In any room but the kitchen you can see your breath billowing out in front of you in icy clouds. At midday today the temperature inside hit a balmy 4 degrees celsius. Thermal underwear is a daily necessity, and I have been known to walk about with a hot water bottle tucked into the top of my trousers. Chateau living is not currently very glamorous.
The renovations are moving on a pace. Any radiator that was once connected and working has been removed. The ancient boiler has been moved to its new position and the old pipework has been replaced so that next winter we will, maybe, be warm. The old, dangerous, electrics in the chambre d'hote side of the house have been stripped out and new cables, plugs and light switches have been channelled into the walls in as subtle way as possible.
I have taken the role of bad cop and any changes to our plans fall on my shoulders (to be honest most of the changes come from me anyway). The majority of Tim's conversations with Jean and Joe our French electrician and plumber start with "ma femme..." and an eye roll. Happily they seem to take my tweaks in their stride, though I'm sure there is much chuntering and even more eye rolling behind my back.
They work hard though, between stilted chats about Napoleon, the war and the supposed history of this rambling old house, which everyone seems to try to unpick as soon as they make their way through the front door. The coffee machine has never worked so hard and they pop in frequently for a coffee and a chat in the warmth of the kitchen before heading back out into the freezing conditions in the house.
Soon they will be moving onto our side of the house which will be both a blessing and a nightmare. Currently we can only run one appliance at a time - if the oven is on you can't use the kettle, or the washing machine, or the tumble dryer. If you're doing a load of washing no one can have a cup of tea for fear of tripping the mains switch. We've become adept at making our way through the dark house to flip the switch when invariably we forget that you can't cook dinner and have the dishwasher on at the same time.
New electrics will be very welcome indeed. The removal of our kitchen log burner so the log-fired Rayburn (which will fuel the heating for this side of the house) can go in, is less appealing. We're hanging on for spring and warmer weather to finally hit before we relinquish our one reliable source of heat.
The devis for the septic tanks all finally arrived, but despite having the same job spec each quote was completely different. Each enterprise suggested a totally different way of tackling our fosse problem. So now we await the decision of the expert who did the diagnostic in the first place to tell us which firm has the best solution. And as we know, every new link in the chain means the wait gets longer.
Given what a wet winter we have had it's probably a blessing that we haven't started digging great big holes for huge tanks and filter beds. But the longer work takes to start the longer it will be until we can get the garden back to rights before summer eventually (hopefully) arrives, and the longer it will be before any of the new plumbing can be connected up and functioning.
I'm desperate to start creating my vegetable garden - but after 30 minutes of digging sodden soil Claire and I had to admit defeat. Alain arrived and with a withering look told us to give up. Apparently it's too early in the year for digging and when it's time to turn the earth and plant the vegetables he'll ask a friend to come with some far more efficient machinery to make light work of the task. So we downed tools and await instruction from our friendly French neighbour - who plants his crops in line with the moon, as his father did before him, to ensure a bumper harvest.
The chasse season is over for the year and the deer and boar can breathe a sigh of relief. Weekends will no longer be punctuated with gun shots floating on the breeze and we will miss Alain arriving with spoils from the hunt. Our freezer is stocked with venison haunches and plenty of meat for hearty stews for cold days.
Our French is slowly getting better, and improves immeasurably in direct correlation to the amount of red wine we drink. The children babble away happily to their French friends and the teachers say they speak their second language very well indeed at school. Occasionally we hear snippets of French as they play and I'm sure it won't be long before they're using it as a weapon against us, having secret conversations that we won't be able to understand. They are still shy when speaking to grown ups though and their little reserved English souls struggle with the custom of kissing everyone they meet. They either try and hide or proffer a little stiff British handshake instead, pretending they don't speak enough French to respond as they know they should.
Don't forget to follow us on instagram for more regular updates and lots of videos of the renovations and me waffling on in our stories. Facebook stories don't seem to work as well so if you really want to see what we're up to instagram is your best bet. We promise there will be another renovation post soon so keep checking back.