Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dorian Gray's Shaving Mirror ...

So everyone is now back working on the house, as if to make up for lost time: I've tiled the shower in our bathroom (the one in my office can wait a bit) and the terracotta/raspberry crush lino that's going on the wall arrived today - anyway, we are having to seriously think about décor.

The tiles we chose were huge Italian ones, 30 x 60 in anthracite and pale gray - and may I just say that they're a bitch to work with? OK, we'd already bought the electric saw with a diamond blade to cut them as required (and that has been well amortised already): when it came to cutting out the holes for the taps and suchlike I had planned on using the old tungsten bit and handsaw I still have lying around but soon changed my mind when it became apparent that it would take me about three days doing it that way.

Cue a trip off to Lignières to pick up a hollow diamond-tipped 8mm bit for the big Bosch drill: it did the job. Tedious, but by some miracle I managed to avoid cracking the tile I was working on - always a good thing.

Another reason I hate tiling is that it requires some thought beforehand. One thing that you can be absolutely certain of is that the surfaces you're tiling will not be square, maybe not even flat: neither height nor width will be a multiple of the tile size. So if you start off as a novice is tempted to do, starting from the bottom inside angle and working out and up, you may be sure that you are going to have some very ugly, very fiddly cuts to do.

Also, I am paranoid, and measure things about three times before actually cutting anything on the principle that I may have got it wrong first time, or forgotten 4mm for the grouting, or things have just changed anyway because of quantum, and measurement collapsing the waveform.

Luckily for me, when we had the St-Pierre Shamblings done up Jean took me aside one day and explained how to do it correctly, which involves marking a cross at the centre of the surface to be tiled: that's where the first tile goes, and you work out from there. You will have a bit of waste: never mind, the end result will look a damn sight better.

Of course I still managed to get it wrong because we had Cédric build a seat in there - well, more a ledge really, somewhere to park the shampoo bottles and put your feet up when you're shaving your legs or whatever - and I failed to take that into account so there's a strip only a few cm deep at the back but what the hell.

So anyway, there's the shower in gray and black and the wall next to it, where the handbasin will go, sitting on its slab of wood on trestles, will be mainly red/orange, so we decided that for a mirror we would like a big old one, with an ornate gilt frame with naked ladies, bunches of grapes and cherubs everywhere if possible. Which means op-shops, and various brocantes.

Margo went off all on her lonesome and found one at Emmaus which was not exactly what we wanted, being mahogany and actually relatively restrained, but it was suitably huge, the silvering is going on the actual mirror so it definitely looks ancient, and on top of that it was cheap. So cheap in fact that she also bought an enormous pure wool rug for the dogs to sleep on.

We unloaded all that, brought it inside and settled down to more serious business like dining, and watching Dr Who, and then went to bed ... now it's a funny thing, but you'd think that they'd have little warning signs on articles such as these, along the lines of "May contain maggots".

At least, we strongly suspect that it was in fact the mirror that was harbouring the troop of the white wriggly buggers that we found all over the floor the next morning ...

I headed off to Carcassonne, leaving Margo to deal with the invasion, and after the market headed off to a big brocante of which I know, where I found not one but two mirrors that were just what we were looking for. The guy at the desk sucked his teeth, and opined that the shop was probably, in fact, open, and might actually remain that way until midday, although from the shrug he gave he didn't seem entirely certain about that - so I went back and found the car and navigated the one-way system through Carcassonne, went in, paid, and walked out with them.

In an excess of generosity he chucked in an old blanket (actually, as it turns out, a tablecloth complete with rude cherubs) free, gratis and also for nothing as a bit of padding in the boot, and I happily went back home. I suppose I could have bought a few other bits and pieces - just to encourage his unexpected enthusiasm - but quite honestly we don't actually need, nor do we have room for, a metre-high chicken in cast-iron, nor a marble statue of some Grecian bint discovering auto-eroticism. Nor, for that matter, a C19 bronze reproduction of The Emperor Trajan With Medusa And An Erection.

In other, unrelated, news I headed off on Sunday to see if I could find Bezier aerodrome International Airport, where I was supposed to be picking up my brother. I went prepared, with a large inflatable cushion, because I'm not sure that Ryanair actually bother touching down at such places, and I was half-expecting to see him hurtling from the cargo doors at 100m altitude ... as it turns out I need not have worried, the plane landed - maybe they needed more packets of overpriced peanuts to sell to the punters - and debarkment was sufficiently quick that I didn't even have to pay for the carpark.

Where, to tell the truth, I'd only gone because a short fat stuffy little man blew a whistle at me because I'd had the temerity to park on the place reserved for buses: this may be true but they could at least have had the decency to put up signs saying "Bus Only!" and in any case on a Sunday afternoon the things are pretty few and far between.

Just to complicate matters, later that night a nephew and his partner turned up a few days earlier than expected, fearing that their hire car was marked for instant depredation in Barcelona - who knows, they could well be right. So now the dogs must sleep outside, as the living-room floor has been commandeered as impromptu sleeping quarters, and EBK is pissed because there are New People with whom he will have to put up.

My brother left - I took care that we left the house heading for Narbonne with 20 minutes to spare, because I am wary of traffic in Narbonne, and then we left a second time, 20 minutes later and with no time to spare, because on arriving at Conilhac he remembered that he'd forgotten to pack the dead rat for his laptop. Luckily, although they had closed the TGV doors they were not actually in lock-down so he managed to hop aboard, about two minutes before the thing pulled out of the station.

A snail tree (immature)
It may not even have been the right train, I could care more.

Then we decided to take nephew and partner (N & P?) out to show them what a traditional French lunch is (although you no longer get a litre of really cheap rotgut plonk per person slapped on the table these days, I blame the government myself) and so we headed off to Le Cers at Conilhac. The midday menu goes for 11.50€, can't complain, we were out on the terrace under the sun and although I was wise enough just to go for a salad everyone else opted for the menu and none of them managed to finish it off. Kinda copious.

Of course they get the odd tourist passing through and so the chef speaks English - although oddly enough the waitress didn't - but this still brings me back to a pet peeve which is why, oh why, do people trust the translation of their menus to Google Translate? It's the easy option, I admit, but quite frankly when cuisses de grenouille flambées au cognac turns out as legs of frog (with outbreaks of cognac) I really have to wonder what the value-added proposition is here. Maybe I'm just being picky.

Seriously, how in hell does a flambé turn into an outbreak? Metaphorically, I suppose, if you're talking about genital herpes, that could happen ... I will not go there.

Anyway, I had to head off to Chambéry on Thursday - which goes some way to explaining the hiatus, sorry about that - and once I'd headed back down on Saturday and duly admired the 15km traffic jam in the north-bound direction at the péage at Montpellier Sud and arrived home, it became pretty obvious that work was going ahead and that Things Needed to be Done.

So Margo got into full-on Painting Mode (and let me just say that the little Bosch spray painter really is rather good, at least for putting on the undercoat) and I managed to finish the tiling in our bathroom, did the grouting (gods, I hate that!), stuck silicone around top and bottom, got the lino up on the wall, hung the mirror, cut out the sisal matting and got that down on the floor ... once André gets arse into gear and puts up the glass partition, hooks up the shower and (very important, that) installs the toilet, it will be usable.

Which would be rather convenient, given that they'd like to attack the first floor now - which will involve destroying the bathroom there - and now that they have their élan it would be a pity to slow things down, especially as we can begin to discern some progress. So even if the top floor is not, technically speaking, ready for habitation - missing a few of those optional extras like paint, and flooring - I guess we might just be moving up there next week.

1 comment:

  1. I took care that we left the house heading for Narbonne with 20 minutes to spare, because I am wary of traffic in Narbonne, and then we left a second time, 20 minutes later and with no time to spare

    Come now, you enjoyed the excuse to drive fast.