- This is My Hadji Bey
- Eurovision in a Cowshed
- The Boll Weevil 3: On the Waterfront
- A Year in Brocante 11: An Easter Egg
- A Year in Brocante 10: Upscaling and Hacking
- Kevin Pearce
- The Bol Weavil and the Lightning Bug 2: On the Ground
- The Boll Weevil and the Lightning Bug 1: A Home in Ireland
- Love In The Air
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“We’re going to move to France, to live the simple life….we’ll buy a little cottage in a sleepy little rural village in the sunshine…. We’ll do it up ourselves, live off the land or buy only in local markets….. it will be so much cheaper, so much easier, so few pressures, so much….simpler.” Er, yeah.
We moved to France, to a sleepy little rural village in the sunshine. Luckily, we had no illusions, no dream of a simple life. Basically, it was the start of the Celtic Tiger boom in Ireland and we were trying to buy a house in Dublin, but of all the estate agents and auctioneers I visited with our details, not one – not a SINGLE ONE came back to me. So we said yerrasoditanyway, let’s buy in France instead. Apropos of The Dream, we bought a modern (but local design timberclad) 4 bedroom house with a balcony and a small garden in a good location which would sell easily in case we weren’t happy in France. We were very happy in France. The sunshine was great, but in the Haute Savoie, for 100 days of the year the temperature is below freezing and our little ‘mitoyenne’ house (in the centre of 3, joined by garages) had no fireplace.
After two winters, we though we’d either A: put in a wood stove B: buy a new house or C: freeze to death. Because in France NOTHING is simple (think of the word ‘bureaucracy’ where did it originate?) and it was all such a palaver, we decided to move, but first applied to the Mairie (local administration) for planning permission for a ‘cheminée’ and as soon as we got that, we put the house on the market. Three weeks later it was sold, at one third more than we’d paid for it. To make a long story short, because we loved the area and wanted to remain there, we bought a house down the road, closer to the lake, bigger, detached and surrounded by a large garden. It had a fireplace…..and a swimming pool.
The house was vacated by a family and was ready to move into, and we moved in almost a decade ago. Then we had to live with all the design faults. It is still a work in progress. We tore out the huge, under-effcient fireplace and brought our woodstove over from Ireland and had it installed. We tore up most of the land (a dandelion farm) and are still designing and planting a garden, tore up the hard concrete slabs of the terrace and put a timber deck all around the house, re-built the buanderie (laundry) and installed a sink (imagine having a laundry with no sink….the French are a very odd race) and insulated it and the cave -the wine was boiling in the summer, freezing in the winter, which didn’t do anything for the taste– but the biggest job of all was the swimming pool.
Covered in mosaic tiles which fell off as soon as the temperatures went down, with a circular paddling pool, and a towering pump-house surrounded by concrete pillars, we called it ‘Hearst Castle’ because of its ostentation. The pump house was built high – with imposing concrete steps going up – but was actually below the water-level and accessed by concrete steps going down – and flooded in winter. The over-flow was open and dangerous and ugly, the jets were against the prevailing wind and as it was built so close to the house, at an ‘off’ angle, it was literally an eye-sore. I hated it with a vengeance. Over the first few years, I tried everything to soften the look, Himself tried everything to get the controls working, the water clean. Finally we said yerrasoditanyway, got a big wheelbarrow, filled it full of money and began emptying it into the hole which was supposed to be a swimming pool.
Long story….. which actually involved the filling and emptying into the hole of not one, but several, wheel barrows full of money. We got an Englishman up from the South of France to do the job as the local swimming pool business wouldn’t touch our abomination and it would have been stupid with our halting French to try to make sense of all that was involved in the destruction, re-alignment, modification and re-building, installation of a new control technique and change to a salt-water system. The job was supposed to take 3 weeks…..it took about 3 months. The Englishman knew his stuff, did the job – eventually – and did it well, but he was completely mad. Himself thought it was from working with all the chemicals….standing in 40C of heat in a semi-enclosed space slathering on fibre-glass can’t be good for the brain…especially when the ensuing thirst is slaked with copious amounts of alcohol.
Finally, it was done…..well not really; since then we’ve been thinking about a water heating system and a winter enclosure – I don’t want the latter as it, also, would be an eye-sore – and of course there are maintenance and water charges and the odd dead mouse/toad and the legal requirement to have it alarmed. Still, we enjoy the pool enormously.
At least we did, until recently we visited Hearst Castle and saw the real thing/s – an outdoor and an indoor pool in all their glory. We are simple folk (we live simply in a little rural village in France, we grow vegetables, buy locally at the markets) who are not acquisitive or prone to jealousy……but in Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, Himself admitted to a very serious case of Swimming pool Envy.