Sunday, 30 December 2012

Huge number of Fushitsusha and Keiji Haino live shows

One of the consistently "hard" listens in modern music is Fushitsusha, Japanese noise at its finest, but difficult to listen to in anything other than small doses I find.  Yet it is also well known that many shows by this band are of extreme length - five hours plus in some cases.  So it is with some excitement that I stumbled across a huge stack of recordings of the band on a website that hosts "recordings of independent origin"

So I am now the proud possessor of about 20 live shows by either the full band or Keiji Haino on his own - and some are 6 cds long.  Will I ever work my way through them all?  Who knows - but certainly the first one I played got a firm thumbs down from Wife and I only played about 5 minutes. 

Oddly enough, they recently played some shows in the UK - there is a great clip of them on youtube playing a 45 mins set in Hackney.  And they played super trendy Cafe Oto then as well.  If I lived in London still, these are the sort of shows I would go to.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Little Yellow Door

My favourite blog at the moment might be just about coming to an end. "Little yellow door" has been following the exploits of a woman who has been building a house on a trailer for the past 18 months.  This has been a really good story, full of all sorts of good stuff about such projects.  But the house is now just about finished and she has been travelling about in it.  And all for about $16k apparently.

Most impressive

Couple more days in France, then illness


-5 overnight.  Who says it never gets cold in this part of France?

Paint tests continue.  Nothing is leaping out as the perfect colour yet.  My favourite so far is a slightly off white, but perhaps something a little more cream or even pale yellow might be better.

The doors are presenting a real problem.  I hate the two toned pattern they are currently painted, but have not yet got a good plan to replace it.

A visit from Grant this afternoon and a trip to Sainte to buy the bathroom cabinets.  He is starting to firm up a decent list of pending stuff to be working on and the timetable to complete everything before Easter is beginning to come together.

I had expected Daughter and I to go out for dinner a couple of times, but we have steaks in again tonight.  Now I am beginning to feel unwell - a cough is developing and some flu like symptoms.


I feel awful overnight and the journey back home is really bad.  We have lunch at the creperie in St Jean and then set off for the long drive to Caen.  This seems to go on forever.  I don't want to eat anything when we do stop and just want to get to Caen and go to bed.  I book a second cabin for us - we were going to have shared a four berth cabin this leg of the trip - now we have two four-berth cabins.

I was asleep about 3 minutes after getting to my cabin.  And on Friday, I manage to drive home before going staright to bed, where I more or less remain for the next four days

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A short trip to France with Daughter


Daughter is back from India and we are now off to France, so she can see the house we've purchased and so that we can have a few talks about her plans to return to academic pursuits.  So with the car loaded down with stuff as usual, we depart later afternoon for Portsmouth.  Dinner at Jamie's Italian and ready for a good night's sleep on the boat.


Daughter didn't sleep well on the ferry and so slept most of the way down this morning.  There is quite a lot of fog about on the way down.  We reach St Jean d'Angely about lunchtime and visit the creperie where they serve a dessert crepe of chocolate fondant and meringue.  A quick trip to Leclerc and then down to the house.

And the verdict is positive from Daughter.  She thinks it is all very nice, even though hardly any of the winter work has been started yet.  We lit the fire as soonas we got in and bumped up the radiators and the house is soon warmed up.  Daughter is staying in the asian themed room and I am in what Wife and I like to consider the master bedroom.

Grant, our property manager, has been hard at work already and the front area of the house has been transformed.  We have decided to really try and open up the garden space and so all the straggly bushes have been removed, together with a tree that seemed to be damaging the edge of the pool.

Before and after Grant's transformation

Daughter is on something of a health kick after her Indian trip and despite the sub-zero temperatures, went jogging down to the nearby woods.  She is the faint figure in the distance on the picture below.

The donkey was finding the grass a bit cold.  I wonder if anyone feeds it in such circumstances

Tonight we dine on steaks and watch the movie Looper, which makes no more sense than it did last time I saw it.


The temperature was down at -3 when I got up this morning.  While Daughter exercised, I conducted paint tests on various locations.  In the main, Daughter was not impressed with the colours being tested.

Then we went to La Rochelle, about 75 minutes away from our house.  It was extremely quiet but you could see how it would be an amazingly popular place in the summer.  We had lunch at one of the harbour restaurants, visited several chocolate shops and took quite a few photos.  But Daughter wasn't feeling very well and we didn't stay long in the end.  She slept all the way back.

One of the many chocolate shops - our favourite today

Tins of sardines and the modest tower on the town hall

Our friend Dave came for a brief visit this evening and got my internet working.  Another small bit of progress.

Daughter has an early night, while I stay up late reading. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Our French house has its own website

The main work I've been doing since the return from France has been the creation of a website for the house and the listing of the house on various holiday website.  I had created a draft website before the house purchase was even completed.  The website uses Wordpress and a template acquired from a gite website designer based in France.  It is a fairly simple site but it does look good we think.

The house is now listed on four holiday websites.  I wanted to get this done very quickly as people probably start thinking about next year's holidays around Christmas time.  My target is 12 weeks of rental booking next year and 18 the year after (when we will have two properties listed).  So I only expect to get about one or two enquiries a week and maybe one booking every two or three weeks.  I doubt the phone will be ringing all the time.

So this is the homepage

and part of a page advertising the local area

We were rather pleased with the graphics for the links to the various holiday websites

and here is one of the holiday website pages

First mornings at the gym for 3 weeks

It has been three weeks since I last went to the gym, given the two weeks away in France and the extremely hectic week since I got back.  But yesterday, perhaps inspired by the lack of frost on the car, I did make it there at just after 6:30.

As expected, the first session back was pretty tough going.  After less than 10 lengths, a number of muscle aches had appeared.  Some of these gradually subsided as I warmed up more, but my left shoulder hurt more or less all the time I was there.  Nonetheless, I was able to do 60 lengths, though my speed wasn't very good - maybe 6 minutes slower than it had been for this distance.

Day two was a big improvement.  No early swimming aches, better rythmn, a stronger stroke, slightly faster.  So another 60 lengths, maybe 4 minutes faster than the previous day.

When I was swimming a few weeks back, there had been one regular there who was already in the pool whenever I arrived, no matter how close to 6:30 I tried to time my arrival.  She wasn't there yesterday - the first time I haven't seen her for over 30 trips.  But she was there today.  She swims a fast doggy-paddle / breast stroke and clocks up 40-50 lengths while I am there.  Perhaps the most regular of the regulars I see. 

There are maybe 10 morning regulars out of a morning session that usually attracts about 20 people.  About half are faster than me and plough up and down the fast lane doing front crawl.  5 or 6 are slower and swim breast stroke in the slow lane.  I am in the middle lane swimming a strong and steady breast stroke.  I would really like to be able to swim front crawl though.

Daughter is back from India . . .

After nearly three months away, Daughter has returned.  From her desert home in Jodhpur, where the day's temperature has never been less that mid-twenties, she is back in England where there has been a heavy frost this morning - all this adds to the culture shock of returning.

She had had a wonderful time of course.  Mostly she has been working for a micro-finance company, mainly making a short film where they interviewed people who have used the bank's finance.  But I am greatly impressed at the lengths she went to to immerse herself as completely as possible in the local culture, rather than try to cling to the few other westerners in the area. 

If all goes according to plan in obtaining visas for Vietnam this week, Daughter and I will be travelling to France next weekend for a few days at the new house.  And hopefully a good catch up on everything.  Then she is off to the far east in January for another three months.

Daughter with her host mum and host sister

Adopted by a school trip - more people wanting photos of Daughter

Daughter and her host family about to celebrate Diwali

Daughter attracting a large crowd when she became tangled up in a festival

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Back home


I travelled back to the UK on the very late ferry from Caen to Portmouth.  Though I have had a really good time in France, I was actually very keen to get back to the UK so that Wife and I could have a detailed look at things.

So after a quick trip out to Oxford for breakfast and some shopping, we are soon back home and have loads of video and photos to look at - especially the grenier plans to review.

But I hadn't told Wife about my plans to re-decorate one of the bedrooms, so that was quite a surprise.  Thankfully, she is very pleased with the new look.  As indeed am I - the before and after photos still look very dramatic to me


and after


Some searching on ebay has revealed one or two sellers of the sorts of doors that could be suitable for the French property.  Indeed, there is one seller who has some that are virtually the perfect size for the space we have.  A bit of sorting out of the cost of couriers, and I have acquired the doors for just over £100.  They are due to arrive here on Wednesday.  They will need some work though as they are supposed to be glazed when I am planning to fit wooden panels instead.  But that could be quite a nice woodwork task.

I have also worked through the website one last time and have sent my last changes through to our designer.  Hopefully he will process these first thing on Monday and we can go live later that day.

Finally, I have begun to schedule all the work necessary this week in respect of the house.  As always, there is quite a lot to do.

France 5 - Tuesday to Friday


Much colder overnight than it has been - clear skies and the thermometer in the kitchen says it is just 4 degrees outside, versus 15 inside. 

First thing I continue to sort out the kitchen.  The Clementes had left quite a lot of stuff in one of the little sheds outside and I have been cleaning this up gradually.  I have also bought more glasses and plates and these are gradually finding homes.

Then it is off to Saintes and an attempt to find a couple of places that sell bathroom stuff.  First off is the place Dave took me to a couple of months back.  This turns out to be fantastically expensive in my view but has a couple of things I like.

The shower above was nearly 2,000 euros, while the very nice unit below is nearly 1,000 euros - far more than I intended to pay.

So it is off to one of the big DIY chains - the local equivalents of B&Q.  This is much more like it, with a shower I actually prefer to the more expensive one and priced at 599 euros.

I also had a look at various floor covering options and quite like these sort of laminated fake wood coverings.

During the afternoon I travelled back to St Jean and the brocante there, where I bought another 200 euros worth of stuff.  Two doors which have turned out to be a bit small, four chairs, a couple of pictures and various glass and china items.

More work on the bedroom this afternoon.  The walls are now painted white and I have cleaned up the room ready for the top coat tomorrow. 

This evening I went out for dinner to the nearby Chateau de Leleard with Gill.  We had hoped to go with Richard and his wife but their son is still not out of hospital and they have had to stay with him tonight.  We are the only customers (!) but the food is very good - I had foie gras with a pineapple chutney, veal in cognac with tagliatelle and a chocolate mousse. 

The Chateau de Leleard - presumably it will be busier in the summer


At one time I had thought that maybe today I would make it out somewhere such as the Isle d'Oleron, but instead I am pushing on with the decorating.  The bedroom is painted blue today and very nice it looks too.  Music is provided during the 10 hours by Gallon Drunk, Swans and Throwing Muses.  By 5:30 my hand is cramping from holding the brush.

Dinner was steak and chips again, watching the 3rd episode of "Fresh Meat" and a couple of "Big Bang Theory" followed by a documentary on the Voyager spacecrafts.  Rather spookily, this last programme was produced by someone called Christopher Riley - at moments like this it does make you wonder what might have become of him


Working by 7:00, I have cleaned the blue room and have set it up with some of the furniture I have here - the twins beds I bought from Gill, plus two lamps and a painting also from her.  Then there is a table I bought at Emmaus and a mirror I brought over from the UK.  Overall, I think it looks very good. 

Afterwards I have a quick trip out to the boulangerie for a baguette and a chocolate eclair.  There has been a frost overnight and the donkey does some rather plaintive braying when I am scrapping ice off the car.

Richard arrives at 10:00 and we have a quick look at the wall where he is going to knock the whole through to the greniers.  He seems quite impressed with the room painting and we discuss the wonders of chalk paint together. 

Then it is off to Saintes to the Brico Depot where we can't take away the units I like as they are waiting for new stock to arrive.  But at Bricolage, I can buy the shower and the floor coverings I have selected should be ok.

Back at the house, we have a review of the planned work schedule, do a bit more garden planning and then Richard is off.  We have tentative plans to meet in a few weeks time.  In the meantime, he will start on one or two things soon.

I had a test of the fireplace this afternoon, including the convection heating of the upstairs, which is actually remarkably effective.  During the afternoon one of the neighbour's cats puts in an appearance.

My final house work is to finish taking the photos that go with the detailed measurements and job lists that I have been preparing for the past week. 

My last meal in France tonight.  I briefly thought of going out into St Jean but in the end ate more chips and watched two programmes in the BBC series "Human, all too human" on Heidegger and Sartre.  Both had a really good selection of interviewees


So we have owned our house for more than a week now and the end of my trip has come round already.  The house has all its shutters closed, the water is turned off and the radiators are all on their winter, anti-frost settings. 

One of my last acts is to take down the "sold by Leggets" sign from the end of the drive.  The donkey gives a long bray which I take to signal her support for us.

France 4 - Sunday to Monday


Up at 7:00 this morning doing some filing of the plaster after my epic wallpaper removal of yesterday.  Then off to Loulay, a small village the other side of St Jean for a brocante market that I'd found details of on the internet last week.

Basically the whole of the east side of the village has been set aside for the market and there were maybe 300 stands in total.  I had a budget of 200 euros for the trip and a decent enough list of things I wanted to buy if I saw them.

After two hours browsing, my main pruchases were two bar stools for the kitchen, 10 volumes of Asterix the Gaul (in French of course), three or four other books on the local area, half a dozen jugs, some glass things, two paintings, and so on.

One item on my list is to buy a set of "statement" doors to seperate the main house from the refurbishment project.  I want these to be two doors that than lock in the middle.  One guy had exactly what I wanted but they had already been sold.  They would have been perfect (though I have no idea if they would have fitted or not).  They do look really nice

So here is my booty from Loulay brocante market.  I am very pleased with this indeed.

And below are the two stools in their new location at the bar by the kitchen

After lunch I went for a quick walk round our little hamlet.  People were out doing gardening jobs mainly - burning leaves, etc.  In the field opposite, there is a donkey who has been occasionally braying the last couple of days - surprisingly loudly it must be said.  She is rather cute though.

The nearest vines have been picked of course and are now looking very autumnal.  It won't be long before these are cut back I expect.

The view below shows our house, partially hidden by the trees in the foreground with St Hilaire church in the distance to the left.

Some nice piles of wood outside the neighbours' houses

By the early evening I had finished removing the wallpaper from the bedroom upstairs.  Another 6 hours of work, but very satisfying.  Tomorrow afternoon I should be able to sand it all down and then do the white emulsion coat that I want to act as the base for the top coat.


At 8:00 I am in St Jean only to discover that the Leclerc actually opens at 9:00.  So I have time for a drink at Ellis Park and a read of The Sunday Times international edition.

At 9:30 I am at Gill's where I meet Richard and we move the other stuff I bought from Gill.  Two mattresses for the single beds, a double bed headboard, a large white kitchen table and the dark cupboard.  Then off back to the house for a long meeting about the various projects we have in mind for this winter (and the next)

First up, the downstairs bathroom.  That is now just a plumbing and electrics job now I am going to do the decorating and should only be a day or twos work.  We have tentatively planned to meet again on Thursday and go to Saintes to buy the stuff for this.  Tomorrow I have to go down and select it all.

Then we have a look at some other small jobs - the lock on the main door, the tap in the bathroom upstairs, one electrical thing.  All fairly straight forward.

Then onto the big project - the grenier conversion.  I have a new plan that Richard hasn't seen yet and we go round the loft working out what I now have in mind.  He seems happy it is all very possible.  He also suggests that we get rid of the bathroom downstairs entirely and make the lounge bigger instead - that could work very well.

His survey of the loft is largely the same as mine.  But he surprises me by removing the velux roof unit and climbing out onto the roof proper to have a good look at where the water is coming in.  Overall this doesn't seem to be too bad and at least I now know that the roof is solid if Richard is prepared to trust it.

Outside, we have a look at the idea of a new terrace at the far end of the garden, we discuss the pool shutdown and also the removal of various plants, including a tree that might be damaging the pool. 

In all, we spend about 4 hours on it and make some very good progress I think.

After lunch, I take some more photos of the house

These are the little cats that "Les petits chats" is named after.  £20 from a reclamation yard near Burford.

The Clementes left us a large knife sharpening stone - should be useful

Then it is back to work on the bedroom upstairs.  All the prep has now been done and the room can be painted white tomorrow

I have also set up the kitchen to look far more like it will do going forward.  The glass-fronted cupboards have been filled with glass stuff and some plates, etc, and look really nice.  The herb picture that I paid 2 euros for at Loulay looks good as well.  And I now have a complete set of matching chairs to go round the table (another thing the Clementes decided to leave)

Finally, I have set up another of the bedrooms into something like the trim we want it in and it looks pretty good.  I will repaint this room eventually but perhaps not till next winter.