Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.
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I’m catching a quiet moment today, before 2019 officially comes to a close, to reflect on this emotional year. This time last year I was back in the UK with Mum, leaving poor Joe still in early recovery from his finger surgery. We’d only just moved into the house, Arty was in Canada, and we knew Mum’s time was short. Tumultuous times indeed!

Being with Mum when she died in February meant the world to me, and the preparation of her funeral was such a bonding time for my sisters and I, the love and support we received and shared have been such a powerful force throughout this year. To quote my wise Dad’s words – Love is the final answer…

And in the summer we had the joy of celebrating Luke and Marie’s glorious wedding. It was thrilling to use the gathering of family to show our progress on the house (to Joe’s parents especially, as they have been such an amazing support to us). Filled with family and friends, and sunshine and laughter, the house really came alive – and it has continued to yield to the changing seasons with grace and protection, fulfilling and indeed exceeding every hope we had of our “hand-made home”. (Thanks John Coombes for that lovely description!)

Our annual Christmas video says it all – Beth‘s work of course – she just gets better and better in my totally unbiased objective opinion!!

And back to the house!

So when I last wrote briefly at the beginning of November, I think I mentioned that snow was a-coming… and sure enough it did! Spectacular Christmas-wonderland, powdery snow with blue skies – my favourite! Heavy enough to bring down a sizeable tree in the field though, so we will be cutting that up for firewood in the Spring!

By the 20th November, it had all melted, and there were a few days of heavy rain…

There were serious floods in many parts of France, and in Tence the river was higher than it’s been for about 10 years – breaking it’s banks everywhere!

That’s the football pitch in Tence under there!

We were fairly confident that we were high enough not to have to worry about water coming in – and our drain at the end of the drive seemed to be working a treat…

Not even a puddle!

What we hadn’t bargained for was that the speed of the snow melting combined with the quantity and longevity of the rain meant the water table itself rose considerably… on Sunday morning (24th November) we got up to see a bit of water in the trough running through the porte d’entrée… the old stable floor, which sadly no longer leads to a drain!

At first we thought that was it, but it soon became clear that this was just the beginning… we spent from 10 O’clock in the morning until 5am the next morning bailing water: Joe, Beth, Arty and myself (Poor Beth was back for a few days restful break with us, and Arty was revising for his law exams!) It was coming up through the cracks in the concrete, and flowing … well down to the river basically! Just via the inside of the house! We were so close to serious damage of all the finished plasterboard in our bedroom! By not stopping, we could prevent it reaching the East side of the house – we called the fire brigade after a few hours, and bless them they stayed with us for hours trying to find a solution – they dug a big trench outside the house which eased things a little – but at about 7pm they finally and very apologetically left us saying there was nothing more they could do! It did ease off, and we took to doing an hour on and an hour off in pairs – Arty and Beth were just amazing – in fact we all kept it together remarkably well! Joe did the last shift til 5am (I cried off at about 2am as I had a long day of work the next day) and finally it had eased enough to stick a pile of towels in the trough and the drama was over!

The new office advances apace!

In and around all this meteorological drama, work was racing ahead in the office – Joe finished the insulation and plasterboarding, sanded the beams, continued the electrical installation and plumbing for the shower room and sink! I had a lot of long teaching days, and would come back to miraculous progress every day – it was really exciting!

And upstairs in the sitting room…

Meanwhile, in the evenings and weekends I continued to undercoat and finally paint the sitting room walls and ceiling. I have to confess to being very happy with the result!

Joe has designed the most elegant elm light feature for our spacious sitting room – so original and stylish: it’s still in the sculptural phase, and will come back down for finishing and fine-tuning – but the effect is so warm and cosy – I love it!

Back down to the office…

With the sitting room pretty much ready for family festive fun, I took my paste pot and got cracking on the office plasterboard joints – a quick bit of tiling, and although far from finished, we were able to create a really cosy space for Harry and Armel for Christmas!

11th December…

New doors!

Two of the new doors made it before Christmas – this one to the office… inside…
…and out!
…and this to the workshop – we can feel the difference in temperature already – and are so looking forward to having the big barn door and top workshop doors installed in the new year.

And so to Christmas…

This year, we went into the field and chose and cut down our Christmas tree (as you will have seen if you’ve watched the Christmas vid!) – it was such fun – we didn’t have a white Christmas, but we did have a little bit of snow that day!


Christmas day…

This year we were almost all together by the end of play on Christmas Day – (missing only Bethy’s Jacob) – and how magical and precious it was!

Stockings by the fire in our bedroom; the traditional full English made by Joe; a few presents and champagne; then Armel and Harry joined us for Christmas dinner; then Luke and Marie joined us and we had a few more pressies – followed by a surprise ‘Hungry Games’ family quiz prepared by Arty – a truly wonderful day!

And so to a new year of possibilities…

Here’s to a peaceful, creative, fun-filled 2020 everyone – a whole new decade to embark on. Let’s fill it with as much good stuff as we can!

Yesterday, enjoying yet another sunny day, Arty, Harry, Joe and I walked down to the river – can this place really be at the bottom of our garden?

Happy New Year! xxx

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  1. Janet Atkins says:

    Extremely well presented and beautifully photographed.
    A very happy 2020 to all involved.
    What a family, what a home. Very well done.
    Love is the answer.

    1. Manny says:

      Thank you so much Jan! Happy New Year – Love is the answer! xxx

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