Sunday 30 April – Omelette and Eggs

At the end of last week’s blog, I said that we hoped to be able to start a major project that we have wanted (needed?) to do for a couple of years, or at least have someone else start the project for us.

The project was to replace the roof on Stable B&B, our chambre d’hôte (B&B) building which had very definitely got to the end of its life.  Thankfully, the team we were expecting arrived on Monday morning and they have made good progress.

We don’t know exactly when Stable was built.  We have been told it was previously used to house the bull when what we call Kergudon now, was a farm.  I assume it was put up some time in the mid 19th century and we suspect the roof hasn’t been touched very much since.

It was evidently well built originally with slates quarried in our own village of St. Cadou.  The wooden frame was a solid oak structure which had planks attached across to nail the slates on with iron nails.  Over the years, the wooden frame and planking has deteriorated, broken in at least one place, and been attacked by insects and damp giving the roof a distinct wave on the north side.  The iron nails have rusted away so weren’t actually holding the slates on the roof themselves; and the small skylight, also on the north side, had also shifted as the wood weakened which created our first leak a few years ago.

Over the last couple of years we have had a number of other leaks appear that we had made patch repairs to but now realised that we needed to bite the bullet and get it all replaced.

On Monday the roofers removed all the old slates to expose the fragile frame which they tidied up by cutting away the worst of the bad wood as they could.  They will reuse as much of the old slate as they can to re-roof and replace what they can’t.

Tuesday’s focus was concreting a new pad to the top of the old walls that will carry the weight of the new roof and by Wednesday they were already constructing a new frame.

The new frame is slightly higher than the old so, when finished the attic space will have some of the skeletal remains of the original roof structure.

Thursday, while  the wettest day of the week, the work continued and new planking was added with a waterproof membrane, something that wouldn’t have been included when originally built; and Friday they were already replacing the slates.

They are a good team based in the neighbouring village of Commana and they are making good progress but, and hence my blog title, while their roof work looks great, they are perhaps not the most careful with the surrounding area!  I suspect they are not unique in this, and we want the roof done well, but the poor hedge plants we planted next to the building are getting a hammering with various bits of equipment dropped on and in them.

The biggest frustration was on Friday when they arrived with their lorry laden with heavy slate, yet after the previous day’s heavy rain they decided to park on the grass and, inevitably, got stuck.  Thankfully, one of the local farm workers came past in his tractor and offered to push their van to free it.  Even more thankfully, the tractor was about 10 cms narrower than a gap he had to pass through without hitting either the lorry or destroying another of our shrubs!

The lorry was freed but the lawn looks more like a field.  I am so pleased we spent all that time scarifying, feeding and weedkilling the other week(!) but I am now going to wait until the roof is complete (and will look amazing) before I go and start making repairs.

The other major effort, also started the previous week, was to install the car charging point in the garage.

Our electrician also turned up on Monday to measure how much cable he required and we looked at how feasible it would be to use the existing conduit to pass, what I thought would be at most 3 cables.

We bought a drain inspection camera a few years ago for a specific job, but it has come in useful for a number of other things since, and we were able to get a decent look down the conduit.  It quickly became obvious that the single conduit leaving the house split into the 3 separate conduits directly underneath the heat pump compressor and existing concrete pad, and not in a neat way.  There was lots of slate and debris at the junction point that meant it would have been nearly impossible to pass the cable down the existing tube unless we were able to move the compressor and demolish the concrete.  We wouldn’t!

After some consideration we came up with plan B which mean I did have to extend the trench to the house and cut through the concrete pad in a more accessible place.  There we found the house’s old sceptic tank and yet another redundant pipe passing through the wall.  I said it’s always a mystery digging here.

The newly discovered pipe was under the floor level of the utility room which is the other side of the wall, so we decided to try and drill down and see if we could locate it.  Thankfully, after just 3 exploratory holes(!) we found it and have now passed all 5 (yes – 5!) cables that were required from the house to the garage.

Actually, we made the job neater by disconnecting the power to Hayloft, Stable and Dairy and passing them through the same hole so they enter the house much lower and I can make the wall a little more attractive. It’s a bit of a shame we hadn’t done this before installing the heat pump otherwise its pipework could pass into the house in the now redundant, lower, pipe.  Ho hum!

At least now the charger is installed and functions; we have given the garage a better, more direct, power supply as previously it passed through Hayloft’s fuse board; and, having dug the trench, we branched off the water pipe and took the opportunity of putting a tap in the garage should we ever need one.

My productivity was impacted by having to travel to Brest 3 times in the week.   Once to buy the insulation needed for Stable’s new roof; once to buy more insulation as they didn’t ask for enough(!); and once again today to make an emergency repair in Hayloft between guests!

The only other highlight of the week was a visit to the Huelgoat cinema on Tuesday night.

Since we moved here, we have been told of a small arthouse cinema in Huelgoat that has a really interesting programme of movies – often the big releases too.  We had never been and in fact, despite an aborted attempt very early in our relationship, David and I had never been to the cinema together (we don’t count watching a movie in the Kergudon cinema).

This year, is the 40th anniversary of the Huelgoat cinema and they are showing some classic films.  Tuesday was one David had never seen but I really enjoying watching – as too a number of our friends – The Rocky Horror Picture Show – so 6 of us went for the screening.  We didn’t dress up and, as I’m not sure it was the French thing to do, we weren’t as interactive as other times I’d seen the film or stage play, but it was a fun night.

What was even better, for me, was that, as it is their anniversary, before the film they held a quiz when you had to recognise scenes from 12 classic movies including some ‘arty’ French ones – and I came joint first so won a few prizes!!  Definitely made it worth going!!

Next week, the roofers should be able to finish Stable; I should be able to refill the trench; and we can move onto one of the many other tasks that need doing – like repairing the lawn!!!

À beintôt.