Friday, 6 December 2013

Latest painted-furniture project & comparisons with professionals

Today, a well-known, discounted-luxury-good website has a firm selling French furniture.  This is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because many of the items for sale are ones that we are familiar with from France and which we have, ourselves, used in our decorating.

First up, a Vetrine.  This has been painted in something like a Farrow and Ball mid-tone grey (maybe Annie Sloan's Paris Grey) and has had some rather-nice lettering put on the glass.  It has also been mildly distressed into a shabby chic style.  It currently costs £1,399, down from its pre-sale price of £2,250.

Below is a Vetrine which we bought in France this summer and which we are re-painting at the moment.  It has broadly the same structure as the one above with the same glass fronts, the curved paneling at the bottom, three hinges on each door, the same paneling on the sides and pretty much the same feet.  Our one has four shelves - which were being painted when this picture was taken.  We have painted ours in Farrow and Ball's Blackened, a slightly grey white.

Our base unit cost E80 and was bought from a brocante on the way to Oleron from our house.  It has taken about 10 hours of work so far, so imputing a cost of £50 per hour for my labour, I would probably be happy to sell it for around £500.

The current work scene in the garage - the shelves of the Vetrine are leaning on the freezer along with some sealed and primed cladding for the downstairs bathroom in France

Also on the website is a second Vetrine, this one priced at £1,649, down from £2,900 pre-sale.  It is painted in something very close to the colour we've used above.  It has two basic shelves and a mid-shelf that contains one or possibly two drawers.  And it has the drawer near the base.

We have one of these more or less identical in France which is mid-paint.  It has been put back together in the double bedroom in Petits Chats and just needs its final top coat and the doors re-fitting.  Ours cost E130 from the local branch of Emmaus and has perhaps taken 15 hours of work.  So we would values ours at, say, £750.

Next time we go, I shall get a picture of ours for comparison.

But this does just show how cheap it can be to do these yourself

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Reading about art for the first time in ages

There was a small selection of art-related books on offer at Waterstones a few weekends and I acquired two, which I have read over the last week or so.  This is the first reading about art I have done for ages.

First up, Sarah Thornton's book about the contemporary art scene.  I'm sure I read something like this a few years ago, but nonetheless, this is a really excellent book.  The art market is absurd!

Also raising similar issues, but in a different way, is a book about an art forger.  This highlights the issue of the way art is valued - the picture doesn't change but its value depends on attribution and can change dramatically on re-attribution.  Which doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it  

There are one or two other books about forgers or art thieves that I might try and have a look at soon.  And perhaps it is time to watch The Girl with the Pearl Earring again

De-cluttering - Cds and books

We have begun to face some of the enormous issues that might arise should one of our possible plans for 2014 come to fruition.  This implies that we would be well-advised to thin down our possessions considerably.  Initially this could cover books, cds and DVDs.

So I have made a start and have separated out twenty bags of books to go to charity shops, a dozen boxes of books to store at mum's and a few boxes of books to keep with me.  But this has only covered about the first tenth of our stuff (if that).

De-cluttering is an odd concept it seems to me.  We used to watch a series called The Life Laundry in which serial hoarders had their lives sorted out via a de-clutter.  Most of the people featured on that clearly had serious issues to deal with!  I am also pretty sure that I once came across an organisation for professional de-clutterers - can I really be right about that?

But I haven't yet noticed any panges of regret about the books that have gone to Oxfam.

Next up - list a few hundred CDs on Amazon and see if I can sell them for £1,000

The latest trip to France - Part 3


Today was mainly spent working on the floors and skirting boards in Petits Chats - filling in various gaps and awkward shapes.  The expansion gap for the wood floor is wider than the skirting board, so some filler will have to be used.  Not perfect but the first bits seem ok

There has been some van progress - and it might actually be done very soon, maybe by tomorrow

More work on the PC kitchen  - more painting of chairs and first coats of primer onto the kitchen units


Finishing touches to the main bedroom first thing

Steve has managed to get lights working throughout Petits Chats now, so every room can be more easily worked in.  He has also fitted the finished lights in two of the upstairs bedrooms and they look very good.

The van is repaired - as we suspected, the problem was the altinater not charging the battery properly.  And it seems to work really well now.

An evening out with Grant and Karen.  A rather delicious meal and a very pleasant evening chatting.


Bit of a hangover this morning!

And it is -4 degrees first thing

In the kitchen, the dimensions of everything have been worked out and I am now planning to buy a cooker from the UK and bring it out with me in January.  Steve assures me that he will have no problem fitting this for French gas cylinders provided I buy the correct LPG conversion kit.

In one hour this morning, the tree at the far end of the garden lost all its leaves.  The grass is now a foot deep in leave and Grant's trench has filled up

My last meal of this trip - chicken and peppers, potatoes, etc.  Wife and I have this meal a lot in France for some reason.  And I am up to episode 6 of The Bridge.


Last day as I am going home one week earlier than originally planned.  Spent the morning doing a detailed re-cap of everything - overall, progress has been ok given that time has been restricted

No sure if it will be X'mas or January when we are next down - I suspect the latter?

An uneventful trip back to Caen, but some bad news tonight in respect of Wife's brother, whose latest test results show a marked deterioration over the last few months.

The latest trip to France - Part 2


I have settled into a standard routine.  First thing, from about 6:00am onwards, I am doing painting.  This morning it is the white Armoire that is going to go into the double bedroom upstairs in Petits Chats.  This is currently in pieces on the lounge floor.  Another recurrent job has been the corridor by the back bedroom and that was finally completed this morning.

Once it is light, other jobs come into play.  For instance, today dump mountain was finally cleared.

Progress continues on the upstairs bathroom which now has its bits and pieces plumped in and is not far off being ready to tile.

I have also started some kitchen planning - mainly clearing out bits and pieces and moving other bits of furniture into possible locations.  Tomorrow I am going to remove the tiles from where the new sink will be and from under the fireplace.


Off to St Jean market first thing, where I buy a large block of delicious duck-mousse pate and some sort of kidney-based stew mix.

Then to GITEM where I have discovered that range cookers are far more expensive than I had thought in France and that most dishwashers are the same size.  I nearly bought one that was on offer but am not quite far enough along with my planning.

Today was mainly spent on painting the walls and ceiling of the double bedroom in Petits Chats.  This was surprisingly hard work and I am also running low of the James White paint that we were planning to use for all of the upstairs rooms in PC.

A bit of an evening off tonight and I watched Anchorman in preparation for the release of the second movie very soon


Lots of tile removal in the PC kitchen this morning - more mess and some repairs needed before it can be tiled again.

Then lots of cleaning up required

And more arranging furniture in the rough plan of the kitchen layout.  It does sort of look like a kitchen now.

But I have also decided that the cooker has to move from my planned location under the fireplace - it is just not high enough to make work possible

During the afternoon I watched the Ireland vs All Blacks rugby match while continuing the chair production line - now up to six chairs (three, slightly-different pairs) all painted in the same Annie Sloan Grey

Also watched The Bridge tonight - first 2 episodes of the Danish-Swedish version


Into St Jean for a paper and some shopping, then car trouble as the van won't restart.  Looks like a battery problem to me, but not sure why it did start first time this morning.

I have to arrange a taxi back home, and then have Grant and Karen arrange to help, and to arrange a drop at a garage - but will it be ready by Friday?

Bathroom upstairs progress - ready for more painting.

But two good things in the evening.  The Land rover, which is in a garage in the UK, is ok and doesn't need much work doing.

And someone wants to book two weeks in the entire house for 18 people - a good amount of money for this but therefore everything must be ready - no excuses now.

The latest trip to France - Part 1


Very foggy on the drive down from Caen.  My cold is still bad and I am not going to be able to work as hard as planned for at least the first few days.  No music for most of the way as the little MP3 player won't work off the car's cigarette lighter for some reason.  It makes a big difference to the enjoyment of driving when I can't listen to music

A quick trip to Leclerc to stock up though there is hardly any room in the van for shopping.  I don't have to go out now for three or four days (except for fresh bread and patiserie treats of course)

I met Grant late afternoon to discuss the pending work - Steve not done as much as expected in the last couple of weeks but will be in for the next few days, so I have been prioritizing my work to fit round this.  First thing to do - lay the wooden floor in the upstairs bathroom of Petits Chats  

Base camp 1 - the lounge in Cadran (mainly a painting site for early mornings and evenings when it is too dark to work in Petits Chats)

Base camp 2 - the kitchen in  Petits Chats (currently full of bathroom stuff brought down from the UK)


The cat is back and bothers me constantly until I feed it - apparently he has never left the property since we were last here (presumably someone else does feed him though elsewhere)

Steve is in and focused on the two bathrooms in Petits Chats.  The floor is done in the one upstairs and the shower is about to be assembled and installed.

The downstairs bathroom now has all its bits of kit in and the plumbing can start soon

While Steve does plumbing, I have started on the repaint of the main bedroom - a rather attractive Farrow ad Ball colour called "Calomine".  

Calls from Wife this evening - already there are issues arising from my absence.  Not good


Off to St Jean to visit our insurance company, AXA, and bank, BNP, for various admin things and which tests my ropey French to the limit.  While I deal with these, Steve has been dropped at Bricomarche for more supplies - the next set of things in the apparently unlimited amount of stuff needed

Meanwhile Grant is digging a ditch to connect the plumbing from Petits Chats' bathrooms to the fosse in the garden.

In the afternoon I visited Emmaus where they have an armoire that will just about fit in the space I have highlighted for one on the landing in Cadran.  For E130, an absolute bargain.


First thing today, I have assembled the armoire and it looks great.  Very pleased indeed with that and a real showstopper for that location.

Then I am doing more work on the corridor and back bedroom walls where the room was reduced in size to connect into Petits Chats

And I have finished painting the main bedroom, which looks pretty good

Another trip out with Steve today for more pipes - and a chance to hear his story of why he now lives in France (having moved down from Oldham).

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Two weeks in France - some highlights


As it is Wife's first trip to France for a while, we traveled down her favorite route which is Portmouth-St Malo on the mid-evening boat, so we can have a meal in the restaurant.  We have bunk beds tonight and I am on the top one.  Would the crossing be rough and I fall out - not this time

We stocked up LeClerc in St Jean for three days in the house - there is such a lot to do

Our first night treat is a trip to Les Cabanon in St Jean for dinner - two delicious steaks


First work is on the bedrooms in Petits Chats - principally the floor.  This is reasonably precise work, but actually very enjoyable to do.  And progress is quicker than I had expected.

Also up today is work on the main bedroom of Cadran - initially painting the ceiling white and then working on the numerous repairs to the walls and priming reading for painting next visit.

The house has already descended into chaos as we sort through everything.  The wardrobe below is too big to go up the stairs and will have to be dismantled.  The rest of the stuff below is a collection of beds plus packs of wood flooring.

My DIY camp is at the bottom of the stairs in Cadran - more chaos


A morning visit from Grant for an initial catch up and check we were happy with the most recent work.  He is snowed under this week so we will see him again next week when we are planning a trip to Saintes to buy lots of bathroom stuff, electrical things, etc


St Jean market in the morning - highlight is the delicious duck moose pate.  We also buy chicken skewers with a curry sauce - not perhaps the most french thing

Over lunchtime, we went for a trip out with Dave, the estate agent, to see two properties.  One was a finished house and gites for around E300k and the other was the run-down farmhouse that I've been too twice before.  As expected, there is insufficient enthusiasm at this stage to take on the latter


A very pleasant evening out in St Jean - Wife visited the dress shop where Daughter bought lots of stuff over the summer, then several drinks at Ellis Park, where it is warm enough to sit outside, before an evening meal at L'Annexe.  Excellent stuff all round


We have acquired a new house cat - a petit chat indeed.  Against my better judgment, we have decided to give it food throughout our visit.  It has been holed up in the garage, but now prefers to sleep on our terrace during the day so he can try and get food off us whenever we come out of the house.  He is very friendly though.


A day out today.  First to Saintes and a trip round the market down by the cathedral.

Then to the Isle d'Oleron, one of the best places to visit in the local area.

At St Pierre we stumble across one of the finest patiseries we've ever seen.  It would be worth coming to Oleron just for that.  While we are acquiring products and admiring others, daughter calls and is very jealous.

Then to the very tip of the island.  The tide is out and the Atlantic breakers are way off in the distance.  We generally prefer it when all the rock pools are exposed.  By picking our way through the various pools, it is possible to get to the edge of the sea

Next stop is America


More work on Petits Chats, this time it is wood flooring in the back bedroom and landing area.  Not a bad outcome, but loads of work still needed to do all the detailing required


Two bedrooms in Petits Chats are now trimmed up and basically ready for guests.  Such a contrast to just six months ago when we started work on the upstairs

This evening we had a trip out with Grant and Karen going to the Jacobins restaurant in St Jean.  We had thought this was just a pizzeria, but it is actually a full restaurant, and very good too.


Our last day on this trip and a brief walk up to the nearby vines.  They have all been harvested of course and the leaves are turning brown rapidly

On our drive home we manage to take a wrong turn at Tours and only just make the ferry - odd as we haver done this trip loads of times before - another sign of approaching senility

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Julian Cope - books and CDs

One recent download from was Julian Cope's Psychedelic Revolution.  Despite having been a huge Cope fan for years, I was amazed at just how good this album is.  I really like at least 9 of the 11 tracks and the other 2 aren't that bad!  Particular favourites are the tracks Roswell and As the beer flows over me.  I have probably heard the album a dozen times now, perhaps the most times I have listened to any album this year.  Excellent stuff.

Inspired by the album, I have re-read Cope's book on Liverpool, the early Teardrop Explodes and the early part of his solo career.  No doubt he is very busy, but hopefully a new volume of autobiography will appear at some point.  I have also bought Copendium - a collection of his online music reviews.  I have heard of a handful of the bands reviewed and even have one or two of the records - not many though