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The French Blatting Company


The Barn Conversion

JUNE 2008

9th June 2008

June 9th sees me getting the wood and windows out of the barn onto the grass outside. The whole lot are mounted on two battens


This is the wood laying on the floor of the barn...



... and this is some of the windows.



And this is the start of it's relocation. The blue thingie is a compressor for the sandblaster which will be used to clean the oak.



These are the joists, The floor was removed by the previous owner, Richard (Richard in France - RiF, to Lotus Seven Club members) The joists that will be removed will be used between those that are staying to give 16" centres. The floor boards (tiles on chip board in bathroom) will be fixed direct to these joists and the underside will be left open. The bedroom and gallery will have a balustrade. There will be no added walls other than the bathroom & utility rooms. The only two internal doors will be for these rooms.



The ouside of the offshot. The ivy inside is much denser, in fact you cannot get inside for ivy and weeds as well as two fair size trees. More of this next month when I start clearing it.


JULY 2008

17th July 2008

This is the inside after I cleared a space and cut one of the trees down.

19th July 2008

At the end of the first day



The gnome looking after the beanstalk, I've searched everywhere for Jack. Some people leave their beanstalks lying around anywhere.



It really does grow out the top of the roof. The architects drawing shows the roof height as 3.92 and this is (was) a good metre higher than that.



A glimpse into the future. The door between the offshot and barn just about open.

20th July 2008

Next day saw me hacking away through the jungle. All I needed was a boat and Hepburn and I could have been an African Queen.

Walls cleared, and as you can see by the angle of the shadows it's 17:13 (You should know by now that I'm a smart-arse). Tomorrow I'll do the ivy that's too high to reach without the ladders and then onto the floors.



The pile of Ivy taken off the walls. Anyone know the going rate?



Whilst waiting for Lynne to steady the ladder I cleared some of the outside wall.


21st July 2008

Today I finished clearing the Ivy off the walls and the higher stuff, well as far as the ladder will reach. Then started clearing the jungle on the floor. This was hard work. Wanted to clear a third but did half, so now slightly ahead.

Half the floor cleared. The other half tomorrow, phew, it's now 30c.



But, this is the sort of root I've got to get killed.



This is the pile of earth I've taken off the floor so far. I'm putting it here, by the tree, to level off the mound. It's planned to put a bench under the tree which has shade on one side in the afternoons.

22nd July 2008


As the guests weren't up at the crack of dawn, and what a crack it was, not a cloud in the sky, I started the day digging out the edges. I also removed the stone around the tree trunk.

Tree trunk with surrounding stone removed


The trunk (honest, it's a tree trunk!) is now loose and can be bent right over. Before it wouldn't move an inch.




In a moment of rest (some rest) I smashed the concrete top off the plinth. I wanted to make sure the wall wasn't built on the plinth, it isn't.



Whilst digging out the edges this morning, I was using an old wood chisel. This is what an old wood chisel will do to your hand if you don't wear gloves.

At just after 3pm I had to stop as two mates popped in. One is a retired builder so I picked his brains. he has suggested, and I've accepted, that I should dig out all the stone from the floor, remove 8 inches of soil and lay sand and a membrane to stop rising damp. Then lay 4" of concrete and the self levelling compound before tiling. Oh well, no pain - no gain.




So, with a three hour break and several glasses of wine, added to which my hand was hurting and using the shovel was very painful (my story - just don't argue) I decided to call it a day. This is the last bit of ivy root to get off the floor.

The morning plan is to get some stone up from the floor and when the guests arise, finish the floor and then start on the plinth.


23rd July 2008

A non-event day. Just work. Let the pictures tell the tale.

A small hole at 08:30, good start



A small pile of stones at 08:35.



A much larger hole at 17:00...



... and a much bigger pile, being inspected by a duck.



I like to set targets. The measuring stick shows 0, -10, -20 and +10 and plus 20. I'd like to dig out to -20 but the earth has been compacted for, probably, nigh on 200 years so it may be a bit hard, if you see what I mean.



A nice shot of the tools, the ones I dig out with, that is.

No work on the barn tomorrow. We're off to the airport to pick Lynnes father up. His plane arrives as 13:55. So we'll leave at 08:00 and spend a couple of hours in Ikea seeing if they can get the kitchen design right (4th attempt). Then into Brico Depot to look at doors, tiles and switches. Then Casterama to look at all that again plus a bath.

Think I'd rather be digging a floor out!

25th July 2008

We got to Ikea at 09:45 and waited for the doors to open at 10:00. I raced upstairs to get a ticket for the kitchen consultant to put right the errors on the first quote. Lynne visited the loo (what else). When she got to the kitchen department she finds me at the back of a queue of about 8 people. She couldn't beleive it. Nor could I as they were not in front of me through the main shutter so there must be a back door. Anyway, after an hour it was our turn. We spent 45 minutes sorting it out and then the chap went off to get the work top expert get as much money from us as he could. We changed our minds and went from a 150? formica type work top to mineral (stone) at 2,700? By this time we went for lunch. Then came back, picked up the work top details and visited the wardrobe section. It took an hour to design and quote for the wardrobe by which time we had to leave for the airport. I will have to return to get the wardrobes right next time we are at the airport. There's a hole in the bucket, dear Lisa, dear Lisa.

We were supposed to vist Brico Depot and Casterame but it was so hot we skipped that bit.

This morning we were due to visit the local roofing company at 10:00 to get the quote for fitting a new roof on the kitchen offshot and new tiles on the barn which are subject to an insurance claim. I've also asked them to quote for insulating and boarding out the house part of the barn. Phone rings at 09:30 - could we delay until 10:30, the boss is late.

So at 10:30 we walk in and, after the bonjours, he goes through the quote. The bottom line is 38,000?. I was really speechless for at least 3 seconds. And for those that know me, that's serious. The estimate for the insurance company hasn't been done! I left him sorting that bit out with the insurance company. Looks like I'll be building and insulating the roofs. Can't be that difficult.

Then off to the architect. Tell him whats happening and could I have two more copies of the plan of the barn. He makes a fuss and informs me he'll need 2,400? for the new plans and that the original Permit de'Construction is now out of date and that I'll have more tax to pay on the new plans (not modifications). I left telling him I'll call him when I'm ready - some hope!

Get back at 12:45 so have lunch. Then it starts raining hard. I wait awhile and then start work on the kitchen floor at 14:45. At 16:45 it starts chucking it down again. I carry on 'till I'm soaked and then come in. It's now 18:45 so not much point in re-starting. Only got about a quarter left to dig out but it'll have to wait until the morning. I could take a picture of a wet floor but not sure it would be of interest.


26th July 2008

Nice early start. Visitors left at 10:00 and Lynne jumped in to start cleaning, whilst I made out the shopping lists. By 12:45 I could hardly stand but only had a small section left to dig out. This after removing 2 barrow load of earth from the corner of the floor (the rest had been removed before I started digging out the stone floor). So lunch calls as Lynne gets back from the Super market.

This is the small section to be cleared after lunch.



Just thought you'd like to see the size of the Ivy roots.



One stone left, or last back breaker standing. I went to get Lynne to take a photo and found that Ron Flegg, this weeks guest had arrived. So the girls chatted and Ron took the following photo's




Get that bar in there my son.


Now heave.



That's it, harder!






Done. Hooray !!!!!!!!!! last stone out. 3 days work, of which one was only about 2 hours. So not too bad for an old bugger like me on his own.


Packed up at about 17:00. will start (softly) digging the earth out in the morning. When all the guests are out I'll break up the plinth. Should get plinth and earth dug out and level by the end of the week

27th July 2008

Not too much done today, bit difficult for a fat old git like me to be digging in 30c (in the shade) temperatures! But got a level laid at about 12" (30cm) down on the high side, about 4" (10cm) at the opposite end.

he level and a bit dug out. So far so good, it's just sand and clay.



This is how far I got before the heat got the better of me.


28th July 2008


Start work at 09:00 and dig a bit more out. After 3 barrow loads I hit a concrete shelf. I think the whole lot should be like this, a mixture of lime and sand. The loose stuff never set but this did. It's very hard but not like modern concrete. If I try to a break it with the sledge hammer it just leaves an impression of the hammer head. The pick does go in a few inches but takes several swings to break any away. I'm ringing round to find someone who can lend me a breaker. Anyway it's too hot to be swinging a pick!

Bad news! The concrete ledge which has half set. I'm calling in favours and trying to borrow a breaker. Just about managing to lift the phone in this heat.

More disaster! I think I must have died. You see I bought this very fancy garden fork when in the UK. Never used it until now (gardening and me don't fit). I started using it 3 days ago. It's very smart being made of stainless steel and has a very fancy black handle with a lifetime guarantee.


This is it:

So, I must be dead as the lifetime guarantee must be expired.

Off to a friend to say hello, and can I borrow your garden fork, please.

Spent the afternoon at Tom and Carol's. I've borrowed his garden fork and spade. better look after them as they are his leaving presents from the Post Office - don't they give gold watches anymore?

Just as well I wasn't here as it rained a bit in the afternoon. A bit being 2" of rain in the empty glass I left on the outside table the day before.

29th July 2008

The clay in the new kitchen has turned into a muddy pool due the the heavy rain yesterday afternoon. I need to get a grip and get on, so I set a marker (broom) and that's my target for the day. If I reach it I will have dug out 1/3rd except for the large concrete pad and the bit of earth by the side of it. I need to get the concrete cutter out (is that what it's called?) and cut a large cross so that I have 4 small bits to smash out.

Start with Tom's fork but the ground is too stoney with lumps of concrete (made of sand, lime and gravel). So set to with a large pick-axe. After a while I hit something hard. It's the bottom of a large lump of oak set in the ground just below the surface. I Dig around it and find there's another large post next to the first. So using the pick to drive into the side and lever the things straight up, I get these two posts out of the ground:

Two oak posts....



.. and the hole they were in.

I'm just having a rest from getting these out when Lynne comes along with a big grin on her face. "We can do magic" "The Porsche in the garage has changed into a motorbike". My doctor parks his 996 Porker in my garage and he's been along and taken it out and left his.... wait for it... get ready to be amazed... this:

It's a Norton Comando 850 which he bought when he was a trainee doctor. It's in imaculate condition with 58,000 kms on the clock. The picture doesn't do it justice. We've looked it up in the "Book of British Bikes" and it was made between 1974 and 1978.

As all our guests are out I get the cutter out and cut the pad into 4 and also cut the concrete top of the plinth into slices.

Tom and carol pop round to see this amazing machine. (That's his story, I think he was checking up on his fork and spoon, er, spade.). The delay doesn't stop me reaching my target and I'm finished digging out by 17:00. I've got a half hour so I decide to get the pad broken and loose.

A broken concrete pad, I'll need all my strength to lift them so that'll be the first job in the morning.



End of the day, one third dug out and all levels correct.

Now, shower, grub and of out for the monthly Brits get together round at Kens place. (ie a nice piss up)

30th July 2008

Bad day, up all night with poorly wife. Hwever at the workface at 10:00 and moved the 4 broken bits of the concrete pad. The started to dig out the sand, lime and clay from the section where the pad was. It's the bit where the tree is. However, just too tired to carry on after lunch so didn't get that bit fully out let alone meet my target marker for the day. In fact haven't even started on that sector yet.

This is the area where the tree was. It's mostly dug out, only needs loading and moving. (the hard part?)



And this is the tree, placed in front of our front door so Lynne can apologise every time she walks past him. I wanted to leave it in the kitchen as a feature, HM wanted it taken out. Some people have no sense of adventure



The view through the doorway. The area worked on this morning is the farthest right hand side



No prizes for guessing how much earth, lime, sand and clay in this pile. And it's only 1/3rd the total!


31st July 2008

The humidity today was 70% and every movement produced a bucket full of sweat. I had to give up mid afternoon with only about 1 metre dug out. Was too tired to take photo's which was just as well as there wasn't much to photograph.


Continues on August