French Connections, House Numbering, Shed Building, Left and Right Hand Threads

Sorry it has been a bit quiet but we had three weeks in France albeit with not the best of weather.  As ever a few jobs on the list and some new experiences.

The village where our house is located has always had very ambiguous addresses such that deliveries were a nightmare unless by Post.    The parish council decided to solve this with a ‘numerifcation’ and tasked a local man to decide on street names.   Given that there are probably less than 200 properties in the whole village and very few of these in our road, we were surprised to be allocated number 436.

On arrival and taking a wander round the village the numbers appeared totally erratic and certainly not conforming to the norm of odds one side of the road and evens on the other.   It then dawned on me that the numbers were related to the distance from the starting point of each road relative to the village centre.  We were therefore 436 metres along the road from the first house.   A quick cross check on Google Earth confirmed this as the distance to the centre of our gateway.

Now you could label this as French perversity but I think it is rather elegant.  Deliveries can now find us easily and if someone does a barn conversion mid street a new unique number can easily be created rather than 6A or similar. The council provided us with rather nice enamelled number plates and these match the new street name boards.   We noticed on the drive home that one or two other villages we passed through seemed to have had similar initiatives.  No doubt Macron will claim credit.

The first test of the new address was when I ordered a garden shed (abri de jardin) from Alice’s Garden and it found us successfully.   The aim was to have a storage shed for our ride on lawn mower.   The shed was a bit on the low cost side but did arrive OK in two flat packs.   When opened up it all seemed a bit flimsy.   Two of our friends had arrived to stay and they got roped into putting it together.  The instructions called for two people and predicted 2 to 3 hours work.    It took four of us a bit longer than this and lots of self tapping screws later we had a shed. 

alices garden shed
Garden Shed from Alice’s Garden for ride on mower storage but with door too narrow …. another fine mess

Given the flimsy nature of the materials it was surprisingly sturdy. The one flaw in the plan was the mower would not go through the door …. I had measured across the wheel width and not across the cutting bed.  We left our friends with the challenge of solving this minor issue …. so far they have managed to widen the door opening and it now needs a new enlarged door.

We had also ordered an electrically operated sun awning and this was installed while we were there.   This is a seriously heavy piece of kit that the two technicians were struggling to lift between them.   The installation involved mounting three plates on the house wall and then ‘dropping’ the awning housing onto these with retaining fastenings.   Because of the style of block work used in France they tend to use chemical based fixings for anything substantial that needs mounting.   The technicians arrived, measured up, drilled and chemically bonded 12 lengths of M12 studding into the wall.   After the prescribed setting time they attempted to mount the plates only to find their logistics team had supplied them with left hand thread studding and right hand thread nuts.   Much French cursing ensued.   

Out came the angle grinder and the studs were chopped off.   Rummaging around in their van they found some more right hand thread studding, re-drilled and re-bonded this in place and finally got round to mounting the awning – which was a real struggle to lift even with three of us wobbling on ladders.   They didn’t leave until gone 7pm so not the most cost effective installation quote by the salesman.

awning in france also called a store
Awning in place with correct thread studding used

This excitement apart we had a good stay with a round of golf at Souillac, a village festival and an excellent meal with our neighbours and their extended family.   The house is looking pretty good now and perhaps next time we can just relax with nothing on the ‘To Do’ list – perhaps.

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A Bit off Piste – An eventful flight to Toulouse

This has nothing to do with model engineering but thought you might find it amusing/interesting.

Following my wife having spotted some low cost tickets to Toulouse from London Gatwick, we decided to make a quick trip to France to check out that all at our house was OK. The flight bookings were with a well known budget airline that has orange corporate colours. 

We checked in OK and the flight pulled away from the stand dead on time but 5 minutes later we were back where we started from.   As the Captain said ‘one of his shortest flights’.   Apparently a critical sensor in the port engine had gone AWOL.  Technicians were called and we sat for 2 hours on the plane while they analysed and fixed the problem.

Off we went once again but having missed our takeoff slot we were now at the back of the taxi queue.  Finally we were sat at the end of the runway and the brakes were released …. only for pandemonium to break out in the cabin.   The crew started rushing round and shouting to stay in our seats.   The take off was aborted and we sat mid runway.    Within minutes the plane was surrounded by all manner of fire appliances. 

Apparently a passenger’s lithium power tank had burst into flames.  I guess his or her laptop or phone’s battery had died while we were waiting for the sensor to be fixed and while topping up from the power tank the charging current surge had upset things.   The crew had been quick to put the offending article in a fire proof box.

After blocking the runway for 6 minutes, we were escorted off the runway by the fire crew vehicles to a quiet area of the airfield.  A team of fireman boarded the plane and took away the offending article. 

While 6 minutes does not seem long there would have been a lot of landings and takeoffs blocked.  Had we been airborne when the smoke appeared we could have been sliding down escape slides and the weather outside would not have made that much fun.

Because there had been an incident the airline procedure required that the crew had to be changed so they could be debriefed.   We were therefore now faced the delay while a new crew was found.   Further to this an offer was made that anyone wanting to leave the flight could do so (they didn’t ask for ‘any passengers of a nervous or superstitious disposition’).   A number of passengers decided this was the best option.  This meant a baggage crew had to be found to find their bags in the hold.   So we had a baggage crew and a flight crew to wait for.

When the new crew arrived they had to search the cabin to match bags to passengers to ensure nothing owned by the departing passengers had been left behind (suspicious or otherwise).

After a total delay of 5 hours (still sitting in our allocated seats), we finally got airborne for Toulouse.

I won’t extend your boredom by telling you about the hire car shambles on our arrival.

We think we might think twice about flying to Toulouse another time but I have to say all credit to the flight crew, the technicians and the fire services for their swift and professional actions.

Postscript : – better to travel hopefully ….. we then had a 3 hour delay on the way home.   Weather at Gatwick delayed the flight out to Toulouse.  Think we will stick to the ferry next time.

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January in France

Bonsoir Monsieur Macron

Decided to make a quick visit to France to catch up on jobs and make sure the house was surviving winter OK. All went well until we got south of Limoges when the Autoroute overhead signs started signally a problem at the junction we normally leave the A20.  We passed through our local toll peage and it was swarming with gendarmes and when we came off we were met by an equally large contingent of boys in blue.  We were turned back from the exit and sent further south on the A20 to the next exit to come north once again.   At first we thought this might be a ‘yellow vests’ protest but it later transpired that Monsieur Macron was holding a meeting with the regional mayors in our local town and the town was in lock down as a result.

Tado Thermostat System

The Tado thermostat system installed last time has worked really well.   I turned up the house temperature via GSM as we got off the ferry and we (finally after our Macron detour) arrived to a warm house without the usual standing around with our coats on while the wood burner thawed things out.   Lovely system and have now fitted three of these to family properties.

Wireless Tag Monitoring

Temperature here is around 5C with nights dropping negative.   I have fitted an 80W tubular heater inside the spa pump cabinet with a frost stat on it.   This is doing a good job in keeping the temperature around the pumps above 5C regardless of the outside temperature.   I have fitted one of the Wireless Tags inside the cabinet so I can monitor what is going on remotely.

Super Blood Wolf Moon

Woke up last night in the small hours and thought the outside security lights must be on it was so bright in the bedroom.  Looked out and it was like daylight from the moonlight.   Didn’t think anymore of it and went back to bed only to discover on this morning’s news that I had missed the lunar eclipse.   Having received a Philip’s 2019 Stargazing Guide for Christmas I really should have read it before the new season started.   That having been said it is way too bright to get the telescope out during this visit.  

Been a good trip so far with lots of ticks accomplished on my to do list so I might get some time to sit and catch up on my reading and writing before we head back next week.

Weather forecast is predicting snow ….

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tado° Update

The Tado system is now installed in France and it is working rather well.   I have installed the wireless thermostat in the downstairs entrance and this now controls the boiler via a relay control box next to the boiler.   The upstairs area now has its radstats set to less than half way open and we have also been able to turn the downstairs radiators down.

We now have a much more balanced temperature throughout the house and don’t go to bed freezing cold.   Now the fabric of the building has got up to a uniform temperature the boiler seems to be firing less.   Having the smartphone application for remote operation is an additional bonus.  Very pleased with the result.  Nice kit.

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tado° Radio Controlled Heating System

We have a problem in the house in France relating to the fact that we live on the upstairs floor and sleep on the ground floor.   It works well in this configuration but has the disadvantage that if we have the wood burner on upstairs it trips the boiler thermostat which is also upstairs.   This results in the boiler going off and we end up freezing cold downstairs at bedtime.

I have been pondering this for some time and finally arrived at a solution using the Tado components.   This is a 868MHz mesh network of control products consisting of a radio controlled Thermostat, radio connected RadStats and a thing called an Extension Kit which replaces an existing timer/controller.

The thermostat in France is currently in the wrong position on the first floor but the unit is hard wired back to the boiler down in the cave (cellar) so it is difficult to elegantly move.  The Extension Kit picks up the controller hard wiring as was and acts as a new controller for the boiler under radio command from the Thermostat.  Not only does the Thermostat set the temperature but it also allows the water heating to be controlled.   You can manually command on and off or use programmable profiles.

All the above components are brought together on a smartphone App that allows you to control the heating and water from anywhere.   The system also has GPS geo fencing.   This is really attractive as it means we can get it to bring the heating and water on as we come off the ferry.  No more sitting with our overcoats shivering when we arrive in winter.

It is a well conceived set of kit.   Pairing the items to talk with each other is straightforward but for some scenarios you need to get Tado to customise the software.   This is done via the internet and can take up to 48 hours to complete.   That aside once this is done it works very well.   I have had it running on the bench with a couple of light bulbs on the water and heating outputs to simulate operation.  Installation in France will be next week.

I have no connection in any way with Tado and I am sure there are similar products out there.   I just like nice kit that is well conceived and does what it says on the tin.

Tado Extension Kit and Thermostat

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