Thursday, October 23, 2008

Updated kitchen. The lights don't look like much in the photos, but they are gorgeous, hand-made, translucent porcelain with tiny pinpricks, so they look like stars. I found them a while ago in a gallery, but I couldn't bring myself to buy them because they were so expensive. One day I was walking past the gallery and saw a notice that they were moving, so I went back in and asked them if they were selling these lights. They called me about 3 weeks later, and told me I could have three for the price of the one that they originally quoted me. It felt like these lights were certainly destined for me, and having got three for the price of one allowed me to believe that I had somehow got a bargain. This was not of course technically so, since they were still far more than one would normally consider paying for what is after all just a lampshade. Interestingly, lights have proved to be my achilles heel, the one thing I have consistently splurged on. If you ignore the fact that the kids got chinese paper balls from Ikea.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My office. This is now my favourite place in the whole house. A gorgeous view, light, and amazing storage (that's two IKEA Malm chests of drawers with an Expedit bookcase - 200 euros total for all your storage needs).

Ido's bedroom. I was sceptical to say the least about the red wall but I have to hand it to him, it really works. This room is so light - top floor and west facing, so flooded with light up until nightfall - that in fact it was almost too light when it was all white.

The landing, with its little patch of herringbone parquet. I think this parquet is older than the rest - possibly salvaged from another house, as apparently were many of the windows. They were at this salvage business even then.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I suddenly realised, like gust of cold air blowing all the leaves of a tree, that the place where I ordered our oven is not, in fact, going to deliver it. Well maybe one day, just not soon.

Oven-buying is not as straightforward here as it is in England. In England you go to John lewis or Argos or Littlewoods and you order the oven of your choice. It is delivered and installed and everyone is happy.

Here everyone buys from Darty. I have bought plenty from Darty and it must be said that as long as you aren't stuck on any specific model Darty has enough choice and excellent customer service to be an acceptable consumer experience (take note, Emi!).

The oven I was after though it turned out wasn't as straightforward to source. I want a nice modern stainless steel range, with a 5 ring gas stove and a double oven. The whole 100 cm wide. It's the double oven that proved the sticking point. Noone seemed to sell a model with a big oven and tehn a little one for when you are just baking cookies. I saw a lovely de Dietrich model on their website but no shop seemed to sell it and de Dietrich, a French company, needs to put its customer service in order. The girl on the phone really didn't give a shit. And no, you can't buy direct from the manufacturer.

So i did an online search and found it. Not only that but from a discount white goods store, with a discount for the oven and a hood that came to 1000 euros. Placed the order, paid my 1000 euro deposit, and waited for delivery on July 17th.

July 17th came and went. August 17th came and went. 1000 euros went from our bank account but nobody answered my calls or emails. I kept saying that it was August, noone works in August. Then the end of August came and I tried to call. Noone answered the phone. I looked on line and even a desultory search threw up a dozen forums for disgruntled consumers to vent spleen. I am not, it seems, the first to deal with this company and find them wanting.

Bref, we sent them a threatening letter, who knows what this will result in. We paid by credit card so will eventually get our money back if it is genuine fraud. Otherwise I suppose they'll send us back our deposit.

It turns out I could have gone to BHV in the first place and placed a special order. next week I'm going there to buy myself an oven. It will be delivered in four weeks. Meanwhile we eat bagels toasted cheese sandwiches and bake potatoes in our toaster oven/microwave and I grumble.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Apart from the serious lack of wisdom of choosing a wooden worktop over granite (I hate granite, but I may hate my severely scratched wood more eventually) I am pretty pleased by how nice the kitchen is to work in. I obeyed the basic ergonomic triangle rule but every day I am secretly happy at the perfect placing of the bin for catching the teabag after I've added milk. In our old house I used to feel like Gretel dropping breadcrumbs as I dripped teabags over from counter to bin, leaving a tawny trail over the hated white tiles.

Many decisions about this kitchen were made less with regard to practicality than with regard to emotion. I hate porcelain floors, and don't like wearing slippers, so we chose the most kitchen-unfriendly flooring, oak parquet. Ditto wooden counters (mitigated by a bit of stainless steel, to be fair). The String System was chosen in order to make the kitchen look less like a kitchen. I don't know if these decisions are part of the reason it's such a lovely room or if it's just the sun slanting through the windows when we have our breakfast.

We haven't even sat down in the living room yet. We're hunkering down in bed or sitting in the kitchen or the garden at the moment. I suppose each room will have its moment. The living room, with an open fire, will be the winter room.

For the moment every ray of sunshine (and there aren't actually very many at the moment) summons us outside. We originally had the table out by the side of the house, but in fact the gardeners (who were having a bit of a Ground Force moment) moved it round to the back and it's much nicer there, really private. Cyril and I have drunk many glasses of whisky there since we got back. Especially last night, as I explained the source and consequences of the leak.

The real silver lining to yesterday's leak only revealed itself later on in the evening. The boiler now appears to work. This is either a) a mystery of mystical proportions or b) (bad thought) something to do with the leak. We're waiting for the plumber to get back to decide which. We have been having innumerable hot baths and showers ever since. For some of us (no names, but they are all under 5 feet tall) these were the first real ablutions for almost two weeks. Thank god for ripe camembert, that great masker of stinky boy smell.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is this a silver lining post or rampant depression?

We have a bad leak from our bathroom into the living room below. I have spent the afternoon drying out hundreds of CD covers. I had to turn the water off when it became apparent that a tiny leak was getting much much worse. I called the emergency plumbers and begged them to come. My tendency to pessimism overcame an equal tendency to optimism as I wondered how I was going to water the lawn this evening (priority number one, given that it's brand new and will die without a nightly soaking) and how the children were going to wash their teeth tonight. Also how I was going to make myself the cup of tea I desperately need. No water! And the plumber is back in ten days' time!

So the emergency plumber came and confirmed that this is a Big Leak. And Tricky To Fix. Might Take Him All Night. Excellent news. BUT he did find the valve to turn off the water to that side of the house. So we have a kitchen with running water and a bathroom. And the sprinklers (that rise out of the grass at the flick of a switch and will one day be PROGRAMMED TO COME ON AUTOMATICALLY) also work.

So it's a silver lining post. I think.

Okay Jen. You win. You should know that we've only had a phone line since 11 am this morning. We've only been home two days, after a week in a 17th century cottage with - guess what - no wifi.

We don't have an oven yet. Or half our worktops. (This is France. Noone answers the telephone let alone supplies long-ago ordered goods in August.) We have no hot water. We have a leak that has soaked all our CDs and DVDs in their fancy red laqueur cabinet in our living room that is moonlighting as a box room for the time being. We have a broken floor board in the downstairs loo. None of the electricity in the living room works. The TV (30cm HCCR - that's Hyper Curved Cathode Ray for all you non-techies with your fancy 140cm flat screen plasma LCD screens) is in our bedroom, which sneakily I like and plan for it never to leave.

BUT we have an amazing garden -

it was dug up and returfed while we were away, a very extravagent decision but based on the idea that a hummocky field filled with nettles and brambles and bits of glass and asbestos and much rusty iron simply wasn't the lifestyle we were going for. The black thing that looks promisingly like a swimming pool is actually a vegetable patch. The poles in front are for espaliered apple and pear trees, and a grapevine. We are planning on chickens.

We have a lovely bathroom

The kids are loving it. Why not, really? It's big, they've got their own rooms for the first time ever.

They are rediscovering their old toys - R and A don't wear ordinary clothes any more, preferring to go for the Halloween ghost/devil/one-legged pirate/cowboy look when dressing for dinner. We have barbecues every night (cf above, no oven). Every time I ask them, in a pathetic pleaser way, if they like the new house, they look at me like I'm barmie. We have an American fridge with an ice dispenser, for goodness sake. What's not to like?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Our kitchen!

We're in! And out again, as a matter of fact, having spent five days moving and unpacking and then scarpering to London to pick up the kids and enjoy a rainy English summer. In the course of the move many many things have been mislaid (though since many many boxes remain to be unpacked many may yet resurface) including my camera and my usb cables, of course. This picture is on my phone, bluetoothed (yay!) to my computer, both of which survived the move due to much cossetting.

Of course, we don't have a phone line, a working boiler (our brandspanking new condensation boiler is broken), an oven, internet - many of the things considered necessary for general well-being. Even so we were ridiculously happy to be in the house, which is dusty, messy and absolutely lovely.