August 31, 2014

Almost there…

But not quite. I’d hoped to get all of the shuttering in for the new wood shelter’s concrete base today, but didn’t quite manage to do it. I’ve been finding the work on it very heavy going, mainly because the ground is hard, dry and full of rocks. I’ve had to use a pick-axe all the time rather than a shovel, which has made for rather hard work, and whenever I’ve banged a peg into the ground to nail the boards to, I’ve hit a rock. So I eventually decided that I was too shuttered – sorry, shattered – to continue and called it a day at 6.30 pm with one section of board still not in.

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I should be able to finish that off pretty quickly tomorrow, when I’m feeling fresher again. And at just gone 11.00 pm I’m now going to turn in at what is quite early for me, so I can make an early start. I want to drop into the Point P builders merchants first thing tomorrow to see what it will cost to get a big bag of ballast delivered, although actually I have very little choice as for the time being I don’t have a tow bar on the Kia so can’t pick it up myself in my trailer. Then I can look forward to using up a lot of the hardcore that I dug out of my lawn a few weeks ago as sub-base for the concrete. It should be an interesting week as it’s forecast to be a hot one – not the best conditions for doing this kind of work. I’ll have to wait and see how it turns out. Might even be able to get a flight in if I’m lucky 😉

August 31, 2014

Bad luck? Good luck!

There’s an old saying that ‘things happen for a reason’ and sometimes things happen that you originally think are a set-back and a total pain in the back-side but turn out eventually to be a bit of good fortune. And that exactly sums yesterday up.

While levelling the base for the concrete floor of my new wood store I’d already come across the waste from my bathroom and the pipe for the house’s main water supply. I was pleased to have done that because I had no idea where they were before and now that I did know, I didn’t mind that they’d be covered up again with concrete later on. I took a picture in case I needed to refer to it at some time in the future.

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I’d had even less idea where the waste from my kitchen sink was until I also came across that while I was digging out a channel in which to place the first length of shuttering for the concrete. Quite unexpectedly, it turned out to be about two metres from the wall of the house and I’d only come across it because I’d heard a hollow sound while I was hacking at the ground with my pick-axe. As it was plastic, I’d thought that I’d taken great care not to hit and break it, but while I was preparing the ground I took a close look at it and noticed that it was cracked. There was a large tree root tightly up against it which may have caused the damage but maybe I had damaged it with my pick-axe after all. In any case, it didn’t matter because the damaged section had to come out and be replaced, and I was cursing my luck.

So as it was already late afternoon, I quickly had to have a wash, change out of my working togs and head across to Brico Depot at Trelissac to get the materials that I needed, otherwise I’d not have been able to use my kitchen sink. As I was going over there anyway, I thought that I might as well drop into the Orange shop because when I’d signed up, I’d been promised that on provision of proof of payment, I would be given a voucher for the 45€ that I’d had to pay for terminating my SFR contract for telephone and internet.

As I already had a short length of 40mm plastic tube left over from when I put Val’s kitchen in for her, the other bits and pieces that I needed for the repair only cost a few euros. So then I dropped into the Orange shop. The young lady who I spoke to first initially said that the offer had expired but after I said that it was linked to the date when I signed the contract she asked a young chap about it. He recognised me and spoke a few words of English before telling the young lady that it was OK as I was indeed due the voucher.

I’ve been absolutely delighted with Orange. I’ve been connected since the first week of June and so far haven’t paid a centime for my phone and internet as I received an initial 3 months free. This has saved me over 100€ compared to what I’d have paid SFR in that period. Now I’m getting another 45€ to pay for my SFR termination charge! OK, I’ve already paid this and I’ll just be getting it back, but it means that I’ll go for another month or so before Orange starts to take anything out of my bank account.

So where does the good luck/bad luck bit come in, you might be asking? Before the young guy left the young lady to sort out my voucher, he looked at the paperwork and said how fortunate it was that I’d come in yesterday. The reason was that I’d not read the small print and the voucher offer terminated one month after the end of the special offer period. And that date was yesterday! So see what I mean 😀

I had to repair the plastic pipe soon after getting home and that didn’t take too much time as it wasn’t that complicated. Here’s a shot showing the repair with the bits of broken pipe that I’d removed lying next to it.

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All in all I was very happy with the way that things had turned out. If I hadn’t had to carry out the repair that had only cost a few euros and taken just a few minutes to do, I’d have missed out on my 45€ Orange voucher. I think it was well worth it 😉

August 28, 2014

Surprise surprise!

I forgot to switch my mobile on yesterday – either that or it went off because the battery got too low. Anyway, when I switched it on this morning I found that I’d got about six voice-mails… from the wood man. It seemed that whereas I was expecting him sometime on Saturday, he wanted to deliver straight away! I spoke to him eventually at 10.30 am and suggested he might like to come in a couple of hours time, to give me time to get to the bank, but I forgot that that would have collided violently with his lunch-time! He wanted to come at 11.30, so that didn’t leave me much time to dash up to the cash machine at Rouffignac. If anyone wants proof that when you start to impose unreasonable levels of tax on people you actually raise less tax, they only need to look at France. All of the small tradesmen now insist on being paid in cash, for obvious reasons, and who can blame them 😉

I explained to the wood man how to find my house and he came trundling into my drive-in with his tractor and trailer at about 11.20. I showed him where I’d like it dropped and he was really helpful, reversing his trailer right next to the spot I’d chosen. We set to together and had the 3 stères neatly stacked up in about 10 minutes or so.

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After a short conversation and my paying him, I then had to cover the stack up because we were expecting rain later, possibly early evening or in the early hours of the morning and it would have been daft to get the nice, dry wood wet unnecessarily. Luckily, I just had enough of the thick, black impervious plastic that I made 56NE’s covers from left over to do the job.

So this afternoon I was able to make a start on the new wood store base. The first job is to get the ground levelled off and prepared, which meant taking a pick-axe to it. While I was doing it, the humidity level was chronic and although I wasn’t exerting myself that much, I was wringing wet. In fact, we even had a ‘phantom’ shower from nowhere later on in the afternoon and eventually it began to rain quite hard for a while, causing me to stop work. Lucky that I got the wood covered, eh? Here’s what I got done today – not that much, but it’s a start.

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I’ve got to make the base a bit high in the front because eventually there’ll be a path there and I can’t afford the floor of the store to be lower otherwise I’ll have water running in. And I don’t want any nasty surprises like that, that’s for sure 😕

August 27, 2014

Here we go again

Now I’ve made a start on my new wood store, I’d hoped that with the cold weather still being a couple of months away I’d not be under too much pressure to get the work done. But it’s not to be after all. My neighbour, Benjamin, is coordinating communications between several of us and the local wood merchant so that by combining all of our requirements we can order in bulk and get the best price. Well, it’s certainly worked because for 3 stères of dry oak, my price has worked out at 45€/stère, which is very cheap (for more info on choosing and buying wood down here CLICK HERE). Only problem is the wood merchant wants to deliver this Saturday, which doesn’t fit in with my plans at all.

But I have no choice. I’ll just have to take it, stack it up on my grass and find some more good waterproof plastic sheeting to cover it up until my new wood store is ready. I mentioned previously that I’ve done a drawing of what I’m intending to put up and here it is.

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I’ve since compared my plan to the store that Benjamin already has and coincidentally the dimensions are very similar. His is the same height as I’m planning but at 2.2m deep and 3.3m wide, the other dimensions of his are slightly different. However, mine will have a slightly greater floor area than his and as he has 4 stères of wood comfortably stacked in one side of his, mine should be able to accommodate much the same sort of volume. In fact as shown on my drawing, 4 stères will stack up to a height of about 1.6m in the area I’ve allocated for it, leaving quite a large floor area clear over on the other side where I’ll be able to keep my lawn mower, concrete mixer, rotavator, log splitter and other heavy tools. I’m hoping to put up a few shelves and that there might also be enough room for a small bench so with light and power that I’ll be able to bring through from kitchen on the other side of the end wall, I’ll have a nice bright and airy little workshop as well as a good store for my wood.

Now all I have to do is build it 😕

August 23, 2014

Another year older

No, it isn’t my birthday – that’s in February – it’s just that this evening I was given to reflecting that whereas this time last year I was seemingly dashing off job after job in and around the house and garden, and some of them quite heavy too, with little by way of physical discomfort to show for it, this year I’ve ‘felt it’ whenever I’ve completed tasks that in comparison have been quite light. Take today for instance. After procrastinating for far too long, I decided that I really must make some progress on improving my wood shelter in readiness for the coming winter. Wim and I had originally planned to fly south to the find the strip where Gordon, who we met at the Cavarc open day, keeps his 1941 Taylorcraft but as the weather looked as though it could be a bit ‘iffy’ for much of the day, I decided that we’d do the flight another time instead. That left me no excuse, so I had to get stuck in. I ended up having a successful day but as I mentioned at the beginning, although the work was not that heavy, I am rather ‘feeling it’ this evening 😕

I had seriously considered just trying to make the existing shelter more weather-proof but always knew that this would be a bit of a cop-out. The structure, if you could call it that, was so ramshackle that any work done on it would have been a total waste of time and effort and would have needed to be re-done all over again at some time in the very near future. So my conclusion was that something much more drastic was the order of the day. Here are some shots of the existing shelter that were taken at various times over the past few months.

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There was nothing else for it, it had to come down, so that’s what I started on this morning. First, the side supports, many of which consisted of old branches, for which I suppose I have to thank the previous occupier of my house, starting with the ones I could kick down with little or almost no effort.

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Then the roof supports, some of which I attacked with my chain saw to speed things up a bit.

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And finally, all the other verticals and bits and pieces that comprised the remainder of what truly had to be one of the shoddiest and most pitiful ‘structures’ that I’ve ever come across. In some ways, it’s surprising that it had remained standing for as long as it had done and also the amount of effort that was needed to eventually reduce it to a heap of old wood and sheets of corrugated iron, leaving the space clear under the stairs to my ‘grenier’ for the first time for many years, I suspect.

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I saved any of the wood that I might possibly be able to re-use in any way whatsoever (some to use as a frame when laying a proposed concrete base for the new shelter) and covered it up. The remainder consisting of old, dry wood, I should be able to burn on my wood burner, so I piled that up to one side and covered that up also with one of the old roof sheets to keep that dry too. Afterwards, I thought that the space left looked quite tidy.

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I’ve never seen my house looking like this before and I hope that it won’t stay this way for too long before a spanking new wood shelter begins to take shape to replace the old one.

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I’ve already got my plans done for the new one and for its framework I’ll use the wood that I’ve still got in my ‘cave’ that I bought two years ago when I thought about making a temporary ‘lean-to’ shelter in which to work on 56NE shortly after I’d bought it, when we had a long period of wet weather. I knew that it had to come in handy eventually 😉

August 18, 2014

Back in Plazac, back in the air

I enjoyed my trip back to England to see my family, my first in two years actually, but it’s always nice to get back home again, isn’t it. I’d had a flight planned from before I left so I’d been getting quite impatient in the meantime to get airborne again. Here’s a pic showing my intended route in green and the track I actually flew today in red.

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I planned to fly west from Galinat to Cendrieux, which is just a dot on the map really, and then onwards to the large village, or small town even, of Vergt. I then planned to head south to my next waypoint St Marcel where I would turn slightly left for Moliéres and then turn left again to head up to St Cyprien and back to Galinat. The whole flight was planned to take just over an hour.

I took off at 03.12 pm, later than I would have liked as I’d originally planned to make it a morning flight. Wim has always advised flying in the early morning or early evening and never was this more appropriate than today. The high was only about 23 degrees Celsius and most of the broken cloud that we had today had cleared by the time I took off, so I expected conditions to be fairly smooth. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I experienced turbulence almost immediately after taking off and during the flight, this became quite severe as I’ll mention later.

My left turn out of Galinat took me over La Roque St Christophe and I took the following shot as I flew over it.

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This is a remarkable place as it’s what might be referred to as a ‘troglodyte village’ in the rock face cut by the Vézère river in prehistoric times. It consists of caves and walk-ways created and inhabited by prehistoric man although at the height I was flying, not much detail of these can be seen. It’s well worth a visit if anyone’s in the area and although this area is full of such places, not all of them have been restored in the way that La Roque St Christophe has and some even, which might be major attractions elsewhere, are just closed off to prevent vandals entering them and causing damage.

Cendrieux came up as planned but as I couldn’t see any feature there worth photographing, I didn’t bother. So the next waypoint was Vergt. I was flying at around 1500 ft and as I approached it, the turbulence wasn’t too bad. Although it was a bit bumpy, I managed to shoot the following series of pics.

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But as I began to make my left turn to head south, the turbulence began to increase quite substantially. There was no obvious reason for this but a few moments after I’d completed the turn, it became very severe. By then, I’d descended to about 1200 ft so I thought it wise to begin a climb to see if I could get out of it. That did indeed do the trick, but not until I’d climbed to 2000 ft where there were still quite a few severe bumps, but nothing like as bad as at the lower altitude. For some reason I also kept experiencing quite violent lifting of my right wing necessitating some very rapid control responses in order to maintain any semblance of level flight.

On my way south to Moliéres, I spotted a very pretty little village which I’ve since found out from Google Earth was Pressignac. Here’s a pic I shot of it, unfortunately while I was still at 2000 ft.

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My next waypoint was Moliéres, which turned out to be a hamlet on the top of a small hill and I took the next shot as I turned left to head for St Cyprien.

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As I headed towards St Cyprien, I spotted another interesting village that I would have passed directly over, so I eased slightly south of it and took the following shot as I passed by.

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Once again, I had to consult Google Earth to identify it, and it turned out to be the village of Cadouin. It is noted for its spectacular medieval abbey, which is clearly visible in the above shot (the large walled structure). My last waypoint was St Cyprien, which I’ve flown by and taken a picture of previously, but from a different direction, so today I took another, below.

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Although Galinat should have been only another 11 minutes or so further on, whenever I approach the airfield from the south-west, I always have difficulty spotting it. And today was no different. My solution is always to head for Thonac and then turn onto a heading of 151 degrees, which is a straight-in approach for Galinat. Sure enough, the trick worked again today and I was soon set up for a landing. But not without a few bumps yet again, which made things tricky enough to call for quite a high level of concentration.

The flight lasted for 1 hour 10 minutes and was, I think, the most turbulent that I’ve experienced since being here. There’s an old saying that ‘it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than to be flying wishing you were on the ground’. It wasn’t quite that bad today, but the bumps and turbulence did rather take the edge of what should have been a really enjoyable flight. But any flight that you land and walk away from is a good one, they say, so I guess today’s was one that just has to be put down to experience 😉

August 3, 2014

Cavarc ‘Porte Ouverte’

That’s an ‘open day’ in English, and that’s what was going on today down at the Aéroclub de Castillonnès at Cavarc. So we all decided to go. Victor, Madeleine and Sophie said they’d go by car but if possible, Wim and I wanted to fly in, of course. However, the weather has been a bit unstable for the last couple of days so there was no guarantee that we’d be able to make it, but despite a forecast for occasional light showers and even the possibility of a passing thunderstorm, we decided to give it a go.

The plan was for Wim to fly into Galinat in the Red Baron at midday and for us both to go in 56NE, but I could see that although Galinat was clear, there was a heavy shower over Plazac at that time. So it was several minutes later that Wim came into view and landed.

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I’d planned the flight to Cavarc via Beaumont and as we approached the latter we had both been keeping an eye on a very active storm cell a few miles off to our right. We’d passed Belvès airfield off to our left a few minutes before and when we saw lightening jumping from the storm cloud to the ground, we both decided that as we couldn’t see exactly how big the cell was in the direction that we wanted to fly, it would be a good idea to make a precautionary landing at Belvès and wait for a few minutes on the ground to see what happened. So that’s what we did, switching the engine off some 30 minutes after leaving Galinat.

The edge of the cell didn’t actually touch us at Belvès but we could see that it was dark looking and very vicious. After 20 minutes on the ground, we decided that it was safe to take off again and continue our journey but even though the edge of the cell had passed through several minutes previously, we were surprised by just how much we were thrown about during the climb out. 20 minutes later and we were at Cavarc to find the airfield bathed in glorious sunshine. We were told that the storm had passed through there, though. Here’s a shot of 56NE parked up next to the hangar and a locally registered Sky Ranger

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Victor told the Club what had happened and they were kind enough to have delayed things a bit to wait for us to arrive. Here’s a shot of the group under the trees for the splendid meal laid on by the Club for just 10€ a head.

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The flight line shown in the pic consists of a beautiful Colibri biplane, a Rans Coyote, a very pretty little Jodel and a 1941-built G registered Taylorcraft owned by Gordon, a Geordie lad who has retired down here much the same as me. I took loads of shots of all of them, together with a Sky Leader that had been flown in from Monpazat by the French Rotax and Sky Ranger/Leader distributor but for some unexplained reason, none of them were saved by my camera to the memory card! I am so disappointed because a unique opportunity has now been lost to photograph some unique and lovely aircraft, especially the Taylorcraft, Jodel and Colibri, all together in the same place 🙁

There was a terrific turnout of people supporting the Club and the final two shots are of the group just after they’d eaten and my great bunch of friends, Sophie, Madeleine, Wim and Victor, all smiling in unison 😀

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That’s Gordon on the far left of the last shot, partially hidden by the tree. He told us that he flies from a small airfield further south down near Fumel, and its owner was also there. He said he’d have no objection to us flying in, so that’s on the to-do list for when I get back from England in a week or so’s time. That’s something to look forward to.

August 1, 2014

Excellent flight today!

Weather was almost perfect this morning so Victor and I went for a sight-seeing tour of the local area. Wim dropped into Galinat in his Weedhopper before we left but had other things to do so couldn’t join us. Here’s where we went.

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Because I wasn’t taking any pics today, we were able to fly a bit lower than I would usually with Victor snapping away the whole time with his Nikon. Although the temperature got up to about 29 degrees C by the time we landed, the air stayed decidedly smooth and Victor got over 100 shots almost all of which were brilliant with fantastic detail, including of his house with Madeleine outside in the garden waving 🙂

And we got the best of the weather as well because after we’d landed it gradually deteriorated, ending up with thunder (but hardly any rain) by the early evening. Next flight planned for Sunday, down to Cavarc for the club’s open day, and then I’m off back to England for a week on Tuesday, to see my mum who’s 95 and can’t travel long distances any more. So a great flight lasting 55 minutes today and more good things coming up. Life is good 😉