Tuesday, 26 July 2016

FIRST MONTH

It's not heat per se, it's the kind of heat that only exists in a tent under the sun. That's the kind of heat I am wondering if I should have allowed into our lives. A lot of people questioned the wisdom of camping for a summer under the sun in southern France and I wish I had listened a little better! On a brighter note, the last few days have brought torrential downpours, the ground under the tent has become soft clay, moulding to the shapes of our feet. The sound of raindrops beating onto the roof of the tent has replaced the hiss of the cicadas and there's that feeling of unrivalled cosyness. Florent and I suspect we are more suited to wet camping holidys in Pembrokeshire. The kind where half the tent blows away in the night and you persevere through the next day with the planned coastal walk, freezing to the bone. Finally, with the family strapped into the car, there are the audible sighs of relief and the comforting glow of Port Talbot industry to the right as the motorway curves reassuringly homeward. Anyway, I digress.

As always there are the difficult moments but also the beautiful ones. The family where we are staying harvested honey from their hives and we watched as the wax lids to the honey comb were carefully sliced off and the honey drained out in a metal barrel. Honey flicking to the sides, catching the sun, like sparks coming off a blacksmith's hammer. Then the children coated their fingers in the honey running from the tap at the bottom of the barrel, licking it into their mouths, smiling sticky smiles. Honey half an hour from the hive.



On the hottest day so far we didn't work but went to the lake to swim, surrounded by other families enjoying the sandy shore, turquoise water and shadey trees. We've watched the Tour de France flash by, cyclists intensely concentrated as they passed by hundreds of spectators shouting and clapping. 



 


The House

I feel that there is a romantic notion behind restoration of an old building. Particularly one that has not been lived in for some years or that is in particularly bad repair. I love the idea of giving use and meaning and value to materials long forgotten or left to dissintegrate. The ressurection of something whose history has become meaningless as long as it is abandoned and unremarked upon. The house, as I've mentioned, is tiny and dark. It's modest. We are beginning to peel back it's layers. Most of the discoveries have been things like finding lead based paint, asbestos chimney flues and roofing. However, from a time predating these sadly fated innovations, we have also discovered large wooden beams in one of the walls, most likely dating back to the original construction of the house, in about 1750. It's interesting but throws up the first dilema; as this makes damp proofing harder and makes the plaster over it more prone to cracks do we use plaster boards to create a smooth and simple wall. We both feel that covering walls which are almost three hundred years old in plaster board isn't quite right...




On the ground floor, under the layer of concrete there are meticulously laid stones, rounded from their original home on a riverbed, arranged upright (known as 'herrison', hedgehog), as damp proofing. Originally they would have been covered with rammed earth but since then the layer of concrete had been added, unfortunately as concrete doesn't 'breathe' the effect of the damp proofing is lost. In truth I'm not really sure what the plan is yet (for the moment Florent and I have shared out the work in a hideously gendered way and he builds and I babysit, hopefully at some point this will shift and I'll be sure of what I am writing about the renovation!).

The work moves forward slowly. Mostly demolition interspersed with discovery.

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