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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Hurtling towards the end of October with not a blog in sight since Luke and Marie’s glorious July wedding! Clearly a fair bit of catching up to do!

The Wedding

So it all went beautifully – the happy couple looked exquisite; the rain fell in the afternoon, but nobody worried; the castle was a magical place to celebrate and the house excelled itself as it welcomed family from far and wide! The heatwave scuppered a few family’s travel plans when the control tower at Heathrow apparently overheated, cancelling flights for the rest of the day -Tara and Harvey (who were coming to stay for much longer) took an Uber, a ferry, an Airbnb and trains to arrive moments before the ceremony after a mammoth tantalising race against the clock, but sadly Sasha, Olly and Grace, Chloe and Jess (who were all due to fly back on the Sunday) were forced to stay in the UK .

The morning of the big day had the house filled with joyous chilled preparation – Luke and his groomsmen; cousins and grandparents and siblings and partners all milling around, getting ready together – lots of photos – time for a bit of ball in the garden… starting with a good cooked breakfast to set us all up for the busy love-filled day ahead.

Then it was off for the ‘discovery’ – here in France this tends to happen before the ceremony, usually at the bride-to-be’s house. So for us, we all convoyed over to St Sigolene for our first glimpse (and Luke’s too of course!) of Marie in her finery …

With the couple finally in each other’s arms, we ignored the storm clouds and all made our way to the Town Hall…

where the deed was done – and Marie became the latest Mrs. Atkins!

Then on to the church, where we had a beautiful ceremony – Beth and I sang, friends and family read … and Luke and Marie were radiant!

After the ‘Vin D’Honneur’, which is an open invite to everyone who has attended the ‘public’ ceremony to share a drink and a bite to eat, the close family and friends made their way to the Chateau for the reception. We enjoyed cocktails, champagne, a delicious meal, speeches, live music – Luke had written a beautiful song for Marie – and the family band got back together for a nostalgic recreation of “Pavement Cracks” (which we’d recorded a version of 11 years ago!!)

Then we danced the night away …

On the Sunday Joe and I cooked a full English breakfast for all the guests who’d stayed in the castle, plus all the family of course – It was a triumph – although I do say so myself! Then a mellow day of games and relaxing… plus a get-out of all the sound and lights from the venue and a few airport runs!

After the wedding…

and relax….

We had a glorious time surrounded by family – the sun returned and we had a few days of relaxation and downtime after all the excitement – we’d pushed ourselves so hard with the house to get as far as we could before the wedding – and it was such a treat to show it to everyone, to transform our much-loved building-site into a beautiful home, albeit unfinished! But most thrilling for me was how it felt when it was full of people – how well it came alive as a space, how great the acoustics were – even when the house was full of preparation hub-bub. It is such a great layout – my husband is a genius – there’s no doubt about it!

Another lovely treat this summer was that my sister Tara spent a month in the Haute Loire (and for the few weeks after the wedding my nephew Harvey and his girlfriend Andrea were here too). Tara rented a little gite nearby. It’s been so long since we’ve had so much time together, and we really made the most of it!

Time to get back to the build!

The first job we tackled after the massive wedding weekend storms was to put a land drain in at the end of the drive. You may remember, long ago, how thrilled we were when the Mairie put hard-core on our path down to the house – (the path itself is public just until it reaches us, which is a real advantage as the snow plough clears it in winter!) What we’ve discovered since though, is that in heavy rains the water now streams down the path and enters the house. The night before the wedding, when the heavens opened after such a long dry spell, we were all out in wellies digging trenches to divert the water and stop it flowing in under the barn doors – great team building exercise… but just too stressful to keep dealing with – so about a week after the wedding, Joe, Arty and I dug a big trench – laid in the drain, joined it to the evacuation taking the drainpipe water away from the house and filled it all in – and set it in concrete. It has definitely helped, but we think we ultimately need the council to address the top of the drive too, to reduce the river effect!

All change for the workshop and the office

At the beginning of the summer we made quite a big decision to swap the workshop space with the office space. This idea was prompted by the realisation that Joe couldn’t construct the exhibition stand in the workshop for Frankfurt in May – the ceiling was too low. By changing spaces he has masses of extra height for the workshop, and we will be able to walk directly out to the garden from the office, which will also now include a little extra shower room and ‘conference/teaching’ room (which will have a sofabed for when we need an extra sleeping space).

Huge changes have gone on in the workshop – we’ve laid a concrete floor; put in three Veluxes; built an entry mezzanine with trap door to lower things into the workshop – insulated and boarded out the roof, and Joe is now in the process of installing and wiring in all his big tools. It’s been a mammoth undertaking, and has meant that the workshop itself has been out of commission – making it so hard to find tools etc. But the end is in sight and the result is amazing – this workshop space has been such a long-time dream, and I am just so thrilled that the idea of changing it’s location seems to have been a great idea!

blank canvas…
with an earth floor of many levels!
So first job was to level it out with many barrows of stones!!
Then in came the cement boys
They did such a great job!
Perfectly smooth
Veluxes in, time to insulate and board out the ceiling.
Arty and Harry preparing holes for the beams which will hold the entrance mezzanine, with trap door and chain hoist.
Harry’s turn with the jack-hammer…
Putting the sturdy new platform to the test – it’s time for the planer to find its rightful place…
here we go… the big test…
Wiring up the lights and the machines.
Coming along nicely!

Parking and Storage

Having cut down the trees in preparation, we’ve flattened our big parking area… and installed a stylish sea container as a permanent storage solution – massive respect to the driver who delivered it; effortlessly negotiating the tricky access to our home and perfectly placing and levelling the container. The other day we had a team of Luke’s trusty friends who came and cleared the huge pile of cardboard boxes which we have moved about so often since we moved out of Bas 20 months ago. We also cleared the over-beam storage in the studio into the container too… a massive achievement!

Do you think we could market these days as “team-building workshops” ? We could charge a fortune couldn’t we?!

Clearing the land
Levelling it…
And bringing in the container…
Time to finally clear the open ‘loft’ in the studio
our life in boxes…
Our funky “Triton” – I wonder where in the world it’s been before it ended up in Solignac!
Almost as big as his flat!
Thank you…thank you…thank you!

Getting the radiators back on… and statement colours.

We took off all the radiators to get the decorating done… and as the summer came to an end, and the nights started getting chilly, we had a bit of a race to get them back on again!

Clearly it was not going to be possible to get as much decorating as we’d hoped before re-hanging them and re-commissioning the system – we managed to get the buanderie (laundry room) painted in a bold Liverpool red!

And we’ve chosen a deep rich green for the dining room wall. It looks fabulous against the exposed stone.

Pasted; sanded undercoated… and …
First coat of green!
Radiators re-hung
Mmm great burgers! (local farmer specials!)

Pasting… and more pasting

The sitting room is a tricky room to decorate, especially in winter when we want to snuggle in front of Bake-Off of an evening! And when Joe and I also have temporary office spaces in here… but there’s no avoiding it – so little by little we’re getting on top of it. It will be much easier now all the boxes have gone from the library end –

This was back in June – it’s had a few more passes since then –

We were finally forced to just get the radiator walls pasted, sanded and undercoated – so that we could get the heating back on. Actually I’m really pleased with the finish I’ve managed to get – so mustn’t get daunted – just little by little until it’s all done!

Family news

So I think you’re about up-to-date on the house progress. In other news, Joe and I spent the most magical week on the lovely little Greek island of Milos – we totally fell in love with the place and the people – and managed to really unwind and relax.

sun-kissed as we watched the sun set!

Arty has started his law degree at St Etienne University – and has his own studio apartment there:

New beginnings

Luckily he’s less than an hour away and home most weekends… and I’m working in St Etienne a few days a week, so the empty-nest heartache is greatly eased by regular hugs!

We’ve bought another camping car – exactly the same model as we had before, but in immaculate condition, and with lots of little extras. We are so thrilled to be back on the road again, and have driven down south to see our great friend Hills, and then later up to Amsterdam to meet up with Harry, Armel and Beth to see ‘Young the Giant’ play an incredible concert!

Love the freedom of sleeping on the open road again!
Five go mad in Amsterdam!

And a few weeks ago, Tara, Sasha, Sophie and I spent a few precious days together in Faro. Some dear friends of Mum and Dad’s offered us girls a restorative stay in their beautiful villa to just spend a moment together – the first time we had all been together in fact since we were packing up Mum’s house for sale. It was such a healing time, full of laughter and tears and so many shared memories. Both Sophie and I had been on holiday to Faro with Mum, so our location felt even more poignant. We really felt her presence all week… Dad’s too. It was very special.

So there we are – you’re up to date – Thank you for reading… if you’ve managed to get this far, hats off to you!

I promise I will try and get a blog up more punctually – for my sake as much as anyone else’s!

We’re awaiting new doors for the studio, workshop and new office – they will make such a difference to keeping out the weather!

More soon – stay warm.

cosy x

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  1. Laurie Hannah says:

    Hi I’m Laurie, and new to your blog – I have been encouraged by your progress in the house, you see, we are moving to France in the year 2020 with my partner John, we a now both retired and quite handy at building and stuff!!!. So I an watching your handywork.

    I like how you fill your life with family, work and love. I enjoy reading your progress. Keep up the good vibes. xxx

    1. Manny says:

      Hi Laurie, thank you so much for your lovely comment – where abouts in France are you moving to? Do stay in touch – lots of luck to you and John with the move!

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