Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans

Friday, 24 June

The past week has left my mind softened and scrambled, and whether or not it's up to telling you about it today, we’ll see.

First, let's back up a bit. You may remember that in April I declared our house works in the Perche, except for the odd job or two, 'finished'. Well, that was the inside. The outside has been languishing, raw and messy, for what seems forever.

The plan was that while the terraces were being laid in the front of the house, the landscaping and gardening would be done out back. By the time the masons had finished, the terrassiers* could segue to the front and presto, we'd have a finished product, inside and out.

The last weeks, there has been a collective tapping of fingers on the table (architects, masons, terrassiers, gardeners and us) while we waited for the necessary stones to launch the work. The quarry in the Périgord dangled delivery dates like grapes before Tantalus, until finally, last week, the stones really were in the mail.  

Garden prep behind the house got underway. Weeds, along with stray oats, beans and clover from the fields, had grown up everywhere, and the ground needed a pre-op chop...

Samuel first

...and rake.

Louison in his wake

Monday, Patrice our bio farmer pulled up in his tractor...

...and delivered 25 tonnes of Good Earth...

Tuesday the masons...

...Claire and the terrassiers...

Team work started.

All the stars aligned, right?

As we were getting ready for bed Tuesday night, a ferocious storm moved over Deux Champs, striking us with lightening (CRACK-PANG!). The internet, which had just been restored after damage from another storm six weeks ago, went out. Amazingly, some of the electricity (the fridge!) held on.

Wednesday morning everyone was back at work, including, coincidentally, the artisans for our residual indoor projects. The carpenters put in shutters to keep out some of the increasingly unbearable summer heat (last weekend the thermometer reached a mind-melting 38°C/100°F, even before it was officially summer). And the metal workers made a new banister for the staircase.

What was wrong, really, with the old one?

Between the masons, carpenters, metal workers and terrassiers moving about and using their machines inside and out, I’ll let you imagine the general level of thought-preventive disturbance.

Wednesday afternoon, partly to get away from it all, I drove half an hour to Mortagne to buy a new vacuum cleaner - for some reason the motor on our relatively new one has died - and while parking, I bumped into an iron fixture on the curb and punctured the tire. A nice young man offered to help me change it...until we opened up the back and determined there was no spare (a vague memory of a mechanic telling us he'd taken it out - "they're heavy and you hardly ever need one" - returned to me). Lots of waiting ensued: for the insurance company to answer the phone, for a tow truck to arrive and take me to a nearby garage, for a ride home.

That evening, having left their job unfinished the previous night, the heavens let loose again with diluvial force and out went the electricity altogether.  

We went to bed with no power, no internet, no car and low morale.

Overnight pond creation

Yesterday, Thursday, began with the above-mentioned workers, plus their bosses, plus the architect, plus the electrician, who thankfully found the source of the power outage and got most of the electricity back on. They say it takes a village; in our case the more appropriate administrative designation might be town.

One, two, three...oh, forget it. There are too many of you.

Enter the telecom technician, who discovered that the lightning had actually struck a hedge through which our cable passed, thus sizzling the wire all the way to the house.

Culprit conduit 

The cable could not be repaired, he said, until the stretch of foliage - a mere  60 metres/200 feet of densely packed fruit trees - was trimmed.

Yesterday afternoon (by now Tasha had run off too) walking away from the house in search of reception (phone and broadband in the whole area had been disturbed by the storm) and transport back to the garage, I wondered why we'd launched this huge project in the first place. The disruptions never seem to end, and beyond the storm-induced damage, there were a host of other annoyances from the car to the broken vacuum to an incapacitated kitchen sink to a multi-front invasion of seemingly indestructible ants (some in our bed) . I know that sorrows - nano or otherwise - come in battalions, but after a while, don't you have to read something into the signs?

I headed up the lane on foot to meet the taxi (the vehicle doubles as an ambulance; at this point it was unclear which service I needed more) because the terrassiers, God bless them, were already at work trimming the hedge (and it's now too muddy for the big machines in the back garden anyway). Who knows when we’ll get reconnected, but in the meantime, God should also bless the hotspot from which I write this blog.

Only 50 metres to go

By evening, hedge trimmed, dog and car home, our neighbour Jean-Pierre arrived bearing raspberries from his garden, a manual to renovating old houses in the region (ha!) and a micro-history of the Perche. We sat on the (almost finished) back terrace with a glass of crémant, overlooking the recently harvested field. The conviviality and the stillness brought me half back to my senses.  

On the one hand, last week highlighted how mildly, really, lives like mine are usually inconvenienced. On the other, it offered a glimpse at how much more frequently and seriously they may be disrupted in our climately changed world.

In any case, Dear Readers, apologies: reports on our finished project were greatly exaggerated.


*I’m going to use the French word because I can’t find an appellation in English that captures the combination of brute force and soft touch that these professionals demonstrate when moving earth.