Thanks to Twitter, Sunday has become the day when writers post up a sample of one of their works on their website and Tweet enthusiastically about it to tempt readers. I’ve been flat on my back on the sofa for most of today, thanks to a nasty bug that Rors brought back from school to share, and not really in a blogging frame of mind. So I have resorted to a Sunday Sample. Here’s a short extract from Heads Above Water which will hit your Kindle soon! It’s about our very early days here when the houses were still hovels and the resident ecosystems were putting up a stern resistance to our moving in to what had been theirs alone for the last forty years.
From Chapter 10:
In the meantime we needed concrete. Lots of concrete. The floor of Notaire’s House needed sorting out. It was currently ugly, wonky, rotting in places and full of holes in others. We pulled up all the floorboards which left us with a lot of space to fill. If we only used cement it would cost a fortune, so we scavenged around for hard core. Firstly we used the mountain of bottles in the attic. These were all pretty old and made out of good solid glass so were definitely fit for purpose. Any antique-looking and unusual bottles we squirrelled away for posterity. The rest, the boring ones, we broke into large chunks and scattered them over the bare earth. Then we used some of the piles and piles of broken tiles that were in and around the barn. The previous owner ran a builder’s merchants, and it looked like damaged stock ended up here. We filled the void to an acceptable level, ready for the cement mixer. We’d also marked out and boarded up a pathway to run between the two houses. We were currently camping in Amethyst House at night, and camping in Notaire’s House during the day, owing to it having the one tap we possessed. Already the ground was getting churned up by our toings and froings, and the wet weather wasn’t here yet. Harry the builder carefully worked out how much concrete we needed and put the order in.
The cement lorry turned up early one morning and pumped vast quantities of cement through the open window into Notaire’s where Harry, Chris and Derek were ready to rake it around and level it off. Another large amount was poured down to make our path. But there was still loads left. Something had gone badly wrong with the calculations somewhere. Time was running out and we had to think of what to do with it. Overshoes for Harry was one idea, but that wouldn’t have used enough, however satisfying it might have been. We decided to get it pumped out in front of the hangar to make a hard surface for, well, we weren’t quite sure what, but it seemed a good idea at the time. So finally the lorry was empty and could go home. Our delight with the new floor and the functionality of the path made us quick to forgive Harry, at least for the time being.
But the path didn’t last long. A few days later, a man from the local water board turned up to provide us with a supply of water to Amethyst. Harry had cobbled together a rough and ready set of plumbing so that we could run the shower and the washing machine over there, but we’d obviously be wanting water in both buildings long term so it seemed a good idea to get it done sooner rather than later. The water man needed to find a valve. He asked us if we knew where it was. We looked at him blankly. Were there any diagrams or plans of where the water pipes were, he asked optimistically? Another blank look.
“Pas de probl__ème,” he shrugged good naturedly and we left him digging holes at random spots. A hot day’s work later, he hadn’t found a thing. He turned up quite late next morning. He’d been asking around the neighbours to see if they had any idea where the water supply might be. He’d learned that there was some sort of small underground reservoir, a bac, which had been used to provide water for the animals in the barn. What’s more he even had a rough idea where it was. But he didn’t find it. We were drafted in to help prod here and poke there, but all to no avail.
After lunch water guy brought a metal detector with him. He swung it ahead of him as he marched methodically up and down in front of the house. A beep! Great! Actually, not great. The beep was being produced by something underneath our newly dried concrete path. Reluctantly Chris fetched the sledge hammer and we whacked our path apart. Water guy dug – and found an ancient, clumpy iron nail.
Off he went again. He got another result, just to the other side of the path, so another chunk had to come off it. This time he unearthed a horse shoe, which still sits outside the back door. Finally, and well away from the path, the water man found what he was looking for and by teatime, our water supply was sorted out. We were pathless and the water guy was happy. When not helping him vandalise our path, I’d been clearing the ‘mezzanine’ in Notaire’s House, dragging out rusting lumps of metal. Water guy was into old stuff and he took a shine to a few of the objects, so we were delighted to let him help himself. Quite possibly they would polish up into valuable heirlooms, but that was too bad. We were disappearing under piles of junk and mess so were glad to get rid of whatever we could. However, a few items had caught my eye and I hung onto those. To this day I’m still not sure what a few of them are, but I display them proudly around the house. I’m confident that eventually I’ll find out what on earth they are.
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