It all started so well. We had three projects for this winter. First was to 'relook' (and yes, that is a word. It's French!) our farmhouse kitchen. Second was to have a new bathroom installed for us - the last remaining room in the house still in the eighties, with navy blue sanitary ware, no shower, and white tiles that were separating in a sheet from the wall more each day. And third was to create a summer kitchen in one of our semi-open barns, complete with gas hob, plancha, fridge and lots of worktop space, that would be shared between ourselves and our guests. That meant pointing up one wall, lime rendering and then limewashing the other, doing something with the rather sad looking woodwork, building made to measure wooden units and putting down a floor.
Lovely December weather allowed us to get a head start on the summer kitchen. Working with lime mortar meant that we couldn't work if the temperatures fell below 5 degrees, or would do so while the mortar was going off; the last couple of weeks of December saw sun plus spring like temperatures of 18 degrees so we took full advantage of it, working as many hours as we could given the short days. We raked out the old joints between the stones then pointed them up with a simple lime mortar; it was slow, painstaking work that neither of us had ever done before but we both found it bizarrely addictive. It was looking good ... but then as if by magic, on New Year's Day it all went pear shaped, with low temperatures and heavy rainfall. Fortunately we'd filled our last joints on New Year's Eve ...
We moved inside to relook the kitchen; not a hugely complicated job, just new paint (home made, of course!) on the walls and on the wooden units, the resurrection of an antique Norfolk pine dresser that we'd brought with us but had never got round to homing, installation of a new oven, fridge, extraction system plus posh new gas hob (and that's another story!) and some new textiles. Three weeks of chaos (no kitchen, no bathroom!) and living on stuff we'd prepared earlier and it was done. Apart from the hob, which is still a Hob In Waiting 11 weeks later.
Meanwhile we were having our wettest January for years, with three times the normal amount of rainfall; the garden turned into a sea of mud, our track into a series of potholes and the potager into a lake. The rain continued into February and early March, sometimes falling as snow; sometimes we were blocked in, the Pyrenees had their snowiest winter for more than 30 years and the highest temperatures stayed well below 3 degrees. Our builder, for reasons best known to himself, got further and further behind to the point where if we were to see a finished bathroom before summer I had no choice but to take over all the decorating, tiling and other finishings. Then he came back to start plumbing stuff in and left the handbrake of his Landrover off. During the morning it rolled its way down the drive right into the back of our car, doing 1000 euros worth of damage .....
The bathroom still isn't finished in spite of the fact that we ended up taking on more and more of the work ourselves, and it's all getting more than a bit tedious as we keep discovering issue after issue (testing his own work doesn't appear to be amongst our builder's skills). But last week the temperature finally rose just enough for us to get back to the summer kitchen. The rendering is done, and the wall will be lime washed when it's all gone off, hopefully in 10 days or so. Next week we have a huge delivery of materials arriving for the floor and will start levelling up.
The good news is that spring is springing at last; the birds are singing, the violets are out and the grass is growing all by itself.
The bad news is that we're a good six weeks behind schedule. We'll do everything we can to make up time, but we have less of it to spare (!) now that we're moving into full guest flow and I'm sorry to report that due, as they say, to circumstances completely beyond our control, the summer kitchen won't be functional before the end of May at the earliest.
Oh, and we're still waiting for a day off, a bath, and a new hob, not necessarily in that order!