October 31, 2014

Last flight for October

Conditions are not so good now. We’re still, for the time being, enjoying warm weather for the time of year with today’s high being 27 degrees Celsius, which is amazing really. However, the sun isn’t rising anywhere near as high in the sky as it was even just a few weeks ago and although it only interferes with your flying when you’re flying directly into it, it makes any photographs that you take flat and featureless.

There’s a good chance that the decent weather is about to come to an abrupt end, with rain forecast for next week and also the real possibility that temperatures are going to fall off a cliff, back to what they should be for this time of year. So with that in mind, I planned to make the most of it today with a flight towards the south, taking a few photographs along the way.

Here’s a shot of my actual track with the names of the various waypoints and places that I passed along the way marked on it.

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A right turn-out from Galinat took me first down to the village of St Geniès. This is a very small village that is dominated by the church in its centre, which you can see in the following couple of shots

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I then adjusted course by a few degrees to the right to head for the village of Salignac. This is bigger than St Geniès but still not that large and is again slightly dominated by its large church, which is again visible in the two pics below. Above the church in the shots you can also see the Chateau de Salignac that has been undergoing repairs, especially to its roof, for some time now and hopefully these should be completed in time for next year.

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I then turned a bit more to the right to head down to St Julien, which I only flew past a few weeks ago but which was a convenient waypoint for today. Not long after leaving Salignac behind, I took a picture of the view to the east in the direction of Souillac, and here it is.

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Just to the north of St Julien, I flew past the small village of Carlux. This is slightly noteworthy for its XIIth century chateau perched on the side of a low hillside. As far as I know, the chateau is partially destroyed but it still remains something of a tourist attraction.

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And then on to St Julien. As I mentioned above, I flew past St Julien only a few weeks ago and took several pictures at the time. The colours now though, are completely different, so I took another and the comparisons between then (Summer) and now (late Autumn) are quite striking.

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Leaving St Julien behind, my track then headed west along the course of the Dordogne river. Along the way, I took a shot of the village of Veyrignac on the south side of the river, which I thought was interesting for the amount of smoke it contained. We are in that time of the year now when wood-burning stoves come fully into their own down here and as you fly along with the smoke rising up to you (not today, because the smoke was hardly rising at all) you frequently get to enjoy the delicious scent of burning oak.

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And then on to what for me was the highlight of the whole flight – Chateau Beynac perched high on its rock overlooking a sweeping bend in the river Dordogne. I made the most of it by flying a full circle of the chateau taking photographs as I went and here are a few of the best ones.

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The harsh sunlight didn’t do it justice at all and I made a mental note to make sure that I return for some better shots next year, when conditions are better.

And then I headed back to Galinat via Les Eyzies, which for several months of the year is usually heaving with tourists. But not now, and the most impressive feature today was the smoke from a bonfire which was again refusing to rise and was just drifting for hundreds of metres across from one side of the town to the other.

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The flight lasted 55 minutes, at an average speed of 55 mph including take off and landing. The air was very smooth and although I popped a sweat shirt on before taking off, I hardly needed it as it was so warm. I’m sure that we will get several good flying days over the coming Winter months but a lot depends on how wet it becomes. Last year, Galinat was unusable for several weeks because it became waterlogged, so it remains to be seen what will happen this year. I hope that I’ll be able to keep flying the whole way through, but I’ll have to just wait and see what the weather gods have in store for us.

October 28, 2014

New engine cover

When I made 56NE’s covers last year, I originally intended that its engine cover should be purely temporary, but here we are and it’s been on for over a year. I made a small job list for this week and as well as cutting the grass and some other things, making and fitting a new engine cover was on the top of it. It was such a lovely day today that I fancied the idea of going across to Galinat anyway, not to fly unfortunately, as I’m still getting over a bit of an ear infection. So this morning I got my trusty old Singer sewing machine out again and set to to throw together a new engine cover.

Finding a piece of sheeting that was big enough was my first problem, but I managed to get around that and it didn’t take too long to finish the job as I’ve had a piece of paper with the dimensions and measurements on my desk for months now. Then after a quick lunch, I was off to the airfield to see how it fitted. You can see from the following pictures that it wasn’t too bad.

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However, I’d failed to anticipate just how large the measurement is across the engine from the exhaust manifold on one side to the rectifier with its wiring (the wiring that got cut a couple of months ago) on the other and its still a bit short, especially on the rectifier side. However, I can get around that by stitching a couple of flaps on, one on each side, that will be fastened together once the main cover itself has been fitted on the engine. That’ll be easy enough and won’t take more than a few minutes, but for the time being I’ve left it as it is. So that’s one job half ticked off the list 😉

October 26, 2014

Pictures from 20 October

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I spent a brilliant afternoon last Monday taking Wim’s grand-children and their dad for some short local flights in 56NE. Ed, Wim’s son, had his camera with him and took quite a few shots of the kids etc, which Sophie has just sent me copies of. I think they are great, so here they are.

First, Noa, who’s 12, and Yasmin, 8 as they arrived at the airfield.

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Yasmin taken while I was getting 56NE ready for the first flight.

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Me getting Noa buckled-up and ready for take off.

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Wim getting The Red Baron ready to take off, because when I took Noa, Wim took off first and flew in front of us.

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Noa and me after we’d landed and taxied back.

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Getting Yasmin in and tightly belted up, which was a bit difficult as she was so small compared to the seat belts.

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All ready to begin taxying for take off.

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Yasmin and me after we’d landed and taxied back to the apron.

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And finally, a shot of Yasmin after she’d had her flight. Do you think she enjoyed it?

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It was great fun with the kids and I really enjoyed it. Sophie said that flying was their main talking point for the whole of the next day, which really tickled me, I have to say, and I’m really pleased that they enjoyed it too 😀

October 22, 2014

Finally, it’s done!

My new wood store is now totally finished. At last, and I can’t say that I’m sorry to see the end of it. It’s one of the heaviest projects that I’ve taken on since coming here and I’d be lying if I said that at the end, it hasn’t taken a bit out of me. It had to be done, though, before the bad weather arrived, but thank goodness it’s all now behind me and having had it take over so much of my life in recent weeks, I can now begin to get myself back into some kind of balance again.

Today I just had to finish off the roof (waterproof patches around the ‘grenier’ landing supports, roof side boards, front corner trims) but I could never forgive myself if I’d cut any corners along the way and as usual things took a bit longer than I’d anticipated. But in the end, the wait (for me anyway) was well worth it because I was very pleased with the results. Readers can judge for themselves from the pictures. First, two shots comparing the old and new stores taken from almost the same position, then my original plan for the new one and then some further shots of the finished article.

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While I was at it, I made some new ‘grenier’ stairs from the two oak boards that I used right at the very beginning to help with laying the concrete base, so that was another plus.

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The roof came out very tidy and I’ll be very disappointed if I get any leaks down into the store. My plan is to put a gutter along the front edge of the roof to prevent rainwater running off and splashing back up off the ground onto the woodwork and it’ll also give me the opportunity to site a water butt on the left of the store just in case there’s ever a summer water shortage so I’ll still be able to water the garden.

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So that’s it. Here’s a final shot with the doors open showing what it was all about, with all the wood nicely stacked along one side in what should be perfect dry conditions for it.

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Today was much cooler than of late with the temperature only getting up to 16 degrees Celsius. Although the house was not too chilly, the temperature is forecast to fall to around 5 degrees by dawn, so I thought that I’d fire the jolly old wood-burner up for the first time since I cleared the flue out in the Spring.

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I’m glad and somewhat relieved, I must say, that even with the remainder of the old garden wood that I still had after last Winter, which is now much dryer of course, it’s back to being the same as it was right at the very beginning ie running like a train and absolutely chucking out heat. This time around I’ll just have to make sure that I look after it and keep my flue clear and hopefully if it keeps performing like it is as I type this, I’ll be able to look forward to a nice warm house this coming Winter 😉

October 20, 2014

Excellent flying afternoon

We had 28 degrees Celsius yesterday while I was working on the roof of my new wood store and believe me, I felt it. It was a bit cooler today with a high of 25 degrees but the difference was that the fierce sun of yesterday was missing and in the late afternoon, the air was as smooth as silk. Just as well, because Wim had mentioned that his grandchildren, who are visiting, had expressed an interest in having a flight and I said that as the Red Baron is only a single-seater, it would be my pleasure to do the honours.

I arrived a bit early to get 56NE fuelled up and ready to go and Victor also dropped by in his 2CV to give me a hand. Wim flew into Galinat in the Red Baron and the rest of the family arrived by car at the agreed time of 4.30 pm. With Hurricane Gonzalo about to coast in from the Atlantic any time now (fortunately it appears that we will hardly be affected and that northern Europe will be the hardest hit), high frontal clouds were in evidence and visibility, although perfectly acceptable at an estimated 10 km or more in haze, was sadly lower than on previous days. But there was still plenty for the kids to see because the trees are still very green and the countryside still absolutely beautiful.

So off we went – first Wim’s grandson and then his granddaughter, both of whom are Dutch and spoke lovely English. For the first flight with Wim’s grandson, Wim took off first and we followed behind, before I passed beneath him and landed first, as we’d agreed I would. I was slightly concerned in case as this was the first time for both of them, that after taking off, they might not like it. But there were no problems on that score and both came down with wide grins on their faces. And then their dad, who hadn’t flown for many years. He had been hanging back a bit but I suggested that he might like a flight too, as the kids had enjoyed theirs. So away we went for another 10 minute flip around the local area followed by a third lovely smooth landing. I was pleased about that, not that there was any excuse to do otherwise on a day as smooth as today was, but it’s always nice not to scare your passengers if it’s the first time they’ve flown 😉

After they’d all left and Wim had taken off to return to his strip, I thought that with the vis as it was, it wasn’t worth bothering flying again. But I thought that with it being so smooth, it would be a shame to waste it, so I changed my mind and decided to go for a short flight around part of the route that I’d originally planned , as shown below.

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I took off, turned right past the Chateau de Losse at Thonac and flew up to Montignac and then cut back to drop down over my house. From there I could see Galinat in the distance and routed back again over Thonac for yet another perfect landing. So that made four take-offs and landings and a total of 50 minutes flying and one of the best afternoons that I’ve had for a long time 🙂

October 17, 2014

Very satisfying

When a plan comes together. We had a gorgeous day, not just for Autumn but even for a Summer’s day, with a high of 25 degrees Celsius, blue skies and refreshing light winds. So no reason not to make great strides with the new wood store and that’s just what I did.

After easing the bottom of the left hand door so it would open and close smoothly, first, bolts top and bottom on the right hand door.

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Then a bolt on the outside too, so I can secure the doors closed and also put a padlock on when I’m away.

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Then hooks and eyes to hold the doors open when I need to.

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And that was more or less it. Here’s a shot with just the roof and the two vertical corner trims left to do, which I’ll probably leave until next week because the warm weather is going to continue for a few more days (not quite so warm after tomorrow, but still very warm for the time of year) so when I come to stick the roofing felt down, I’ll know the roof boards are as dry as they could possibly be.

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So at last it was time to give it a clean and tidy up.

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In readiness for the big moment. Finally I could move my wood into the store where I know it will remain dry until I take it out to burn this Winter. It was back-breaking and sweaty work in the heat of the afternoon but it was very satisfying to at last see it stored in the place where I planned it to be all those weeks ago.

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I laid a few flat terra-cotta bricks in front of the store before I began moving it, which you can see in the next shots. The idea is that they will be something to walk on later on in the year when it will be much more muddy, and I also used the old broken ‘grenier’ stairs which you can also just see, for the same purpose. Hopefully these will do until I can lay the stone path that I have plans in mind for.

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And a last shot showing the space on the other side of the store where eventually I’ll be keeping my cement mixer, rotavator, lawn mower and other bits and pieces.

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Tomorrow we expect to have a similar day to today but with the temperature rising even higher to 30 degrees Celsius. I think I’ll take it a bit easy and who knows – I might even see if I can pull out my pockets and get enough centimes together for a short flight in 56NE at the end of the afternoon. Now that would be nice 🙂

October 16, 2014

As one door closes…

Another one does too! It was warm and very humid this morning with some very heavy rain this afternoon that slowed me down quite a bit, but even so I managed very late on to get both doors on the new wood store. Although it remained dry inside, surprisingly it was a bit too dark to work in there even during the afternoon, so I had to do some of the work in my kitchen.

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The doors fit a bit too snugly at the bottom and will need to be adjusted tomorrow so they open and close without touching, but considering how they and the store were put together and the variability of the timber that I’ve used, I’m very pleased that this is all that I’ll have to do to make them fully functional. So tomorrow I’ll do that and fit the various bolts that I’ve got to finish them off. Then all I’ll have left will be the roof and the two corner trims that will finish the building off nicely.

October 15, 2014

So close!

But I still didn’t manage to finish the new wood store today. I thought I had enough time, and I did have, but in the event I made too many mistakes that robbed me of quite a bit of it. I messed up two boards on the front of the store and had to make and fit replacements. I also measured a couple of other bits incorrectly and as I’d ‘made’ the wood that they were made from by cleaning up and trimming large lengths of off-cuts, I had to do the same all over again – twice.

I decided to make the two doors of different sizes – the left one is wider than the right because my thinking is that you won’t always need or want to open both of them and the narrower of the two will be able to stay closed and secured by bolts top and bottom most of the time. I’ve made the doors from the same tongue-and-groove boards that I’ve used for the rest of the store walls and by a total fluke, I found that the width of the doorway is exactly the same as two doors of six and four boards stood vertically, even allowing for the gaps needed between the doors and each door and the frame. How lucky was that! To finish them off, I also spent quite a bit of time removing the ‘unused’ tongues and grooves from the outer boards of both doors.

Here’s a shot of the left-hand door on my kitchen floor ready for its rear boards to be attached.

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And here’s a shot I took at the end of the day with all of the boarding on the store finished and the narrower right-hand door standing in place, but not yet hung on its hinges.

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By the end of the day I was feeling very tired and I’ve also now got a bit of back-ache as well as throbbing feet that are keeping me awake at night. I won’t be sorry to see the end of this job, and that’s for sure 😐

October 14, 2014

Did it again!

I had to go into Montignac this morning and as I couldn’t avoid wasting the time anyway, I dropped into Les Briconautes and picked up a couple of small things. I really wanted to be pressing on with boarding the sides of the wood store, so I dashed back home and got going as soon as I could with just a quick snack for lunch. It was only when I was running out of nails that I realised that I’d forgotten to buy the most important thing that I needed at Les Briconautes and so had to go back again during the afternoon. And waste even more time 😐

I wasted even more when I carelessly let the circular saw blade slice into the saw’s power cable while I was putting it down with the blade still rotating and then had to continue cutting the wall boards to size using my jig saw. Annoying, but accidents do happen and I suppose I have to consider myself lucky that I’ve had very little go wrong really, throughout the whole job. I can say that now that I’m coming to the end, because as the pics below show, today I completely finished off both sides and the whole of the front except for the two tiny trim pieces at the bottom on either side of the door.

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We had a lovely warm day again today with a temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius, and although tomorrow will be slightly cooler, with an outside chance of a shower by the end of the afternoon, I think that I’ll be finished by then, all bar finishing off the roof, that is. So here’s hoping.

There’s just one other small thing. I can’t find a Suffolk Latch for the front door anywhere over here – I suppose the clue is in the name. Benjamin just has a bolt on the outside of his door but that won’t suit me, as I want to be able to go into the store, close and latch the door behind me, so it can’t blow open again if it’s windy (and rainy or snowy), do what I need to do inside (eg split a few logs) and then be able to unlatch the door and go out again. So it looks as though I’ll have to make do in the meantime while I order one from B & Q or Wickes in England and get it sent out to me. Can’t be helped, unfortunately.

October 13, 2014

Start of another week

I’m hoping to get the new wood store finished this week. There’s not much left to do now so I should be able to as it looks as though the weather is going to be quite kind – for most of the time anyway. As the roof is now weatherproof as it stands, I’ve decided to press ahead and get everything else finished before returning to it and permanently fixing the roofing felt on. If I do that, I can then move stuff into the store – the wood that I had delivered, my cement mixer, my rotavator, my lawn mower, stuff like that – so whatever happens after that, I’ll at least know that I’ll be as ready as I can be for the winter.

So today I went over to Leroy Merlin and Brico Depot for the final load of timber that I’ll need for the wall-boarding and doors and the fittings that I’ll need for mounting the hinges etc. And I wasn’t sorry about that because humping packs of timber on and off the roof of the Kia has required a lot of effort and been quite energy-sapping. The wall boards are 2.5 metres long and come in bound packs of six and the bars on top of the Kia are quite a lot higher than they were on my old Astra so just getting them up there and off again are tasks in themselves. And then, to make it even worse, when I came to off-load them today, we had a ‘funny weather’ scare in the form of an approaching thundery squall that I thought was going to bring rain, so I had to do it in double-quick time as well. No wonder my poor old back is aching 🙁

As usual, my trip to Chancelade and Trélissac meant that I lost about 4 hours out of the day, but there was no way to avoid it. I got cracking as soon after lunch as I could and finished just after 6.30 pm during which time I got both of the store sides fully boarded except for the small bits of trim at the bottom that will keep the weather off the concrete base.

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I didn’t think that it was worth getting my power saws out and starting on the front sections so called that it for the day. While I was working, the temperature got up to about 22 degrees Celsius and the sweat was rolling off me, so I was glad to be able to just leave my tools under cover in the store for the night and go indoors for a long drink. All looks well for another lovely day tomorrow (an excellent flying day, actually, but that still has to be on hold until I’ve finished this job), so with a bit of luck I’ll get the back of the outstanding work broken, if not actually finished. I’ll have to wait and see how it works out 😉

October 11, 2014

A roof at last!

By way of a subtle variation, the weather today started off with a thick Scotch mist, so although it wasn’t raining, everywhere was still wringing wet. The mist wasn’t actually a drizzle, but it wasn’t far off. But having decided that I wouldn’t allow it to deter me, I went straight out, took the boards off the store roof and gave them a wipe down. The atmosphere was far too wet for them to then dry themselves, but at least it was a start.

And then I just pushed on. Despite some of the gloomy weather forecasts on some of the meteo web sites, we had no rain at all today, actually. And not only that, the sun eventually showed its face and it did eventually become warm enough for the wood to start drying out. In fact, by lunch time I had all of the roof boarding cut to size and nailed in place.

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By this time, I decided that I was on a roll and only stopped for a quick drink and a packet of crisps before pressing on with my plan to cover the boards with roofing felt, but without fixing it in place. As time passed, I was surprised by just how dry the roof boards had become but I thought that I wouldn’t have enough time to fully complete the job anyway today, and that with roofing felt on its top, the store would at least be waterproof.

Victor had given me more than two rolls of old roofing felt that he didn’t need and you can imagine my dismay when the first one I tried was unusable. Due to the heat over a period of time an edge had melted and then fused so when the roll was unrolled, everywhere it was stuck together it tore. This made me realise why roofing felt is possibly not popular as a roof covering in these parts. We’re probably at the southernmost limit of where it’s a practical material due to the high temperatures that can be reached during the Summer months that could cause the felt to melt on the roofs that it had been used to cover. I doubt that I’ll have that problem, however, as my wood store is north-facing and shaded a bit by one or two trees.

I managed to achieve my aim of covering the roof and the final shots show how it looked with the roofing felt in place.

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I’ve just held it in place with a few large head galvanised ‘clout’ nails but they’ll do the job until I fix it permanently, probably next week when some warm, dry weather is being forecast. But at least I can now relax safe in the knowledge that the new wood store is finally waterproof and that I won’t have rainwater seeping in everywhere even if the rain gods do decide to tip a few more bucketsful onto us down here 😉

October 10, 2014

Nightmare

Now that I’m desperate to get the roof fitted on my new wood store, we seem to have entered the monsoon season here in the Dordogne. Luckily I live on the top of a hill so I’m unlikely to get swept out to sea, but after weeks of dry weather, we’ve had enough rain in the last few days to float the Ark. And it isn’t stopping yet.

After doing some essential shopping this morning (I do have to eat and keep the house in some sort of shape as well while doing all this other stuff) I seized a break in the rain to do a bit more on the wood store roof. I still had to do some more ‘adjustments’ to the small section under the ‘grenier’ stairs landing as it was important for this to not only be a good fit but to also sit squarely on the roof for the adjacent sheet (when it goes on) to butt up against. This required me to go to the top of the stairs so I could look under them and see exactly what needed to be done.

The stairs are old and getting a bit rotten, which was fine all the while they were dry. However, the relentless rain has now soaked through and softened them and while I was up at the top, the inevitable happened.

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Luckily, I’d done what I had to and could do the rest from below and not long afterwards, the small section in question was at last nailed in place.

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Before starting work, I’d yet again had to remove the OSB3 sheets that I’d placed on the roof of the store frame to keep things as dry as possible and I’d also wiped them dry in the hope that I’d later be cutting and fitting them too. But it was not to be. As I was finishing the small section under the stairs off, the rain began to start once again, slowly to start off with but getting harder by the minute. So all I could do was put the sheets back up on top again and move my tools to dry areas beneath them where I left them until the rain eventually stopped, as they’d have got wetter if I’d carried them indoors in the rain that was by then pretty hard.

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So that was another day gone and with very little to show for it. I am now extremely worried about the OSB3 sheets that I have to keep placing on the store roof as they are now seriously wet and will need several dry days to dry out before I can apply roofing felt to them. They’re also cutting very messily due to the damp even though I’m using a fast, sharp saw blade but this is not so important as the cut edges will not be visible when the job’s completed. The question is though, when the heck will I be able to complete it 😐

October 10, 2014

The perfect ‘roast’ chestnut

The first of this year’s chestnuts have just arrived at Intermarché! For connoisseurs of things chestnutty, such as myself, the arrival of the first Perigord chestnuts every Autumn is regarded a bit like the way some people view Beaujolais Nouveau, except I doubt that there will ever be races to see who can get the first nuts from the Dordogne to Westminster Bridge, the way that some deluded souls do with that acidic brew that passes itself off for wine.

No, the Perigord chestnut is indeed the king (or queen, depending on your disposition) of nuts and bears no comparison to the inferior versions from Spain or Eastern Europe that find their way to the shores of the UK, 50% of which based on my experience, end up being either worm-eaten or rotten and have to be thrown away. The Perigord chestnut, in comparison, is plump and shiny and always a delight to the palate, except some years are better than others.

So what of 2014? Will it be a vintage year for the Perigord chestnut? Only one way to find out. At 5.99€/kilo they’re not cheap, but one of life’s lessons that we have to learn the hard way, indeed, some never do, is that quality always comes at a price. The up side, though, is that in Intermarché it’s a bit of a ‘Pick ‘N Mix’ and you get to select your own nuts, so you can make sure you always pick the plump, round firm ones and leave the thin, flat ones to those lesser mortals who either do not understand the difference that it makes or do not truly appreciate the Perigord chestnut for what it is. Here’s a picture of a few of the, ahem, modest size bagful that I picked up this morning.

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‘So what’s all this about the perfect roast chestnut?’ I hear you ask, so this is where I put my best TV chef’s hat on, and here’s my advice. DON’T!! Roasting chestnuts is OK for sentimental Christmas TV shows and pictures on Christmas cards, but it’s the perfect way to ruin the nuts and create something semi-charred and practically inedible in the process. I devised an alternative method many years ago which I’ve perfected over the ages and which, done right, delivers the perfect nut and the nearest I think that you can get to chestnut perfection. And here’s what you do.

Take a few nuts, no less than three or it’s hardly worth it but usually no more than five or six, unless you’re sharing them (and who wants to share them eh?) Make sure you select nice round, plump ones and then carefully pierce them on two sides with a small fork. DO NOT miss this step out because it’s important as you’ll see later.

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Wrap your pierced chestnuts in a sheet of kitchen roll. Make sure they’re totally enclosed and place them in your microwave ensuring that the loose end of the kitchen roll is on the bottom and therefore secured by the weight of the chestnuts. This is important, because from time to time if your piercing isn’t up to scratch, a chestnut can explode when the microwave is turned on and the kitchen roll prevents the nutty smithereens from being liberally distributed all around the inside of your microwave, causing much bad language, sometimes in front of children if they’re present, which of course cannot be condoned, and also requiring a great deal of time and effort to clean up afterwards.

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Now we come to the scientific bit, which has to be based on trial and error, I’m afraid. Every microwave is different and it all depends on its power and the number and sizes of chestnuts that you’ve selected. It’s the mark of an expert, which you’ll come to appreciate as you become more of an expert yourself and more experienced in the art, that you get it right every time and always end up with the perfect result, so be prepared for a few mistakes in your early attempts. The reason is that perfect chestnuts only need a few seconds, say 20 or so depending on their size and number, in the microwave.

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This is because each chestnut becomes its own perfect tiny pressure cooker and builds up a little head of steam as the microwaves take effect. The trick is to find the ‘right’ amount of time for your microwave that produces the perfect result but without going too far and making the chestnut itself soft and stodgy. So how will you know when you’ve got it right? Believe me, you’ll know. As soon as you start to remove the chestnut from its shell, you’ll know. For aficionados, such as myself with years of experience, the preferred way of cracking the shell is by biting it across its widest axis. You do need to have a mouth on the larger side to do this, but I’m told that that’s never been a problem for me. Catch it just right and you get the satisfaction of the shell neatly cracking around the toasty hot chestnut that now deliciously awaits you. But that’s not all – if you’ve achieved the perfect chestnut, which of course, only comes with practice, as you break away the shell the bitter brown inner skin that encloses the kernel itself, will also effortlessly detach itself and be removed with the shell.

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You end up with a hot, steaming chestnut (careful not to burn your fingers when removing the shell!) that’s still deliciously crisp to the bite. All that’s then left is to enjoy it with a light sprinkling of salt. Ah, chestnut perfection! But a few words of caution to finish off with. Always make sure that your piercing is thorough! If not, the head of steam built up during the albeit brief microwaving process will remain within the shell of the nut. Then, when you come to the shell cracking process, it will be released at high pressure, which can make for some small but very nasty accidents. In my dedication to perfecting this process over the years, I’ve had to endure some very painfully burnt and blistered lips as this very thing has occurred and believe me, it’s not something you would want to wish upon yourself.

How many years, you might ask? Well, one Christmas when I was a lad of just 14, I gave myself the gripes due to my greed and a surfeit of roast chestnuts. To this day more than 50 years later, my mother, who is now 95 years old, when I tell her that I have bought some chestnuts, always tells me not to eat too many so that I give myself a stomach ache. Mothers eh? It’s why we love ’em – almost as much as we love ‘roast’ chestnuts 😉

October 9, 2014

Total washout

The weather forecast for today was for constant rain, sometimes heavy, and it looks like that’s what we’re going to get. I need dry conditions to put the roof on the new wood store as the OSB3 sheeting needs to be dry for me to apply the bituminous adhesive for the roofing felt and I can’t even measure and cut the sheets while it’s raining as I don’t have anywhere dry to work that’s sufficiently large.

I went out a few minutes ago while the rain was only light and re-jigged the sheets that I’d placed on the store roof as water was being channelled in through a low spot and collecting in a pool on the floor. Afterwards I took the following shots that show the problem that I’m having to deal with.

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My main concern remains that of water penetrating into the OSB3 sheets and causing permanent damage, but there’s nothing much that I can do other than wait until the rain stops. It’s still raining as I type this at just gone a quarter-to-one and from the look of the current forecast, that might not happen until the week end. If I’m lucky, I might get a few breaks in the showers tomorrow but although that might give me enough time to cut the sheets to size, which I’ll be grateful for, I doubt that it’ll be enough to dry them out sufficiently to apply the roofing felt to them. I guess that I’ll just have to wait and see.

Evening edit

The rain did let up enough in the early afternoon for me to get a bit more work done, but not much. I’ve now got all of the wooden framework in place to take the roof and have at last made a start on fitting the roofing sheets, starting with the tricky little bit under the landing of the stairs to my ‘grenier’. But everything is now very wet, so much so that when drilling using my new little cordless Black and Decker, the drill kept jamming because the wood was so moist. The roof sheets are also now very wet and even if the rain stops long enough in the next day or so for me to cut them to size, I won’t be able to apply the roofing felt to them until they’ve had some time to dry out. As I’ve got more than enough roofing felt, I may just have to place some on top of the roof when the sheets are in place without permanently fixing it to allow the water to dry out. This is just what I was trying to avoid, but in the end you can’t control the weather 😐

October 8, 2014

Wasted time

It appears that roofing felt isn’t a very popular covering material here in France. Leroy Merlin is the only place that’s at all local that stocks both roofing felt (in green!) and the necessary bituminous adhesive to stick it down with. On the way I tried to save some time by stopping off in Brico Depot to see if they had a similar product but the (admittedly) young people to whom I explained what I was looking for didn’t understand either the idea of roofing felt, or the French words for it, which are ‘feutre bitûmé’, and tried to sell me something quite different and unsuitable for my job.

By the time I’d got over to Leroy Merlin, picked up what I wanted and got back home again, I’d already lost four hours and this is one of the problems with doing any kind of DIY work here in France, especially in a rural area like the Dordogne. Compared to where I used to live in the South-East of England, you have to travel comparatively huge distances to pick up even the simplest of materials and you can end up wasting so much time which would be much better spent on the job itself. But unfortunately you have no choice. It also means that small jobs take twice as long as they would do back in England and larger ones, like my new wood store, seem to just go on and on.

By the time I’d arrived home, the rain had cleared and it had actually become quite warm and humid. All the better to get the biting insects out, so I took the precaution of applying some insect repellent on my exposed arms and legs, but not before I’d already started work and picked up a couple already. I didn’t have much more than two or three hours today so there was no hope that I’d actually get the roof on, but I wanted to at least get to the point where I’d be able to tomorrow. I did my jiggery-pokery over the front door to get the level for my boarding and it all worked out beautifully.

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Before I finished for the day, more or less in the dark actually, I even managed to get some boards nailed onto both sides of the store, which was nice and also showed me how quickly I’ll be able to get a weatherproof structure as soon as I have the roof on.

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It was already beginning to rain lightly so I had no choice but to place the bare roof boards back on the roof to keep as much rain out as possible. Hopefully, this will be the last time though, and I don’t think that just one more night will do them any harm.

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October 8, 2014

Oh dear…

It rained overnight and it’s raining now as I prepare to go over to Leroy Merlin this morning to buy a can of bituminous adhesive for the roofing felt. I’ve just checked outside and there are signs that the water is penetrating the OSB3 sheets I placed on the new wood store roof after all. I hope that I can get them permanently fitted and covered up before any long term damage is done 🙁

October 7, 2014

Every day…

It’s a-getting closer. It’s not going quite as quickly as a roller-coaster but the finishing line is almost in sight. I didn’t manage to get anything like a full day in today but nevertheless, I was still able to make good progress on the new wood store. The morning started wet but it cleared up before lunch time and although the forecast was for showers on and off for the whole day, that was all the rain that we ended up getting. When I went out to start work, it was obvious that we’d had quite a bit of rain overnight and that some had dripped down inside off the sides of the boards that I’d placed on the roof to keep the job as dry as possible. But they’d done their job quite well though, and it didn’t take that long to clean up.

The boards themselves are not strictly waterproof. They are made of a material called OSB3 that consists of compressed wood chips and shavings bound in a hard glue or resin. They are not designed to be constantly exposed to the weather but a few wet days (or nights) won’t do them any harm. The main danger is allowing water to penetrate the material from its edges and that won’t be a problem in the long term as it will be painted with a sealant and then covered by a layer of roofing felt.

I didn’t expect to be working on the roof itself today, but I did want to get the whole of the rest of the basic framework completed, which is what I managed to do. That included all of the remaining horizontal frame bars, bracers for the tops of the door frame sides and most especially, the back horizontal roof support. I hadn’t been looking forward to doing the latter at all because it had to be firmly fixed to the house wall, which is not only made of very uneven stone making it difficult to find regularly spaced fixing points, but is also very hard to drill.

My solution was to pop down to Les Briconautes for some new diamond-tipped stone drills in progressive sizes so I could start small and gradually increase the hole diameters up to the size that I required. They made the job very much easier than I’d expected, so my old drills that I had been using up until then must be pretty well worn out!

But anyway, I did it and here are some shots that I took at the end of the day as the light was failing after I’d finished work and cleared up for the day.

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So all being well, if the weather is kind again, tomorrow should be the day of the great leap forward involving the fitting of the roof. I’ve got to complete the top of the door frame first and fix the top board on each side. I have to do that to give me my level to work to and my exact roof dimensions but I won’t bother explaining as it’s a bit complicated and all to do with calculations of the number of wall boards from bottom to top, having the right amount of overhang below the bottom of the frame down the sides of the concrete base so the weather can’t get at the bottom wood of the frame and having the ‘right’ amount of board over the door and at the top on each side. After all, what matters most in the final event, is that not only should it look right but it must also work 😉

October 6, 2014

Rain interrupted play

Stopped it, really. None had originally been forecast for today but the day never looked as though it was going to do very much. First I had to get a few things in Montignac, including some nails for fixing the new wood store’s wall boarding, but I should have put my brain into gear before dashing off because it ended up being not the only time I had to visit Les Briconautes today.

After a quick early lunch, the first thing I did was remove the sheets that I bought from Leroy Merlin on Saturday for covering the roof, from the roof where I’d placed them to keep the rain off over Saturday night and Sunday. However, immediately I did so it began to lightly rain again, so I replaced them immediately. I decided that although I’d not be able to do any work on the roof itself if it continued raining, at least I’d be able to cut and fit the frame horizontal side bars and other parts, working under the cover to stay dry.

I did the three bars on the left hand side and then realised that I was running out of my ‘general purpose’ screws. I thought that despite the inconvenience due to my stupidity in not checking what else I needed when I went to Les Briconautes this morning, I might as well go back again straightaway as there would then still be enough time left this afternoon to get a bit more done. However, I was wrong on that because by the time I got back, it was raining hard and steadily, as the following pics show, especially the first of the two.

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So that was that and now that the weather forecast for the week has been revised, it looks as though it will be difficult, though not impossible if I can work around the showers, to get as much done this week as I would have liked. It won’t be too bad if I get enough dry spells for me to get the roof on because it will then be easy enough to nail the wall boarding on even if I have to do it in the rain. So it looks as though I’ll have to wait and see how it actually turns out. It’s annoying but I’ve been very lucky really that the good weather should have lasted this long as looking back, although we were still getting some nice days, by this time last year the weather was becoming much more unsettled than it is now and we’d also had a few stormy nights and days. I just need it to keep holding for a little while longer 😉

October 4, 2014

Recovery – day 4

Right, here’s my take on it. Every time you get bitten by a dog you don’t get rabies, so why should you get Lyme Disease just because you’ve been bitten by a tick? Common sense tells you that you don’t. OK, the tick bite that you get might be infected with some bacteria or other, but that could be lots of things other than Lyme Disease. I sat up late last night learning about Lyme Disease and the one conclusion that I came to is that I don’t, and didn’t, have it. There are lots of unfortunate people out there, millions of them worldwide, who suffer from the debilitating and life-changing effects of chronic Lyme Disease and I would be doing them a grave disservice and showing them no respect if I compared the puny effects of my tick bite to what they have to endure on a daily basis through no fault of their own.

Yup, I’m sure I got a tick bite just as many of them did and yes, it must have been infected, but after all the evidence and images of real Lyme Disease that I’ve now seen, I do not think that I am or was a victim of it. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. OK the game hasn’t been fully played out yet, but that’s the conclusion that I’ve been forced to come to after everything I now know and have seen and read. For the record, here are some shots of my ‘rash’ on the site of the bite, the first on 26 September, pre-treatment.

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The second on 27 September, also pre-treatment.

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The third on 28 September, also pre-treatment.

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The last one, taken this morning after 3 full days of treatment with Doxycycline.

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It seems clear to me that all of the first three show an infected tick bite but none of them show the really pronounced ‘bulls eye’ effect that accompanies Lyme Disease if, indeed, any rash at all shows after a bite by an infected tick. And I have to say that after reading about the appalling symptoms that most sufferers of Lyme Disease experience, either I’ve been fortunate to have been spared them practically in their entirety or, alternatively, I wasn’t afflicted by the disease in the first place. Coincidentally, Doxycycline is the preferred antibiotic of choice for the treatment of Lyme but as one of the tetracycline group, it’s also the preferred method of treating many other general infections.

So I won’t amend my earlier postings as they are a genuine reflection of my thoughts at the time, but I’m now going to stop referring to myself as having been infected by Lyme Disease. It over-dramatises what I think is possibly a common health-hazard of living in a rural area such as the one in which I live. What happened to me could just as easily have happened to a member of my family living in the UK who regularly exercise their dogs in the New Forest and for whom ticks are almost an occupational hazard, so it’s not just a local French problem. In fact my sympathies go out to the poor souls who could well number millions of all ages in enormous swathes of country across Canada and North America whose lives have been blighted by what could well be one of the most serious epidemics of modern times.

And one final thing before I put this subject to bed, for good hopefully. As I said to my doctor who, incidentally, I think has applied exactly the right treatment, if I’d been bitten by a tick, I’m sure I’d have noticed. OK, so they’re small, but I think I’d have noticed some kind of wound left after a dang insect had stuck half of its ruddy head in my leg. So I don’t think that I was bitten by a tick. I’ve been bitten by plenty of other insects, though, while I’ve been working outside on my new wood store and at other times, and I think that I was the victim of just a badly infected insect bite. End of story.

October 3, 2014

It was another good day

In just about every way, actually. The weather was glorious – another beautiful still, sunny day with the sky a clear blue all day and temperature again around 25 degrees Celsius. Just how long can this go on for? Long enough for me to get my wood store finished, I hope. After a quick shopping trip this morning I was able to enjoy another very productive day, because I felt no Lyme effects to speak of (in fact after only a couple of days, I’m already considering not mentioning it at all, it’s become so insignificant) and the work on the wood store just flowed. After today, I’ve got very little to do to finish the frame structure, as the following pictures I took this evening just as the light was beginning to fail, show.

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Like any structure of its type, the frame will not be fully rigid until the sides and roof are all on, but as I’ve been able to pin one of the roof cross-members with a screw to one of the stairway uprights, it’s already much more rigid than I’d expected it would be at this stage. The two little corner trusses that I’ve fixed in the bottom right and left corners have also helped and I’m going to add two more tomorrow in the corresponding top corners, which will help even more.

With the progress I’m making, I’m becoming optimistic that if the weather holds, I might even be adding the roof and starting to apply the wall boarding over the week end. However, rain is forecast for overnight tomorrow and the early hours of Sunday, so I’ll have to wait and see how things go. The rain will only last briefly and it’s then forecast to return to similar weather to what we’ve been enjoying for another several days afterwards, so even if I have to leave the wood to dry out for a day before continuing, it looks as though I’ll have time to finish the job off before the weather starts to turn really bad. So it’s fingers crossed for that.

And the other good news was that after getting hold of some insect repellent this morning, I did a right proper ‘Enry Cooper’ and splashed it all over before going outside. I didn’t really expect it to work, but even after spending quite a while with my shirt off, I don’t appear to have been troubled by any insect bites at all. Frankly, I’m amazed because my experience is that these things usually don’t match the hype that goes with them. However, on this occasion it appears that I was wrong – and it was one of those times when I was glad to be 😉

October 3, 2014

Recovery – day 3

Well, I don’t wish to appear complacent or over-optimistic, but so far at least this Lyme Disease thing is turning out to be something of a non-event. I’ve just taken number 7 (of 30) of my course of Doxycycline tablets and although I won’t claim to be feeling 100%, I’m not far off. I am experiencing a bit of a loss of appetite but that’s no bad thing as I never did manage to lose the weight I put on when I had family and others visiting me over the summer and anything that helps me to shed a few pounds will surely be a good thing. However, it’s not the way that I’d necessarily have chosen to do it if I’d had the choice.

I mentioned yesterday that I planned to spend the whole day working on my new wood store but in all honesty, I really expected that I’d have to call it a day by late afternoon at the latest, as I’d had to last week while the disease was taking its grip. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth and I ended up working until nearly 7.00 pm, until I’d finished what I wanted to get done, having suffered no major ill effects the whole time. So this is more ‘continue with your life more or less as usual’ rather than ‘fighting your way back from illness’ and I hope that that gives some encouragement to anyone who might read this in the future who is worried after they have contracted Lyme Disease and have been alarmed by all of the horrendous stories they have read on the internet about it and the effects that it has. I’m convinced that the key is early diagnosis and treatment and then hitting the bacteria hard with antibiotics and so far at least, I am sure that that’s what has done the trick in my own case. I won’t show any pics yet, but even the characteristic ‘bulls eye’ rash on my ankle where the ruddy tick obviously bit me has also started to change and whereas the ‘bulls eye’ was originally highly pronounced, now it has already turned into more of a ‘port wine’ patch which, weirdly, seems to be regaining its original skin colour from the centre outwards.

But enough of that for today and what about the wood store? I wanted to get the basic framework up and secured and that’s what I managed to do, despite one or two setbacks. A chunk of the edge of the new concrete base split out while I was drilling it to take a plug and also one of the stones on the house wall, so I had to make both good as I went, which slowed me down a bit, but at the end of the day, here’s as far as I managed to get.

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I was very pleased with the progress made, especially under the circumstances, and I have to say that I doubt that I’d ever have got that far without my new little Black and Decker ‘Visseuse Sans Fil’, which turned out to be a godsend.

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So today’s plan is for more of the same. As I type this I’m scratching away at insect bites that I received yesterday as well as at least one on my left calf that I’m sure is from this morning. I gave my whole house a spray with Raid ‘anti mouches et moustiques’ yesterday and ran out while I was spraying my bedroom, so I’ll have to get some more of that as well as a few other things. While I’m out I’ll also drop into the Pharmacie and pick up some spray-on repellent because I’m getting a bit of sick of presenting myself as a free lunch to every passing insect every time I go outside my door and quite frankly, I need to find a way to stop it 😐

October 2, 2014

Recovery – day 2

In case anyone thinks otherwise, I am taking the whole Lyme Disease thing very seriously. It only needs a few minutes searching on the internet to find lots of awful stories about how some people’s lives have been changed forever by what can all too soon become a very serious condition if not diagnosed and treated promptly, with long term symptoms of chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain and damage to major bodily organs. However, the other side of the coin is that if the disease is dealt with speedily, a full recovery is anticipated with no long term effects for the majority of sufferers and it’s for this reason that I am fully optimistic of an excellent outcome in my own case, and why I will also be documenting my own experiences as an example, I hope, to others coming after who may not have quite as positive an attitude as I have.

My doctor prescribed a 14 day course of 100 mg Doxycycline taken twice a day together with 1000 mg Paracetamol to be taken in conjunction as required. The latter I think are to help reduce the symptoms of feverishness and headache and feel like swallowing a small bomb when you take them, due to their size. This morning, I’ve just taken my fourth Doxycycline and whether due to psychological reasons or the ‘placebo effect’, I’m convinced that I already feel much better than I did the same time yesterday before I started on my course of medication. As I mentioned in my last post, although the prescription is for two Doxycyclines per day, yesterday I took three and I’ll be doing the same again today so as to get my blood levels up as quickly as possible and give it a fighting chance to get cracking on the Lyme Disease spirochetal bacteria.

I took the day off yesterday as quite honestly, I didn’t much feel like working. But I’m not going to do the same today and intend to try and get the framework for my wood store fully up and fixed firmly in place by this evening. However, I’m not going to push myself to the point where I start to go backwards again because my health is the top priority a long way ahead of my wood store. Fortunately, we’re still enjoying temperatures in the mid-20 degrees Celsius with no rain expected before Sunday, so all being well, I should still be able to make the progress that I want to. But that doesn’t stop me being very annoyed that this setback has hit me totally out of the blue and it just goes to show how easily one’s plans can be frustrated for the most unexpected of reasons.

October 1, 2014

The fight back begins

I needed to go back to Rouffignac for my blood test good and early because I received a message yesterday saying that a new Black and Decker cordless screwdriver that I ordered would be delivered some time before 1.00 pm, and I know what happens if you’re not in when the delivery happens. You end up losing at least another 24 hours. So I arrived in the health centre waiting room at around 8.20 am thinking that I’d be first in the queue. However, I’d totally underestimated the ability of elderly French people to get out of bed and get themselves organised as there were already two people in front of me! No matter, I was dealt with by a very considerate lady nurse within 15 minutes or so and as the adjacent Pharmacie was still not open by that time, I was then off back home again to receive my delivery.

It came after the usual telephone call from the driver to get directions to my house by about 11.00 am and then, thank goodness, I was free to get down to the Pharmacie at Montignac to pick up my antibiotics. And just as well too, because by that time I wasn’t feeling too well, as my ‘light flu-like’ symptoms of yesterday had progressed to ‘moderate’, if not ‘severe’. This was the first time that I’d used the French ‘Ordonnance’ (prescription) system but all I had to do was hand over one of the two copies of the prescription that my doctor had printed off yesterday together with my ‘Carte Vitale’ health card. You need to produce your Carte Vitale whenever you apply for any form of treatment – I’d had to with both my doctor and the nurse – and they plug it into a small terminal that’s similar to a credit card machine that records that you’ve received treatment. Then they work out the cost.

As a retired person in the UK, I was entitled to free NHS health care, including prescriptions, but that isn’t the case here. I had to write a cheque for 23€ to my doctor for his consultation and pay 6.10€ for my blood test. And my prescription cost 4.65€. So that makes a total of 33.75€ (around £25), not an inconsiderable sum for quite a few retired people living on limited incomes, but for me a small price to pay I think for the incredibly speedy, considerate and effective service that I consider that I’ve received. My old doctor in the UK was a lovely person and never gave me less than her full consideration and attention, but overall I think that the French system has performed much better than the UK one over the last couple of days and without any fuss or drama. Plus, as I mentioned in my last post, I was mortified by some of the reports I found on the internet about the appalling level of care, lack of it more like, that many patients infected with Lyme Disease had received at the hands of the UK NHS.

My 14 day course of two antibiotic tablets per day comes to a total of 28 tablets. In fact, I was given a full pack of 30, so as I’ve been advised on many occasions in the past to boost the dosage in the first couple of days to rapidly get the medication up to the required level, I’ll take 3 today and tomorrow and then cut back to the normal level. And I’m glad to say that it already feels like it’s working and I’m sure that my ‘flu-like’ symptoms are already beginning to subside. But as I still don’t feel well, I’ll not be taking on any ‘heavy’ work today. The next four days or so will remain dry so I should have enough time after tomorrow to get the back of the wood store build broken. Plenty of time, I hope, to roll up my sleeves and get the job done.