December 13, 2017

NEARLY THERE. POSSIBLY.

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On Saturday we collected Daisy from the cattery, thinking that the most destructive and noisy work on the kitchen had been completed and it would be safe for her to return home.  She had been in virtually solitary confinement for two whole weeks, being the only resident in the cattery, and she was really pleased to see us. 

While we were at the cattery the lady that owns it warned us that heavy snow was forecast for overnight on Saturday.  We were glad she mentioned it as we had not seen the forecast and had no idea that snow was coming. 

The cottage we have rented is not far from where we live but is on higher ground on a little used country road and, from past experience, likely to be inaccessible if it snowed a lot.  We could end up snowed in at the cottage with Hugo while Daisy remains by herself in the house.  What a state of affairs.

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So, we decided to make a temporary move back home for the night.  At least from there we could walk to the pub, the little Spa shop and the bus stop if we were snowed in for very long – which is in fact one of the reasons that we bought the house in the first place – its location is good for the worst of the Derbyshire winters.

We did a quick clean up of the bedroom and bathroom and spent the night there.  Snow did indeed fall to about 3”.  Neither Hugo nor Daisy had ever seen proper snow before and had a great time playing around in it.  We had laid in enough provisions to keep well fed for a couple of days and while we were there we made a start on cleaning up.  On Sunday we were able to clean out some of the new cupboards and put away some of the kitchen stuff we had piled up in the dining room and elsewhere.  Snow continued to fall all day so we spent Sunday night there as well.

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On Monday there was no sign of the kitchen fitter or any of his team so we carried on with the work.

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It felt really odd to be almost camping out in our own house but at least we could see that the kitchen was taking shape.  There was still a lot of finishing off to do and we couldn’t use about a third of the cupboards as they were full of the fitters tools and kitchen components. 

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When the fitter turned up on Tuesday morning we vacated the house again and left him to it.  Nick pops back to check on progress and do any fetching and carrying of materials, also to give Daisy some company.  I am staying in the cottage nursing a horrible cold that started on Monday, which happened to be my birthday.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, or at least we think so.  Latest prediction is that the kitchen should be finished, except for a bit of grouting, by Thursday evening.  That’s assuming that the appliances (oven, microwave and extractor hood) turn up today – and that the fitter does not have to dash off somewhere to deal with some problem with one of the other kitchens he has on the go at the same time – which is why, it appears, in the three weeks our kitchen will have taken to complete, for four days no work was done on ours at all.

We are due to move out of the lovely, warm, clean, neat and tidy cottage by 10.00 am on Saturday.  I’m hoping that by then the fitter and his team will have kept to his promise, the job will be finished and we can have the house back to ourselves.  So that then we can get on with the cleaning up and make the place comfortable for Christmas.  Spending Christmas in a building site was not something I relish but we’re not ruling out the possibility.

December 8, 2017

KITCHENS, FIREPLACES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS

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There is good and bad news on the kitchen front.  The good news is that most of the units are now in.  We also have new internal doors which we are very pleased with.  They are white, stylish, some glazed and some not, and are infinitely more attractive than the horrid dark plain doors that came with the house.

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The bad news is that the kitchen company have let us down big style on the kitchen.  In a nutshell we think they forgot to order it.

With the delivery date approaching fast we queried why we had heard nothing about it and that’s when we think they then ordered it, only to find that the appliances would take until several days after the agreed start date to arrive.  In order to have something ready for the fitter to fit when we vacated the house for them to get on with it, they deleted the appliances from the order so that delivery of the cabinets wouldn’t be held up.  We think they then forgot to re-order them until we enquired why there was no sign of our appliances. We have deduced all this judging by snippets of information told to us by the fitter and shop manager – it’s not exactly the kind of thing that people would openly admit to!

This is in such contrast to the service we received from this company only two and a half years ago, when we bought the kitchen for our house in France and they sorted out problems quickly and painlessly, helping us out enormously when the shipping company trashed several of the units in transit.

Speaking of shipping, things started to go really downhill when the delivery company turned up with the cabinets.  The moronic oaf that carried most of the packages into the house bashed the boxes into our brand new front door in order to shove it open, scratching the bottom panels.  What is it about driving a van that turns people into idiots who have no respect for their customer’s goods or property?

With the house now transformed into a building site, everything covered in a layer of plaster dust and gritty dirt, some of the cabinets were found to be the wrong size, damaged or missing altogether.  It quickly became very obvious that it would take much longer than the week promised to fit the kitchen.  So we extended our stay in the cottage for a second week.

When we got a final delivery date of 13th December for the appliances we extended our stay by one more week, making three weeks in total.  What a shambles.  And just to add insult to injury, our fridge freezer, which we were not replacing, mysteriously acquired a large dent in the door, which nobody owns up to knowing anything about.


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In our quest to get all the big, messy and disruptive things done as soon as possible, we booked replacement of the horrible (very fashionable in the 1960’s) fireplace in the sitting room for this week – to follow on from the kitchen work which we had been told would be finished by now.

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The demolition of the old fireplace was a very messy job and not without surprises.  Namely that the hearth seemed to have been built on a huge slab of concrete – thick enough to “hold up a multi storey car park” according to the fireplace engineer!  Most of it had to be chipped away to reveal a proper floor level and enable them to fit the new fireplace.

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And here it is.  If it wasn’t for the fact that the glass front has a small crack in it and we therefore can’t use it, we’d be very pleased with it.  The engineer and his mate blamed the delivery company, but then they would just because they could.  To my mind the thing should have been inspected for faults or damage long before they started the job and in time to replace any damaged or missing parts.  Nobody does quality control any more.  They expect you to pay up front for fear that you might not pay at all, then expect you to put up with faulty goods until they can fix it.

The chimney breast also needs a significant amount of plastering to finish it off.  This was not the engineer’s job, apparently, which is not something we appreciated when we ordered it.  However, we like the look of the new fire.  It’s very smart and stylish and makes the room look bigger – and I no longer bash my ankles on the corner of the old hearth stone when I walk past it.

So all in all, things have not really been going to plan.  Sure enough, we will get the kitchen finished eventually and the chimney breast will get plastered and finished off.  I just wish this was not happening so close to Christmas, which seems to be passing me by yet again.  We have missing appliances, a damaged front door, a damaged fridge freezer, a brand new fire that we can’t use, a big plastering job to organise and a house that’s a tip.  This is not at all what we were expecting and our excitement at having our projects come to fruition is marred by disappointments.  It just shows how important it is to have good people working in any company.  No matter how good the product is, the service is hugely dependant on how good the staff are.  Unfortunately the people we were so pleased with at the kitchen company last time have moved on.

A friend of mine once said that if you go through life expecting 100% from people you will always be disappointed.  If you reckon on 50% you might just be pleasantly surprised.  I thought at the time it was a sad reflection on human nature but he was probably right.

November 27, 2017

WINDOWS AND DOORS, KITCHENS AND HUGO

Progress is good with our new house.  With the plumbing done and dusted the next big job was to replace the windows.  It amuses me how estate agents will describe a house as fully double glazed throughout.  Ok, there were double glazed windows everywhere, but they all needed replacing.  There were gaps around the front windows that caused a howling draught and the one in the dining room actually whistled when the wind blew.

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The front door was a classic style for a 1960’s bungalow.  The letterbox rattled in the slightest breeze and I found getting into the house awkward the way the door opened right up against the brick wall.

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We’re very pleased  with the new door.  The glass panels to the side let in lots of light so we don’t notice losing any light by no longer having a full length glass door.

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We are now in the throes of having the kitchen replaced.  It looked modern and smart in the agent’s photos but in reality it was a cheap and nasty kitchen, badly fitted and with ridiculously bright wall tiles.  There was plumbing for a washing machine but not a dishwasher and after three months (three months already!) of washing up by hand, I really miss my dishwasher!

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We spent yesterday emptying the cupboards ready for the fitter to arrive this morning to start work on the new kitchen.  I shall be really, really glad to see the back of this one – and to get my new dishwasher.

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With the old units out you can see what horrors lie beneath.  Even though the house is only about fifty years old, there have been several changes to the kitchen over the years.  There is an old electricity point showing that the original cooker was electric and positioned right next to the door – I remember that that was what people did in the 60’s and our old family home was just the same (except that ours was a gas cooker).  The idea of having a hob in the middle of a nice, functional worktop was unknown then.

I am pleased to say that the old kitchen is going to a good home.  Although we hate it, many of the units are in good condition and I was hoping to find someone who needs a kitchen and would appreciate it.  The kitchen fitter knows of a charity that provides training for people with learning difficulties and can use our old kitchen, including the hob and oven, in their training.  So much better than sending the whole lot to the tip.

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We have moved out while the work is being done.  That way, the men (who look about fifteen years old) (to me, anyway) can concentrate on getting the job done and not worry about clearing up and providing us with some kind of working kitchen each evening.  We also thought it would be a nightmare for Daisy and Hugo to deal with, so Daisy is in her favourite cat hotel (well, our favourite anyway) and we are in this rather cute little cottage with Hugo, just about a mile from home.

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It has a lovely country style kitchen and all the usual comforts, including some home made fairy cakes to welcome us.  There was also the makings of a nice cup of tea, with proper teapot, sugar, milk and cups and saucers.  I had to chuckle at the difference between this and many of the French gites we have stayed in – the welcome pack there would usually consist of a bottle of wine and, if we were lucky, a fresh baguette!

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How lovely it is to be in a house that is spotlessly clean, instead of a grubby, grimy building site with cardboard boxes piled up all over the place.  I am going to love being here for a whole week, and am making full use of the dishwasher!

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Meanwhile, whilst we rush about getting things organised, little Hugo is just getting on with settling in and growing.  He is growing fast and his little legs have lengthened, even since we took these photos. 

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He’s a good dog, learning fast an growing into his name and into his feet.  House training (always a black art I think) has been relatively painless and he now has very few little accidents in the house – as long as we keep an eye on him and pick up on the signs that he needs to go out.

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He loves going for a walk, loves to play with his toys, loves his dinners and loves everything in fact.  His personality is very different from Lulu’s.  He’s been easier as a puppy we think, which we attribute to him having mixed with people, cats and other dogs from the beginning, unlike Lulu who spent the first eight weeks of her life, until we collected her, in a barn with only her siblings.

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He would play all day long if he could, and if we had the time.  Training time has been difficult to find due to the work on the house but he’s a fast learner.

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I can still pick him up, just!  Which is lucky because although he’s learned to climb the stairs, he doesn’t always have the courage to come back down by himself.  I remember that phase with Lulu, who spent hours trotting upstairs and then waiting to be carried back down so she could do it again!

He’s off to the groomers later this week for his first proper trim.  It will be lovely to meet the handsome boy who lurks somewhere beneath that mass of black fluff!

October 16, 2017

MEET OUR NEW BOY, HUGO

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We got back to the UK on 30th September and the plumber moved in two days later.  The plan was to have a new boiler and radiators but, as always, snags appeared and we have ended up with the plumbing equivalent of electrical rewiring.  Floorboards and carpets had to come up, furniture was piled up on top of other bits of furniture and our huge stack of unopened boxes.  Daisy spent the first few days in the cattery, where she was safe and likely to be less traumatised, having already had a long journey here.

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Work went on for longer than her stay in the cattery so she managed to find her own little safe cave to escape from the noise and the chaos, in the top of a wardrobe.

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Later she caused us a nervous moment when she disappeared under the floorboards through a hole in the floor where the old hot water tank had been removed. 

Within a few days of the plumber departing (he was a lovely bloke but I was so glad to see the back of him and get the house cleaned up a bit) Nick fitted a new cat flap in the back door and she now comes and goes as she pleases, to an extent anyway.

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So, with the house in complete chaos, today we collected little Hugo.

We had anguished over whether or not to have another dog.  Soon after Lulu died we gave away most of our dog related stuff, believing we would never, ever have another one.

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The spell was broken one day in January, when we were on a trip to the seaside and rounded the corner to be confronted by a couple with not one but three black standard poodles.  From that moment we knew that our lives were not complete without a dog and that the day would soon come when we would have another one. 

The timing is not ideal.  Soon after we made contact with the breeder we also made the decision to move house, but neither the birth of puppies or the sale of a house can be timed to order.  So here we are, having just moved in, surrounded by boxes of our belongings and with plenty of work to be done.  It’s complete chaos but it was now or never.

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Hugo is twelve weeks old.  He was playing with his sister when we arrived to pick him up and he was a bit tearful on the way here, whimpering and making little anxious barks.  He and Daisy have met and so far there have been no incidents. 

Completely black dogs are very difficult to photograph (one of the great things about Lulu is that she was extremely photogenic) but I won’t let that put me off sharing my photos.

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Daisy has made herself at home in Hugo’s new bed.  Life is not going to be quite the same again, I think!

(Hugo has taken over Lulu’s old blog here, where you can follow his progress if you’re interested.)

September 24, 2017

TIME TO BREATHE AND WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?

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After a great deal of aggravation, we finally moved house in the UK on Monday, 4th September.  Even at the last minute, it was fraught with problems and delays. 

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Our removal van arrived at 9.00am as promised and the lads started work, emptying each room and loading the van.  At 11.30 our solicitor phoned to say the payment for the house had arrived and we officially no longer owned the property.  She would transfer the money straight away to our vendor’s solicitor so that their agent could let us have the keys to our new house.

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We cleaned each room within an inch of its life as it was emptied of furniture and boxes.  At 2pm we left, putting the one remaining key through the letterbox and were happy that we had left the place spotless, ready for the new owners to move in, and retired to the pub around the corner from our new house to wait.  A few phone calls and one hour later we still had no confirmation from the vendor’s agent that the money had arrived and that we could take possession of our new house.  The removal men were sitting in the van outside the house waiting to get started with the unloading.

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An anxious phone call from our solicitor to our vendor’s solicitor confirmed that the money had arrived three hours ago and that their agent had been informed.  It transpires that the agent had not bothered to check her emails and therefore was unaware and indeed denying that we were now the official owners of our new house and could move in – instead of sitting in the pub just waiting.  Words fail me.

Boxes and furniture were finally and hurriedly unloaded and dumped in the house in a vague kind of order, bearing in mind that the removal men had been sat doing nothing for three hours and were more than ready to go home. 

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The house was very dirty, not at all like the spotless house we had left behind.  We guess that after the old lady died the family removed her belongings (although not the piles of junk in the loft space), put the house on the market and did nothing else to it.  After one year of people traipsing round it, it not having been cleaned, it was pretty filthy and all our furniture was on top of the dirt.  Thinking that might be the case we had booked a room in a nearby hotel for the first night, to give us chance to get a bit of cleaning done before we slept there. 

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We spent two nights in our new house then left for France, picking Daisy up on the way back and arriving the day before my brother and his daughter arrived for their holiday on the 9th.

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In case you’re wondering what the pictures have to do with all of this, the answer is nothing other than to prove that we did eventually have some time to relax at last and do some normal things.  We rode the motorcycles, enjoying some of our favourite routes, walked around the village, went to a couple of brocantes and bought a few bits and pieces, ogled the gorgeous cars on tour through Angles and caught up on our sleep.

Last but not least, we solved the mystery of the number 4.

When we arrived in France after an earlier dash across the channel (I forget which), we found that someone had stuck a number 4 on our gatepost.  We knew that some renumbering of properties was going on and therefore we were now number 4 – but what?  The road does not have a name and we are not in a hamlet.  Not only that but where were numbers 1, 2 and 3?  Then last week the plot got thicker when we received a letter from the Mairie and a certificate telling us that we were now officially number 2!

So a visit to the Mairie seemed called for, whereupon the young lady in the office said we were definitely number 2 and she would look into it.  Two days later the very pleasant young man who looks after the commune grounds, roads and gardens stopped by to change our number 4 for a number 2 and then……walked down the drive to humbly apologise for his mistake.  How nice and how very French. 

It appears we are number 2 “…………” – the name of our house!  This is to avoid confusion for deliveries and, should we need it, the emergency services.  The neighbour is number 4 “………..” – the name of our house.  Numbers 1 and 3 do not exist. 

How very unconfusing!

Anyway, we are off to the UK again soon, for a longer spell, to start work on the new house.  One of the unfortunate things we have discovered about it is that it seems to be in a communication black spot.  There is no mobile signal and no 4g signal either, which means we effectively have no internet or mobile use in the house.  Getting something else organised will be a priority but will no doubt take some time – especially as we do not have the means to research or order it from the house.  Hey ho!

Normal service will be resumed…………goodness only knows when!