I bought a wreck of a farm house in France. Dirt floors, corrugated iron doors, holes in the roof, rising damp, descending damp… you name it, this house had a lot of issues.
I wasn’t daunted, I knew it had potential. I had dreamed about doing an old French house renovation for years.
After a rather sticky time sorting out planning permission, it was finally time to start renovating the end room. I’d spent a whole year of going back and forth to the Town Hall and the DDE (Departmental Direction of Equipment who grant planning in my area) on my few days a month in France (I was working in London) only to receive rejection after I’d done everything they’d asked. The mayor’s assistant whispered to me that I should get an architect to apply on my behalf – I did and it turned out that roughly half of my house wasn’t even registered on the official documents which had caused the confusion. Drawings were resubmitted and 5 days later – permission was granted!
One of the things we requested planning for was to rebuild a room at one end of the house. There was an end wall, joined to the main house by a dilapidated plastic roof – open at both ends with ivy growing over and in it. Although it showed on the plans as a habitable space – the only inhabitants willing to rough it were the local wild cats and some brave birds.
We somehow got it into our heads that we’d like a gym. Quite why I don’t know. With 21 rooms to completely rebuild and decorate, lots of structural work including new builds, new roofs, an acre of land to tame – we didn’t really need any more exercise. But, we figured, the French house is miles from civilisation, we’re never going to be able to get to a gym let alone afford to join one when we finally finish renovating so that’s what we went with. The gym was to be opposite the posh spa we had planned for the pig shed!
We started by digging out the dirt floor to level it and then mixed several tons of concrete to form a new solid floor. In all these jobs, the OH (other half) is the guv’nor and I am the gofer (I go fer this and go fer that). That means that I have to fetch and carry the tools, level the concrete off, hold things in place without moving even if a spider is crawling towards me – I often fail this part of the job. One of the other jobs I have to do is fetch and stack the breeze blocks that are commonly used to build walls here in this part of France. They’re heavy.
The first day of building the end walls I almost dropped one of the breeze blocks, caught it in mid-air and managed to break a finger. Some women would wail about breaking a finger nail so I think I was justified in having a bit of a sniffle but I was told to bind a lolly stick to my floppy finger and get on with it.
We built the two end walls, installed doors and windows, put on a new roof, insulated, boarded, plastered, painted, laid a new wooden floor and hung mirrors and pictures. Gym equipment was bought out of storage, dusted off and set up and it looked like the most perfect gym.
After all that work you’d think I’d be as fit as a flea wouldn’t you. No such thing, my first real work out in the gym, I stuck on “Eye of the Tiger” (the Rocky theme Music), took a deep breath, bent down to pick up and dumb bell and pulled a muscle in my back – I couldn’t use the gym for months!