A week of surprises

And, I’m sorry to say, none of them were particularly good surprises!

First, as progress on the new house continues, we discovered that our file with the ANAH is not being looked at until the beginning of July, since the commission changed the date of its meeting again. We are hoping that THIS time, we have enough information for them to finally approve our request. We have asked that if the ground floor bathroom does not meet the requirements for handicapped access, that they just ignore that part of the grant an go on to the rest of it.

Second surprise: the roofers finished the part of the roof that was leaking and moved on to the part facing the Cours. This part wasn’t leaking. Imagine then, how shocked we were to discover that the beams were entirely rotten and that two thirds of the roof needed to be entirely replaced! This was doubly surprising as we had had the roof inspected before purchasing the property, and that roofer had said the beams were sound!

JM was furious, because we had not negotiated on the price, because of that one issue. However, we have since learned that this is a not infrequent problem, as sometimes roofers can’t actually tell how the beams really are until they start working on things.

Michael Padet, our roofer, hired a huge machine called a Manitou, which they had to use to lift down all the bits and pieces of old roof and then lift new beams up to replace them. Of course, the night when there was nothing up there but sky, it rained! There  really wasn’t any way to protect the floor, because you can’t put plastic up when there is nothing to attach it to! Luckily, there doesn’t seem to have been any permanent damage, and the sun and heat since then have done a good job of drying things out.

If all goes well, the entire roof should be finished by mid-week.

The third surprise was very bad. Mom hasn’t been sleeping well because of her arm pain, so I feel uncomfortable waking her up in the morning, which is sometimes when she has been getting most of her sleep. On Wednesday, I had a French conversation student, and Mom slept on. Around 11 am, I went up to check on her and found her at her computer. I asked if she wanted breakfast, which she did.

I went down, said good-bye to my friend Margaret (who was also my student!), and prepared a quick breakfast that I then took upstairs. This all took no more than 10 minutes. When I got to Mom’s room, she was unconscious in her chair!  I tried talking to her, but she could barely open her eyes and was totally unresponsive.

To make things worse, unusually, JM was not at home, having gone out to do some interpreting work for another English friend. I ran and got the phone to call our doctor and he told me to get Mom flat on the bed as a first step, then to call him back. Now, Mom weighs almost as much as I do and was about 15 feet from the side of the bed that I needed to move her to.  Luckily, her desk chair has wheels, so I was able to drag it over to the bed, but I still had to get her out of it. I managed, sort of, but could only get her about 3/4s of the way into the bed.

I ran downstairs and across the street to our friends’ butcher shop, and dear, wonderful, Mireille left her customers and came back with me to help me get Mom fully into the bed so she wouldn’t fall out.  At that point, she came to, with no memory of anything that had happened since she had been at her computer.

The doctor came over and examined her, and thinks that although there were several factors, it was probably mostly caused by low blood sugar, as now that we’ve gotten her medications and eating under better control, her sugars were normal, but that’s too low for someone of her age and with diabetes. So, we’re back to readjusting.

Then, the final surprise of the week was to learn that our doctor is leaving the village to join a group practice in Lavelanet. That is not sitting well with the villagers! However, it’s really only 20 kms away, and with a car it’s not a big deal to keep seeing him. I checked, and he will still be doing house visits here in the Possum Kingdom, so I think it’s not really all that bad, although we’ve gotten so used to having everything here within walking distance.

It will be a problem, however, for some of the other, older patients who do not drive. I guess that they will have to switch to one of the village’s other two doctors, and, let’s face it, no one really likes change.

Ciao for now.



At last, it has arrived. We seem to have entirely skipped spring, to be honest, but no one is complaining.  The last few days have been hot and sunny and for the first time in ages, no one is complaining about the weather at all!

For us, personally, it’s great news because it means the roofers can make progress and, if all continues to go well, finish the roofing, installation of the Veluxes, etc. in about 2 weeks.  The exterminator came by yesterday and will be able to treat the beams and exposed wood in the 3rd floor; something that is clearly a necessity in any old house.

Strangely, we noticed signs of some type of infestation in our staircase down near the cellar. When you come from California, your first thought is always “termites!” But, so far, our area has remained termite-free, as it does get too cold in the winter for them to survive. The exterminator took a look, and I have to say his answer surprised me: ANTS! I still can’t figure out how they got in there. But, it’s apparently no big deal, and he’ll take care of it at the same time as he does the other house.

All of this would be more exciting if Mom was feeling better. This tendonitis problem in her arms is extremely troubling, as she is becoming more and more immobile, since she doesn’t sleep well and is therefore tired all the time. I’m really hoping that the physical therapy will make some inroads soon, as I don’t know what we’ll do otherwise. She is really feeling depressed about it, because she wants to get involved in picking flooring and the other details of decoration, but she just can’t get excited because of the pain.

Life can be extremely unfair sometimes.

Ciao for now.


Real Progress

Now that the artisans have really started on Mom’s house, things are really progressing.  All of the demolition on the ground floor and third floor are now done. We’re still waiting for the roofing to progress, but that is due to the continued rain. However, all the weather reports that I’ve seen indicate that we SHOULD have sun starting tomorrow and lasting through next week. If that proves correct, I would imagine that the roofing (and installation of new Velux skylights in the new house and our house as well) could be done in the next 2 weeks.

The ground floor needs now needs to have all the walls insultated and plasterboard installed, and inulation and new ceilings done as well. We’re starting to think that Mom may be able to move in at the end of July, although the rest of the building will most likely not be finshed until the end of September at the earliest.

However, once the major work is done, I would imagine that we could start putting out the word that we’re looking for tenants. It would be great if we had people ready to move in as soon as the work is completed, so we can start paying back the bank loan with rent as soon as possible.

We’ve been able to change the date that the movers are due as well, which means we won’t have to worry about trying to store Mom’s furniture somewhere, then get in moved back into the house. This is particularly good as I don’t think moving a piano around unnecessarily is particularly good for it, even if it’s really out of tune and the keys stick.

It’s amazing that after all this time, we’re finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not a moment too soon, as getting Mom into her own, ground floor flat is becoming increasingly important. In fact, we’re starting her on physical therapy today, because she’s developed tendonitis in her shoulders and her legs are bothering her so much that I’m worried about her going up and down the steps more than is absolutely neceessary. I really think that once she no longer has to worry about that, that she will take more walks around the village and will be able to get herself into a bit of better shape.

Ciao for now.


Small changes, big differences

One of the things I remember from when we renovated our own house in 2005, was how a small thing could sometimes make you see a room in a whole different light.

We’re seeing that on a much bigger scale with the current renovation project, because a: we’re not living in the building, and b: there are far more important changes going on.

Two cases in point: the first is the 3rd floor apartment. Really, this was just an attic before and had never had any kind of work done to it at all. There were walls in odd places, fireplaces that took up large amounts of space but no longer worked, etc. During this past week, the roofers have demolished all those walls and fireplaces, and just yesterday finished removing all the debris into the big dumpster out front.

Suddenly, that apartment is already looking like a wonderful place to live (as long as you have strong legs for climbing the stairs). There was a window in what will be the kitchen/living room area, which had been sealed off many, many years ago. Now that it is opened up, there is a stunning view above the rooftops onto the hills. The room which will be the bedroom has a beautiful view of the bell tower of Notre Dame, our village’s oldest church, and the whole place is spacious and airy.

You can already tell that when the work is done, this will be a lovely and comfortable place to live.

The second big change is in the ground floor flat that will be Mom’s. That space used to be a hairdressing salon and the door and window were industrial, aluminum framed and ugly. The carpenter came this morning and replaced them with a wood door and window. Now, it is FAR from being finished, as the mason needs to do extensive work on the wall, but now it looks like a habitation and not a business.

In spite of the frustration that doing this often causes, it’s still quite exciting to see these changes. There is also a pleasure in giving new life to a building that has been too long abandoned, and you can almost imagine that one day in the not too distant future, there will be real people living there and enjoying the results of all these changes.

Ciao for now.


It’s official

We’re now in debt for the next 15 years!  Not that I’m thrilled about that, you understand. I have loved living the last 3 years debt free; now, we have to pray that the money from the ANAH comes through so we can finish the entire renovation project and get actual paying tenants.

People keep telling us that there will be a demand for these apartments when they’re done, but it’s hard to hold onto that thought some days. JM and I have nightmares of having spent all this money and not finding ANYONE to live there other than Mom!

And, the ANAH still needs another document (a drawing of the downstairs bathroom) before approving our grant, so we’re now waiting until the end of June to have any inkling of whether we get the grant, and if so, how much money we’ll get. Meanwhile, the sounds of construction are disturbing the calm of downtown Possum Kingdom.  There is a giant dumpster sitting in front of the new house, a scaffolding is in place and a big tube is hanging into the dumpster as an entire floor’s worth of rubble is being shoved into the dumpster.

Also, our mason, Manu Montoro, has finally finished his other job in Ste. Colombe and is now working on demolishen stuff in Mom’s someday new home!  That is really the best part for all of us, especially as lately, Mom has been having more problems negotiating the stairs and I think really, truly needs to be on the ground floor as soon as possible.

Other than the money, our biggest problem at the moment is the weather! The roofers are doing whatever they can on the inside, but eventually they need to fix the roof, and that is complicated by the fact that we have been having rain, rain and a little more rain on a daily basis! Last night there was thunder that was so loud we couldn’t hear the sound on the television set, and the rain itself sounded like somebody was dumping buckets out on the roof and street.

In fact, strangers actually stop you in public places to talk about how they can’t stand it anymore. I was in LeClerc in Limoux this morning looking at the summer clothes, when a total stranger came up and started to talk about how cold she was and wondering when we would ever see sun again. I must admit that it does get to you, but considering what is going on in the Midwest of the U.S. and how hot it is on the East Coast, I really don’t feel I should complain. I think I’ll stick with what we’ve got and be grateful to have it!

Ciao for now.


Another Veterinary Tale

A few weeks ago, I noticed a small skin lump on Shmoo’s back. I thought it was probably a sebaceous cyst or a granuloma, but I couldn’t stop obsessing over it, so took him to our local vet. Baby vet was there and said he thought it was probably a granuoloma and not to worry about it.

But, of course, I couldn’t stop worrying about it. So close to losing Maggie, it was all I could think about. I knew I wasn’t being rational, and that logically, given Shmoo’s age, it was probably nothing, it was hard to just let it go.

So, JM and I decided that the smartest thing to do was to make a trip to the Vet school in Toulouse and have it evaluated there. I called and got an appointment for a few days away, and last Tuesday we set off at an indecent hour for Toulouse.

Every time we go to Toulouse at rush hour, I’m reminded of why I hated L.A. Rain made the sucky traffic even more sucky than usual, and instead of the usual 90 minutes it takes us to get to the Vet school, it took just over 2 hours. Fun.

Tuesdays are clearly surgical clinic days, and there was almost no one there, as opposed to medical clinic mornings when the place is packed. I was very pleased to see that Shmoo has matured a lot since this past winter, and he was a very, very good boy, not making a scene trying to play with the other dogs, and mostly just sat calmly at my feet.

As usual, we first had an exam by some of the students. Poor Shmoo was very worried about all the undue attention, and started shedding like crazy, a typical reaction to stress. His physical exam showed him to be in excellent health, and everyone was very impressed by his beautiful white teeth (I didn’t tell them that he gets periodic raw bones; not a conversation to have at the time).

After a short wait, we got in to see the surgical professor. He decided that the best course was to do a needle biopsy and see what the results of that were before taking out the growth. I have to admit to being a bit skeptical, as I haven’t ever had one of my dogs have a needle biopsy that showed anything conclusive, either good or bad. But, we were there and it wasn’t something that would cause great harm or pain, so we agreed.

Here is where I was very impressed. A group of young vets led Shmoo off down the corridor and he did NOT make the least bit of fuss! I was sure he would be afraid and fight to come back to us, but he seemed to accept that he had to do this and was a very, very good boy!

The biopsy was performed with no difficulties and a galloping Shmoo dragged one of the students down the hall towards us, eager to get the heck out of Dodge!

When we went to check out, the total cost for the visit, including the biopsy, analysis, exam and consult with the surgical professor, came to a grand total of 42€! I’m guessing we would have been close to $300 in L.A. for a similar experience.

I was pretty sure we would get a call a few days later to tell us that the biopsy was inconclusive and that we’d have to go back to have the lump removed. But we were pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call on Friday evening to confirm that it was a benign sebaceous cyst after all (Yaaay for my diagnostic powers!) and that they recommended that we leave it alone. All of us are very happy now to go along with that decision, and this time, our veterinary excursion ended on a happy note.

Ciao for now.


Amazing but true

Actual work has finally begun on Mom’s new house!  I seriously had doubts as to whether this would ever occur, but our roofers appeared this morning and have started!  They will put up scaffolding later this week, so the outside world will see that we really DO intend to renovate that building!

Now, the downside here is that we STILL haven’t heard from the ANAH. The committee meeting that was scheduled for last week was put off until tomorrow, so we won’t know a thing until Wednesday at the earliest.

We also haven’t completed the loan papers with the bank, and have no idea how close the notaire is to getting those done so we can go and sign them.

All of this means that we actually have no money to pay anyone. A fatal flaw in the plan, you might say. Still, at the very least the bank stuff will eventually get done, so we’ll certainly be able to get Mom’s flat and the roof done no matter what. Since the furniture is still scheduled to arrive the first week of July, we’re not getting a bit tight on the deadlines.

No matter what happens, my guess is that Mom will still be living here until the end of summer, because I don’t think all the electrical and plumbing work will be completed, and without that, she can’t really live there. I don’t think any of us expected things to take this long, which is plain silly, since JM and I have been through this before. But I guess we’re incurable optimists.

Ciao for now.