I had found an insect cemetery by a window in one of the rooms I was to live in, and I thought it was probably due to something that had been left on the floor previously.
Over the next few days more wasps, as I thought them, arrived trying to get out of that window. I did wonder why and how they were there but nothing was immediately obvious.
It was whilst walking up the side of the house that I saw a swarm of soldier bees circling around the house and up to one of the chimneys. Our dog, always innately attracted by small moving beasts, chased them and completely ignored my calls away until a ‘yelp’ and a somersault took him out of his hunting trance and scurrying over to me. He’d been stung on the backside – I’m guessing just the once as there were no abnormal swellings – and, although he probably wouldn’t agree, that was a lucky strike as it taught him to keep his distance in future.
Back inside, there were more bees than usual on the floors and at the windows of two rooms, and although I didn’t see any creep out of the flue holes that had been left after the wood and oil burners had been removed by the previous owners, I taped them up as that was logical. It didn’t stop them though, and I could hear the swarming behind the walls. In the kitchen I couldn’t see where they came in but it appeared to be behind the units. Like something out of my nightmares I saw one bee appear out of a gap between the wall and an electric socket. Another job for my trusty tape,
Not sure why, out of the few essential items selected to accompany me, I had brought a roll of duct tape, but have it I did and I think I should now make it my motto to always travel with a roll.
The dog dashed past all of this into the safety of the bedroom where he stayed and wouldn’t come out, not even into the bee free hallway for food.
We both slept, badly, with all doors closed, me occasionally jerking awake from what I thought was buzzing near us.
In France, the firemen used to take care of bees and wasps in homes, but it was now a pest controller job. So I called a firm with a name something like AAAbeil but he couldn’t make it until the end of the week. I also called a local beekeeper in the meantime, as I’m aware bees shouldn’t be killed if you can help it, but he too referred me to pest control.
Then endured several days of extreme caution and closed doors in the house. The above photo is of one section of the kitchen floor after just a couple of hours’ worth of those soldier bees. They look dead but if you touch them many spring back to life.
Unfortunately pest control didn’t turn up. By the time he was in touch again the bees had reduced considerably so there seemed no need to attend: the chimney they favoured would be gone in the winter and so probably would the bees. I felt a warm eco-ness through my body that was bordering on smug. ‘Leave the bees alone and they’ll leave you alone,’ I told people, following with, ‘They’re endangered don’t you know?’. Potential builders didn’t quite share that view seeing how they would be disturbing their hive if they worked on the roof and chimney. So if the bees aren’t gone by the time they start work then it’s bombs for the bees.
A neighbour told me that the bees arrive every year to our house. Well, if they arrive next year they’ll find their usual nesting places gone. I’ll also have to find a chimney sweep who can get rid of any remaining honey inside the flues. More expense on jobs hadn’t foreseen.
Elsewhere in the barns, swallows and other birds swoop in an out, nesting and pooping over the floors. They’re in no danger of being disturbed though, they’ve nested in the parts that we won’t be renovating for a long time yet. More cleaning for me though as our lovely but filthy dog likes to roll himself in their poop.
Then the weather took a turn for the worse.
It was unexpected and being early summer I hadn’t brought down enough winter type clothes or blankets, all of which became necessities as the house had no heating. Try living in an unaired, unheated, old house with a leaky roof and a couple of broken windows, when it’s chilly and raining outside – that cold gets right into your old bones.
I did at least have the foresight to bring my hot water bottle with me and that, plus a hot pc on my lap and a furry dog by my feet, helped me get through the damp and chills until H brought me down appropriate supplies.
I was very close to breaking my rule (and H’s) of no dogs on sofas or beds, but I held fast: one day we’d have nice furniture down here… and guests who’d want to sit on it.
However, I did allow it once, while the bees were in the house, it was heart-breaking to see the dog sitting bolt upright at the threshold of the room, too scared to come in and lie on this floor.
On the due date, the Commissaire Priseur appeared with some removal men to take all the old furniture from the barn and house. Except two relatively valuable paintings that were on the list were missing.
We certainly didn’t take them, but amongst the family and the original workmen some allegations have since been flying around. One person knows what happened to them, but I don’t think anybody else will ever find out who that is. There was already a fair bit of history of accusation within the family of people taking pieces belonging to others and putting them up for sale in online small ads
Under the dark, leaky clouds, with the garden transforming into a jungle quicker than I could tear out the super weeds, hearing a lot of traffic noise in what I hoped would be our garden retreat, and having to sit in the cold, empty house with all its faults on display, I was starting to wonder if we had bought a pup.
But it’s amazing how a few rays of sunshine can make you think differently. After another change of weather, but for the better, even the comments of how much work there was and the pointing out of more problems I hadn’t seen by the series of workmen viewing for quotes didn’t sway my joy of being here.
Except perhaps the continuing lack of internet (we’d ordered it late), lack of television, topped off with my laptop dying on me. But the latter was merely a moment of panic. Under recommendation, I went to a small company of whizzkids in the next village who found the problem straight away. It was a reassuringly boffin like place they were nestled into – a garage underneath a house where pasty skinned boys that the sun rarely touched worked in an environment that fresh air rarely reached, surrounded by screens and hard drives. That same evening my laptop was working again.
And then internet and phone arrived. No dark clouds could alter how sunny this house was looking now.