Well, summer did finally arrive here in P’tit Moulin and the warm balmy days are back. I must say they are very welcome, and could have been here sooner. The girls are all out in their skimpiest dresses, to show off their golden-tanned skin and the boys…well, who cares about the boys anyway?
Napoleon was actually a tall guy. Did you know that? It’s true. The legend that the great conqueror of Europe was severely vertically challenged is just that—a legend. Maybe not quite an urban myth—I don’t think they had those back then—but nevertheless, a myth.
My friend Antoine the potter had a little incident with the Gendarmes from Bligny not long ago. Now before I begin this tale, I feel I should put to rest a belief that has become, apparently (according to my children,) current in the UK in the last few years.
This is that the Gendarmes in France are not real police. Well, they are, and this is a classic bit of Anglo-Saxon, er, confusion. I believe it has even been aired on that odious arch-slimeball Stephen Fry’s television show; not that that would make it any more the truth.
Tomato plants? Well, spring in France this year was the worst I can remember, and so far summer has not been much better. By this time I should be on first-name terms with the community of lizards that live in my courtyard, but this year, hardly a hello. They’re all still hiding.
Mind you, it’s not been so bad for all the critters in the yard. My pet hate, les limaces, our delightful Burgundian slugs, are positively thriving. I mean, these ones are not shy, they don’t even try to hide, and they’re bright orange anyway. Maybe it’s a warning that they taste disgusting. I’ll let someone else find out. What I do know is they like my tomato plants. Continue reading “Slugs and Snails and Tomato Plants?”
There can be no question that actually finding a property is one of the most exciting phases of the whole process of acquiring a house in France.
The doorstep that is two inches too low to prevent the quagmire outside seeping into the house, the drainage system made of two-inch pipe that turns the courtyard into a lake when it blocks, which of course it will do several times every winter, the dripping and split gutters, the multitude of little leaks in the roof, the rising damp and the access road that has turned into a single-lane swamp. All of these delights will provide you and your partner – if you have one – with hours of after-dinner chat.
Penetrating damp is the result of water coming through the walls.
Once you’re sure no water is coming through the roof by following the previous articles in this category—and the saving grace of that kind of leak is that it is very obvious and marks its presence clearly—the next issue is this one. Here’s an excellent overview of the problem.
I’ll take time for another of my provocative asides here. I’m pretty convinced—actually I am totally convinced—that there is no significant problem of rising damp in most traditionally built houses, at least as long as they have been left that way. Note that last bit. I’ll come back to this later.
Meantime, if we discount the possibility of rising damp in most cases, we must look elsewhere for the source of water and there are two issues to address here.
Damp in your old house and how to deal with it. Part Two in a series explaining where damp in old buildings comes from and what you can do to combat it. Most of the advice is applicable anywhere.
Before worrying about how to get rid of dampness that is already in the house, it makes sense to make sure no more can get it first. There are a number of important areas where unwanted moisture can make it into your house. The roof is the easiest to deal with so we’ll tackle it first.
A good many incomers to France have no idea where to go to get the materials for their DIY restoration of an old French house. I have even heard of British second-homers filling the car boot with bags of cement and bringing it with them, which is laughable. This article is intended to help.
Just about the first thing that everyone notices when they get their dream house in France, and I base this on an admittedly unscientific but extensive post-prandially-conducted survey, is the damp. Unless they have bought in the Midi, of course. For those further north or west, it is a big issue.
Ask anyone yourself. You’ll soon see that this is the case. You might be forgiven for thinking that parts of France were perpetually under water, from the stories you hear. They’re not; it just can seem that way.
In order to get some sense of perspective on this, let’s examine a few facts. Large areas of France are indeed very wet. A quick glance at the map will show that weather systems coming in from the Atlantic under the prevailing westerly wind have a choice; they can either swing up north and east and drench Wales, Ireland, the north west of England and of course Scotland, or they can slip in over the Bay of Biscay and take up residence in France, where they will be nicely bottled up due to the fact that from the Med to the Rhine Basin there is a rampart of mountains which prevents any further progress.
I understand that this is to do with the exact position of the jetstream, a system of ferocious winds at very high altitude.
Normally, summers in Central France are reasonably dry and very warm. Just what the holidaymaker likes, apparently, and perfect for ripening all that lovely plonk.
Not for the French the quaint Anglo-Saxon habit of neighbouring towns staggering their half-days—or even taking half-days in the first place.
On Monday, the whole of France is as dead as that chap they poisoned on St Helena. You know the one. In fact, I think he was responsible for it. And of course, the reason is quite fair; all the shops are open on Saturday so that the people who don’t work in shops can do their shopping, and why should the commercants and their staff not enjoy a proper two-day weekend?