My penultimate day in Sigoules during February 2013 was what David had termed a ‘big clean’ day. It is the mandatory preparation for the next visitors. Washing and ironing was the least of it, because that had been done throughout my stay.
I worked my way down from the top. First the sweeping and hoovering, including the removal of any of the previous year’s lingering cobwebs. Then the dusting, although there was very little of that. Beds needed to be prepared, and the porcelain attended to. The final task was swabbing down tiles and staircases.
When I had the luxury of more than one day I could be more thorough. I first dealt with those rooms I either had not used or would not be using again before I left.
No-one this time had used the attic rooms accessed by the upper staircase. They therefore didn’t need much attention. Attic rooms 2 and 3 each lead off room 1. What this room loses in privacy it gains in the presence of two spacious walk-in locked cupboards. I think it was Elizabeth who pointed out that it would be possible to get two more bedrooms out of them. The exposed original stone wall is interlaced with huge wooden beams from the dismantled barges that could only navigate one way up the Dordogne. Only two entrance beams were a danger to heads. These, as in the doorway of room 2, had warning flags pinned to them. Otherwise a stepladder is required to reach the roof. The chest of drawers in room 3 occupies a niche which terminates below head height.
When Michael and Heidi and their family first came here it took Oliver about thirty seconds to get up to the top and bag the bed in room 1. The girls were quite happy with his choice, although Alice soon rigged up a truckle bed beside her brother. The cupboard in room 3 had reminded her of a scary story.
After the attic came first floor bedroom 2 which, although large, needed a minimal amount of furniture as it had a built-in wardrobe.
I descended to the downstairs WC and shower-room and gave it a good once-over. Finally, I swept and swabbed down the upper staircase and the utility corridor leading to the shower room. The only hazard in this area was the front wheel of Oliver’s outgrown mountain bike that hangs from the ceiling.
I spent the next morning hoovering and tidying the rest of the rooms.
Following Elizabeth’s sensible suggestion, I changed my bedding in the main bedroom just for the last night. This obviated the need for trying to get it washed, dried, and ironed on the morning of departure. Possible in the summer, but certainly not during that time.
As I had only eaten two meals at home on that trip, the kitchen didn’t need too much attention.
The sitting room and entrance hall have had the heaviest usage. The defunct washing machine and ancient ironing board in the hall are waiting for a kind friend with wheels to help me take them to the municipal dump.
I did not venture into the cellar that lies beneath a trapdoor in the hall. At the bottom of a narrow winding set of stone steps the entrance required me to bend double, and I was not often up for that. This opens out into a spacious area Mike had kitted out as a workroom. It would then have ben used to store winter fuel, had I got round to buying any. When the Kindreds first lived here, a friend fell through the open trapdoor and broke his leg. This prompted Mike to build one of his inventive constructions. He fashioned a retractable balustrade to surround the entrance to the nether regions when open; rigged up a wall-mounted pulley such as would hold an elephant; and equipped this with a powerful webbing strip to be attached to one of the iron rings from which the trapdoor can, by slowly cranking the winch, be raised. The instructions for doing this are pasted, in French and in English, on the wall beside it. Mike is not a games inventor for nothing. I kept the balustrade hooked in place on the wall and covered the tiled trapdoor with a carpet. Jackie’s sunhat concealed the machinery.
The bathroom would have a thorough clean in the morning; and, in order to allow time for drying overnight, the ground floor tiles and lower stairs would be washed before I went to bed. My mobile phone lies on the ledge behind the loo because that is the only place where I could sometimes receive a signal. It beat keeping a stack of joke books beside the seat.
The last three weeks had been so wet that I hadn’t been able thoroughly to sweep the tiles in the courtyard garden, although there was a brief window of warm sun that afternoon enabling me to sit outside for a while and even get a king sized duvet cover iron-dry. The birds were joyful. Maybe the chicken would finish the sweeping.