Thursday, 11 April 2013

Friends And Workers

From the very beginning we could not have started the dower House project without friends. Many people have said to us how lucky we are and they wish they could do the same thing, but I believe I personally have been working towards this moment all my life. The lessons we learn, the mistakes we make, the people we meet make us what we are and some of those lessons are really hard, but I have no regrets at all.

The friends we have made are amazing and are being added to rapidly. Many of these people are "givers" in some way, often sensitive,  practical and natural teachers in life, though not in schools! They have many talents and are coming together to make the Dower House Dream come true. Nick may have a degree in zoology, but is now using his degree of DIY and Dorset tubes to bring the project together with Andrew's skills in IT and electrics. Myself? I never did get a degree, started at the bottom with many jobs, but have used every skill learned in the last year and will continue to bring them together with all those other skilled friends.

Sandy, Tom and Adam our great friends all through children's schooling and many holidays will bring enthusiasm, bartering, fine decor and many videos and photos, not to mention a lot of strong arm work to the project for as many weeks a year as they can. Also they pay half the wages!

Andrew...well we wouldn't be here if Andrew hadn't hot footed it to Islay, only to find there was no viewing until the following Thursday. If he hadn't been taking photos at Seal Bay and talked to a fellow photographer, who turned out to be the Laird Of Kildalton...and liked him. Coincidences! Our site manager in partnership with Nick...the Boss! They slept here through all the very, very cold weather in Feb and March in many sleeping bags, getting water from the burn and on a Friday night going to...

Topsy at Tigh Cargaman in Port Ellen who has given them a bath, done their washing and wined and dined them every Friday evening. Topsy is our saviour and The Old Stables, one of her lets has become a second home to me on my visits, as I am not quite as hardy as Nick and every few days need some warmth and comfort. Wonderful woman!

Bob, who towed the boat, helped us move, knocked down walls in February and is coming back in May can turn his hand to anything. Birdwatching is a speciality and he's teaching me.

There are many others, Jenny and Adam, at Easter, full of energy, clearing rhodedendrons from the garden. Ben Short knocking off plaster in between revision for GCSE's.

More to come in May, when Angus, Rick and ben Clark arrive.


The Sun Will Always Come Out On Islay!

It is a standing joke in our family that wherever I go the sun always shines. I put it down to a positive attitude, after all if you come to Scotland you may well get rain, but the same applies in Dorset, or wherever you go and sometimes it can be the weeks you are on holiday. If you go with a good pair of boots, waterproofs and an attitude of "make hay while the sun shines" you can nearly always do most of the things you want to. As it happens for the last 25 years of sea canoeing and family holidays in the Hebrides, we have had no really wet holidays, just an average of 3 or 4 wet days in a fortnight and recently it has got better and better. In fact we have often left Dorset as a heatwave finishes to arrive in Scotland, as a heatwave begins. You could call it luck and yes I feel lucky,  but I feel life is what you make it and I take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way, if it feels right! Friends who care and have the same values for me are the key to being happy.

In August this year, due to there being an odd number of young people we invited an extra to come with our 2 families and ended up with 6 families and 25 people, all staying from the Oa to Ardtalla, the 2 weeks of the olympics. It was the most amazing holiday for everyone, starting with Katie's 21st on the day we arrived. The sun shone every day as we canoed, cycled, eagle watched, ate, walked, swam, barn owl/deer watched, ate,  otter watched, lit beach fires, ate 40 sausages cooked by Jenny, seal watched and slept after many family/friend parties at the Old School, Ardbeg. Wonderful!

It was on this holiday that Jenny and I met the gardener and watched wild horses...


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Adventures On The Road

February 2013Christmas and New Year passed in a blurr and a rather traumatic reaction, which played havoc with our health.
Andrew was prevented from travelling North with his caravan to spend two months in isolation at Kildalton by the injectors in his car going..and then the cold winter took hold and it seemed more sensible to wait for Nick to finish work and go together! Nick had to wait to load his leaving present from Dorset Tubes, a woodburning stove onto a pallet with most of his tools and this held them up further.
They finally left a day after Bob (our great friend, ex neighbour and lorry driver) and myself, who were travelling up for ten days towing Nick's Shetland skiff.

The Bumpy Road North!Bob and I left at 9.30pm onThursday 14th February, to catch the morning ferry at Kennacraig 12 hours later.
At the Tesco roundabout in Blandford we heard a metalic "Ting!" and didn't think much of it as the boat seemed fine and was travelling very well behind Bob's Freelander. We settled into the journey with empty roads and cruised through Salisbury, passed Old Sarum, towards Amesbury just before midnight.
Suddenly there was a loud "Bang!" from the Canadian canoe on the roof, lights flashed and Bob stopped! We got out to investigate. The road was very busy and very dark. The boat had slipped sideways, half off the trailer, but luckily not onto the road. Bob looked at the boat and then looked at me.."I don't think we're going to Scotland Mary-Ann"!
We rang Nick (who was madly packing to leave tomorrow), for advice and decided to try sorting it out ourselves, which involved lifting the very heavy boat back onto the three rubber rollers it was resting on and securing it with rope and fenders.
Unusual Hindrances, Help and Encounters!We positioned ourselves to lift and in the blink of an eye the boat was in place. We looked at each other and said, "Well that was easy"!
I shined the torch on Bob as the cars raced past, stopping to overtake, lights shining, dark, then more lights, then dark. We found every rope we could lay our hands on and while I kept the torch shining on Bob, he tied the the boat back in place at great risk to life and limb!
Out of the dark a voice said "Are you alright? this is a very dangerous road" and a man appeared from the other side of the dark road.
"Where are you going?" he asked from beside me.
"Scotland, the Isle of Islay...we hope" I answered
"That's funny" he said " I bought my boat from a famous writer, who lived on Islay, but I can't remember his name. If you go a bit further down the road there is a bus stop and layby, where you will be safer, this road is so dangerous"...and with that he crossed back and disappeared.
Sure enough there was a layby and we finished securing the boat and trailer in safety.
To be doubly sure we pulled into a superstore in Amesbury as the car park was well lit, but as we started to retie some of the ropes we were plunged into darkness and just had to laugh! A garage proved much better and soon we were on our way again. 12 hours later we arrived at Kennacraig, with a sigh of relief!
Whatever the weather I love to watch Islay growing bigger as the ferry gets under way and it was a beautiful morning, flat calm and sunny. In fact we left the rain at Manchester and found it in the same place on the way back! Bob fell asleep in the bar, so I left him, after all he had driven the whole nerve wracking way.

Meanwhile back in Dorset the following day about 7pm, Nick and Andrew set off towing Andrew's caravan, but only got as far as Sturminster Marshall when a wheel fell off the caravan! It skidded along the road and the wheel ended up in a wood.Something was holding us up! Many scratches and arranging of wheel nuts later they aborted and went home to start again the following day.Now you may say "How stupid!", but you have to understand that Andrew had been waiting around for weeks to get going and suddenly it all happened at once. He started tightening the wheel nuts and got called away! How many of us has that happened to? Certainly me!
Bob and I went bird watching in the bitter wind and finally 2 days later Andrew and Nick arrived on the Port Askaig ferry, one adventure over, another about to begin.


Sold And Moved In ten Weeks!

We are moving this Friday! Life is moving very fast since buying the Dower House with Sandy and Tom in October. We will have sold our house on Friday and will move temporarily to Long Range, Lytchett Matravers, Andrew's families house. We have paid back our wonderful friends, who had faith in us and lent the money to do it. I will be there for a while, Jenny will be with me a lot of the time, but staying with Sandy sometimes in the week. Nick will be disappearing to Islay with Andrew to follow the dream in January, friends will follow when the weather gets warmer.
That's the plan anyway and plans do change as we have found out this year.
This year we have found out just how many wonderful friends and family we have and hope you will all be able to visit us when the Dower House is fit for guests...or before if you don't mind a tent!

Follow Your Dreams And Jump!


Selling To Buy!

October 26th to November 3rd 2012

Just to let you know we are back from the land of Dower House enchantment and had an offer for the house in Dorset on the way back...thanks to Jenny and Ben, who got caught on the hop when the estate agent turned up 2 hours earlier than they said! It sold even with dirty washing up in the sink, 3 large dogs, dog beds around, poos on the lawn and dog hairs on the bedroom carpet! So don't listen when they tell you to tidy up, put on the bread and coffee and vacate the building, if someone wants it then it wont make a blind bit of difference! So Jenny and I may be homeless before Christmas and Nick on his way to Islay with Andrew to break down a few walls and start building the dream, one step at a time. Sandy and I saw a rainbow at a crucial part of the house bargaining and used our favourite number to get our asking price too, but that's another story!
It rained a bit, but we also sat on the patio watching the seals and feeding peacocks for lunch one day and when we walked up the fairy hill,
There are no words at the moment to express the beauty and serenity of our new home. Sandy and I got a bit tired of saying WOW!!! I think we may be very proud to be a part of Kildalton and with luck  many others will find their own
peace here and we have found nothing but friendship and help here on Islay.

If you believe in fairies you will love Kildalton, if you don't ....then you soon will!
More soon.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

New YouTube Channel

Check out the new YouTube channel!

The Dower House - YouTube Channel

To Islay and Back Again - A Mission

October 2012

One thing leads to another!

If you had asked me 10 days ago if we would be going back to Islay this year I would have thought you were mad, but you see there is this Dower house...we saw it in August and were told it had been sold.

It had, but is now back on the market, offers over £195,000, but it's a bit of a mess. Actually it needs complete renovation, but it is perfect!

One morning on Islay Jenny and I went for a walk. We met a gardener who took us along a secret path to a little house at the bottom of the fairy hill. (you can see it behind the house).

He told us that the Dower house was the best situated house on Islay and would be worth a million if done up, but it had been sold.

Meantime Sandy and Tom noticed the Dower house too and raved about it being an amazing place to live. As there was a Mercedes benz in the drive we assumed it was being done up.

When we got home I scanned the property as I always do and what should I find? The Dower house, Kildalton, For Sale, offers over £195,000, viewing 6th September, offers in by 12.00 13th September.

We were very interested and so were Andrew, Sandy and Tom, together we could do it? Or could we?
Andrew, on the spur of the moment, went to Islay to have a look...back in 2 days with photos and "What an amazing place!". There were no other viewings except the 6th! A chance meeting with the Laird, who stopped and chatted, while Andrew was photographing at Seal bay led us further...did I mention that it is a seal sanctuary? Google Fiona of the seals.

Nothing for it, Nick Andrew and I returned to Islay over night on the 5th.

We walked to Port Ellen and caught a bus to Ardbeg, then walked a couple of miles...on adrenalin and no sleep, for the was dreich, but beautiful.
We explored the outside, being early, saw peacocks, a stream, shells and stones on the beach...oh and an otter fishing.

The acting estate agent arrived, Emma, she was one of six canoeists on Islay and later gave us a lift back to Port Ellen in her yellow beetle.

The inside was a terrible mess and there were great big mushrooms creeping out of the woodwork! The last owner had started doing bits here and there and it looked as though it was too much and they had just walked out leaving, food, toys some new materials and a Mercedes benz!
We took masses of photos and walked back through the ancient Kildalton woods, where roe and fallow deer are protected, to seal bay, where Emma picked us up.

A sit down curry at the simple Indian restaurant was very welcome and we shared it with another couple who seemed very depressed by the viewing...good for us!
An early night was needed and walking the mile to Kilnaughton bay in the rain made for a very wet night camping...but as we looked in the bay there was Tenacious (sail training ship) lit up like a beacon. Cousin Geoff were you on it? Rain? What rain? Did we notice Andrew wringing his socks out in the morning? We were warm and the soft grassy bank made for a good nights sleep in Brain Dipples force 10 tent. Andrew was in a bivvi tent and looked like a mummy in the morning! 

If the sun had come out before we left we would have stayed for the day, but dry clothes in my car at Kennacraig and a Cal Mac breakfast drew us to the 9.45am ferry and home.
The sun came out half way across the water and a seal popped up to say good-bye.

We love it, you would not believe the views and who has a view with seals and otters at the bottom of their garden? Would you come on holiday there?
A massive lot of work, but not impossible, we have a great team.
Well if we sell our house by Wednesday, we can bid on Thursday and even then with a sealed bid someone else may well get it! Watch this space!

I do believe that if it is meant to be we'll get it, if not then there must be something even better round the next corner. If you don't try, then you will never get anything you wish for! The Dower House is made for people to realise that life is not all about money and power, it is much simpler than that!