Friday, 29 May 2015


Caroline and me sight-reading a Quantz duet


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Fixing the shower

The swimming pool shower always takes a while before the hot water comes; it's usually about 45 seconds before the water starts to run warm.  But a couple of months ago, I turned it on to rinse it off, and I noticed that the hot water arrived sooner than normal.  Odd, I thought, but perhaps someone had run some hot water nearby, and that had speeded things up.  Or something.

On a separate occasion, I was in the pool area, and heard a strange noise, like water hissing.  I eventually traced it to the shower mixer valve.  Gosh, I thought, with my ear to the valve, I can hear the pumps circulating the water around the system.

It wasn't until I felt the shower wall, and noticed that it was warm, hot even, that I came to the conclusion that perhaps my subconscious had been avoiding.  I have a leak of hot water in the shower.  Now the shower is built onto the wall, and the plumbing is behind the tiles, and mortared in.  Just where you don't want a leak.  Anyway I called the plumber in.

In principle, as long as the leak is in the shower joint itself, or thereabouts, there's not a big problem.  But if the leak is hidden in the bowels of the building, and the hot water is comimg at you via the plastic conduit through which the pipe is threaded, you have a big problem.  The worst case scenario is a need to re-plumb the shower with new pipes threaded through the building, plus perhaps the need to cut off all the hot water to half the client accommodation, while that's happening.

Of course the tiles need to be removed in order to get at the pipes, and they can't be removed without breaking them.   And of course we have no spares, and of course they're no longer manufactured.  So we spent a good half-day in Le Mans trying to find a good match.  It's amazing how many different shades of white there are, but eventually we found some that can be cut to size, and that match reasonably well.

The plumber dug into the wall and got to the hot pipe without damaging it, and fortunately the leak was in the joint to the shower fitting.  The culprit was a nut that had split, possibly under the pressure of having too much hemp fibre in the thread.  I remember that hemp fibre was what my grandfather used for sealing plumbing joints; well, they still use it in France.  It expands to seal the joint, and perhaps this hemp had expanded too much and split the nut.

It's easy enough to see in the last picture; the nut nearest the shower connector has a dark line across its width.  It has one the other side too, and they're both cracks that spray water everywhere, when under pressure.

I glued the replacement tile in on Tuesday, yesterday I grouted it, and today I connected up the shower fitting.  Fingers crossed, but it seems OK.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Belle de Nuit

May is hectic in the gîte.  There being four holiday weekends on the trot we have customers for four successive weekends, which does not leave much time for anything other than looking after customers and keeping the gîte in good condition.  We have a rule, arrived at through hard experience, that we never do more than four weekends in a row: we get too tired, and the customers start to notice.  The fourth one is next weekend.

Meanwhile the garden continues to grow with Spring energy.  The Iris are nearly all out.  Here's a couple of pictures.  The blue one is called Belle de Nuit, the pink one is Changing Winds.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Swings and roundabouts

I abuse wheelbarrows. The terrain around my house is strewn with rocks of all shapes and sizes, and when I need to transfer them from place to place, I use a wheelbarrow. Since the rocks are heavy, this tends to overload the barrow.

My old barrow was starting to split at the sides, so I decided to try to repair it using my new-found welding skills.   I put a length of mild steel bracing in the turned-over edge of the barrow and welded it into place.  The result isn't pretty since the welding melted holes in the sheet metal of the barrow. On the other hand, the barrow is stronger than before, and doesn't show signs of further splitting when overloaded with rocks.  So far so good.

I have two types of trousers; black ones and blue ones.  It keeps life simple.  The blue ones are jeans and the black ones are mostly jeans; this keeps things simple too.  And like shoes, their status starts off as "best", moves on to "casual", then on to "gardening" and finally "DIY".  So I was wearing casual black jeans, that had become grubby, so before putting them in the wash I was doing a little bit of gardening in them; moving rocks with my newly-repaired barrow.  The problem is I tore a hole in the jeans on an unnoticed snag in the weld.

So the only observation left to make is that for the price of a new pair of jeans I could have bought a new wheelbarrow.    *sigh*   On the plus side, the early-season Iris are out.  Here's a couple of pics.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Compressed Spring

Spring has been a bit strange this year - everything seems to be flowering at the same time.  The Daffs and Tulips were out at the same time, and now although the Daffs have passed, the Tulips and Wallflowers are out together, and the Iris are starting to flower as well.

The guests in the gîte were not blessed with good weather this weekend.  They arrived early Friday afternoon and I think they got about 15 minutes rain-free before they left on Sunday afternoon.  They had to take their pic-nic indoors in the dining room instead of on some carpet somewhere in the countryside.  They say that next time they're going to make sure they come at a sunny time.

But the heuchera looked nice in the rain.

And meanwhile, regardless of the weather outside, the Amaryllis are flowering profusely.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Kentucky Mack

I was in one of the McDonalds in Laval the other day.  Choosing quickly from the illuminated list of options above the counter I marched up and announced my choice.  I was politely invited to go and place my order at one of the automatic machines installed for this purpose.  I don't know about you, but although I can see the cost-saving logic behind minimising the number of staff employed in a fast food emporium, my emotional reaction is similar to what I would get if I had been politely told to sod off.

Laval boasts a KFC and at least two McDonalds, so if I'm up for fast food, and I'm in Laval, I normally make a choice between the two.  In my view, there's not a lot between them.  Chicken and beef are equally acceptable proteins; I prefer the McDonalds chips but KFC give you unlimited drinks.

I saw that there were quite a few chicken options to be had in this McDonalds, and chose one.  I didn't like it much, but there you go, you live and learn.   I wonder if they're trying to fight competition by offering both beef and chicken,  combatting the idea that you go to the other place for chicken if that's what you want.  Assuming that they can find a way to prepare chicken so I like it, then the choice for me will be determined between the quality of the chips and the availability of unlimited drinks.

With this in mind, I note that the idea is being floated by French politicians to ban the sale of unlimited refill drinks, in an effort to "combat obesity".  Interesting.  The reaction of the populace seems to be either "Haven't they got better things to do with their time", usually followed by a spirited description of better things they could be doing, or "Why can't they just eff off and leave us alone".

I can't find anything that tells me that low-calorie or sugar-free drinks would be excluded from this ban, which I find strange if the intention is to "combat obesity".   Nor, for that matter, are "all you can eat" buffet meals, such as you often find in Chinese restaurants, under attack.  Is it cynical of me to wonder if I'm not seeing the results of some deft political lobbying on the part of my favourite burger chain?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Ok, so it comes out every year, and I blog about it every year, but, well, it's out again now and it's gorgeous.

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