Top of the list of essential changes to our house was the electrical wiring and lighting design. Most of the existing wiring was clearly unsafe, with some “innovations” alarmingly so – the spotlight in the shower, wired in with audio wire, the interior sockets on the exterior, placed next to water taps, and the piece de resistance; a live wire that dangled behind the washing-machine in the kitchen, just under a leaking u-bend!
An excellent local electrician promised to start in September, which became October, then January, although he did make many visits to secure some of the more dangerous issues. He finally committed in mid-February, which meant that our kitchen and bathroom remained ¾ finished for a couple of months.
We had unpacked some household items, and started to make the place look homey, but this has now gone to hell again, and once more we live amid dust, boxes, and stacked furniture. It is hard to get comfortable, and impossible to get on with anything constructive. We elected to renovate far more than we originally planned, which in the long run will make better business sense. All of the work is to very high specifications, in locally-sourced natural materials such as chestnut wood, hand-cast iron, and traditional tiling.
Stone interior walls in the lower part of the house make it impossible to conceal electrical wiring, so we have heritage, twisted wire, porcelain studs and switches, and copper piping to run the wire through. It looks stunning, and has created a slightly industrial element to the rustic theme.
We have replaced halogen with LED and designed a brighter look for darker areas. The electrician is a master! His input has been invaluable. The downstairs is almost completed – two weeks work. The upstairs and exterior will be done by the end of March. Then there is the matter of some plumbing that has to be addressed: waste pipes that are too narrow, and a septic tank that has never been emptied!
The weather has been frigid. Frosty mornings and chilly nights. Just the right time for the wood-burner in the lounge to clog with soot and drip oily condensation, while emitting toxic smoke! We had the pipes cleaned, and, surprise, were told they were inferior material and not been well fitted. So, we have replaced the entire unit with a smart, heat-efficient, ceramic-lined machine that will retain heat for 4 hours when it has gone out, and will burn far less wood while dispensing a fiercer heat; stainless steel pipes that won’t leak smoke. It will be installed on Monday or Tuesday. For the last two weeks we have sat at night watching tv wrapped in blankets, clutching hot-water-bottles.
I hit a wall of despair on Thursday, and could not see an end to this process, only a to-do list that grows, and a bank account that shrinks. Sarah is working on some proof-reading, which will pay for the upstairs bathroom and kitchenette. I have just had cataract surgery, so I feel a bit less useful than usual.
We have adopted a local stray dog, whom we nicknamed “Stumpy”, but have re-named Mario. He was simply abandoned when his family moved about a year ago, and he took up with a neighbour’s dog, going for long walks with them. He slept most nights under a rickety lean-to next our neighbour’s house, so we started to feed him. When the weather turned colder, we put a bed there for him. Some mornings his fur was frozen with hard frost, and he shivered while he ate. So, our decision to give him a home and family was not difficult to make. He is friendly, sweet-natured, and likes our dog, who also likes him. But, Mario is a free spirit, so we will kennel him outdoors and let him roam the village if he wishes. Although, I rather think that a few weeks of pampering, once the vet has checked him, vaccinated him, and de-sexed him, might turn this wandering lad into a lap-dog!