First of all, let me wish you all a Bonne Année. Pleine de bonne choses pour vous et votre famille.
I suppose I’d better re-cap last year before moving on to a whole new one? Well, we had a great season, stuffed full of lovely people that came and spent a while (or longer) here at Le Chant. Some promising to return, others having already booked for this summer. Those that came this year having been previously will have noticed some changes. Those that return this season will notice a few more as our plans for the place come to fruition.
Last year we upgraded the site electricity supply, providing a beefed up supply for all and lessened the impact upon our poor gite guests in Chardonneret in the event that the site supply tripped, in the process. Ever since we’ve been here, the only way to re-set the site supply when it trips is to access the baby gite and press the reset button. It’s a very simple thing to do, not in any way dangerous. Not a problem at all when there’s no-one in the gite, but once it’s occupied, then it became an intrusion for guests and an embarrassment for us. With only one exception though, we can honestly say that everyone we’ve asked to re-set the box has been happy to do so, putting the ‘job’ down to one of the vagaries of ‘life in France’. Indeed, we’ve been astonished to learn just how often the leccy trips in the UK too!
Anyway, after alot of thought, and after uncounted calls to EDF, we arranged for the supply to be upgraded, and for the mains switch to be positioned outdoors, and back in our control in case of trips. we instigated all of this in Frebruary last year and it all finally came together in August! At the same time, we changed our tariff from one (ridiculously expensive) to another, and already we’re seeing a drastic reduction in our monthly bill. This all means two things: Syb can operate more than one electrical appliance in the house at the same time, and we can pass on our own savings to our guests. Syb still hasn’t got the hang, almost six months later, of being able to operate the toaster AND the kettle at the same time. So, having a hot cup of tea at the same time as my breakfast toast is still proving a learning curve.
Still, it’s funny to hear the squeals of delight when she realises she doesn’t have to wait for one thing to finish before she can switch another thing on…..
What else did we do? Oh yes – the trees! Winter here can bring some pretty strong winds that would push and pull our poplars all over the place. On one particularly frightening stormy night/early morning, I was shocked at the sight of the two rather large specimens just to the front of the house bent almost double (it seemed like it at the time) over the house. They had to go! Not completely though. We brought in a local company to trim them right back to a manageable size. In effect they’re now only 10m high, instead of more than double that. The skyline changed further here at Le Chant when we lopped the two poplars by the barn, and gave one of our large ‘peupliers noir’ a shave too. One of the benefits of this work is that we now have plenty of wood stacked around the place to burn next winter – that’s also a good thing, as our usual supplier, Arnaud, has run out!
Arnaud, you may know from my ramblings elsewhere, is the owner of a local snail farm. Yes, really. He’s also happy for anyone to visit for a mini-tour (in French) of his farming methods and the ‘laboratoire’! You just have to ak us, and we’ll set it up for you. He also sells many & varied snail related dishes there too.
One of the things we had to do as a matter of some urgency was replace not one, but all three of the electric water heaters on site! The first one to go was the shower block chauff-eau. Luckily for us, it was just after a very busy Easter. We still had a few campers on site who’d noticed the water wasn’t quite as hot as usuaal. When we investigated further, the heater was indeed kaput. So, a trip into Saumur with the trailer, and back I came with a bigger version. This time, a 300l model, rather than the 200l one we’d had since we arrived here. Can’t complain too loudly, I thought, as this was the first time we’d replaced this particular one. A quick call to our favourite sparky to wire it in after I’d finished the plumbing, et voila. Hot water again within 6-hours of the old one giving up the ghost!
The large gite, Héron, had a bit of TLC earlier in the year too, with a completely fresh bathroom. The loo was lifted, turned 90° and placed against a solid wall, rather than backing onto a shower curtain hiding the water tank! we have no idea why this hadn’t been done originally, but hey-ho – we added it to our list of things to do years ago, but time got in the way. I built a cupboard around the water heater for all the cleaning tackle too. The bath was moved away from the walls, had a tiled surround fitted which is lovely to perch your glass of wine whilst reading your latest chick lit among the bubbles!
The first guests to use it were a delightful French family, and they loved it. The only comment upon departure was that they’d tried to have a shower that morning but there wasn’t any hot water! After a little investigation – sure enough, the chauff-eau had packed in! The second in as many weeks. No drama, I thought. This one must have been installed at the same time as the other, they’re like light bulbs – they all pop at once! Off to Saumur. New (again 300l) tank and a call to the sparky, who by this time was thinking I was some sort of a curse upon French hot water tanks. This all had to be done in the least amount of time possible as we had more guests arriving later that afternoon! I’d just finished fitting the tank in place when the sparky arrived and, once again, by the skin of our teeth we managed to install a new tank and have hot water ready for our guests’ arrival. Phew!
When, a couple of weeks later, I returned from the brico store in Saumur, with yet another 300l chauff-eau onto a trolley, after shelling out yet another €500; I suppose I could forgive our sparky for really thinking I was the kiss of death on water heaters! Yes, the third and final heater – our own, had trickled to a tepid halt. The first two weren’t bad to fit, both being on the ground floor. Ours is in the loft above the small gite and it feeds that gite, as well as the house here, with hot water. It’d been a tad lukewarm for a couple of weeks to be fair, but we just thought that we may have been taking baths and showers at inopportune moments, at the same time as guests next door. It wasn’t until one of them actually mentioned that the water didn’t appear to be too hot that morning that we realised that it had indeed ground to a halt! Much huffing, puffing, shoving and pulling of a rope attached to the heavy cylinder ensued. Another call to our tame sparky and hey presto – hot water! The first really hot bath we’d had in weeks was duly luxuriated in later that night!
Later in the autumn, after much frantic scrabbling around first of all trying to find manhole lids, then attempting to lift them, we had our fosse septiques inspected! By a man from SPANC – Spancy Man! There’s a ‘law’ of sorts been rolled out through France that dictates changes to the ‘norms’ for septic tanks and their drainages systems. I’ll ‘blog about the silliness of this another time! But, suffice to say, it’s a pretty stupid thing and has been met with great anger and frustration in village halls up & down the country. Our inspector came, saw, didn’t once get his hands dirty, and sat on our patio in the sun filling out forms with us. He passed both of ours, even though they’re of the same construction as a friend’s (but older), and our friend has to replace his! We’re now expecting an official, typed report on our fosses with reccommendations that we a) chop down the 100 year old oak in our ‘coeur’ and b) we move our swimming pool.
So that was last year, that was.
What of 2012? Well, we have yet more tree surgery planned. No! Not the 100 year old oak, but other, less beautiful and more youthful ones dotted around the place. Phase Two will get underway in the autumn of this year.
Because we were waiting for a decision on the fosses, it became a bit of a bind planning and then installing the long awaited chemical waste disposal point for the campsite. I just didn’t want to do it to be told that I’d have to rip it all out anyway. Now that Spancy Man’s been & seen, I’ll crack on with that in time for the season proper!
We’ve just ordered two very swish (and very expensive) replacement ehu (electric hook-up) bollards for the campsite. Ours are fine, they work ok and they’re tested yearly. They just look crap. We want the place to look nice and we want people to have a nice time here. Looking nice is all a part of that, so we took the plunge just yesterday and ordered them from the UK for delivery within a fortnight. No doubt I’ll be splattering piccies all over our facebook page when they’re done!
What else? Nothing much except the constant round of decorating, gardening, mending, cleaning, replacing water heaters and generally living la vie française!
So. If you’re coming to see us this year, please do mention how lovely our (drastically lowered) trees look and that you’re having fun tipping your chemical waste down our bespoke disposal point. Tell us that you love the plentiful supply of hot water, and that you’re struggling to extract your soapy bodies from the luxurious bath in Héron. Do tell us you’re laughing hysterically, listening to Syb and her squeals of delight as she boils the kettle and burns the toast – AT THE SAME TIME! You can, if you like tell us you have NO idea how you ever managed without the new, swish ehu bollards too! Then we’ll know we’re doing things right!
Until the next time,