Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gamone façade almost finished

After a week of dust and noise, the façade at Gamone is almost finished. [You can click the above photo to display a series of images of the work.] The scaffolding remains in place because a final phase of the operations must still be performed. When the mortar is completely dry, next week, the entire façade will be sandblasted, to remove dust and to enhance the brickwork around the windows on the left.

Meanwhile, Eric Tanchon, the skilled tradesman who's doing the restoration, has taught me how to apply lime and sand mortar to the wall that my son and I erected a few years ago, using heavy limestone boulders that I gathered up on the banks of the Bourne at Pont-en-Royans. I had imagined naively that the gaps between the boulders would be filled in carefully with mortar using a narrow trowel. Well, that's not at all the way that professionals deal with such a situation. Eric showed me how to use a large trowel to hurl mortar at the wet wall from a distance of half a meter. Later, when it's dry, I'll simply use a wire brush to scrape away the excess mortar from the surface of the boulders. For the moment, I'm about halfway through the job, as can be seen from this photo I took this morning:

My wall still needs to be "loaded" with a lot more mortar (as they say in tradesmen's jargon) before I can start to scrape it smooth. We imagine stupidly that, in carrying out this kind of work, we should remain nice and clean like the people in ads for do-it-yourself hardware stores. I'll let you guess what I looked like, with my eyes protected by goggles, after half an hour or so of hurling semi-liquid mortar at a stone wall half a meter away. No problem. Today, we have such niceties as hot showers and washing machines. And I was able to watch the rugby on satellite TV while my clothes were getting cleaned. Back in the centuries when Gamone was a wine-making installation, I would imagine that fellows who built stone walls using sand and lime mortar simply dived fully-clothed, afterwards, into the Bourne.

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