Monday, June 4, 2007

Hole in the Floor, Hole in the Pouce

We hadn't planned on ripping out part of the floor on the deuxieme etage (that's third floor to us Yanks). Nor had we planned on going to the hospital. Now we know more about local rubbish rules and processing through the French emergency room. It's all about learning.

It wasn't as if the sponginess in the floor miraculously appeared one day, but every time we had looked at the house during the pre-purchase stage our entire entourage would either be on one floor or another. There was certainly a "bounce", but it was only a subfloor that was far from level; and what do you expect in a several century old building? Without benefit of seeing the exposed beams from the floor beneath literally raise and lower several inches as someone walked across the floor. I half expected to see Doug come crashing through at any moment. But, that's not how we went to the hospital.

These old original oak beams may well date back to the 1700's, some with significant scoliosis de bois (my term) or wormwood damage. Additionally, over a 320 cm run there was a 12 cm difference in elevation (about 10 ft. 5 in. with a 4.75 in elevation change). In many places the flooring never touched the beams, even with spacers added. I could tell Doug was antsy for a demolition project so with a sort of plan in mind we began.

While we salvaged the particle board subflooring for the most part, but not the drywall. They often use drywall here between the floor joist and the subfloor as an easy way of getting a good headstart on a finished ceiling. We broke up the drywall and lowered it down in bags out the window to the street and loaded it up in Smokey. We tied a rope around each beam and weight-tested them for springiness, a quality we have decided is not acceptable. Those that don't pass the test will be replaced. Hopefully the new floor will not have the slope of a beginner ski area.

Sometime during the removal process Doug was unknowingly attacked by a splinter of wood. Within a day his thumb started festering and he was digging into it pretty well but produced nothing. By Sunday morning the avenged digit was swollen and purple and he suggested a trip to the hospital to practice our French. Ironically, we knew where the hospital was from a conversation with Aussie neighbor John a day earlier after his sudden trip there due to a fall. On the drive to Lavelanet, Doug looked up echarde (splinter) and pouce (thumb) to tell the doctor his problem.

Between the two assistants, Dr. Kahil and us, the event was most amusing. After soaking Doug's pouce in betadine the doctor requested Doug to "make your arm up". Huh? Oh, yeah, raise your arm. We could pick out a few words (echarde de bois, pouce, vendredi, anglais, Leran) as the staff was chortling about the big emergency case that Sunday in the hallway. Bottles of betadine and sterilized eau later, Dr. Kahil announced (to a very dejected and embarrassed Doug) that nothing was found. Since there was little chance of discussing what else could have happened, we were left to our own conclusions. Perhaps a puncture wound with debris left by a old timber, then sealed off and infection set in.

Dr. Kahil showed me how to change the dressing daily with, of course, more betadine. I was amazed at the chunk of meat take out of Doug's pouce. When we asked about paying the bill, they said no. We have been told we may receive a bill in 18 months or so.


Anonymous said...

The open ceiling photos are so dramatic...but my back and arms are already "aching in sympathy" for all the work it will take to make the open ceilings back into floors once again!

Luke sends her sympathy to Doug's pouce...and is so surprised to hear you will be getting a bill in about 18 months...I've heard of a "slower pace" but that is totally astonishing! My mouth is still hanging open after reading that! Such "speed" would bring American group insurance providers to their collective knees!

Anonymous said...

Have you met Christian et Francette yet? It would be nice to know who wrote the nice note.

Luke is signing off now.

nancy said...

No, Luke, we haven't met the anonymous note-writers, nor talked with anyone who knows who they are. And we don't know yet where we are leaving Smokey when we depart in September. But I'm sure some interesting scenario will present itself. Sorry to say, Lukas, I think I am stuck with calling the old rig Smokey for the rest of it's life. Can't teach this old dog (me)new tricks.