1st March 2006, EEC 30

Well I've finished the electrics in the garage. 3 fluorescent lights at the workshop end and 3 more to light the rest. 6 power points above the workbench. Plus a movement actuated exterior light. The photo shows the workshop end. Drilling machine on the left, sanding machines on the right, portable tools in the drawers or on the shelves which line the whole length of the back of the garage out of the picture on the right. These shelves are a mess, I am still sorting out where to put everything. I knew from the start there would never be room for a car in the garage but even without a car the garage just isn't big enough. I'm going to have to start throwing stuff away.

I also got the wood cut and stacked. The trailer, with a balloon on board, is to go in front of the stack of wood.

Now the garage was completed I went to Poitiers to collect the remainder of my things from Marie's barn. I don't really know why I bothered. I had the van and trailer, there was almost nothing left there that I wanted. Marie said she had some English neighbours who were not overflowing with funds and would probably be trying to raise funds with garage sales. I left them all sorts of stuff, garden chairs and tables etc etc. I hope they make something from it.

Barbara now has 3 balloons so I checked them through for annual while I was there, plus another friend brought his balloon along. It snowed on the way back and roads were blocked. That, and people driving at only 5 mph in the snow when it would have been quite safe to go rocketing along at 20 mph meant that it took me 14 hours to drive the 300 Km (200 miles) to get back home.

It never snows in the Gers, or so I was told. Hah! Here's my house.

I'm told the white patch is a snowflake on or near the camera lens.

Next it was time to sort out the parking. First, clear away the top soil.

Then, spread out the gravel.

Flatten it.

And we have a parking.

I saw an advert in the village boulangerie (bread shop) for firewood so I arranged to buy a cubic metre. The wood I bought before is fine, but it is too small in section and although it is oak it burns quickly.

It was time to go to Daniel's near Lyon, he is due for annual on his balloon. Michel Leblanc arranged to bring his English registered balloon along at the same time. Both balloons are quite old but happily both passed the checks. The biggest problem on an old balloon is the pull test - the strength test - on the fabric of the envelope. If this fails then the owner has to either replace the greater part of the balloon fabric, or just write the balloon off. Not a pleasant thought. Anyway, as I said, both passed.

I have a quite sophisticated tester, most are much simpler. I actually introduced the pull test onto the UK annual inspection schedule and sought out the initial quotations for the supply of pull testers for our inspectors. This was the best tester submitted as a sample and although our committee decided on a much cheaper version from Cameron Balloons since I was the committee chairman I kept this super de luxe version, made by Geoff Payne. The fabric is clamped between the jaws, the handles are squeezed, and the needle stops at the level reached when the pull stops, or when the fabric tears.

I drove to Daniel's on the AutoRoute. 611 Kms on flat boring road that took 7 hours. I couldn't face that again so returned by the more direct route, over the massif central. About the same distance but really beautiful scenery along the way. It took 10 hours but that was 10 hours of pleasure instead of 7 hours slog. There was snow around higher up - around 4,000 ft - but no problem on the road.

The new Millau bridge was on my route.

It's very impressive. That central tower (on the photo) is higher than the Eiffel tower in Paris, around 350 metres (1000 ft) high.

I didn't have time to stop but I took some photos. This is a church (!)

When I got home I started on improving the old lean to building, which later was my workshop, and is now to be my spare bedroom, my chambre d'amis. Well, principally, it will be my daughter's bedroom, but I'm anticipating other visitors might use it.

This it is how it was. The shiny bits at the top of the picture are holes in the wall. I fixed those months ago when I rebuilt the end wall.

This is where I have got so far. Ceiling is done, walls are started. I've put 20 cm of fibre glass insulation in the ceiling, there is 8 cm on the plasterboard that lines the walls.

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My fire works well. The cat seems to like it.

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

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