The to-do list for the apartment alone now reads something like this:
- Fill and point in the beams
- Put kitchen cupboards back up
- Block up and plaster the tops of the walls
- Plasterboard, fill and sand the lower parts of the walls
- Re-point the section of stonework that will be exposed
- Clad a steel beam
- Fit new lights
- Re-make the shelves/repair damaged shelves
- Finish concreting in the gaps around the edge of the utility room
- Put some sound-absorbent material down in the office to cut down noise from above
- Paint everywhere in the apartment
- Launder all soft furnishings
The main theme of this week has been electrics. That and a lot of help from friends.
On Wednesday evening the state of our electrics was, well, a picture speaks a thousand words:
And this explains why we spent 27 hours from Wednesday evening through to Thursday without any electricity.
Stuart had originally decided to re-wire the somewhat crazy lighting system in the apartment (to give you some idea of how confusing it was, we have had some guests who, at the end of their week-long stay, have told us that they never managed to find the switch for the main light in the bedroom). This proved to be a little more tricky than he had at first envisaged, and while he was to-ing and fro-ing with circuit diagrams and scratching his head, he decided he might as well put in a new consumer unit as well, putting in separate units for the apartment and our part of the house. This makes a lot of sense as until now, the consumer unit for the whole building has been in our house, so if something tripped in the apartment, it had to be reset up here: not good if guests trip something when we’re not in! So, from deciding to put a new consumer unit in to realising that this was actually an even more complicated job than it seemed (which was already complicated enough) is how we ended up in the state shown in the picture above.
What do you do when you don't know a huge amount about electrics and you're in a fix? You call on the help of your electrician friend Paul, of course! Unfortunately, not only does Paul live in a different country, but this week he was also out of that country - working at an event in the Netherlands, in fact. Well, thank Crunchie for telephones and the internet (and in particular for being able to use data to access the internet on your mobile when your regular internet connection is down because you have no electricity). Through the magic of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Paul and Stuart were able to exchange messages, and on receiving the SOS, Paul guided Stuart via countless messages through the whole process - enabling him to accomplish what he had set out to achieve and enabling us to restore electricity supply to the house. We owe you BIG TIME, Paul - there's a bottle of Prosecco or two with your name on them when you visit!
|It's like Lego for grown-ups. Only with a greater element of danger.|
|Shiny and new. And connected.|
There was also help from much geographically closer friends this week: as a group, David, Sarah, Donatella, Stuart and I have decided to start up our 'community days' again. Stuart and I were lucky enough to be first on the rota for a day's labour, so at 9am on Thursday morning it was all hands on deck. A few days previously, Stuart and I had perused our ever-growing, every-nagging, ever-stress-inducing to-do list and decided that the task we would ask for help with was clearing the area at the end of the driveway in preparation for the imminent arrival of 30+ bee hives.
As a team, therefore, the five of us spent 5 hours chopping, strimming, raking and burning, and by lunch time the two areas designated for bees - the 'dead deer head' clearing on one side of the drive and the flat area on the opposite side of the drive next to the gates - were looking beautifully clean and clear. We were really pleased with what we'd all achieved - it's definitely true that many hands make light work.
|Donatella's dog, Ray, with the evidence of why we call it the 'dead deer head' clearing.|
Given how pleased we were with the results of community day, it came as a blow when we realised on Friday that, with the way things look likely to pan out next week, we won't actually be able to use these two spots for the bee hives, and we need to find an alternative location. Unfortunately two things have come to fruition at the same time: the arrival of the bees (carefully planned to coincide with the blossoming of the acacia trees) and the long awaited start of much needed repair work on our drive. Angelo, the builder, has an excavator booked to arrive on Tuesday evening, with digging due to commence on Wednesday, followed by laying of new concrete, after which the drive must be a traffic-free zone for two days while the concrete dries. Clearly, the workmen don't want to be spending their day working up close to 30+ bee hives, so putting the bees in situ before the work starts is not an option. The problem with waiting until after the work has been done is that the acacia trees are already beginning to come into blossom, and a delay of another week is too long (the whole point of having the bees sited here is specifically so that they can collect acacia pollen).
Thankfully, it didn't take us too long to find another suitable spot for the bee hives: the area of terracing adjacent to the chicken enclosure, which we cleared in the autumn. The area is perfect for the hives, the only problem being access: there is none, other than scrambling up the bank, which clearly isn't going to be viable for installing 30+ bee hives. We explained the situation to Alain, who came to visit us on Saturday to assess the suitability of the new spot and approved. The problem now is that we need to create a set of steps from the drive to the terraces - and we need to do it in the next 24 hours as Alain needs to bring the bees either tomorrow or Tuesday as after that the drive will be out of action until the weekend!
|Plan B for the bees.|
As gutted as we are by the fact that we all spent so much time and effort clearing the area at the end of the drive, we can only look on the bright side and say that it wasn't for nothing. For a while we have been trying to find a suitable location for another wood storage area, so that we can stockpile and store wood a year ahead of needing it, and the newly cleared and cleaned up areas at the end of the drive will be perfect for this. So, while it's frustrating to feel as if we squandered all of our help from community day on a task that hadn't yet even made it to the bottom of our priority list (especially when we have so many other pressing tasks) and it's frustrating that we've also added a task to our urgent to-do list, all is not entirely lost.
Over the weekend, we have pushed hard on the jobs in the apartment, with Stuart tying up the electrics and starting to build up the walls, me staining the new beams, and in-filling the gaps between the beams and the ceiling with bits of broken tile and mortar (I had to question myself going to the rubble pile and bringing bits of rubble back into the apartment, but at that point I realised how fortunate it was that we had a ready-made pile of pieces of cotto to use for infill).
We've been flat out pretty much all weekend - with a short break for a visit from our friends Mara and Franco this afternoon for a quick catchup and a tour of our projects.
With 20 days to go and counting, we expect to be flat our for the foreseeable future. No matter how busy we are though, we can never fail to appreciate our beautiful surroundings, even when it's been raining and thundering for most of the day:
|Sunshine, rain, clouds, mist, thunder.|