Saturday, 31 October 2009

Moving on

Friday was "S" day. Yes that's it the day of the house survey! Actually contrary to my expectations he didn't seem like a bad bloke. Anyway nothing I can do but wait for the report. Fingers crossed it will be one step closer to France. In the mean time I've been doing a little quad bike repair. We're spending the weekend with my big sister and family and it transpires that my nephews quad has been feeling a little neglected. So me and the boy have been enjoying a bit of spannering in the garage. Valve timing...Check, Ignition timing...Check, spark...check. Fuel...Fuel...Fuel...Ah. That would be the carburettor then. So a little clean and gratuitous bending of the float valve plus adjustment of the air screw and now it runs like a sewing machine.

Cheekylemur on the other hand has been shopping. I think this beauty should look pretty swish on top of the esse! She did in fact get two, Why two? The theory is that when one has boiled the other can go on to boil. And economical too, just think of all the electricity we will save not having an electric kettle. If you think about it 3KW x No of cups of tea = a lot. And being LECREUSET French (ish) too. Like most things they are actually made in Taiwan, Oh Hum, It's the thought that counts.
Back to reality, we should get the report from the survey next week. If it goes OK we can get packing!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Honfleur, one of my favourite places to visit. The Classic French port

Honfleur has also got some really nice and crafty Artisan shops. There is a leather shop down one of the little back streets that is what I would describe as a proper old fashioned shop complete with the authentic smell that you just can't recreate with a new shop. Reminds me of a shop in leek that closed down about 30 years ago.. Brilliant.

Obsessive? Me?

OK, this week its stoves. Yes I know the house will have the two esse stoves, but what about the shed? There's no point in having a nice new shed studio if its too cold to enjoy now is there. Anyway it was a complete bargain, with the VAT free promotion at Machine Mart that's £23 quid off plus it was reduced from the previous catalogue. So Mrs Lemur will be able to create her beautiful jewellery in her studio and then discuss Life the universe and art with our neighbour Alison round a lovely warming stove and a hot chocolate, while I work on the house. My hope is that the ongoing comfort provided by this new addition to the family will over the years make my wife's despair with her husband slowly fade. Well maybe. Anyway back to the stove, styled for a canal boat with a flat bottomed wood burning grate it will burn all the off-cuts of wood from the house plus sawdust and logs; perfect! Cheap too, for a 5KW cast iron stove, and I think in its own way not unattractive.

Moving on the the shed, I have been planning the construction: Here is the side view showing the framing and openings-

And the view of the gable end:

As you can see the stove is already shown pride of place and fashionably off-set. This view of the gable shows two alternative ways of creating an internal buttress wall as seen at the grand designs show. If I'll use this construction or not I'm not sure. Once the basic framing is complete I'll skin the whole construction in ply and wrap in breathable membrane. Then its just a bit of cladding and slates on the roof. Mmmmm.....Nice

Sunday, 18 October 2009

No Going back

Oh my God, we've accepted an offer on the house so it looks like were really are off then. Now I've probably watched every episode of "no going back" together with "Grand designs abroad", "a place in France" and my personal favourite "sun sea and scaffolding" but now it's us its decidedly more real. Exciting, scary and definitely very real. The other dawning realisation is just how much stuff there is to sort out! Then of course there was breaking the news. Kids were really excited, Mrs Lemur decidedly Shell shocked (see her blog posting) and the rest of the extended family, the full range in between. And yes I know there is still a lot that could go wrong with the sale! Having said that optimism (if slightly unrealistic) has for better of worse been a long standing trait of mine and with this in mind, we've started the ball rolling. Yesterday I packed up the best china and deposited it at my mums house in storage and today we ordered our wood burning ESSE for the house in France. Followers of this blog will have heard me go on about the ESSE Ironheart range cooker / stove. This fantastic bit of kit will make the tea, run the bath and put your slippers on for you but sadly even the Ironheart needs a friend. The perfect friend I'm reliably informed by the nice man from ESSE is the 700 boiler stove.

This little beauty will complete the package by keeping the salon lovely and toasty and running the central heating and additional hot water. As you can see from the picture this stove is simple, clean and with that flat top will probably boil a kettle to boot. OK so its a decidedly "English" in design and we could have gone for something more Godin but its a funny thing about brands. Some brands stick with you, and having warmed my feet on an ESSE as a child somehow it seemed the only choice for my children. You see the idea of the stove gently warming the house and the whole family gathered around the farmhouse table eating food grown in our garden, for me is what its all about.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Grand Designs Exhibition

Saturday saw me, Mrs Lemur and the kids visit the Grand Designs live exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. I was like a kid in a sweetshop who's mother had confiscated all of his pocket money. There was everything to do with building, houses and garden, together with cooking demonstrations and even Bee Keeping. In truth there was a small amount of bribery involved in "encouraging" the kids to go, In the end the promise of meeting a celebrity chef or two did the trick. Armed with autograph books Frankie and Libby both managed attract the attention of John Burton Race who very kindly signed them.
My favourites from the exhibitions? Well the man from esse was there so I got to impress him with my somewhat extensive knowledge of their product range! And of course play with the Ironheart again. Nice! I made some good contacts for materials supplies like underfloor heating and floor tiles. I think though my favourite stands were those showing off their ideas for micro living (big sheds). These were in the "village" section of the show and showed some really clever thinking. Both eco and sustainable the best of these was this dwelling:

Designed by a group of young architects in Manchester who also manned their creation it was a really well thought out piece of design. The construction is designed to be assembled in two or three days by two people, each section about a metre and a half wide. There is a little mezzanine with a double bed, a functional kitchen and a bathroom all in a building 6.7m x 3.5m in size. There was also a few more outrageous designs, one based on a large igloo design covered in cedar shingles. As the lady on the display noted "getting planning permission" was sometimes a problem.

Mrs Lemur favourite I know was the Bee Keeping section in the gardens area. While the bees were OK I was rather taken with the large range of chicken houses. In architectural terms there was every type of chicken coop from the compact and bijoux 2 up 2 down to the full 4 bed grand residence befitting any young up-and-coming executive chuck!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

ECO - Tradition

A friend of mine once said to me "its not how much you earn, it's how much it costs you to live". My friend lives on a small holding and runs his own business and he by most standards lives very well. Now it also helps that he is a very capable "entrepreneur" but in essence that's the gig. Living economically is a key part of what we want to achieve in France. It's also a happy coincidence that economic and ecologic are pretty well aligned, and this as we all know is the latest fashion. Now I've never been an eco warrior, hell I used to own a 4x4, but it is clear, and has been for several hundred years that we are increasingly making the planet uninhabitable for ourselves and the species we take with us. So whilst I have little faith that economies in general will be able change sufficiently to make any difference, I will at least have saved some money.

One of the key elements in this is my aim to go off-grid if possible. Today this seems like a big step, but lets not forget that less than 100 years ago, very few people had electricity. This brings me to the second point in this blog - Tradition. When my French house was built there was no 220v. People burnt wood for heating, put another jumper on if it was cold, burnt candles at night (or went to bed) and had countless mechanisms for keeping warn without the need to wack up the central heating. The ESSE Ironheart is going to be the centre piece of my plans to keep warm:


That's the problem with deciding to make a life change, you put all your efforts into getting into a position to make the move and then......nothing. The problem is I've spent the last 17 years either working on our house in Coventry or feeling guilty for not working on the house. For some reason there are always those outstanding little jobs you never get around to sorting out, then when you decide to sell up and go the France, you rush round and go and do just that..finish them all. House up for sale, bish-bash-bosh and I'm ready for booking the removal van. Instead I'm in limbo. I even have to confess as to feeling a bit at a loose end NOT working on the house. It's a bit odd not having house stuff to do but not really wanting to start anything else for fear of making a mess. Still at least we have had people round to look at the house, just no offers yet. Still I'm told that patience is a virtue...just not one I possess.