Actually, the house probably only seems big if you are used to living in a city. Having lived in London, New York and Paris, the comparable living space is significant. More importantly the land is significant. Like everything else, you grow into it or you live into it.
Now, I grew up in the country in Northern Ireland. However, I lived in a village. A very small village mind, but nevertheless, it had mains supply of gas / sewage etc. Things you don’t really consider when you are wrapped up in the romanticism of buying a country house in France, for less than the price of a parking space in London.
So when we realised that the large tank sitting right outside the living room was actually the gas cylinder, the first thing I wanted to do was to get it sunk into the ground (which I had been reliably informed was now possible in France). Not just for the aesthetic reasons of removing a nuclear bomb type form from outside the house, but for safety reasons.
In theory this should be quite simple … in reality, this brought back all of the flashbacks to when I first lived in France in 1994 and spent the first months just filling in paperwork and aimlessly trying to navigate the system, with limited French at the time.
Eventually the gas company came for a site inspection … or at least I thought it was them, but it was just a contractor. He asked me questions that I couldn’t answer, what was the ground like underneath, where there rocks, would they be able to dig etc … I never had to deal with this type of thing in Paris! So I had to make friends with our 86 year old neighbour very quickly.
The dilemma was not really the tank itself, it was the fact that the previous owner had not put any gas in the tank for some time, so we had no heating and it was November. It gets cold in France in November. It gets freezing in an old converted farm house and barn, with minimal insulation.
We tried to impress upon the gas company that we had planned to have family for Christmas. For that we needed the gas tank sunk, then filled. We hadn’t heard anything from them, so we decided to cancel any plans to have guests or even ourselves. You can imagine the surprise (horror) when we did get to France on Boxing Day – only to have received a piece of paper in the letterbox. Stating that the tank has been filled. The tank has been filled but has not been sunk into the ground!
At the time, this seemed like the biggest deal in the world. We hadn’t lined up the plumber to test the system and no one was working at that time of the year. I also thought that was it, they would never sink the tank. Who sinks a tank for of 1000L of gas? So after 3 exceptionally cold days in the house, we went back to London to defrost. We also decided on that trip that Jake needed to move to France. Things just don’t happen when you aren’t there … or do, but not correctly!
You can imagine my delight when I finally got a call to say, they were coming to empty, replace and sink the new tank! It gives me comfort that we will have heat this winter, we’re safer and we kind of won! Not everything should feel like a battle, but minor victories really do help you power on.
Next adventure like this … removal and replacement of the septic tank! I have to say, my life priorities have certainly changed in our mission to set up a wonderful retreat for you guys!