December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve in Brantôme

We took a drive up to the beautiful town of Brantôme today and enjoyed lunch sitting outside next to the River Dronne bathed in glorious sunshine. In the tourist season, Brantôme is always heaving with visitors but at this time of year it’s possible to wander around to your heart’s content and view the myriad little shops and other interesting buildings tucked away in the little back-streets and alleyways. The temperature of 15 or 16 degrees Celsius was just a bonus.

Here are a few of the shots that I took, on my phone unfortunately, as I forgot to take my little Sony compact camera with me.

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Brantôme is definitely on my list for a repeat visit during the spring or summer and it’s not too far away even to visit and fly around by air (about 1 hour 20 mins return). Plus there are a couple of airfields to drop into en route and in the vicinity, which would be even more fun.

As I have my family visiting, this will probably be my last posting before the New Year, so I’d like to take the opportunity of wishing everyone a Happy and Joyful Christmas.

December 11, 2015

On the third day of Christmas…

…I got my oven installed. At last! And unfortunately all the things that I said could go wrong did, which is why it has taken three days.

The main problem was that the oven exceeded the standard dimensions for height and depth. That meant that the first thing that I had to do was take what little there was of a back bar in the housing unit out and replace it with something much smaller that still supported the back of the unit and kept it rigid. That allowed the oven to go back as far as it needed to, the limit being the wall. Except that before it hit that it hit the gas supply pipe that I’d made up for the hob. And even if it had cleared that, I’d made the gas pipe rise up the wall two or three centimetres from it, so even if the oven had been able to slide back further, it would still have hit that.

It might have just cleared the hob gas supply pipe if I’d been prepared to drop it lower in the housing unit, but then it would have looked stupid with no air gap below it and a huge one above. So I had no choice but to completely modify the gas supply that I’d put in for the hob as well as modifying the housing unit itself, and that was where the time went. But dogged determination paid off and I finished the job late this afternoon. It made me miss my regular ‘apero’ session with Wim this evening, but it was worth it, as the two following pictures show.

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Like many similar projects, the finished job belies the amount of effort that went into it, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve now still got a few days left before close relatives arrive for Christmas so I should have time to finish off the tasks that I still have left to do, which include cutting and splitting the rest of the wood that I had delivered. That will itself take most of a day, so I hope that the weather holds. It’s forecast to but I’ll still keep my fingers crossed 😉

December 9, 2015

Oven fitting nightmares

Today has been something of a nightmarish day. My new Electrolux built-in oven arrived yesterday and I was actually quite looking forward to fitting it today. That didn’t last long, I can tell you!

I’ve managed for over two years with only half a kitchen, mainly because I’ve had other more pressing things to do with my time. I also didn’t fancy pulling down the existing ceiling, which I’ll have to eventually, as it’s full of filthy old fibreglass insulation and will not only cause a terrible mess but will also probably require the use of protective clothing. But with family arriving for Christmas, I must now at least install an oven to cook the turkey in, and put a cupboard on the wall as a temporary measure to provide a bit more storage.

I thought that all built-in ovens were of standard dimensions and would fit into any modern oven housing, but as soon as I offered the Electrolux up to my Brico-Depot top-of-the-range oven housing, I knew that there was going to be trouble. Sure, it fitted laterally and slid in nicely, but before entering in the whole way, it stopped. Its back had come up against something and I thought that it was the electric wall socket, which is surface mounted and that I had been resigned to probably having to chase into the wall in any case.

But it wasn’t that at all. The gas hob that is mounted above the oven has a supply pipe that is angled downwards so any pipe connected to it dips down even further before turning back towards the wall, and it was this that the oven was fouling against. This was much more serious, as it meant that not only did I need to remove the hob but I also had to take the oven housing right out to see how I could in some way modify the supply pipe that I put in.

Anyway, I did both of those things but still the oven won’t go right in as the following pictures show.

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I’m worried for two or three reasons. The back of the oven casing is now fouling the back panel of the housing. I can trim a lump off the back panel but even if the oven then clears it, it still looks as though its casing will foul the hob supply pipe. I’ve already adapted the connection fitting and there’s nothing much more that I can do if it does, so I’ll probably then have to look around for a gas hob with a different supply pipe configuration.

And say that it does clear the oven casing by a whisker, what then? The depth of the housing is just under 51cm but the depth of the oven casing seems to be 51cm or just a bit over. That means that without taking out the housing back panel and making up some kind of cross-bar of reduced depth that allows the oven to pass below it, the oven will never drop back in far enough and would always be standing proud of the kitchen cabinets. For goodness sake, what’s wrong with these designers who don’t seem to understand what is meant by the term ‘standard dimensions’!

And even if I can deal with all of these things, housing, electric wall socket etc, there’s still a possibility given the apparent extreme over-dimensions of this oven that it will then foul against the gas pipe that I put in that brings gas for cooking through the wall from an outside cylinder, and still not seat right into the cabinet. At the moment, it’s impossible to tell if that will be the case. I dearly hope that it will not be because what I thought was going to be a ‘routine’ fitting job will then turn into something much more major.

December 7, 2015

Hey, what the…

As expected, I didn’t get to fly on Saturday because although the sun came out and it became quite pleasant, the fog remained very patchy and where it didn’t lift, remained quite thick. I decided to go across to Galinat anyway just to check on 56NE and while I was there I took a few shots with my phone (which is why the quality is pretty poor) to show how the fog was lying in the valley. The first one below shows what I mean.

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It was while I was taking it that I noticed some damage at the top of the runway. It was caused by a ‘sanglier’, or wild boar, that roam in herds around here and can cause quite a bit of damage while digging out tasty roots to eat.

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But that wasn’t the end of it by far. When I looked down the runway I could see damage extending down almost the whole of its length, some of it quite deep, as the following pictures show.

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I estimate that in many places, the damage extends over half of the runway width, making it dangerous to either land or take off there. If you should drop a wheel into one of the areas worst affected, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine turning your aircraft over on its nose. So for the time being, flying is off limits until I can find the time to get back to Galinat with a rake and shovel. In fact, a garden roller would also be handy to get the earth tamped back down firm enough, but unfortunately I don’t have one, so when I do go, I’ll just have to make do with stomping the ground back down again.

No wonder that the hunters around here spend so much of their time shooting the wild boar. Trouble is, though, as we found this year at the barbecue held on the Cavarc open day, they are as tough as old boots!

December 5, 2015

No-fly day

At least, I don’t think so. Despite the favourable forecast for today, we looked out this morning onto thick fog. At the time of writing (early afternoon), it’s cleared quite a bit and the sun is trying to break through, but I can’t see it clearing enough for safe flight. So it looks as though I’ll have to wait until next week to get airborne again.

But no matter! I had a long day yesterday working up plans and diagrams for the developments I have planned for my house ready for a meeting with Simon the builder on Monday, so I won’t be sorry if I have to take it a bit easy today. And anyway, the postie arrived with my new smartphone about half an hour ago and I’ve got that and my original one to play with 😉

Here’s a shot of the two of them together.

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I must say, the new one is enormous in comparison, but it appears that that’s the direction smartphones are moving in. It’s actually bigger than the little satnav that I have in my car and with MemoryMap installed, with the size of screen that it has, it would easily be usable for navigation in my aircraft.

My idea is that I’ll set it up with my two sim cards (French and English) and then re-chip the original phone that got messed up when I was clearing the Chinese app rubbish off it that had hijacked it. Then assuming the original is back to working properly and hasn’t been ‘bricked’ during the process, I’ll be able to choose which one I prefer and will keep, and sell the other.

My only reservation is that smartphones sourced from China seem to routinely come with ‘Chinese apps’ (see Youtube) already covertly installed and the new one could easily start doing the same as the original did after a few weeks, as I’m sure that that came with the malware already on it. But at least I now have a good idea how to deal with the problem and hopefully, if it does happen, won’t end up this time deinstalling little bits of the operating system.

As it happens, the original phone is working fine now except the screen has lost its ‘smart wake’ facility by which the phone unlocks and the screen lights up merely with one sweep of your finger. I’m hoping that the re-chipping will restore it as I’ll be reloading a fresh, clean version of Android and this is an Android function.

Anyway, that’s for a bit later. I have to head off now to Intermarché.

December 3, 2015

A ‘W’ sort of day

We’re in the middle of a period of bright, dry weather that won’t last forever, so I thought that this morning would be a good time to repair my bedroom window that I had to break to get back into the house when my car and house keys became locked in my car. I don’t know whether I don’t enjoy glazing work because I’m not that good at it, or the other way around, but it wasn’t a job that I’d been looking forward to.

I still had some putty that was left over from the other glazing jobs that I’d done in the past (repairing a pane in my front door that’s nailed up and also a pane in my back door that was damaged just over a year ago when it fell on me and I’d put my head through it) and I almost expected it to be dry and over-the-top by now.

But it wasn’t. This was probably because when it was ‘new’ it was incredibly moist and sticky, much worse to work with than any putty that I’ve ever bought in England, and as soon as I began to work it, I found that it hadn’t changed in character all that much ie it was still gooey and sticky. I wouldn’t mind if it used its stickiness to adhere to the glass and window frame, but it doesn’t. It sticks to your hands and fingers like the proverbial wotsit to a blanket, but as soon as you start to cut it in and smooth it with your putty knife, it peals away from both surfaces.

So the air around Le Bousquet was blue once again today. Not to say that I didn’t complete the job, but only after quite a bit of commotion and disagreeable language, I have to say. I also had to scarf in a few centimetres of new wood in the horizontal glazing bar to replace a section that had rotted away. This was due to the bottom putty in the pane above having dropped out many months, if not years ago, thereby allowing water to get at the wood that was exposed.

My windows are all of the usual French type, opening inwards. So at least I could work from the comfort of my bedroom and not from the top of a ladder, which was a small consolation, I suppose. Anyway, here are a couple of shots showing how the job finished up for today.

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I’ll leave it for a few days and then whack a bit of paint on to make it a bit more weatherproof. But hopefully, if things go smoothly and the developments I have planned for my house go ahead as planned in the spring, the ‘repair’ won’t have to last too long in any case.

The next job was to get on with cutting and stacking more wood in my wood store for the winter. I’d ordered 4 stères from M. Dumas, the wood man, which he delivered on Tuesday. Tuesday happened to be a perfect flying day and Wim had added insult to injury by flying low over my house in the Red Baron and waving at me while I was waiting for M. Dumas to arrive. So I was not in the best of moods, the more so because M. Dumas said that due to having been ill (hmmm…) he couldn’t supply all oak, but could only offer a 50/50 mix of oak and chestnut.

I was rather dubious, because even I know that chestnut is nowhere near as good for burning as oak. However, M. Dumas had assured me that it was good and dry and not only was it OK for burning but that he was even using it himself (again, hmmm…), so I rather reluctantly agreed.

I’ve been spoilt in the last few weeks by the pine that my old next-door neighbour, Benjamin, gave me before he left. People say to steer clear of pine, but this stuff has been excellent. It has been seasoned for 4 years, I think, as Benjamin cut down the trees in his garden before I came to France, and as a result it’s really dry and oil-free. It has been burning incredibly well, throwing out a lot of heat and leaving very little residue, so I’ve had nothing to complain about and have been very satisfied with it.

This evening is the first time that I’ve been able to give the new wood a good go and apart from its taking longer to get going, it does now seem to be throwing out some more than half-decent heat with the stove’s bottom shutter closed. Not as much as the pine, but enough, so if it continues to perform in the same way through the winter, it should at least do the job that it’ll be called upon to do. But I think that most likely M. Dumas’s days as my wood supplier of choice are now probably numbered.

So those were today’s two ‘W’s – window and wood. But I also managed to get one other task under my belt in my spare moments. I ordered a new Electrolux built-in oven for my kitchen that should be delivered in the next 8 working days. That should give me time to finish off cutting and stacking the rest of the wood and on its arrival, I’ll be able to turn my attention back to my kitchen. I should still have plenty of time to get the jobs that I need to do finished before family arrives for Christmas and I just hope that nothing goes wrong to throw me off course 😉

I’ve just taken a look at the weather forecast (ha ha – another ‘W’ for weather) for the next few days and here’s Saturday’s.

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If it stays that way, I really must get some time back up in the air. All work and no play and all that – and after flying only one day in each of September and October, I didn’t get up at all in November. So Saturday will be a ‘must’ – and I can hardly wait 🙂