Thursday, 21 January 2010

Lac Mondély, superstar ...

Some eighteen months ago I blogged, in passing really, about our local lake, the Lac de Mondély. Now much as I love it, it's hardly a world class tourist attraction - it's a small, homespun, local lake mainly used by local people and all the better for it. For some reason presumably best known to themselves, my blog article immediately hit Google's first page, where it has resolutely stayed ever since, ahead of all the 'official' tourist sites, and bizarrely nearly half of all the casual visitors to this blog now come as a result of searching for Lac Mondély!

But while that's all very pleasing and flattering and all that, it's hardly superstar status. Last Sunday, however, the UK Sunday Times ran an article entitled The 20 hottest European beaches for 2010. Lac Mondély was - are you ready for this? - placed number two, behind Page Conguel in Brittany and just ahead of Collioure (which is listed as being 'best for highbrow holiday makers', whoever they may be, and actually barely has a beach at all ...). Look, if you're one of the 561 people who've visited this blog in the last three days just to read about Lac Mondély, I need to explain something to you. Mondély is in the Ariège (something that the writer strangely failed to mention). Ariège is in the Pyrénées, which are mountains. It's almost as far south as you can go and still be in France, green, wild, small, sparsely populated, rugged and incredibly beautiful, but it's not The Beach. To get to Mondély you have to schlep along a rutted one track road for half an hour and hope you've still got your exhaust when you get there. Actually, come to think of it you have to do quite a lot of that anywhere in the Ariège.

Don't get me wrong; I'm truly delighted you're all interested in our wonderful département, and if you're moved to come and explore it for yourself so much the better (yes, well, clearly I would say that, wouldn't I ...?). But I'm just having ever-so-slight flashbacks to the days in our small village in north Norfolk when it was just beginning to become a bit Sunday-supplement-ish cool, and when people would stop me as they swayed precariously down our cobbled loke in kitten heels to ask where the town centre was. (Er - you're in it ...).

However. While Lac Mondély is definitely not Europe's hottest beach holiday for 2010 (unless you happen to earn your living writing for the Sunday Times) it's still pretty special. Don't you think?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The good news and the bad news

The good news: it's getting warmer. There's a slow trickle of water dripping from the metre long icicles hanging off the roof, and the trees have gone back to being brown instead of white. A gloriously sunny but bitingly cold day on Sunday turned the areas where we and the snow plough had previously cleared the snow into a lethal ice rink - beautiful it may have been, but crampons, ice axe and ropes were needed to make the descent from the front door to the workshop ...

On Monday night we hit minus 15 degrees, the kind of cold that sucks the breath out of you - but then the temperatures gradually began to rise, until they hit positive values for the first time in nearly a week last night, leading to ...

The bad news: we woke this morning to discover several centimetres of water swishing around L'Atelier's ground floor: a burst in the water pipe to the outside tap. The water had unfortunately decided that rather than spurting harmlessly onto the grass, it would be much more fun to do a double somersault and flow backwards into the kitchen wall, underneath the plasterboard and out onto the floor. Yes, that would be the same kitchen wall that I recently spent half my lifetime colourwashing ... so when John came leaping upstairs yelling "Burst! Burst! Kitchen! Water! Phone! Wall! Broom! Sweep! Mop! Now!" in his typically morning incoherent way I was not, as you might imagine, best pleased. It's amazing just how many damage limitation scenarios you can play through your brain while you're putting your socks on ...

But the good news: we hadn't yet laid the wooden floor. Truth be told, we haven't even bought it. Right now, it's an empty room. And miraculously, the walls seem to have escaped serious damage. And just as we were finishing the Broom! Sweep! Mop! routine, our lovely Perfectionist came haring down the track, blue lights metaphorically flashing, with the wherewithal to repair the pipe, a tool to make holes at the bottom of the plasterboard to help the insulation dry out, a dehumidifier, and his trademark bag of boulangerie goodies. 

Every home should have one.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Getting down and dirty

This has been floor sanding week.

Monday. Go to brico shed in Saint Girons to collect drum and edge sanders we've booked. But no - desolé madame, but they are both en panne (broken down; bust; buggered), thanks to last hirer. I've been here long enough now to simply shrug. Come home and phone friendly hire company in Foix that we've used before (and should have used in the first place) to book sanders for tomorrow.

Tuesday. John drives to Foix at - or rather before - the crack of dawn to collect sanders and ten thousand sanding sheets. Struggle upstairs with them - big machine weighs in at over 65 kilos. Set it up. Switch it on. Oh joy - it has a solid dust compartment, not a bag like the ones I've used before, so makes almost no dust. Ah ... this is going to be easy. One complete pass over the floor - and it stops dead. The drive belt has gone. Broken down, bust, buggered. Shout, swear, shrug. We decide to carry on with the edge sander (with which we have to sand the entire 20 metre mezzanine area as we've just put a semi spiral staircase in and can't get The Brute up it) and exchange the other one tomorrow. Edge sander, however, has a mind of its own, and is not inclined to do anything we want it to. It leaps manically across the floor, with one (and occasionally both) of us attached and clinging for dear life as it threatens to throw us off the mezzanine edge. I give up on it and go back to my belt sander. John persists. And so the day passes, and the evening too, and in fact half the night.

Wednesday. Back to Foix and hire company at 7.30am, exchange machine, home. Struggle upstairs. I pass a happy morning walking up and down with Brute Number Two, who turns out to be rather pleasant, and efficient, company, though not exactly entertaining on the conversation front. John's back on the edge sander, which has the bizarre attribute of having a dust bag with the opening at the bottom. Spend afternoon and evening polishing out edge sander marks with random orbital, appropriately called excentrique here.

Thursday. Back to Foix. Again. Planned trip onwards to Toulouse to hit the sales is postponed because we're on a vigilance orange - severe weather warning - for snow and ice. Buy floor finishing essentials and come home. It starts to snow heavily just as we drive up our track. Carry on sanding.

Friday. Wake to 25 centimetres of snow. Power up and down and on and off like yoyo. It takes two of us nine hours - nine hours! - to clear up all the wood dust. Commune's snow plough reaches us by lunchtime, amazingly, but still too much snow to think about going anywhere. Prepare to be here until next Thursday, when cold snap is supposed to end. Minus 8 tomorrow, apparently.

Happy days.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Bonne année 2010!

So, even though I've no idea where the last year went, the time has come to wish you all a very happy, healthy, sustainable, slow, successful and simply fantastic 2010! And to thank so many of you for your comments and emails - it's great to know that you're out there. For anyone who's wondering, Grillou will be opening to guests in summer 2010; we're not yet ready to take bookings, but watch this space from, say, March onwards. And in the meantime ...
Life is short. Break the rules; forgive quickly; kiss slowly; love truly; laugh uncontrollably; and never regret anything that made you smile.