Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Year in review part two of three

I was waiting for Robert to arrive for our weekly game of cribbage, and then it dawned on me that maybe we agreed on 11:00 not 10:00. Robert is originally from Washington State, he and his wife bought a house in Saint Jean de Duras, and we met at one of the village functions, we were really lucky to meet he and his wife, I’m not sure how lucky they were to meet us. After a few dinners here and there we discovered that we each had played cribbage 30 or so years ago, so it’s now a weekly thing. My point being, while waiting for him to arrive, it allows me to finish the previous entry, “A year in review”.
We were settled into the house, and had semi functioning Kitchen (set up in the un-renovated living room), bathroom, and two bedrooms. We were given the name of a young man who did freelance electrical and plumbing work and who had done work for a friend of ours, so we called him and met with our friend and the young man to discuss the scope of work. At first, I think our project scared the hell out of Mathieu as he was concerned that he would never see his girlfriend again. Then I explained that I would do the grunt work…….The meeting was very productive, and to this day we realize that without him the house could have taken longer and cost a lot more. With our new Electrician / plumber on deck we began with the kitchen. Our plan was for me to do the grunt work, buy the materials, and pay him. He worked during the day for a building company and would spend a few hours a week helping me after hours. The kitchen was a mess, we would have to completely gut the kitchen and install a new mechanical system. (Electrical, plumbing, and heating) The first order of business was to remove the dropped ceiling and the tile covering the walls, medium sized white tiles with a grimy gray grout. With that four day demolition done I had to start laying out all the locations for the electrical plugs and switches, then chip into the stone walls all these one and a half inch deep trenches for the conduits. After a week of the most thankless dusty, dry work, the electrical preparation was done, it allowed me to then mix up plaster and “cement” in the conduits and flush out the walls. The new electrical service was to be in the barn adjacent to the house, it would be later renovated into guest suites, making it more convenient for the new construction. The existing electrical service was in the kitchen, what this all means is the we had to route twenty conduits from the kitchen to the barn, running them from the kitchen cabinet up and in the wall, in between the ceiling beams, down the wall across the entry hall and up into the barn. This work took about three weeks. It was at this point that we started working between six to seven days a week, eight to ten hours a day. It was invigorating, we could see progress on a weekly basis, but it was exhausting and over time I lost twenty pounds and Cindy lost fifteen. This schedule continued for about four months, it was when Cindy’s mother and step father were here for six weeks that we pulled out of that silliness. We were so driven to finish the work in order to have the rooms ready to rent for the tourist season. In three months we were done with the kitchens rough mechanicals and the hand applied tinted plaster walls were done. The plaster walls were backbreaking, after finishing about a third of the walls; the first coat started popping off the wall, while heartbreaking it was better at that point then after the cabinets were in. So the answer was to scrape off all the plaster and then scrape the walls down to the original stone and mortar and re-apply new tinted plaster. We spent another month installing the metal track system that would support the insulation and drywall for the ceiling. At about our fifth month we were ready to install the kitchen cabinets, final paint and clean out the construction debris. During all the physical work we were also scheduling meetings with the local Marie (mayor) for legal documents, and the local Notaire for agreements for the farming contracts, driving an hour and a half away with our new trailer to Brico Depot (their home depot) in order to get better savings from the largest building store in the region, setting up appointments with the various departments for residency, medical and administrative matters. I will say that spending an entire day at a French administrative office is fatiguing beyond belief, sure I lost twenty pounds through hard work, but the mental gymnastics required for non-stop conversations with the various offices in order to straighten out our birth certificates was Olympic gold metal worthy. In Europe the order recognized for writing your birthday is Day-Month-Year, whereas in the U.S. it’s Month-Day-Year, to straighten this out takes time, it was almost as though we were the first people over here that had to deal with delineating this difference.
Susan and Gary’s (Cindy’s mother and Stepfather) arrival was the turning of a few corners for our process. We were hell bent on completing the interior remodel, in order to allow for tourists to stay at our Chambre D’hôtes, (European Bed and Breakfast) and therefore start making income. Well Susan and Gary’s working vacation turned into a gulag vacation, they matched us step for step and turned out some incredible work. Gary and I installed the Kitchen cabinetry. It would have taken me half the time alone, but it would have needed to be reinstalled a month later, luckily Gary steadied me down. As we finished the kitchen, the film crew for the T.V. show arrived for the final three days of filming. I’m trying to summarize but it is turning out lengthier than planned, part two of three, I guess.

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