Going topless

It has been quite an eventful week and here’s a clue as to why . . .


After several months of planning and waiting, the builders have started work on our new roof. It was very exciting to see the scaffolding going up: yes; there will be several weeks of disruption and dirt but this is the key to getting the house really sorted out once and for all. Not only will it finally be waterproof but we will gain a light, airy space in the old attic for our new bedroom and be able to finish the rest of the house after several months with little progress on the renovation front.


Unfortunately, the weather gods have been in a spiteful mood and we have had what has probably been the worst week of weather since January, with thunderstorms, torrential downpours – often prolonged – and high winds with gusts of 50mph. Not really what you want when you are about to go roofless!


The first few days of work have been done inside and have been mostly about destruction. The house slopes pretty badly so the first job is to level everything in order to ensure the upstairs floor is horizontal – it will be quite useful not to be rolling out of bed all the time, I suppose! After discussing many options with our builder and architect it seemed there was no choice but to take all the ceilings down and start again. That included the new ceilings we had put up last year; remember all that balancing of plasterboard on brooms last summer? The seven coats of white paint? It’s a bit frustrating but on the other hand we wouldn’t have wanted to live under the old ceilings for all this time so it was worth doing anyway – just a shame they couldn’t stay up.


We have had a busy time of it going pretty much flat out from dawn to dusk, moving furniture and covering everything with dust sheets, hauling timber away to stack (and eventually chop) for the stove, and lugging vast trugs of rubble and plasterboard and sooty dust up to the skip. I’m hastily drafting this post during the builders’ lunch break, it’s a pleasant excuse to sit down for a few minutes! It’s Week 2 of my half marathon training and my running has really not been happening as it should but even my coach admits these are exceptional circumstances. I have been doing plenty of miles in other ways, though, and have climbed those 14 steps to the house more times than I care to remember. It’s not a form of cross-training I’ve read about in any training programmes but surely it must be helping with my fitness levels?


Up the hill . . .


. . . to the skip!

At one point as we were clearing up the mess at the end of another long day, Roger said, “Remind me why we’re doing this?” Good question, and a good time to reflect, I suppose. We’re doing this because we wanted another adventure, something to take us off the proverbial  hamster wheel and give us an opportunity to do new things in the name of living our lives to the full. We didn’t want to stagnate or get set in our ways or lead a hugely predictable lifestyle. We’re too young to be old. Yes, we were tired, hungry and filthy but better that than be bored . . . and we certainly can’t complain on that score. It’s just a shame there was no wine in the house to wash the dust from our throats and toast our own brand of madness – bit of an oversight on our part, I’d say! 🙂

So, here we are now facing an interesting few days with no ceilings and the house open to the blackened rafters like a draughty barn. We have pots and buckets scattered all over to catch the drips as the rain comes through the tiles (there’s a reason we need a new roof) and from time to time, sooty clots fall down on us in a loud black splat from above.


Our bed under a dust sheet in the kitchen: the bucket is catching drips from above.

There is black dust everywhere. If we had enough flat land to pitch the tent, I’d be tempted despite the weather. Next week, the tiles come off; the word ‘tarpaulins’ has been mentioned and the weather forecast is looking a hundred times better so fingers crossed going ‘topless’ won’t be too stressful. Watch this space . . !


Looking up from below you can see why we need a new roof.

There’s been no time to do much in the garden which is probably a good thing as the weather has wreaked havoc and it makes me sad to look. I was glad to see some rain; having pulled out the early pea and broad bean plants last week, I was struggling to get a fork into the ground, it was so hard. The wind, however, is another matter. It blew the fig tree over so we have had to tether that to a post and the sunflowers are now lashed to tripods of climbing beans. Several calabrese plants were blown clean out of the ground (thank goodness I’d planted far too many) along with some young lettuces.


I was thrilled to see the first flowers appearing on the aubergines and not so thrilled the next day to see them lying face down in the mud. Oh, the joys of gardening.


My biggest upset, though, was the dahlias. I decided to grow lots of them this year on account of them being very popular in local gardens and flowering for months here. I’ve always had mixed results in the past, losing them to wet weather, slugs and early frosts but I’ve been really chuffed at how easy they were to grow from seed and how beautiful they were looking with their bright colours and cheerful, bee-ridden faces.



The wind smashed them to smithereens without mercy, flattening the plants and breaking them off at the base. I just hope they manage to recover. 😦

It’s not all bad news, however, and there have been a few things to smile about. The French beans, peas and courgettes are cropping heavily and we are enjoying the best basil we have had in years (enough to make pesto using our walnuts in place of pine nuts – delicious!).


The other brassicas have taken a bashing, but the summer cabbages have weathered the storms and are forming lovely crisp hearts.


Our Big Tomato Experiment seems to be working so far and although there’s a hint of blight about the place, there certainly hasn’t been the dramatic collapse we saw last year.


In fact – and I hardly want to even whisper this – there are little ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes starting to ripen. Shhhhhh! Don’t tempt fate!


There are some other beauties to enjoy, too.





That’s better. Suddenly all that sooty dust and rubble doesn’t seem so bad. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Going topless

  1. What bad luck to have stormy weather for your new roof works! Can’t you camp out in the horreo – it looks so lovely from the outside. Fingers crossed for better weather and a swift finish and clean-up. We’ve been breaking up and carting away a terrace full of concrete. First of 11 tonnes of aggregate to go down tomorrow. But at least we had wine in the house! Essential. Am having basil envy. Even in the greenhouse it never looks like this here. Mind you, it’s only 15C, up from 12C earlier in the week. We’re waiting for two sunny days in a row to harvest our garlic. Maybe Thursday…


  2. We made a lovely bedroom in the horreo for Sam and Adrienne last September but they had to abandon it after one night as they were eaten to pieces by mosquitoes. 😦 Not having a proper net, we weren’t keen to risk it (and anyway, it’s currently storing a lot of stuff out of the house). Roger has rigged up a tarp ceiling over the bedroom and we are promised new ceilings in place by Wednesday so things should improve then. The basil is great, we haven’t grown such a crop since France – there’s a good reason it’s a ‘Mediterranean’ herb, I suppose! Good luck with the garlic!


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