Friday, 12 June 2015

A chance to Visit the Studio

We are opening the doors to our studio, come and see where and how we work.

And see all of Mark's paintings in the studio gallery.

Visit the website to find out more

We also will be featuring soaps from Daisy Age Soaps who now has a workshop behind the studio.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Our Trip to France May 2015

Viva La France en Mai

May was the month for us to take a sneaky week out and pop over to our house in Normandy, not for a holiday tho, it was very much a working week. It was mainly to give the garden a tidy up again, but inevitably we also did other stuff too.

This time we travelled Newhaven to Dieppe which is a new one for us (we have done most of the crossings over the last 12 years!).  It wasn't a particularly sociable crossing at 11pm. Mark thought I was ridiculous wanting to take on the boat blankets and pillows, so we only ended up with two pillows. Jack and I started off on the "reclining" chairs and Mark as always disappeared to find somewhere quiet (which ended up on a chair with his head on the table under his coat!). But after an hour Jack and I decided we had numb bums and ended up laying on my big cardie. After waking in the morning, we saw how everyone else was sleeping, I promised us all that I would come more prepared on the return journey!

Arriving at the house was a little sad and we all shed a little tear, its hard to get over and every time we do it seems we are taking two steps forward and one step back. The house needed cleaning again and the garden was even more overgrown.

But in my true fashion, I got on with it, whipping a cloth and a broom around the bedrooms and making up the beds soon made it look like home again and it wasn't long before we were sitting at the kitchen table with our traditional lunch of baguette and cheese and discussing our plan of action. 

Our lovely neighbour had already very kindly cut the main bit of grass around the house, so this just left Mark to finish it off, cutting as short as he could around the barn walls with his strimmer. And once I had whipped round the kitchen and bathroom, we were already feeling much better.

We made the decision that we are fed up of coming over and seeing the hedges in such a state and as our intention has always been to remove them one day, we decided that one day would be that day, as we cant have a bonfire in France until the winter tho we only cut back the vegetable patches hedge on the drive side, which as it was now 3 meters over was getting a bit ridiculous! and then as I hate the privet hedge behind the kitchen we just hacked at that a bit to keep it back - the rest will all come out on our November trip (when we will also do work on the apple trees, brambles and anything else that's got out of hand!).

We were making good progress, so I put some putty in the window frames ready for painting in August, undercoated the inside and then Jack and I scrubbed the outside kitchen wall (which took some doing thanks to a lilac tree which had left years of pollen on the surface which we didn't discover until we started scrubbing and the wall turned into rust! It took a good hour of scrubbing to do a 1 meter stretch, luckily the other 5 or so meters was much easier!) I even managed to make a start on a first coat of paint.

Mark in the meantime, cleaned and mended gutters, repaired the barn door and cleared the tarmac away from the house that was covering the air vents, which we are sure has contributed to a lintel rotting in the bedroom which has resulted in the wall dropping. Finished cutting back the hedge all the way down the drive and cleared the herb garden of willow and brambles.
Jack helped too, in spits and spurts, he helped to move a lot of the hedge cuttings into neat piles ready for burning, he helped me wash the wall (a bit!), together we weeded, raked and swept the drive of the neighbours pine needles until we could see glimpses of it again! He even got into using the scythe! And he helped me cook dinners in the evenings.

It wasn't all work and no play. We often would be working by 8.30/9am but we stopped at 6 for dinner and then we played risk and settlements (I am a bit of a champion at settlements!). We took ourselves up the hill to the chapel and view. On Wednesday we went to St Hilaire market and then went onto see our friends (who we have known since we first visited on holiday - it was their cottage we rented), they now have a welsh cob horse which I am very envious, he is exactly what I would like to have (when we eventually move over) to ride and drive. 

We found out from our neighbours who said he has a friend who is doing research in the area. And he thinks that our wooden barn is a bit special. During the war a lot of the town was bombed flat. Temporary buildings were built on farms outside the town to house families while their houses were being rebuilt. He thinks our barn is the last remaining "house" in the whole of France!!

It was my 40th on the Friday (we signed the agreement for the house on my 33rd birthday), I'm afraid I did spend the day working (painting and clearing the drive) but in the evening we were invited to our neighbours for drinks and nibbles - the drink being two bottles of champagne!!

Our last day was spent coming up with a huge list of things we want to crack on with when we return in August for two weeks, including meeting a builder to get some of the bigger jobs sorted.  We have decided we are going to change the laundry room into the main bathroom (this will involve us blocking up the kitchen door, cutting a door way into the toilet wall and reducing the toilet wall by half and then filling in with glass tiles, then fitting a shower where the washing machine was by the previous owners, this way we don't need to muck about too much with the plumbing), then we will change the bathroom into a 3rd bedroom, this way we can delay having to make more space in the loft for when the children want to visit with their families (when they come...). We have been taking over Mark's parents old kitchen in bits, so soon we will have a functioning kitchen, so in August we need to repair the ceiling, clear the old tiles and paint the walls in preparation.  We have one bedroom which has a mould problem due to the plaster we used, but after a little investigating, we realised this can just be sanded off, the lounge has a few cracks that need filling and then it can be painted. So its getting there.

Our trip home was another midnight crossing but this time I came prepared with loads blankets and pillows and we raced to get the darkest spot on the boat that we had checked out on the way out, as there were many families that were as unprepared as we were before we were the envy of many!