Not completely, but getting there. The amount I’ve got to get done before I move out of my house is quite frightening and what with Covid and a long, wet winter, I’m out of the habit. But I’ve got to force myself to get back into things as I’ve done all that I can for the time being on my new-build, and today I got underway at long last with tackling the tiling and making-good around my ‘new’ patio door. I say ‘new’ because it has actually been in for some months, since the end of last autumn, but what with the appallingly wet winter we had plus the work I’ve had to do to get my new-build project underway, I’ve not been able to get around to starting on it.

I’ll go onto what I’ve been doing today, but first I’ll tell where we’ve got to with the new-build. Yesterday was a very exciting and productive day. It started off with meeting Sandrine, my commercial contact at the building company, and one of their surveyors on the land itself. The latter got out his laser level surveying system and was soon feeding Sandrine with data to write down on the plan that she’d prepared showing the new house’s proposed position, based on the numbers etc that I’d given her taken from a plan that I’d made to scale as best I could, which is shown below.

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To cut a long story short, he concluded that I wouldn’t be able to place the house as far back from the road as I’d originally said – 25 metres – because of the slope of the land. He said that the furthest it could go was 24 metres. I’m not sure whether he was joking or not, but he kept a straight face and I was naturally delighted. I will have to have some vegetation removed along the northern tree border though, but evidently my plan was not far out at all and I will be able to have 3m between the house and the northern border and 5m to the south, exactly as I want.

At the end I handed Sandrine a copy of the detailed building plan that I had prepared and shown in my last post. We’ll be discussing that at a meeting next week among many other matters but before she departed she confirmed that one of the pernickety but non-negotiable requirements of Bâtiments de France, the overall controller of building planning, is that all windows must be higher than they are wide. This is rather annoying to say the least because I don’t think that this is appropriate for a low-roofed modern house design, but it appears that I have no choice.

And this became even more relevant later in the day when I happened to bump into the seller of my land and the mayor of Fleurac also coincidentally dropped by at the same time. He confirmed the fact about the windows and said that if my ‘Demande de Permit de Construire’ (planning application) didn’t comply it would be summarily rejected. And fortuitously, while we were talking contact was made with the department of ‘Urbanisme’ at Rouffignac and Bâtiments de France in Périgueux when it was confirmed that if my Demande de Permit de Construire wasn’t submitted within the next few days, it wouldn’t even be looked at until 8th April.

Whether this is because of Covid or not I don’t know, but I was also given the name and telephone number of a contact in Bâtiments de France who, if the house-builder contacted him, would ensure that there are no slip-ups and delays and the Demande would be given a fair wind. So what a fortunate unplanned meeting that turned out to be. After their survey, the house-builder has enough information to submit a sufficiently detailed Demande de Permit de Construire within a very short period which should then get very quick approval.

This will unlock several things, including allowing my purchase of the land to be finalised, for a start then to made on levelling it and preparing it for building (‘terrassement’) and for the waste system to be installed (‘assainissement’). If this is left too long then the whole project will be log-jammed until May/June which will be the result of the Demande not being looked at before 8th April. My guess is that in such an event, with building work stopping for the usual one month break in August, it would be difficult for me to achieve a moving-in date of late-summer/early autumn.

But that wasn’t all that happened yesterday. I’d stopped on the land to make a phone call on my way home but couldn’t get a connection for some reason. While I was there, a small combo van/estate pulled up in front of me and a young woman got out and walked over to the plot of land next to mine. After we’d introduced ourselves, it turned out that we will be neighbours. She has acquired a bit more land than has been shown on the various maps and charts that I’ve posted and plans to put a small house on it. We exchanged details about where each of our houses will be and I’ll tell more at a later date but she was absolutely charming and I think that if everything works out as it should do, I’ll be very lucky to yet again have a super neighbour.

So now on to today. I’ve finally made a start on preparing the special hand-made tiles that I bought up in the Vendée to patch the floor in front of my new patio door. I want to create the same pattern as I did for my fireplace and that involves cutting them down to size. My existing floor tiles (described as ‘tomettes’ because of their age) are a now relatively uncommon 30 cm square which is partly why I can’t match them. The hand-made tiles that I’ve bought for the job are nominally 16cm square so can’t ‘fit’ directly with the existing ones – they need to be cut down.

Reducing them in size to 15 cm square isn’t enough as that wouldn’t allow for joints but 14.5 cm allows for two to the width of one existing tile with joints of 1 cm all round. Shaving 1.5 cm off each of two sides of the plain small tiles is easy but it’s not so straightforward for the ones that have a Fleur de Lys pattern in their centre. These you have to start by trimming two sides down to 15.25 cm width and the other two to 14.5 cm, rotating the tile consistently either clockwise or anti-clockwise as you go.

That gives the required final result – or not depending on whether the pattern was positioned dead in the centre when the original tile was initially thrown. I found that some of the first few that I did were slightly off centre and the only way I could correct that was by checking by eye where the pattern was and choosing which sides to start trimming first. This gave good if not always perfect results but heck, they were hand-made after all.

The job was made quite easy by using my electric tile cutter that I’ve had stored in my workshop ever since I constructed my fireplace back in February 2013. It has an electric blade with water lubrication and works a treat. I acquired it for not a lot of money back then from Le Bon Coin and am I glad that I did. Here are some shots of using it today in my workshop and of the results.

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Here’s a shot of the little decorative diamonds that I made from cutting up a couple of the patterned tiles. The supplier calls them ‘Cabouchons’ and wants quite a lot for them but my machine made it easy for me to make them myself for a fraction of the price.

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Now I’ve started I’ll press on tomorrow and hopefully get onto the tiling proper over the week-end. As I mentioned at the very beginning, my ‘to-do’ list is getting ever longer and time is becoming shorter by the day. And I mustn’t forget that I have two ULMs waiting over at Malbec to be wheeled out of the barn, cleaned, started and flown. When I’ll be able to do that I just don’t know. Will it be before or after I prepare my Ford C-Max and get it up for sale, because that’s on the list as well 😕

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