A House in Provence Chapter 6

Typical garden furniture for Provence.

Chapter 6

Finally we were told that it was time for our reception. I was working and unable to go and was frankly rather relieved that I wouldn’t be there to hear the exchanges between Maurice and Stephane. Stephane had been calling and demanding the last 5% due on the house. Maurice said no. It was the only hold he would have over this building company if things weren’t right. He had called a former customer of our builder and they had said they were extremely sorry that they had paid the final 5% as there were things that needed fixing and no one was arriving to take care of them. Maurice also told Stephane that he was bringing a professional to check out the house on the day of the reception and was told that the professional would not be allowed inside. I never did find out why-what could he have to hide? Maurice left to go down to Provence not really knowing if he would get the key or not. He had demanded that the heating/cooling unit be installed the day of the reception and they acted like he was ridiculous to ask such a thing.
It finally all worked out. There were furious arguments, the inspector was not allowed inside the house as we had been told, the heating/cooling unit had been installed, and we even had plumbing fixtures.
Maurice called me that night exhausted. He had the key. He had taken a load of things down to Provence in the event he would actually get possession. There wasn’t full electricty the first night and he slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. At least there was running water.
It was a week before I was able to get down to Provence. In that time Maurice had purchased two twin beds that would eventually be used upstairs in the guest room and the kitchen had been installed. It had been such a long time since we had ordered it that I didn’t even remember what it looked like. I was very pleased when I walked in and saw a nice modern kitchen with light yellow cabinets. The only problem that I could see was that the refrigerator was too large. Maurice wanted me to have an American refrigerator, one with an ice maker, and it stuck out to far too allow a little island to be turned the way we had planned so it was turned long ways. The kitchen still needed tile but looked bright and cheerful.
What dismayed me was looking at all of the walls and knowing we would have to paint them as painting the walls was not included in the contract. As is often the case, at least in my life, when you get a bid on painting, it is so high that you decide to save the money and do it yourself. I stood there looking at the high wall where the stairs went up and knew that there would be the need for some sort of scafolding to paint it. I felt overwhelmed just looking at all we had to do.
The house was a strange mix of quality and cheapness. We had a high tech wall heater in the bathroom, the type you can hang towels on, but the cabinets in the bathroom were made of cheap, unpainted wood and were obviously poor quality. We basically had a shell for a house. It was about a stripped down as it could be and they hadn’t done a lot of things such as pick up all of the debry outside consisting of broken tiles, huge wooden holders for various things, and chunks of cinder block. All of the land was left raw and unlevel. We didn’t even have a slope into our garage, instead there was about a four inch area between the garage floor and the ground and a pile of dirt blocking access into the garage.
I had some furniture being shipped from Texas which had been in storage for two years. For some reason it had been shipped to England, not Marseille which is the usual port for things entering France. Because of this we were sitting in an empty house. It should have taken six weeks to get our furniture, instead it was going to be at least three months. At least we had the twin beds. A kind friend gave us two ratty plastic chairs to sit in or we would have been eating on the floor. We went out several times to try and purchase a table and chairs but couldn’t find what we wanted.
And so, the next few weeks were to be nothing but preping the walls- sanding and then two coats of a special paint- followed with two coats of regular paint. By the time I finished the living room and dining room I felt like I had painted the Great Wall of China. My neck and shoulders ached, my knees hurt from climbing up and down a ladder. Maurice and I got up every morning shuffling and moaning like 90 year old people. It is great to look at a room you have freshly painted yourself-there is a real feeling of accomplishment along with the aching muscles. Our bedroom and bathroom would be next, then the entryway, those darn stairs and two bedrooms upstairs with that bathroom. At least we didn’t have a deadline to worry about unlike our neighbors in a house just being finished up above us. They had to be out of their apartment at the end of the month and we could see them and family members feverishly painting all day and late into the night. Their builder let them have a key and do whatever they wanted before their reception.
Our typical day consisted of painting until two or so in the afternoon, driving into town to buy a growing list of things we needed, driving home, eating and going to bed. Of course, we were hemorrhaging money. We needed everything-from shelves and poles for the closets, to towel racks, towels, light fixtures, and on and on. It is amazing how much it takes to set up a house. I didn’t want to buy too much as I had to see what was coming from Texas. After two years, I only have vague memories of what was in storage. It would be like Christmas when I started opening all of the boxes.