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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A few days ago was our Harry’s 24th birthday – so before I write another word, I’d like to share this extraordinary tribute Beth created for him – it’s the first instalment of a 5 part montage project she is doing this year. Each video will be dedicated to a member of the family; moments from our favourite films, or simply things that make her think of us!

For those of you who missed the last blog, my poor Joe took the end of his finger off on the table saw just before Christmas. Luckily just the tip – it could have been so much worse, but the surgery and month which followed has been quite an ordeal.

The good news is that after a really difficult and painful month of heavy painkillers and the sleepy inevitable downtime forced on Joe, he is making brilliant progress.

A few weeks ago, the pin was taken out, the stitches too, and the surgeon was delighted with the result – as were we!

The instructions now are to use it as much as possible to build back the strength and sensitivity steadily… so normal activity is slowly being resumed! But the time out has taken its toll on both of us, and we both find our stamina noticeably affected.

As a consequence, there is no January house building to report as such, but what we have had is a real taste of cosy winter life with just the two of us. Arty and Cass are still having their amazing adventure in Canada; Harry and Armel are back in snowy Sweden; Luke and Marie are just around the corner, enjoying their new flat (our old one!) in Chenereilles, and Beth and Jacob are stuck in to their graduation film shoot, Closed Doors, currently on location in Birmingham. So it’s been the two of us, and we’ve felt like we were hibernating in our lovely bedroom beside a constant real fire, lots of snow outside, some serious Netflix viewing, reading and warming comfort food!

Baby it’s cold outside!

Alongside and contributing to this enforced pause in our building progress, we are also in a strange limbo period as my beautiful Mum is in her final weeks of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, having decided not to have treatment when she was diagnosed last year. For about ten months she was symptom free, and enjoyed a glorious period of holidays, quality family time, and finishing her fourth novel “Through a Crack in The Door” (just published – get yourself a copy!).  At Christmas she started to have a little trouble swallowing, (hence my New Year’s trip to see her) and recently some difficulty breathing, prompting a quick visit from Joe and I last week.

She is a force of nature my Mum, a quite extraordinarily wise and inspiring role model. These are testing times indeed, but still full of wit and laughter and so much love and compassion. I have no doubt that the next blog I write will be after the event. For me, as with when my amazing Dad died, I find writing about it really therapeutic – so please bear with me! There will be more, I’m sure!

So what I thought I’d do for this blog is a January reflection – looking back at Jan 2017 when the house became ours; where we’d reached in Jan 2018 and now this January 2019, having spent our first few months actually living here!

Let the nostalgia begin!

January 2017…

Our first ever working trip to the house – (look at the anticipation in our eyes!!)
…with a boot full of things we might need!
Access to the house was a little challenging that first working day!!

What I’ve discovered looking back at Januaries in Tence, is that heavy snow seems to be quite a running theme!!

The barn before we started.
The empty barn…

Quite a thrill to find this image of the barn from Jan 2017 – sitting as I am in that same space as I write… at the table looking up at the mezzanine, in our beautiful sitting room!

First thing we did was take down this little tree, which was virtually growing out of the doorway!
Little bit of chain-sawing!
That’s better! … Not much glass in those windows!!
The ground sloped right down from the corner of the house to the main doors. All dug out now!
Every floorboard had to come up!

The old doors to the studio and the old garage..
getting connected!
Electricity connected!

What I love about life in the Haute Loire – a bit of snow (even a lot of snow!!) doesn’t stop the electricity guys connecting us up!

And after many years of the house lying empty – the lights came on! A truly thrilling moment!
Shiny new sign!
Luke turns on the water!
Sun on snow…
January 2017… as the snow melts

January 2018

And one year later…

Lovely new windows, and that diagonal diverted drainpipe… the bug-bear of so many of my photos of the house… now thankfully gone!

Before the 2018 snow – in January sunshine- Arthur gets to work on the beam which now sits over our bed!!
New barn doors, made from the old floorboards in the barn!
The snap decision to see if there was a fireplace behind where the old cooker was…
And the thrill to find there was, and that the chimney was clear!
The big dividing wall between studio and living space – with it’s four windows.
The mezzanine already in place in Jan 2018, and framing well underway!
The pantry taking shape.
The bridge – pre stairs… and pre insulation!
The mezzanine rooms start to take form.
The wall which the beam now sits on above our bed, with bedside light cables already in place!
The ground levelled after the fosse septique went in.

Those huge boulders came out of the ground we dug up, and they now form the beautiful surrounding wall.

And then came the snow!!
Piled high!
When the sun comes out ….
… the fun…
A good day’s work!

And so to January 2019…

And here comes that January snow again!
snow on the Veluxes – it makes an eery light in the day!
A hot bath…

…in the bath we plumbed in… on the mezzanine we built… quite momentous in fact! We are so happy with the shower and the bath in this bathroom – it all works really well, and is such a lovely space to be in!

There’s that bedhead!
Sliding door to our bedroom.
So much snow… so little wood in ‘Woodstock’!

We got quite close to the wire, with no one able to deliver in the snow! Luckily saved by the generosity of our neighbour, and a local farmer.

In between big snow-falls…

You can see that the piggery roof is now gone; the wonky drainpipe – gone; the studio wood- burner chimney stands triumphant; two big solar panels complementing the boiler, and hopefully providing all our summer hot water; Velux windows slowly losing their snowy covers … oh yeah, and we live here now!!

Pretty skies to say goodbye!

So there we go – that’s how the last few January’s have unfolded. Thank you for sharing this little trip down memory lane – and what a snowy lane it was. Joe and I are enjoying getting back in to action, slowly but surely. There’s so much still to do – but oh my, how we love actually living here… which is a good thing!

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  1. Joanna says:

    Dear Manny – thank you so much for sharing your joys, achievements and your sorrows – all with such style – and a smile. Bon continuation. With love, Joanna xx

    1. Manny says:

      Thank you! xxxxx

  2. Amanda says:

    Darling just love love love to you all ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Manny says:

      Thanks Amanda xxxx

  3. Patricia Paul says:

    This is the house that dreams are made of!

    What a unique and thrilling achievement.

    So many congratulations to you both and to all the family. xxx

    1. Manny says:

      Thank you Mum!!

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