June 2008: This caravan had come my way before we left the UK for France. Conveniently parked not far from Labartere, I thought it ideal to use as our shelter while we sorted out the house. The problem of actually getting it on site was solved by friends of ours. Already resident in France, they zoomed down from Angouleme to see us. Like angels they were to us at that time. Being caravanners they knew the ins and outs of caravans, so not only did they tow the caravan here, but also set it up for us. (The campervan is on the right, and is the one which was swapped for a horsetrailer last week).
The tent on the left of the caravan is the one we slept in for our first few nights. The Courtyard is looking quite pristine as well. Everything looks quite, quite, tidy!
August 2008: I always thought the caravan was not in its right place, and soon it was moved:
Gosh! How pristine everything still looks. The grass is green, the newly erected gazebo is clean and tidy, and the tent is still all together in one piece. The gazebo served as the kitchen area, a sitting area, and at the far end Lester had his table and chair and that was where he worked on his computer all the day long. The tent housed our clothes. They were kept in boxes to keep them dry. The tent also housed our porta potti. We resisted using the loo in the caravan for some time. Not sure why this was. Those night time loo trips were a bit of a scary experience sometimes. Spiders and creepy crawlies.
Late August 2008:
After a huge summer storm swept over our heads we realised that the gazebo was a kite-in-waiting as it sought desperately to take off and run with the wind during the wildest bit of the storm. It was only by us hanging on to it that it remained in situ. We also realised the lack of effort the roof made at keeping us dry, it being ever so willing to let the rainwater through, just like a sieve does.
So, we began to cover the gazebo with tarpaulins and also started tying it down with large rocks in an effort to convince it that it was not a sieve and not a kite. It was to become so laden down with tarps that it could hardly stand. Meanwhile the tent stands firm despite having its door ripped during the winds of the storm, but its preference was to stay on firm ground. It did not seem to want to fly with the winds at all. Meanwhile the ground of the Courtyard gets its first proper churning up as the Big Cat machine is driven on site. This is the start of the work.
First, though, everything that is loose, fallen down, or just rotten, has to come out. After a few weeks all that was left was the walls of the house and some main beams of the roof. It was a relief that the work had started. Hearing the thuds, crashes, and bangs as our house slowly continued its march toward ruination had become quite stressing for us especially in the middle of the night. Having all that loose stuff taken out did bring us a sort of peacefulness, except that the tarpaulins that were put up to protect the vulnerable walls used to flap with the lightest of breezes. Eventually that was to get on our nerves as well.
Meanwhile caravan life was continuing on. The winter arrived, and with it our first taste of living the outdoor life in below zero temperatures. Of the mud which oozed underfoot, of having continual wet feet as our boots refused to dry out, of Lester sitting at his computer working away while icicles fell down on him from the tarped gazebo roof over his head. And then....
January 2009: A tempest hit us. 4.30 in the morning it arrived. The gazebo said 'Wahoo, sail time', as it started to buck about in the winds. But I said 'Oh no you don't' and literally hung onto one end of the gazebo while Lester raced about outside trying to keep the tarps on until it got too dangerous and he came inside to hang on to the gazebo who was really mightily wanting to go away up into the sky but then at 07.30 in the morning we all lost the fight as the hugest of huge gusts lifted the gazebo up taking Lester with it three feet into the air then smacked it down again with an almighty thump, breaking the gazebo in two and plunging us all into a chaotic jumble of wet tarps and shreds of soggy gazebo.
Untangling ourselves, we stood in the only dry space left here apart from the caravan, and that was underneath the lintel of the Half Barn doorway. We were wet. We were hungry. We were cold. So battled the wind again to get across to the caravan and spent the rest of the day huddled up in the damp bed, dog as well. Couldn't risk putting the gas on to make warm food. The electricity was off. As I say, huddled up we stayed until the tempest blew itself out, which was early evening. It was long day, that day was.
A couple of days later and those dear friends of ours came down to rescue us, fetching another caravan down with them. This was parked up alongside the other one. That was a big boost to our spirits because it provided us with sleeping quarters (the original caravan), a kitchen and living area (the new caravan) and by then we had done a quick renovation job on the Pig / chicken hut and turned it into our office.
Meanwhile, Danny, our French builder, had started work on the house.
The Courtyard was looking far less pristine, and generally more untidy. The grass was being pushed back as vehicles went to and fro the Courtyard. I was still parked up over at the caravans, keeping out of the way. Lester was most times parked up in the Pig / chick hut working away to provide the necessary income for the renovation work to continue. We also had acquired Gussy, who is standing in the middle of the above photo.
November 2009: And come the day when the roof was up, and into the house went my freezer and sundry other bits and pieces which had been piled up underneath those tarps which are now laying discarded on the ground. This was the start of our second winter here.
And then another storm blew on in, and despite Lester doing his best.....
.....to keep the tarps on the kitchen caravan' roof and awning, this happened...
.....a huge gust of wind and the awning back-flipped itself over the caravan.
January 2010: Enough! Abandoning the kitchen caravan, I took myself over to the house and made myself a temporary kitchen out of my therapy bed, a table, some planks of wood I 'borrowed' from the builders, some jam jars, a couple of logs, a camping table, and sundry other bits and pieces I managed to excavate from our belongings.
The kitchen caravan became abandoned, but we were still sleeping in the bedroom caravan. The 'office', too, was still in use.
To keep our feet dry I had made a 'runway' between the caravans and the office. This was valuable in keeping our feet away from mud. Tarps also covered the ground, which again kept our feet virtually mud-free.
Meanwhile, the sheep had arrived, as had the chickens....
...as had the chicken hut and the sundry other bits and pieces which seem always to be lying about the place despite my best efforts to keep it tidy.
And then it became time to donate the kitchen caravan to people needing it to house one of their mums when she came to visit. Meanwhile, I had made a little sitting room in a corner of the temporary kitchen, and all of our belongings were now in the house. The Half Barn had been three quarters finished but still needed the walls and flooring to be finished. The Tall Barn roof was nearly finished. The pigs were with us. Two of the fields had been fenced. A third winter beckoned. With no windows in the house it looked like it was going to be another cold one. Then our friends turned up for a third time and put the windows in, and made a door to the room which was to become our sitting room / office thus putting into retirement the pig/chick hut.
....but we were still commuting at night to our bed in the bedroom caravan. But with a fourth winter looming, an urgency came upon us to move into the Half Barn. Which we did.
Then a man came along and made us a proposition in regards to the camper van, which had been parked up out on the drive. This I wrote about a couple of blogs ago.
Then it came into our minds that perhaps our builder would like to have the bedroom caravan rather than seeing it rot away.
Looks a mess does the Courtyard! Ah, but at least we can start the process of turning it into a garden. Once the geese and chickens have their own house somewhere else. Once all the buildery stuff, most of which is Lester's, has found a home.
Like when the camper van left, the caravan has left a hole.
And my eternal thanks to Val and Ron, for being such wonderful people. Circumstances have put a distance between us, and contact is broken. But I send up my thanks to these two. We could have managed without their help, but they made our life easier by the help they brought our way.
I know that they regarded the giving away of the caravans as a waste. But I did not want to see them rot before my eye. Better that they be passed on to other people who will make good use of them. The same for the camper van.
Meanwhile, the geese are digging their own hole in the Courtyard, the builder has dug a huge hole which will be an eventual pond, and the chickens continue to rake the ground over, so it is likely that the Courtyard is going to stay looking a bit grim for a while yet. Not to worry, I shall start taking over little bits of it and plant a few shrubs for next year. The future beckons.