it's very true. The only place I could get to be at
all comfortable was near the fire place and as it
was early May and the house had been left empty all
winter it was very cold and damp.
I therefore made my centre of
operations next to the fireplace and had it burning
24 hours a day. All meetings, meal and rest times
were next to it, until the house warmed up
sufficiently from the Spring weather.
The property was a complete
ruin really I had to realise that I had in fact
bought some walls that where semi covered by what
looked liked roofs. We had no electricity and worked
the power tools off a portable generator, everything
had to be brought in as there was also no water and
no other form of heating.
I was however able to
determine that the basic structure was solid. But it
was going to take a great deal of time and effort
and off course money.
My initial task was to restore
basic services: electricity and water and even
though I had thought that this was just a simple job
of re firing up the old system it turned out to be
an extremely long and expensive process as
everything had to be replaced. Also I had to get
everything into a reasonable order so that EDF the
French electricity supply company would re install
the main connection.
At the same time as doing this
I worked on a simple plan that involved completing 4
basic rooms for us to live in being a working
kitchen, bathroom, kids bedroom and lounge bedroom.
From this point I was able to work out from and
tailor the continuation of the works according to my
energy levels and budget constraints.
I also chose a system where we
employed intensive periods of work to finish a fixed
project and then followed it by a rest period so
that we where not constantly in a building site. By
using this method I was able to over the years
completely restore La Colle to what it is today.
(There is still much more that could be done to it,
but it is comfortable).
I remember being criticised
one day by one of my helpers who de-ridded me about
my methods. He basically said that if I was to
change the windows then I should change all of them
first and then go onto the next item. I remember
thinking at the time that if I followed his advise
then I would probably go broke, there was about 25
window openings and to replace them all with
hardwood double glazed windows would have eaten
deeply into that years budget (actually probably
more than the entire years budget), this would have
resulted in a lot of windows that we would not use
for a long time and nothing totally completed which
we could use.
Therefore I decided that his
sort of help wasn't needed anymore. I understand
that to this day he has never bought or built his
I have seen many programs
about people buying up wrecks and then re-building
them. Usually followed by a TV crew charting their
development and the results usually are disastrous.
In my opinion the key mistake
is that they take on too many things at once and do
not finish any of them. Also no matter how much time
and effort you have made to budget for finance and
project time tables you are highly likely to be
wrong. Buying up old properties are like buying into
an unknown adventure nothing is just simple.
Therefore you have to allow for the project to
develop over time and leave the budgets open enough
so that you can finish each section properly and use
a certain amount of practical restraint. (You can
always come back and uplift the decoration but you
can not re materialise money once it is spent).
There are no hard and fast
rules that say that you have to complete it by a
certain date and nothing says that you have to
remain within a specific budget. Those decisions are
yours to make when you want to make them according
to your own restraints.