The Wall Comes Down


Some houses have walls that need to come to down to create more space, some houses have walls that make a space difficult……but Frelon Cottage has a wall that that just shouldn’t be there!

A wall enclosing a stair well  (with a door!) just makes it dark and claustrophobic. Plus in order to build the wall straight the dogleg in the ceiling to follow the line of the stairs was boarded in, leaving a headroom of about 1500mm at the turn (five foot for older readers or those in the US!) .

Why this wall was built, I can only guess, maybe for warmth to keep the heat downstairs, who knows! But it is the most inappropriate wall on all levels.

Costed and planned by my daughter Iris as part of some maths revision, I ordered up the parts from a UK website and cut then provisionally at home.

The wall looked substantial but with one blow of the sledge, I found it to be constructed from 50mm (two inches!) terracotta blocks. Once freed from their bond with the ceiling it was possible to pull the wall down by hand.

Down it comes!

Down it comes!

I have always fancied myself as a bit of a Joiner, so cutting and fixing the balusters, rails and spindles was a satisfying afternoon, even if the heavy showers meant running out to cover or bring in the chop saw.

With a little work after dinner the stairs  were complete…..and what a difference.

New Stairs!

The whole bedroom seems much larger and opens up to you as you ascend the stairs. Light from upstairs filters into the salon downstairs and house seems to flow again.

Look at that Flow!

Look at that Flow!

Hoopoes and Bullfrogs

It was sitting on the parking spaces in front of the out buildings when I pulled up.  Without a care in the world Hoopoe didn’t flinch. Only when I tried to take a photo did fly it off.

Migrating from northern Africa these birds, with their rusty crests, long hooked bills and black and white wings,  look far more exotic than a southern Europe visitor.

Not my Hoopoe

Not my Hoopoe, he flew off!

It was a long uneventful drive and I arrived to evening sunshine. The cottage was as I left it but with one dramatic change…..the electricity to my barn had been cut off! No electric for tools….how will I pump up my mattress?, were the thoughts going around in my head.

Just after he flew off!

Just after he flew off!

After half hour of panic, the farmer, Robert, came to let out his cows and he explained that the wiring had been changed by EDF to allow me to take the feed without paying for a new meter. He pressed the cut out …….et voila……electricity!

Panic over, I unloaded the van and settled in the for night. Despite the damp and the chill the wildlife came alive with the dusk, bullfrogs serenading and the secadas rhythmic chirps soon had me dozing off…….the half a bottle of red might have help too!

Off to France Again

Packed up like an Antarctic expedition, with more tools, equipment and materials than you would think would fit into a Citroen Nemo, I set off this gloomy and wet morning for my second visit to Felon Cottage.

Last visit the house was cleaned and secured, this time the plan is to start work in earnest and make a mark on the cottage.

That wall has to go!

That wall has to go!

Downstairs, a trench needs to be dug across the kitchen floor to taste waste water to the new septic tank on the other side of the house. A new door needs to be knocked through into the downstairs bathroom and the old one bricked up.

Upstairs, a wall enclosing the stair well will be removed and replaced with balustrading. The upstairs bathroom, subject to a leaky roof several years ago, needs the plasterboard ceiling removed, the oak boards above repaired and a new chip board floor.

Water Damaged Ceiling

Water Damaged Ceiling!!!

And, probably most importantly, all of the timbers in the roof, ceiling and floors will be treated with insecticide and fungicide to prevent woodworm and dryrot.

Whether these all get done or like last time a whole new set of priorities become apparent, remains to be seen!