Welcome to the next instalment in our off-grid adventure in Le Shack on October 9th 2020.
Our first night in Le Shack! A symbolic event that needed to be celebrated with the bottle of Prosecco I’d been saving for the occasion and a special meal. By the time we’d finished the bottle, having had a long day moving things down from the caravan so that Le Shack was ready for living in, we didn’t have the energy to cook a complicated meal, settling instead for pasta and tinned ratatouille. This sounds disappointing but it never is for the French do an excellent tinned ratatouille, much better than anything out of a tin has a right to be.
We hid the washing-up in a dark corner so we couldn’t see it, pulled our chairs up to the warm glow of the woodburner and surveyed our new home. Or as much of it as we could see by candlelight.
We were by no means straight yet, but we had the basics. We’d bought a length of kitchen work surface and three wooden trestles to support it. Our camping gas stove sat in the middle of it, with cooking utensils, plates etc on either end. Food was stacked in the larder cupboard that had kindly been left behind by the previous owner. One kitchen all sorted. Sink and running water not quite there yet.
We had intended to build our own bed base, using the three long seat cushions from the campervan as our mattress. They make an extremely comfortable and decent-sized bed. Michael drew up a design, but when we priced up the cost of the wood it came in at around 200 euros, way beyond our budget. France is an expensive place. Then I found a metal bed frame with wooden slats for sale in Super-U, our closest supermarket and a place that sells everything you might ever need in life, rather than just food. We succumbed. Everyone has their price and ours was a mere 65 euros. Plus it meant we could move in to Le Shack that evening, instead of waiting for Michael to build his designer bed creation.
We went to bed tired, but content. I lay there listening to the velvety stillness of the night, the silence broken every now and then by the mournful hooting of owls echoing across the valley, until I drifted off into sleep.
At 2am I woke up. The weather changes quickly here and the wind was hurling the rain at the roof, the heaviest downpour that we’d had since we’d arrived.
‘What was that?’ I elbowed Michael in the ribs.
‘Just the wind,’ he muttered sleepily.
‘No, it’s not.’
‘The rain then.’
‘No.’ I sat up in bed. ‘Listen.’
There was no mistaking it now. A steady plink-plink-plink as water dripped where it should not have been dripping. Inside, not outside. I fumbled for the torch and shone it up to the ceiling. Water was dripping out of one edge of the metal plating where the woodburner flue went out through the roof.
As we watched more drips appeared, this time from the joints in the wooden planking that made up the ceiling. In no time at all we had six different leaks, all making their own distinct sounds depending on what they landed upon. Quite the orchestra.
We grabbed whatever we could find to catch the water, saucepans, a bucket, an empty tin – and then got back in to bed with the torch and watched the various receptacles slowly fill up with glum faces.
‘If we get a drip over the bed I’m going to have a sense of humour failure.’ I shone the torch above my head but thankfully that section of roof was dry. ‘Why has it suddenly decided to do this?’
‘Probably a broken tile. I’ll go up on the roof tomorrow and have a look.’ Michael slid down under the covers.
I stayed where I was, playing the torch beam over the ceiling.
After a few moments there was a mutter from beneath the covers. ‘I can’t sleep with that bright light on.’
I sighed and turned it off. The plinking sounded even louder in the darkness, not that Michael heard it of course as he was soon sound asleep, but eventually the rain eased off and I too must have eventually fallen asleep.
An early inspection of the roof in the morning didn’t find any broken tiles but there was the slightest of dips in the centre of the roof. Michael thought that there was likely to be a few rotten battens underneath. We would need to take the tiles off and have a look, but not today as it was still drizzling. Thankfully, the leaks only came through when the rain was truly torrential.
I needed to do something to take my mind off it so I headed back along the track to the caravan. I had decided that this was going to be my writing space, for blogs, magazine articles and most importantly the next book on this off-grid experiment of ours. There is a romantic notion that the muse suddenly comes upon writers and the words flow out effortlessly. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. The muse is a fickle creature and usually has to be dragged kicking and screaming from somewhere far, far away. Writing a book is a big commitment and has to be treated almost as a job. You need to put the hours in every day, whether the muse turns up or not, and today was to be Day 1 on the off-grid book.
I stopped half way along our track. The field either side was waist high and wild from the unchecked summer growth. Everywhere I looked cobwebs glistened with raindrops, strung from bracken, from the seed heads of grasses, from the prickles of the gorse bushes. Thousands of spiders spinning their webs, immersed in their work, unaware and uncaring of anything that might be happening in my inconsequential life. There were delicate strands of mist down in the valley and the mighty oaks and sweet chestnuts that border our top field had been washed clean in the night. There is no sign of autumn colours down in this corner of France yet, so my skyline was a soft green, broken up by spreading branches and wide-girthed tree trunks, streaked black and grey with the rain.
I took in a deep breath of the clean air, let it out again and all the worries of the night disappeared. A leaking roof is a small thing in the great scheme of things. A view like this is priceless.
See you next week. A few more pictures for you below. I don’t have any pictures of my misty cobweb moment as I didn’t have a camera with me. Maybe some images are best held in the heart, rather than on a screen.