The tail end of the season usually gets busy from mid October into early November, leaving just my big walled garden occupying me for a bit longer into November but this year was different. I took the first two weeks of October off as I usually do. Gardens start from around mid April and it is very rare I take time out during the season - the downside of this job is no attendance, no pay. This two week period extended into 3 weeks with the heavy rain here in October but gardens kept me busy from thereon until 16th November, pretty much full time. This bonus work was due to the good summer here in the UK where gardens boomed with growth. I suppose it will be a small bonus to the Taxman when I eventually submitted my return but we will pass on that thought. During this period, my thoughts were turning to completing the barn conversion I have been doing over these latter years as a hobby - 95% on my own. I have done the footings, drainage, block work, building work now moving onto the second fix stage of electrics, carpentry decoration and plumbing. I cannot do plaster work so I have a professional on standby this winter. I have had help with the stone roof over haul, and replacing heavy stone lintels and cills as well as placing a first floor in block and beam format, all two person jobs. If you go to my site www.theskirtedman.eu there are some photos in the gallery.
If you have been reading these blogs I have been doing during 2013 you will know that my wife and I have decided to sell up and move to France. My wife has now retired so we both feel a complete life style change is good for the third chapter of our lives. I look at life as three very long chapters. Childhood, working career and retirement. Four estate agents in late 2012 said if we want to sell, do so now whilst the barn is at first fix ie electrics, plumbing, plastering and decoration. Don't spend time and money on personalising when 95% of new owners always change internal decor including bathrooms, kitchens, tiles etc. Reducing the house value by £50K to reflect finishing costs and a profit margin for the new owners, those two points were the only two things the four agents agreed on. Even the advertising price varied by £40K! We tried for nearly a year with the lower of the four valuations but nothing came. All viewers did not see the opportunity of personalising from a blank canvass and those that did played on a cheaper price. This September, against the agents advice we came off the market. We will finish the barn ourselves, re-list at the higher end of the four valuations plus that £50K. Getting my mind back on the work to be done, obtaining the materials etc, i.e. project managing was also undertaken during this busy period of the garden close down for 2013. On the 18th November 2013 my wife and I started. I commenced the electrics, yes the full wiring is to be done by me, and my wife started to place the insulation in the roof section that will be incorporated into the upstairs rooms. This project will occupy most of our time until April 2014. Not only am I the project manager but my wife and I are also the only labourers for the job along side day to day living.
The odd photo of me doing certain aspects of this project will appear on my site in due course simply to show that this skirted man is basically a man who wears skirts, womens clothing to suit society labeling, and is no different to a woman who these days choose to wear trousers or other male style clothing but remain women and do womens activities.
Since my last blog my wife and I have been out and about in skirts. Not just day to day when not gardening or working on the house or grocery shopping. We met friends in late October who were up from South of England. We met them at the Harlow Carr RHS gardens in Harrogate and yes I was skirted and I was complimented on my attire by a man who also wears skirts. He wasn't in one at the time as he says he finds them too cold in the Autumn/Winter months - I don't. We went to a friends 60th Birthday party as well. Husband and wife, 60 within a couple of weeks of each other. Attended this party of 85 people in a hotel. Apart from our two friends we had never met anyone before and I turned up in clothing as depicted on my website. If anyone was bothered they showed no direct indication to me. Many talked to me throughout the night and one woman was very impressed with my attire. Even at breakfast at the hotel the following morning and in reception as people were departing, party goers talked to me. The event started at 7 pm and my wife and I were still in the Hotel bar at 2.30 in the morning.
We have had the odd weekend with friends, either here or with them and this weekend we have another friend coming to us and none of our friends are bothered about me a man in a skirt and go out and about in public with me. It is only the small handful of public that find it "odd" and of those each and every one are not traditional themselves and around 99% of these are women. As I have said before, nothing said directly to me but when I go out and about usually about 5 or so that will make body language negativity towards me usually by laughing within their little group. Bearing in mind the number I see during that period it is a very very small minority. Do they ask me about what they do and do they stop and think what others may think or even talk about them. No.
Frustrating day on the barn today - 20th November 2013 - with regards insulation - two days into starting it for the winter period Nov 2013 to April 2014, hope it's not an omen! Meeting modern insulation requirements in a roof space put up 315 years ago when nothing was machine made! Rafters differing sizes - in all directions and twisted. Purlins not level. Cannot see Building Inspector until Friday morning. After yesterday had 4 calls to him today to try and understand requirements. Stupidly I thought cut as good as possible bang it in place. Not supposed to create cold spots by leaving gaps between the rafters. Anything below the rafters is OK but need to close the width between rafters. Everything is solvable was one of the replies I got. Never done insulation for inspection before so I'm now waiting until Friday to see if what we have done so far is actually OK. Difficult to get instructions and understand on the telephone when you know you need to comply to inspected regulations! I'll move onto other jobs, electrics to continue, door frames to make...
We both still feel that our new chapter on life is still on hold. We are both looking forward to a new start in France, and although have an active life here in the UK it feels temporary now. Completing the barn even though 4 professional agents all said don't is not sitting well. I am not a property developer but like it as a hobby to fine tune our house to suit us - it has now turned hobby to pressure deadline and many extra features will not be done. Over the last 2 years I have got to know a man who moved into our area not so many years ago and is going back to France. Had enough of UK. Interesting to hear him talk about French life. I have heard it is a 'laid back' lifestyle and would tend to agree on our tourist trips, especially as to what is open and when to name one experience but I asked about DIY deliveries. He laughed and said do not book or plan to do anything until it arrives. They may give you a date but it rarely arrives on that date. Can be before or sometime after! Last year he purchased a barn for renovating and decided he would 'rough it' on his visits whilst local builders did the work by actually staying in it! He got the nick name the mad Englishman. The local Council office can see his barn in the distance, so when he was their earlier this year, noting movement at the property and snow on the ground they cleared the road to his property even though it was not permanently lived in at that point but to be fair to the French council it was on a maintained road even though only served his property at that point. Would this happen here in the UK? Where we live we do not get snow ploughed. The main road 1.5 miles away from us does. Couple of winters back we recorded 68 inches of snow over a 6 week period between mid December and early February. The local farmer was sent by the Council about 6 times and I still recall driving our Land Rover Defender through two feet of snow on two occasions in that period. We are not the only house on the road but all residents have a Land Rover though. To be fair to the local farmer who does the ploughing for the Council he does do a good job but he is tied to County authorisation and he is the only one in a large area so if it's bad he cannot be in all places at once. The decision maker in County is some 30 miles away and a good 1100 feet lower in altitude!
Time is late and I feel I should get some shut eye before I continue with the barn work during the day. Time out from this is looming, as my wife has her twice a year eye check up at the hospital when she cannot drive afterwards, I will need my ears syringing as a build up of wax is currently being softened and our car is not only due a service but has started to make the occasional grinding noise for a few seconds on an adhoc basis. My mobile mechanic thinks it is a worn prop-shaft bearing when I suspected clutch. I'm not the mechanic, he is so I'll take his observation. He is to pop in one day this week to assess first hand. He usually is correct when talking over the phone is followed up with the visit.
Social events and day to day chores in daily life means no time on the barn and time will continually march forward towards May 2014, it will never stop for whatever reason!