Monday 6th June. 00:15 (7th)
I am writing this next to the fire out back. The fire is in the pit that I made. Here is a series of pictures of the pit in progress.
I have to say, I am rather proud.
The two pans you see on the pit were full of water I boiled to have my first shower-cum-bath since I arrived. (If you are making jokes in your head about the words cum-bath, then you are not alone.)
So, where were we? Well, last night, the rains came again. So whatever I was planning to do outside didn’t happen. Instead I stayed in and wrote for a few hours. It didn’t go awfully well, but you know, next time.
I also started reading A Year In Provence. I am only five or so pages in but it’s safe to say I am rather enjoying it. I am particularly enjoying the fact that there is absolutely no similarity between what I am doing and what Peter Mayle did. I can’t imagine Peter Mayle will ever – not at any stage in the entire year – wash his balls in the same pan he uses to cook his pasta.
When I was trying to pitch magazines with articles based on my time here, I referred to the whole thing as a kind of low-rent Year In Provence. I didn’t realise until I started to read it just quite how low-rent my time in France would be compared to his. All the better.
Once again, I slept extremely badly. The itching last night was ferocious and from midnight to gone three I tried and failed to get to sleep. My increasing franticness (the word should really be franticity, but it isn’t) led me to believe I had a) scabies, b) smallpox and finally, c) cancer. It was a rough night, but I decided by the end of it to go to the doctors today, or at least a pharmacist. I’ve really never known itchiness like it. I’m generally one for ignoring things and waiting for them to go away but this was starting to make me feel properly, quite literally, rotten.
Anyway, this morning I got straight to work on finishing my fire pit. Then Simon came back with a French electrician called Charles. Simon finished making the front door secure and also fixed a number of leaks in a number of pipes and made it so that I now have cold running water. Hallelujah. If it had been in any way appropriate, I would have kissed him. Charles meanwhile, who was an equally splendid fellow whose bearing and character I will happily fill out if and when I get a book deal, checked out the electric situation and gave me enough information to come to the conclusion that it would make more sense to knock down this asbestos nightmare and build a new house than to spend tens of thousands of euros running in electricity.
In the afternoon I finished making the framework for the lean-to or, as I think I may refer to it from now on, the gazebo. This involved (yesterday afternoon and this afternoon) use of a hammer, a file and a hacksaw. Again, I can’t deny a certain pride. I am impressing myself endlessly so far. A fall is almost certainly in the post. (As are two postcards I sent to myself before leaving England to test which of the two addresses I had for this place was correct. Neither, it turns out. Although Charles reckoned that because the place was uninhabited for so long, I will probably have to have a word with the post office. I have written it on the list.)
Charles also wrote down a couple of phrases that I could show to the pharmacist, which I used when this afternoon I cycled into Nantiat. They went down a treat and I have just taken the first of seven anti-allergy tablets.
I also met both sets of neighbours today: Roger and Yvette, a couple in their seventies I guess, and Jean-Sarge and what sounded like Iyon, a couple in their late fifties. I guess. They were all very sweet and kind. The conversation I had with Roger and Yvette was the most successful. Apart from the part when I thought Roger said he had a machine which could take care of four months’ worth of gardening in two hours, when what he actually said was that they were setting off on a two-hour walk, it went very well.
As did my ride to Nantiat, the nearest village with a supermarket and a pharmacist – and a telephone as far as I can tell. It was tremendous. I’ll tell more of it in the future. For now I must be brief and get to sleep, if my body warts permit.
After Nantiat, I was clearing the land beneath the gazebo when Alex popped by. As I had just purchased a couple of bottles of wine, I asked him if he would like a drink. Then, quite suddenly it was midnight.
Tomorrow I had planned to go ingratiate myself with the mayor, go the library and hopefully get online for the first time since being here and then get out the chainsaw and get to work logging the trees I cut down last week. But Alex has persuaded me to take the day off, go to Limoges, come back, borrow his strimmer and then go to a bar somewhere. And I allowed myself to be persuaded.
Alex – who told me tonight that he wishes to be referred to on my blog as ‘The Ninja’ – admired my fire pit.
I was gratified.
And now to sleep.