to Perigueux and back, being shaken about on my trailer, without incurring any damage. I’m getting really annoyed by this constant, never-ending stream of problems that keep coming one after the other in rapid succession. It feels as though everything that can go wrong is going wrong, every time, and it’s not only trying my paitence but also becoming very wearing. But there’s nothing I can do about it, of course, apart from keep gritting my teeth and carry on. That is the British way, after all, and something that we’re very good at 😐

June 10, 2013

Quick little job today

As we had a spell of light rain today, I was thinking about seeing if I could straighten my mower blade as the grass is getting a bit long again and will soon need mowing. However, I decided to do a quick electrical job in the kitchen instead. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been running my fridge and freezer from an extension lead plugged into a socket across the other side of the kitchen, the one that I’ll be using for the washing machine actually, as there was no socket where they were standing. As they will be going back into the same positions, I needed to put a socket in there. As luck would have it, there is a socket in the same position on the other side of the wall in the bathroom (this is France, remember) so all I needed to do was make a hole through the wall, position a socket in the kitchen and connect the two up. Easy – so that’s what I did today, and it didn’t take long as I’d already bought the new socket and mounting box several days ago and happened to have a short length of power cable handy. Here are some (very poor) pictures showing what I did.

Plug 1

Plug 2

Plug 3

Plug 4

The wall is made from the same kind of hollow concrete blocks that I used to make my fireplace platform, rendered and plastered, so it took hardly any time at all to drill it and cut a hole for the box using a cold chisel. And it needed hardly any making good afterwards, which is one of the advantages of that type of construction. Only problem was, I did it all by eye and when I’d finished, the new socket wasn’t quite level. But never mind, it’s not worth losing sleep over and nobody except me will ever know when it’s behind the fridge and freezer 😉

June 9, 2013

Two days of nice surprises

You never know what the day has in store! My Internet searches for worktops with a depth of 65cm had thrown up only one source – Leroy Merlin. Their closest store is at Chancelade just to the north-west of Perigueux, so my plan yesterday was to drive over there in the morning to order a couple and return via Brico Depot, which is at Trelissac on the north-east fringe of the city, to pick up a few more items that I need for the kitchen. The price shown on Leroy Merlin’s web site for 3 metre long worktops in the style I wanted was 159€ each so I fully expected to have to bite the bullet and commit myself to an outlay of 318€ plus a bit more for an edge cover and an angle joint.

When I got there I came across two worktops of the correct dimensions in matt dark grey for 95€ each, in stock to take away immediately and I thought about buying them as the more exotic type that I wanted was quoted as being on a lead-time of 12-15 days. However, although this represented a hefty price saving based on my original estimates, I decided it would be a false economy as they looked very plain and bland and I decided that as I’d be looking at them for a long time, I’d end up wishing I’d spent more to get exactly what I wanted. So I then checked out the sample rack and found just what I was looking for with a subtle dark grey pattern, called ‘Metal vieilli’. I waited while the young sales lady finished dealing with a couple who obviously had no intention of buying anything and then asked if that style was in stock or only available to order. The latter turned out to be the case so I said that I’d like to order two of them. Imagine my surprise when as she typed my order into the computer the price came up as only 75€ each! It appears that in the few days since I’d done my Internet searches, Leroy Merlin had not only reduced their list price from 159€ to 92€ but they also had a ‘special offer’ running that had reduced it even further. What a nice surprise! So it turned out that I was able to order everything, including the accessories, for only 167.80€, only just a bit more than I’d been expecting to pay for just one worktop. Now that’s what I call a real result 😀

So after paying a deposit at the ‘caisse’ on the way out, I then made my way over to Brico Depot. I picked up my usual large ‘chariot’ which I began to fill up with a 150 litre ‘Steatite’ water heater, fitting kit, cutlery drawer insert, cooker hood, gas hob and stainless steel sink unit. I had been torn between a 200 litre water heater and the 150 litre. The larger one is actually cheaper because it’s more popular and they sell more of them, but the difference in size is considerable. The 200 litre is recommended for 2-4 people and the 150 litre for 2-3 and I finally decided to go for the latter, mainly because of the size difference. Even so, it’s still pretty big and when it’s hanging up on the wall, it won’t be the most attractive addition to my bathroom 😐

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As the young lady who checked me out seemed a little bit clueless, or being rather kinder, permanently distracted, I decided I’d check the bill before I left as I’ve had experiences when lots of items have been scanned together, that some have got scanned more than once. Not only was the total number of items correct, but I was also pleased to find that the water heater had been charged at 187€ rather than its list price of 193€ and the sink unit at 44.50€ rather than 49.00€. So more nice surprises to finish my shopping trip off 🙂

The weather forecast for today hadn’t looked encouraging for flying so I’d more or less written the day off for doing anything very constructive. However, I then received a phone call from Victor who, it turned out had arrived here with Madeleine last night. They kindly invited me over for a spot of lunch, which was lovely, and then Victor and I dashed off to Castillonnes in Victor’s 2CV in case Francis, the instructor who Victor had phoned earlier, could make it to take advantage for either or both of us of a brief weather window that had presented itself. In fact nothing came of it, so after a quick beer after we got back to Victor’s house, we went off to show Victor Galinat, where (eventually…) I’ll be keeping the X-Air. I was surprised to see how beautifully trimmed the grass was, as you can see in the following pics which I took on my mobile phone, which is why they are pretty useless.

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The first shot was taken looking over towards the area where I’ll be keeping the X-Air, where there’s an existing hangar. Victor was trying to apprehend a large hornet, of which there are many around these parts, that had infiltrated itself into the 2CV on the journey over. The next two shots are of the runway, which is 450m long on a slight down-slope. There are tall trees behind where I was standing, so as is often the case here in the Dordogne, it’s take off down the slope and land up it, no matter what the wind is doing. But at least at Galinat there’s a fair bit of runway to play with – and as you can see, beautifully manicured as well 😉

June 7, 2013

Just a bit more done

But not as much as I’d have liked! I’d left a decision about the corner unit until today, so this morning I had to make up my mind about something. I’d originally planned for the 40cm wide opening part to have a drawer to match the two adjacent units but as I have two 1/2 moon swing baskets inside it that far from make the best use of the space available, it had occurred to me that if I wanted to store stuff in the far corners where the baskets don’t reach, it would be almost impossible to reach in with a drawer above my head. The alternative was to put the drawer somewhere else, in fact it will now be close to the sink drainer where it will be very convenient as a cutlery drawer, and fit a full height door, and that’s what I decided to do.

The swing baskets are intended for use without there being a shelf in the cabinet, but I decided that I’d like to retain mine to give me surfaces at two levels in the corners where the baskets can’t reach, to store stuff on. It needed a little bit of tweeking to clear the pivot point of the upper basket but looked fine once I’d finished. And when I’d fitted the door, I knew that I’d done the right thing, as the following picture shows.

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As you can see in the pics, as I don’t have any worktops yet, I’ve used cartons containing units I don’t need yet as temporary replacements and to keep dust out of the units that I’ve installed. This means that I can use them if I’m careful, which is convenient, and I’ve already taken the opportunity to fill up the storage space that they provide. Sheer luxury compared to having my stuff standing out in the open as it was 🙂

After casting my net as widely as I can, it appears that the only place where I can easily source worktops from that are 65cm deep is Leroy Merlin in Perigueux. I haven’t visited their branch yet but their web site shows that they will be subject to an order delay of 12-15 days. This is going to cause me a few problems. I can’t install a sink or cooker hob without a worktop so I’m going to be rather stuck until the ones I order eventually arrive. The up-side is that while I’m waiting, I’ll be able to get the X-Air’s wings rigged and as all of the fields are now being mown for hay, the timing could be about right if I want to take off when the aircraft is ready from the field opposite my house. The down-side is that I need to take out the old gas water heater on my kitchen wall and fit a new Steatite electric heater on the wall in my bathroom. It would be nice to be able to smash out the old sink and do all of the plumbing at the same time, but as this now won’t be possible, I’ll have to plan for a kind of ‘half-way-house’ arrangement that connects the new heater while leaving the old pipework in place. Inconvenient, and yet-again a bit time-consuming, but not impossible to do 😉

Just a quick comment to finish off with. Whoever put in the existing pipework made provision for a dishwasher in the form of a water supply and adjacent electric socket. I’m re-using the socket for my washing machine which, in the French way, is currently in my bathroom, as I don’t intend to have a dishwasher. They send too many chemicals into your ‘fosse septique’ (septic tank) and use too much water in any case, so I’m moving my washing machine into the kitchen, which will be more convenient and also free up the corner of the bathroom where I’ll be mounting the new electric water heater. The water supply in the kitchen is just a pipe ‘teed-off’ from the cold water supply and ever since I’ve been here it has had a small damp patch underneath it. So it’s leaking a bit, not enough to be able to see, but enough to show on the floor, so I’ll have to replace it when I re-do the plumbing. I’ve noticed that since I’ve started work on the kitchen, the damp patch has been getting bigger. I just hope that the pipe holds long enough for me to get the work done and I don’t wake up one morning to find the house awash. That would be ironic now I’m doing the work as it must have been like it for donkey’s years 😐

June 6, 2013

Now for phase 2

What glorious weather we had today. Today I’d set myself the target of finishing fitting the second of the two units down the side wall of my kitchen, so I didn’t have the spare time to be out in the sun, except when I was outside working on my Workmate bench. But it was hotter than yesterday and one of the weather web sites I use gives an observed high temperature today for Plazac of 29 degrees Celsius, which I can well believe. I had to pick up a small sheet of white melamine to make my in-fill panel out of, a length of timber and some screws from Les Briconautes and as soon as I got them I pressed on.

I started off making a few mistakes that wasted time more than anything else, but despite them the end in-fill panel turned out pretty well and by the early evening, the final unit was securely installed and ready for its trim to be fitted. I stopped briefly for a quick snack and a long cold drink before making up and installing its drawer, fitting its door and adding the oak side panel and the pic below shows the job at the end of the day.

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So these three units are now ready to have their worktop fitted and then I can start using them if I want to. The only problem with that will be the amount of dust that the next stage of the job will create, when I bash out the old sink and take the gas heater off the wall, but I’ve got stuff stored in the open in the kitchen at the moment, so in comparison having the units will be an improvement. The only feature that I’m disappointed with at present are the plinths along the base of each unit. They are held in place with soppy little plastic clips and I think I will end up making my own ones that will be ‘all-in one’ where possible and joined together as well. Shouldn’t be too hard and it will improve the appearance of the whole kitchen no end I think. But that will be at the very end of the job. Now I’ve got phase 2 to think about, which will take me onto the main wall of the kitchen and as well as the units I’ve chosen, will also involve fitting the electric oven, gas hob, washing machine and sink. All good meaty stuff, which I like. I can hardly wait to get cracking 🙂

June 5, 2013

Slow but steady

We had a really lovely day today, possibly a little too windy to fly if I’d been able to, but with a gorgeous blue sky and wall-to-wall sunshine. But I had to continue with my kitchen work, so couldn’t take very much advantage of it, although I did manage a half hour or so in the garden after I’d had my lunch. It was pretty hot and I know I caught some more sun even in the short time I was outside. I went to the shop at 6.45pm and my car temperature gauge showed that it was still 25 degrees Celsius then, so it must have been quite a bit warmer than that mid-afternoon.

Kitchen progress has been a bit slower than I’d hoped for a couple of reasons. The assembly instructions that come with each item are not as clear as they might be which makes the first time for anything quite slow. After that, things speed up but I’m only just coming towards the end of all the ‘firsts’! Secondly, because my house is quite old, the walls and floors are not that true, so I find myself constantly adjusting and tweeking to get the kind of finished job that I want. This is the main advantage of doing things yourself, of course, because a contractor could never put in the hours that I am. This means that you’d either end up with things being done their way rather than yours or, in the worst case, a bit of a bodge-up where they’ve cut corners to get around the problems that arise as the job proceeds.

As I explained in my previous post, I decided not to bother making the wall good behind the corner cabinet but instead to cover the electric cable tubes with a plywood cover. This is how it came out. I took the picture while the emulsion was drying and it ended up looking a bit tidier than it appears, not that appearance was that important as it’s hidden behind the corner unit.

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So the first job today was fixing the junction boxes to the wall after which I then re-ran the cable for the cooker and fitted a new power point to the end of it. It all went to plan and then I was finally able to complete the permanent installation of the corner unit followed by the adjoining 40cm unit. It was all of the tweeking involved in this that took the time today, but I just had to be patient, because getting this corner right will I think be the trickiest part of the whole job. I placed the last 60cm unit into position next to the 40cm one, but there wasn’t going to be enough time to fit it because I’ve got to make an in-fill panel between its end and the wall. So instead I thought I’d make up a drawer and door for the 40cm unit so I know what’s involved for all of the others. Here’s how the finished articles looked at the end of it.

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The ‘facades’ are solid American oak and the doors and drawers are all the ‘soft-n’-silent’ close variety. I like the look very much and if things keep going as they are, I hope to eventually end up with a very attractive kitchen that nicely suits the character of the house. But there’s still a long way to go, and we’ll see what we will see at the end of it 😉

June 3, 2013

More on weather weirdness

A few days ago I did a post about the weird weather we’re experiencing in south-west France. I hadn’t realised how far it extended until I read an article this morning on the BBC News web site. Here are a few extracts from it.

Thousands flee as central Europe flood waters rise

Emergency operations are under way in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic to deal with record levels of flooding in some places.

Landslides and flooding have led to the deaths of at least four people. At least eight people are missing.

In Germany, more than 7,000 people have been moved from their homes in the town of Eilenburg, reports say.

The Czech capital, Prague, is on high alert amid fears that floodwater could swamp its historic centre.

More than 2,500 people have been forced to leave their homes in the capital and the surrounding region, Radio Prague reports. Animals from Prague’s zoo have also been moved.

Underground stations have been closed and schools shut as Prague officials wait and see whether the Vltava River will flood its banks.

Disaster zone

Main roads in many areas of central Europe have been closed and rail services cut. In some areas, electricity has been turned off as a precaution.

Outside Prague, two people were killed and four reported missing when a house collapsed. The body of a man in his 50s was found close to swollen river waters north-east of Prague and two people are missing after their raft overturned south-west of the capital.

In Austria, the meteorological service said two months of rain had fallen in just two days.

A man was found dead near Salzburg after being swept away as he worked to clear a landslip, and three further people are missing.

More than 300 people were moved from their homes in Salzburg and the neighbouring Tyrol as the army worked with the civil authorities to clear landslides and make roads passable.

Floods have swamped parts of the Passau in Bavaria. Parts of the Pinzgau region, which includes Taxenbach, have been declared a disaster zone.

In Germany, Bavaria’s flood alert service has warned that the forecast of continuing heavy rain is likely to worsen the flooding affecting the Danube and the Inn, among other rivers in the area.

The German cities of Passau and Rosenheim have declared a state of emergency.

Authorities in Passau, which lies at the confluence of three rivers in Bavaria, said waters could rise above the record levels of 2002.

Towns and cities in Saxony, Thuringia and Baden-Wuerttemberg have also been inundated by flooding, and the army has been deployed to help with the emergency effort.

In northern Saxony, water levels on the River Mulde were said to be particularly high.

A large area of Eilenburg north-east of Leipzig was evacuated, reports said, with 7,000 people being taken to emergency shelters.

This is a really extraordinary situation. Can it all just be down to the move south of the Jetstream that I mentioned in my earlier post or can all of the events, including the move south of the Jetstream, be due to something else that we have yet to understand? Is it just coincidence that the picture I included in my post showed the Jetstream positioned to the south of all of the countries affected? I have no answer to these questions, but these catastrophic events in central Europe make our cold and wet experiences here in the Dordogne pale into insignificance in comparison and I have nothing but sympathy for the large numbers of people in several countries who have been affected by them. I sincerely hope that things improve soon and that they are able to recover and get their lives back on track again.

June 2, 2013

Coming on slowly

I’m moving steadily forward with my kitchen, not as fast as I’d like to, but things will speed up as from now. I knew that I’d be unable to do anything much until I’d made the corner good so I could start to press ahead with getting the floor units installed, but the mortar would have to have time to cure so I could secure the cable junction boxes for the washing machine and oven and the corner unit itself. I’d hoped to get the making good done yesterday but I had a very long wait at Brico Depot to exchange two ‘facades’ (cupboard doors) that were incorrect and by the time I’d got home, it was too late to start. So that was today’s job.

I mentioned in my previous post that the angle between the walls is greater than 90 degrees, and how I’ve got around it is shown in the following pic.

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The back edge of the corner unit has had to be pushed back into the wall which was not a problem after cutting away at the hump in the corner. The main problem with having an angle greater than 90 degrees is that it effectively moves the junction strip on the side of the corner unit for the unit that butts up against it and which should be at 90 degrees to it, away from the wall that the latter should be up against. So the adjoining 40cm and 60cm units will be standing a few centimetres off the wall that they should be up tight against. I’ve calculated that this will not be too serious though, because although the units along the main wall will have a worktop 60cm in depth the units standing away from the wall will just need a worktop of depth 63cm and an infill panel at the end to fill the gap. So no problem 🙂

Here’s how the kitchen corner looked after I’d made it good using plain mortar. It was a bit fiddly because of the limited space that there was to work in and the hanging cables and junction boxes that kept getting in the way, but I’m happy with it.

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I’ve decided not to bury the electric cable tubes again because there’s no need to. They’ll be behind the corner unit and the corner will be boxed in above the worktop in any case. So all I’ll do when I re-secure the electrical junction boxes is make up a plywood cover for the tubes, which I’ll fix to the wall with screws. Anybody in the future who then rips the kitchen out (hopefully long after I’m gone!) will then not have the problem I was faced with and know immediately that the cables are there.

I can’t do much more today. I pushed the corner unit into position before the mortar cures so I know it will fit properly. Now I’ll just put together another couple of floor units after I’ve had another cup of tea and hopefully I’ll be able to make much quicker progress tomorrow and in the days to come.

By the way – although this weekend’s weather was generally pretty good, I don’t think that I missed much of an opportunity to fly through working indoors on the kitchen and not being able to get out to Castillonnes. The reason was the northerly winds that we’re still being plagued with, which I think would probably have been a bit too strong and gusting for microlights. I hope to ‘break the back’ of the kitchen work this week, during which temperatures could get to over 30 degrees Celsius, and then be able to get some flying in next weekend. However, at the time of writing, it already looks as though this plan could be de-railed because as so often with the high temperatures, we could end up with thunderstorms by, yes you’ve guessed it, Saturday and Sunday 😐