Sunday, 27 November 2016

Bathroom Blues.

Hello everyone! I hope that life is treating you well, as we start the cound-down to Christmas with the first Sunday in Advent.

I'm afraid I had a bit of a meltdown today. The bathroom renovation is now heading into its sixth week, and considering our builder-bloke said, just before the works began,
je confirme bien la date du vendredi 21 octobre c'est le plombier et Ă©lectricien qui vont commencer et moi je commence le 24 octobre pour environs une semaine. "  ( I confirm that the plumber & electrician will start on 21st October, and I will start on 24th October for about a week)
I think we have been more than patient! 

There are so many things wrong, or badly done, that we despair of having it ever looking good!  He has not tiled right up to the ceiling - we admit that this might be a bit tricky with the beams, but why weren't we told? Also he's left great gobs of cement at the top of the tiling:
and if he's not finishing off to the ceiling, shouldn't he at least paint that part?
Look at this delicious piece of finishing off around the beam (Yes, that is more gobbets of grouting on the beam):
Another slightly bizarre thing is the way he didn't cut one of the tiles, to the correct height (granted the ceiling slopes, so it isn't horizontal) leaving it like this:

It's standing slightly proud of the others and, as you can easily see, not at the same height. It's like he just couldn't be arsed to cut the tile to match the others.

We are pretty sure that he forgot the fact that we'd asked him to box in the pipes, as when I asked it about it, there was a rather telling pause before he answered. And so how he's now going to do this we're not sure, as he has tiled right up to the pipes themselves - so how is he going to fix the box?:

And, with a charge of 222€ for the boxing in, he has the cheek to suggest that in fact we will be expected to paint it! (even when we'd asked him to tile it!) The best bit about the whole thing is the painting of the wall, and that's Mr FD's handiwork, because we hadn't asked the workman to do it (kind of imagining it was included in the "renovation of a bathroom") it wasn't "on the devis" so he wasn't going to be doing it, thank you very much! 

I see this guy every week at dance group, and although, as Mr FD reminds me, we are the consumers and we're paying him a pretty hefty fee to do the work, I feel embarrassed that we're not happy with it.

This morning, waking up again with a feeling of despair and dread about another week trolling down to our friends' home to shower every morning, I started crying and shouting at Mr FD (not that he is to blame!) I feel it's partly my fault because I suggested we used this guy as he was a student of mine, & I thought we'd get good service from him. How bogging wrong I was! I am worried that - if he doesn't put stuff right - Mr FD might want to pursue him through the small claims court, which would be a hassle in French. And it would mean I'd have to give up dance group, because I couldn't face him after that! (Yes, I'm already looking way into the future and panicking about what ifs...) (My speciality!) 

We have written a long, non-accusatory email, explaining what we are unhappy with, including photos - and had the French checked! It's hard because we rarely see him as we go off to work at 7.15, and he arrives (two days a week, if we're lucky!) at about 9.00, and he's never here when we get back at 5.45. So we've been communicating (not often) through emails, which isn't ideal. We hope to be able to settle this amicably, either by phone, or face-to-face, if he'll come over in the evening, but who knows.

I know that this is really a first-world problem - there are no bathrooms for so many people in the world - but it really is starting to depress me. I'm no longer excited about the thought of a new bathroom, but wishing we'd never started the project. It was fine the way it was!


Monday, 21 November 2016

And the News Hadlines are...

I really should be working, preparing for lessons, but I'm aware that I haven't called in for over a week. So here's an update:

1) We're fine

2) The bathroom is still unfinished. However Adal has said that he won't be charging for the extra work that he had to do. We are relieved that it didn't get nasty. It is just S-L-O-W!! It's looking nice, but there still seems to be loads to do, as Adal only seems to work 2 days a week. 

Reading back over my last few posts, I notice that I continually write "we hope it will be finished by the end of next week." This time, I'll just say We hope it will be finished SOON! 🙀

3) Thanksgiving dinner at church yesterday was good. It is an occasion when other Americans who are not a part of the church come to share food and fellowship. Those who are away from their home, their families for the first time, and who want to celebrate Thanksgiving with their compatriots. The chef at the local primary school prepares the food, and although this year wasn't as good as past years, it was still delicious.

4) We haven't sold the car yet. Luckily, as the bank loan was approved we can now pay the workmen for doing the bathroom, rather than depoending on the money from the sale of the car. It is partly our fault as we've not pushed it aggressively enough. We've had a couple of people show an interest, but noone has actually come to see it yet. It will happen...

5) Food has been good. I made a really yummy meatloaf last week, from this recipe. I also made a nice lamb-and-vegetable dish 

I added the remains of a butternut squash/chorizo/chickpea tagine whizzed up to make a sauce which added to it, I think. We are having the leftovers tonight, with rice.

6) The butcher at Carrefour is Fabulous! He has continued to be generous (link to a post at The Teapot)Which has meant that the Poor Cats have been getting meaty goodness three times a week. I went last night and the other person who feeds them had left mashed potatro. They had nibbled the edges but weren't keen...But when I mixed in the meaty stew I'd cooked up from the butcher's off-cuts they were a lot keener! He has given me some really good stuff - proper meaty bits! 

7) I've made 173 of the Bishop's Christmas cards. Unfortunately, I look at some of them and think "these are too hand-made!" I haven't been careful enough cutting the paper (very wobbley) or glueing the piece onto the card. I really can't quite see how I thought some of them were acceptable! So I think I need to make another 50 - I should be able to manage it by the deadline which is next Sunday, as long as I work most of Saturday! It's been a drag, and I rather wish I hadn't agreed, but equally, it is for a good charity (Phone Credits for Refugees) so that's good.

8) Work is pootling on. I've got lots of work (though a day off tomorrow, as my usual students are unavailable) This gives me a chance to go shopping in Roanne & to finish any planning I don't get done today. Mr FD is also working - still temporary, still don't know how long for, but it's looking more likely it will continue into 2017, which is nice. 

So thank you for popping in. It's been nice to have a catch up! Hopefully it won't be so long next time!

Friday, 11 November 2016

And still the bathroom remains unfinished!

The renovation of the bathroom is turning into a real saga - I'm still hoping for a happy ending!

Last week we came home to find that Adal, the builder bloke, had tiled the floor of the shower with the same tiles that he put on the walls...A bit bizarre, we thought - especially as we'd been expecting a shower tray to be fitted! - but we imagined it was going to be like a wet room effect. The quotation did indeed say that he would put tiles on the wall & on the shower floor.

Won't they be very slippy? we wondered...but he's the builder. He must know what he's doing. It'll be fine. Also, he didn't contact us to discuss this with us (we're not in the house when he comes as we both work, but Mr FD's phone number is left for the workmen if they need to contact him) so we assumed everything would be fine.

I was just on my way out to work when he arrived on Wednesday, so I just said, in passing, we're a bit worried about the tiles being slippy. Is there a product that can be put on to make them less slippy? I'll phone the tile shop & find out, he promised.

That evening at dancing, he came to me and said that the tile shop had told him that these were not suitable to go on the floor (because they'd be slippery, and dangerous, and also were too fragile.) Therefore he would need to take them up again to put down suitable tiles - which we would need to buy - and this would also involve breaking some of the wall tiles too, as he had already sealed the wall tiles to the floor tiles. And he'd give us a quotation for the work that needed doing.

Already the work has taken longer than expected (partly our fault, we admit, as we hadn't thought about the tiles we were buying needing a delivery time, rather than just being able to buy them) and now this is going to add at least another week! Also, we can't help feeling that this is, at least in part, Adal's fault. As the expert (or at least more expert than us) he should have had some kind of inkling that the wall tiles weren't suitable, and communicated his doubts/reservations to Mr FD - but no, he just went ahead, without checking with anyone, and it was only because I expressed doubts to him that he phoned the tile shop to check!

We know the work needs to be done, & we have bought the correct floor tiles now - thankfully the shop we went to had them in the warehouse next door! - and so we await Adal's new quotation. But I did send him an email - perfectly polite and respectful - pointing out what I've just said to you lovely readers, and suggesting he takes this into account when he prepares the quotation for the work.

What do you think? Do you think we should expect him to do the work to put right what was, in fact, his error for free or not? Or maybe you think we're at fault....As he is someone I see on a social basis too, and as I will avoid conflict at all costs, I want to try to be reasonable and not get litiginous. But equally, we don't really feel that this is our fault. I'd be interested to know what you think.

Sunday, 6 November 2016


This is a quick in-and-out post....It's already 3.15 on Sunday afternoon - I stayerd later at church for Christmas choir pracxtice - and I need to get on with the Bishop's Christmas cards!!

So, here is a quick update on the coming week's food...I'm trying to choose cheaper dishes, but the shopping bill this week wasn't much cheaper...Only by about 20€. Mind you, I suppose 20€ is quite a bit, really.

FRIDAY: Pork chops with apple, mashed sweet potato and carrots

SATURDAY: Kamchatka with bread. I threw in the knob-end of a chorizo, and also some mushtrooms. I meant to add spinach too, but I forgot!

SUNDAY: Bolognon and rice - I've cooked this in the slow cooker. I think there's going to be rather a lot of liquid. It may need reducing nearer to serving. It is described by Jack Monroe, the originator of the recipe, as "a furtive love child of bolognaise and bourgignon"

MONDAY: Mushroom bolognaise - this is priced as 38p a portion, so that's certainly cheap! Hopefully it will be nice (although I don't believe Kezzie would like it as she abhors mushrooms)

TUESDAY: The remains of the bolognan, with added kidney beans and served on tortillas. So we'd better not eat it all tonight!

WEDNESDAY: I don't know yet. I plan on shopping on Tuesday so will have to plan the week ahead tomorrow evening.

As always, thank you for your comments.

ALISON 59 - The bathroom is coming on, but still not finished. Sigh. We're hoping for the end of this week.

KEZZIE - The aubergine dish was lovely. Rather like  Imam Bayaldi but without stuffing it inside cooked aubergines, but having the aubergines mixed in.

BEVCHEN - Thank you for the German translation! And yes, 200 cards is a bit daunting!!

The "after" photos of the bathroom will arrivbe - when it's finished!!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Bishops, bathrooms and baked potatoes!

Hello dear Peeps! I hope you are all well and bright and bushy-tailed.

Last weekend I was in Munich, at the convention of the Convocation of Episcopal Church in Europe. You can read about it over at The Teapot, should you wish to. As this is a food related blog, I can tell you that the Bishop's dinner, served in an amazing former Palm House of a Schloss, somewhere in Munich, was delicious.

There was a welcome drink of sparkling wine, and then the meal. We started with a salad, with bacon crispy bits and tiny croutons, followed by a choice of main courses. I chose roast duck, in a blackberry sauce, with potato gratin and vegetables (over pork, and dumplings) - which was a great choice. The pork-dumpling combo looked really hefty! We finished with apple strudel and creme anglaise (though I'm not sure what that is in German!).  During the meal charming young people (who spoke excellent English) served wine, or beer, in copious amounts. 

Other food, served at the Schloss where we were staying and holding the convention, was of the rather heavy German variety, but it was still perfectly acceptable. The Sisters who ran the place, and their staff, pulled out all the stops for a dinner-dance the last evening. There was lots of tasty food - I particularly liked the Rumanian aubergine dish - I'm not quite sure what was in it (except aubergines!) but it was yummy.

I came home to find we had no bathroom! The workmen had started. We have solved our money worries - not quite to our satisfaction, but we decided to take out a bank loan - and what a palaver that was! Mr FD spoke to an advisor on the phone, & got approval. He then filled everything out on line, and "virtually" signed the papers, only requiring me to do the same. But would it work for me? No! I tried, I went to the bank & they tried, Mr FD came to the bank & they tried again, we came home & tried - all to no avail. Finally, we went into the bank and did it all the old-fashioned way!  When we sell the car, the money will be squirrelled away to pay the bank loan off, so we know that we'll always have the monthly payments to hand. It is so long since we've had any credit like this, we feel slightly uncomfortable about it - especially as we don't have regular income - but the fact that we'll (eventually!) have the car money to pay it off softens the discomfort.

Anyway, the bathroom is coming should be finished by the end of next week. We have been very grateful that some people for whom Mr FD sometimes does some IT work, have said that we can use their holiday home to shower in. They are very rich, and their house has 4 bathrooms (four!!!) so Mr FD & I can use separate showers. We have it down to a fine art now: breakfast at home, wear our scruffs, go to C&A's, shower, change to work clothes and set off for work from there. Thankfully, wre have a sepoarate toilet here, so we have been able to use that, and the basin during the day & at night. Imagine if we'd not had a toilet too!

Food this week at Dormouse Towers is as follows:

YESTERDAY: pulled pork, baked potato, coleslaw

TODAY: Lamb Panang Curry, slow< cookered (not that I have Panang curry paste - I'll use what I've got!) with rice.

MONDAY: Pulled pork again, chips and salad.

TUESDAY: Chilli & rice. Or maybe mushroom risotto. Or maybe Kamchatka. Not quite sure yet.

WEDNESDAY: English sausages, baked potato, beans.

After that, I have no idea! I'm not sure quite when I'm going to get to go shopping this week, so I may be making stuff up out of the freezer. Which is fine, but slightly less organised!

We are going to see The Divine Comedy in Lyon on Wednesday - huzzah! Really looking forward to that.

Here's a link to their recent song "Catherine the Great"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                But today I have to start making 200 handmade cards for the Bishop who wants me to make his Christmas cards this year. Gulp.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Washing the blues away (in a soon-to-be new bathroom!)

Oh goodness me! Aren't you lot just lovely?! The number of encouraging comments really helped to cheer me up.

The weather helps too. Today is a cold but crisp, sunny day. I also don't have any lessons planned - it's a bit of a pain, in a way, because of course, no lessons = no pay. But at least I am not losing money, as my Tuesday contracts are for a specific number of hours. So, if I don't have the lessons this week, I'll have them next's more irritating when it's an on-going contract, as then I just lose on the money completely.

We are a little inquiet on the money front - not worried exactly, but not completely happy. We are having our bathroom renovated next now we should have sold the car to pay for the work, and the fittings, tiles etc. However, nobody has shown any interest in our dear little Fiat - perhaps it's priced too high, or perhaps it's advertised in the wrong place. Whatever it is, nobody has called about it. So we may end up with slight cash flow problems - we have the money in the UK, but don't want to bring it across, with the exchange rate so crappy, Mr FD & I have our pay from October (not very much, as he'll only have worked 2 weeks) or September (mine is always one month in delay)  to come as well, so the money is due to arrive...We're just not totally sure when!

We had to buy new things too - the toilet, and basin are being replaced,  so they needed buying, as did the radiator and the new tiles. It was an expensive day!! We bought the basin and drawer unit in Ikea, and the other stuff in Roanne. I'd been nagging gently sugesting to Mr FD that we go and buy the tiles for about three weeks, but he had always put it off. This Saturday was the last opportunity, and - of course! - we discovered there was a 10 day delay in the delivery. There was major panic, but Adal, our general workman, has assured us that it won't cause a problem. I think the panic over the possible problem was one reason why I was grumpy. The radiator was a bargain (at 169€ it was much cheaper & carries out the same function as the 600€ one that the electrician kept pushing us to buy!)

 No, not that kind of radiator. Sorry cats!

I know that many of my readers could do most of the renovations themselves and save shedloads of money. However, we know that we are not DIY-ers. We hate it, and are rubbish at it, and - as we are both working at the moment - have decided that we do not want to spend our weekends doing something we both dislike. So we're paying workmen to come & do it for us. Yes, they are charging quite a high price, but - for anyone who has tried to get workmen in France - the fact that the "main man" is an acquaintance counts for a lot. I know where he lives, I see him regularly at dance group, and he is reliable . Also, the three workmen work as a team, so they have co-ordnated their dates with each other. They are unlikely - as some workmen we know have done - to walk off site, with the job half done, and not return!

So, that's what's happening here. When the bathroom is finished I'll show you, but here are the "Before" pictures:

The bath is coming out completely, and we're having a large shower with a screen going in. The ceiling is being lowered and LEDs put in, plus the new radiator. All pipes boxed in, new tiles (but same colour scheme as our accessories match. And we like it) and - eventually - new lino, as the tiles are cold to the feet. But the lino will wait for a bit longer, so we can get an idea of what colour we want. Probably a very pale colour, as the room is small.

I'm a bit sad that my Grumpy Cat Mood

meant I missed out on a good night out in Roanne with Friend Cathy and her son. There was a Beatles tribute band playing ("The best Beatles tribute band to come out of Serbia" according to the publicity!!) which I'd planned to go to, but being Grumpy merant I cancelled at the last minute. Cathy & Lloyd had a great time, and I sat at home and grumped. That was silly!!

Thank you again for being Lovely Readers. That is what blogging is all about - the support and friendship from people we only know through cyberspace!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A bit mibsy.

Blogging (and any kind of) mojo gone AWOL.

Feel grumpy and miserable.

No reason. Just mibsy. Maybe it's the weather which is grey and drizzly and damp.

Hopefully I will be up-and-blogging again soon.

Roast chicken dinner tonight - with parsnips, red cabbage and chicory.

Chicken/veggies/noodles tomorrow.

Something else on Tuesday. Probably mince related. Possibly chicken related. It's a big chicken (Yellow label, reduced by 5€)

Sausage, chips & beans on Wednesday - Mr FD brought some sausages back from the UK.

Off to Munich for the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe on Thursday. Back again on Sunday.

Just for a smile...
Sorry to be a bit bleeurgh.

Thank you all for your lovely comments. You are Nice People.