During our last week in Ireland, John’s mum came to stay. On the day she arrived, we spent the morning with Pat and John Devereux, lifting the original flagstones from the old house. To our great joy, most of them came up intact. There weren’t as many as we had hoped, as the bedrooms had concrete floors. But, nevertheless, we were left with 16 yards of serviceable flags. While not enough to use for the main living room, there were easily enough to use in the entrance hall/utility room.
By the following day, the plasterers had finished inside. The sun was shining (as it did for the whole week Betty was with us) and the porcelain-smooth skim coat was already beginning to dry. It was hard to gauge Betty’s reaction at first. She toured the house, showing a polite interest, then went outside to look at the tree where Mick’s ashes had been scattered several years ago. Bridie, on the other hand, seemed excited by the prospect of having us as neighbours, especially as she can see our roof from her house. In fact, when we rejoined Betty outside, there were tears in her eyes. She had simply been overcome with emotion, partly because of the progress with the new house, and partly because there is so little now left of the old one.
In our absence, work continues apace. At the time of writing, the plumber will probably have finished his first fix. When we left, the radiators were already installed and there was an impressive-looking manifold in the hot press, linking all the under-floor pipework. Suddenly, we were discussing finished floor levels and ordering tiles for the bathrooms. We tried to match the flags from the old house, but were told that they came from a local quarry, now abandoned and planted with forestry. The unusual thing about these sandstone flags, was that they were smooth. The flags that are most commonly seen around Co. Clare are the Moher flags, characterised by fossilised worm-casts creating whorls in the stone and giving them a rippled texture. We couldn’t match our original flags, but we were able to buy 40 yards of smooth black flagstones for the living room from Liscannor Stone.
All the hot and cold water and waste pipes should now be laid down, ready for the concrete floor. The mains water supply may also now be connected. This had been a matter of some concern since the start of the build. The original house stood on solid rock and had no water supply other than what could be drawn manually from a nearby well. There was no sanitation either, so there had never been any need to dig a trench for water or waste pipes. Our neighbour had spent a small fortune on a rock-breaker to install drains in his meadow and assured us that it would prove impossible to run the pipes down our right of way, offering to sell us an adjacent field as an alternative. Doubtless, he (and his bank) will be disappointed to discover that Pat’s rock-breaker was rather more efficient … and we wont be needing his field.
Frustratingly, now that the build has reached such an exciting stage, we have had to return to France for a couple of weeks to put in our Tax Return and sort out our motorcycles prior to our Russian trip this summer. John spoke to Marie last night and could barely contain himself when she told him that the stonemason had started work on the chimney-breast.