The weekend, and most of Monday, was dominated by three white tiles - or rather, the lack of them. On Friday afternoon, the tiler casually announced that he was three tiles short for finishing the bathroom floor and asked if I could get some more. 'I'm sure it won't be a problem,' I said, while silently enacting a Munch-like scream.
The truth is that I bought the tiles in Castorama [the French equivalent of Homebase] over a year ago. Although I had been planning to tile the bathroom floor in terracotta, which looks wonderful and warm - the real rustic deal - on a bathroom floor, terre cuite is not easy to come by in my patch of France. While DIY stores are full of cheap, imitiation terracotta, the nearest stockist of the real thing I discovered, was a 300km round trip away, in Saint Sornin, somewhere south of La Rochelle. And despite having a website [www.terres-cuites-cadeuil.com], it would not accept orders over the phone. The other problem, I discovered, is that terracotta tiles are very thick and cumbersome, and potentially a ticket to lots of hassle.
And so, when I saw the plain, matte white floor tiles on sale in Castorama twelve months ago, I snapped them up in a rare moment of thrift, thrilled at securing five square metres of bathroom floor for just €40.
'How hard can it be to find three more plain white tiles, size 33cm by 33cm?' I asked myself as I drove at speed to Poitiers, late on Friday afternoon. Well, after a weekend of trawling DIY stores from here to Limoges, I now know the answer: very difficult indeed. I'm a firm believer that the harder you look for something, the less likely you are to find it. Despite this, I thought I had found a near-perfect match in Leroy Merlin yesterday, and snapped up the minimum two square metres. But when I presented the new tile to the tiler, he shook his head sadly. Not only was it a completely different shade [grey-white as opposed to white-white] it was a smaller size [30cm by 30cm].
Unfortunately, the three missing tiles are in the most prominent place: the step leading down to the bathroom. So for the time being, I am forced to step over a patch of rough, exposed concrete to access my brilliant white and watery-green mosaic-tiled space. The search goes on and until I find those tiles, I fear my new bathroom is not so much a sanctuary of calm but a niggling source of stress.