Lockdown post No. 6: Things to be done!

Well we are hoping that this is the last of the lockdown posts as the strict confinement rules are being lifted on Monday. There are a number of caveats, first, no restaurants, bars or coffee shops to open, second, it is provisional and could be revoked if the figures climb back up. And, worryingly for our part of the world, travel into France is still restricted. Anyway it’s progress. But the key thing is that now it’s over, all sorts of work needs to be done.

One thing we needed done we have already achieved. This week was that the municipal waste centres – déchetteries – were opened, though access is now restricted to two vehicles at one time. One of the issues about living down here is that at this time of year everything grows at an extraordinary rate. The result of this is that you can accumulate a very great amount of garden waste in six weeks. There was a large but patient queue.

Beyond confinement, temperatures continue to rise and summer is almost upon us. This raises all sorts of issues, particularly in a new house. One is the weighty matter of the swimming pool. Those people who live in more northerly climes can assume that a swimming pool is merely a hole in the ground filled with water. The reality is that to keep a swimming pool clean, pure and well, swimmable, requires an extraordinary level of technology. So if you go into our pool house you will find an accumulation of tubes, dials and switches which would not be out of place on a submarine. We think we’ve got our pool water reasonably balanced but we still have to check pH, levels of chorine and water hardness. Anyway we hope to have a pool specialist visit this week to check it over.

We have also inherited a pool robot, which is a small tracked cleaner which you lower into the pool. It then wanders around cleaning the floor and the walls. So far ours seems to be working well but as with so many things in this house, it came with no manual. Nothing needed here (we think) but anything that involves electricity working underwater needs to be watched carefully.

One other feature of this distinctly over-featured house is a passive solar water heating unit. The theory is straightforward: water circulates through the panels on the roof, is heated by the sun, is transported down into the hot water tank where conduction allows it to heat up the domestic water supply. Simple; at least in theory. In practice ours comes with a bewildering number of pipes, cylinders and dials and, a source of some slight concern, an LCD screen which is flashing red with a warning exclamation mark. We’ve found a firm who specialise in this complex interaction and hope to get them out next week to have a look. Another thing to be done!

Summer of course is the season of pests round here and we were intrigued to see this wasp starting to build a nest near our side door. It’s an extraordinary creation but we’re afraid to say that after a couple of days we removed it and the wasp and hope it’s not going to come back.

Finally, we have discovered that we have guests in the house. For some time there have been suspicious noises from the roof and last night something was clearly galloping along above the ceiling of the living room in a rather unnerving manner. Almost certainly these are what are called loir, the edible dormouse (Glis glis), which has an interesting lifestyle of hibernating from November to April before waking up to feed and breed over summer. Although they look charming, they have a nasty bite, can carry infectious diseases and have an unfortunate habit of chewing through electrical wiring. It seems like we need a specialist for them too.

The peace of confinement is clearly ending!

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