Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Walking at Ardnave on Mary-Ann's Birthday!

I tried to upload this yesterday, but the combination of having 6+ computers connected to the wifi, with the already slow internet upload speed (about 100 kb/s, at best) is taking its toll on the laptops ability to function.

Yesterday was Mary-Ann's birthday, so we decided to go for a walk up at Ardnave, the opposite side of Loch Gruiniart from Kilinallan, where we walked last weekend. Last year Mary-Ann Nick, Andrew and Bob went on the same walk and the sand dunes were frozen white! This year however, it was actually reasonably mild in the bright sunshine.

This sheep greeted us as we parked the car. I'm sure it's not quite that fat underneath all the wool....

Cassie is still quite interested in sheep.. These ones were pretty interested in her too. 

Following the path to the beach, with a view towards Gortantaoid on the other side of Loch Gruinairt.

A group of choughs.

A very picturesque cow. Isla got a little agitated because we got left behind while I took this and nearly got us chased... Someone else can hold her next time!

The wind blowing the waves backward.

Nick and Cassie on the dunes.

It's a shame this isn't bigger, but if you look closely, or click on it to enlarge it, you can see Jura in the background.

Getting left behind.

Cassie is getting much better at walking on the lead, but did end up in a stream when she tried to jump before I did..

Nick and Dan trying to work out a way of carrying back all this net.

Waves crashing off Nave Island.

I love the reflections of the clouds you get just after a wave has gone out, especially when the sky is such a brilliant blue.

Islay beaches are really quite something. Trip advisor voted it the 8th best British island, but to be honest, I think it's far nicer than that!

There's something about a totally empty sandy beach on a sunny day.

Mary-Ann giving Cassie a consoling cuddle. (She was tied onto a post!)

Group photo! Isla obviously was feeling camera shy.

It started to cloud over into the afternoon, but still no rain.

Mary-Ann got left behind looking for shells of course..

Looking out to sea one last time before heading inland.

The old lobster containers. I thought it would be a great idea to walk along this wall, not realising how rusty the gates were... They didn't break though!

I love these tracks that go off into the middle of nowhere.

A hooper swan, these birds migrate here for the winter, and are distinguishable by their yellow beaks, whereas the native mute swan has a red beak. They were living side by side on the loch at Ardnave.

A hare through the fence.

Mary-Ann and her rainbow cake. 

I've seen these cakes quite a lot recently and wanted to give it a go. I was a bit pushed for time though.. I went to the pub on Saturday night and was a little worse for wear in the morning... Meandered back to Topsy's house at about mid day expecting to be able to go home and make the cake, and then ended up staying for a roast dinner! Then we went to see the afternoon music session at the Islay until 5pm, and by the time we got home I had to go out again for my second roast dinner! So I ended making the cake from 10.30 to about 1am... and decorating it in the morning. Not ideal to say the least, but it worked out ok!

If you can't tell (probably not) it's supposed to be a daisy with a bee sat in the middle. I have to thank my Aunty Ruth here, (another avid blog reader, who we are very grateful to, and I really should have mentioned... Sorry!!) as she gave me an extensive cake decorating kit that belonged to her mother, with some extras for christmas. Trouble is every time I make a cake in this house half of it's gone before it's had time to cool, so I never have a chance to ice it! 

Anyway, all in all MaryAnn had an excellent birthday, with lots of really lovely presents (I'm sure she'll thank everyone herself at some point) and Dan cooked in the evening, we had chicken in red wine, followed by lindt chocolates. Excellent.

Now, I better get back to making wedges to block up the holes in the joists... Yay. 


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Really Long Annual Update...

It's a bit scary publishing this, hopefully I haven't made any glaringly obvious mistakes!

One year and two days ago today, (actually, 3 days ago now, because I took longer writing than expected..) Nick and Andrew set off from our, then, home for Islay, with caravan in tow, to begin work on the Dower house. They were to meet Bob and Mary-Ann at the ferry as they had left from Bob's house that morning, towing Nicks boat. One year and two days ago at 10pm, I was cooking my dinner alone for two weeks, having waved good bye to everyone, wishing I was going with them. Unfortunately, they came back to me instead. At about 10pm that night, there was a knock on the door and Nick's face appeared through the glass. Now, I was already a little creeped out by this very old house that had holes in the windows and a water tank that made noises as if there were someone coming up the stairs, so my resultant scream was not unjustified. (I have a loud scream... a really loud scream.) The upshot of it was that the wheel has fallen off the caravan 3 miles down the road, and it had taken them 5 hours to locate the missing wheel and bodge it back on. 

Two days later, they really did arrive on Islay and met Mary-Ann and Bob, who had spent the time bird watching. I should mention at this point that just after Salisbury, the main part of the boat trailer had broken and they had had to tie it on with shoe laces... At this point I begin to see that staying at home and doing coursework was perhaps the best place to be. After all, I had Isla the dog and Archie the cat. 

Ok, so I've written far too much and not everyone is going to be interested in all of it, or even any of it... if you fall into that category you don't have to read it! So I've put it into sections, chapters I suppose, and Ill give you the gist of them here, so you can just read what sections you want to.

A Little Bit About Us- naturally, is about us, the people behind the house I suppose..

As It Was - lots of pictures and explanation of how the house was in the beginning.

Stripping Out and Cleaning Up - the start of the work, back in February 2013.

Easter Into Summer - A mixture of house, garden and venturing out in Islay.

New Arrivals - Our growing collection of pets.

Sunrise, Skies, and Wildlife - Some of our better pictures, mostly of the sky, but a few others snuck in!

Summer Visitors - Probably more interesting for my family and friends who visited. But there is a bit about our summer trips out and some work.

Christmas And a Few Disasters - Our first Islay christmas, with a bit about Roland's boat and Tigh Cargamans holiday cottages.

Autumn and WInter - Mostly work, a lot of progress!

As It Is Now - A selection of pictures of each of the rooms in the house as they are now.

A Little Bit About Us

On December 14th 2012 we moved out of our bungalow in Dorset, where we had stayed for 14 years, this is it! 

The moving party, Bob, Ben, Nick, Jenny (me!), Adam and Angus. (Mary-Ann behind the camera.)

I was pretty fond of our little house, having lived there for the majority of my life, but I suppose it was time to move on. (Actually, it definitely was, time to move on, the whole village has flooded this year!) We were very lucky with the selling, our friends lent us the money to buy the Dower House, which we did, and the bungalow went on the market. 4 weeks later Mary-Ann and Nick were in Scotland with Sandy and Tom, so my cousin Ben and I were clearing things out of the house and sorting out the garden. On the Friday of that week I had a call saying there would be a viewing on Saturday at 2pm. Saturday morning, Ben and I went on a major clean up operation, shutting the two dogs in the conservatory. To cut a long story short, the estate agent turned up at 10am, not 2pm, the house, naturally was in complete mid tidy disarray. A disaster really. And to think, we had been planning to move my motorbike round the corner... that was the least of our worries. Anyways, at about 3pm that day the estate agent rang, I passed him along to Mary-Ann, who was on her way back at Tebay services, and that was that. 6 weeks later, we were out. 

We then moved on to Long Range in Lychett Matravers, near my Aunty Lucy and Uncle Mark, which was lovely. (The house was very, very cold... but I actually quite liked it, it was a beautiful house.)

Nick gave up work and left after 36 years. 

We're missing the source of free wood... and bits of copper. Not the hours though. Or the 18 mile drive there.

Mary-Ann let her work fizzle out, or found other people to take over her clubs, and classes. This is her website, I'm not sure it's been mentioned before, but she is a water colour artist, so if anyone has a commision...!

Katie was at university at Southampton studying history along with Dan. They both graduated this summer and are currently saving up to go travelling. This is Katie's travel blog:

And Dan's EP on sound cloud- he makes music:

As for me, well... I finished my A levels last year, with a lot better grades than I, and my teachers, expected, so really, if I wanted to, I could go to university anywhere I wanted to, within reason! (Not Oxbridge for sure!!) I also gained a singing diploma, so do techniquely have letters after my name... not entirely sure what they are to be honest, possibly ATCL, or dipATCL. But you can just call me Jenny, if you like. I'm a little confused as to what I'm going to do with my life for the moment. Or more held up. At some point, hopefully, I want to be a singer, opera, not pop thank you! I have no idea whether this will be feasible, but I'll give it a go. The next step for me is music college, but being a soprano and getting in is not as easy as it sounds. If you're from Islay, you may have heard me sing at some point over christmas. If not, well, maybe you will some day, then again, maybe you won't! I have a lot of options at the moment.

So as you can see, we're a very diverse bunch of people, all working together, for now, on the Dower House. If anyone would like to meet us, please feel free to come in and have a tour and a cup of tea. There might even be cake if you're lucky.. 

This isn't all of us though, Sandy, Tom and Adam own the left hand side of the house and without their support, help and dedication, there is no way we would be able to do this. Sandy works as a secretary at Cheselbourne School in Dorset, Tom is an oil engineer and Adam is at university in Portsmouth studying Computer Aided Product Design (I think) They have a labradoodle called Cocoa, who I am just a little bit in love with! She's a character.  

Adam and I met in play group and then went on to go to school together, and have been friends, really, for most of our lives, well as long as I can remember anyway. I'm sure he must want to murder me at times, but apparently once you've played hamsters at 4 years old together, there's no going back. (It was a very well worn game-I was a seriously hyperactive child.) When we were 10 our families started going on holiday together, first to Mull, then Skye, then Islay, and even to Gozo, off Malta. So every year we'd be up in the Inner Hebrides, not wanting to go home and having a brilliant time, so the Dower House is pretty much perfect. I should also thank Sandy and Tom here for letting me stay with them when I go back to Dorset, they are both incredibly kind, generous, and this move would have been a whole lot harder without you.  

I'll just slot in a photo of mine and Adam's trip all over the UK last summer. We climbed the three peaks, saw Hadrian's wall, and went to Skye!

This is us looking particularly fetching at the top of Snowdon. 

As It Was

Right, on to the house...! 

This is the house as it looked in September, when Mary-Ann, Nick and Andrew came for the open day viewing. This year, I went around a dug up all the ragwort, so those splashes of yellow have now gone. The picnic bench also died a death, we used it (with occasional repairs) all summer, but it did eventually collapse, and in the winter storms has been washed away. Most importantly however, is the roof, which has been completely taken off and redone by Gary Clark, with help from Willie Leask, as well as Islay from Lagavulin during the stripping. (Not to mention all of us who had a crash course in slate sorting and dressing)

This is a really quite terrible diagram I just drew in about 2 seconds of the upstairs so that you know which room I'm talking about-there are quite a lot!

Here are a few (hundred) photos of what the upstairs looked like when we first arrived.

The pink bedroom, room 3 on the diagram. Nick stayed in here until Mary-Ann moved up more permanently around Easter time and wanted to sleep in a proper bed in a room with a door... 

This is room 2, it was a small kitchen with attached bathroom. It actually looks quite nice in this photo, and then you scroll down....

And see that the plaster has started to sag and fall off the walls.

The attached toilet was disused, and instead was used as the washing machine drain.

We have been told by a lot of people who knew the house while it was a hotel that this room, room 1, was the bridal suite. It makes sense as it does have two windows, which both have very good sea views. (Not that you can see them in these pictures. Nearly all the bedrooms were en suite from when it was a hotel, this one however. was kitted out as a disabled bahroom, complete with disabled bath. The bath, and a couple of other baths and sinks and things actually, is round the side of the house, waiting to be used or thrown away.

The view from room 4. You can see where secondary glazing has been added for insulation. Along with the airing cupboard that was in that room.

Over the porch we have room 6. Eventually, this room is going to be Mary-Ann and Nick's bedroom, and the only room, on our side, to have an en suite. (Nick's requirement) with a bath. (Mary-Ann's requirement!)

The window sill in room 8. Crazy, but I actually quite like it!

The view from the end dormer window in room 8. This will be Mary-Ann and Nick's sitting room/ kitchen/ general room! The pictures below show the actual room. Since it has been stripped there is now a doorway on the far left of the left hand picture.

The landing at the top of the stairs. We are splitting the house in two, one side for each family, the stairs are on our side, so take up about a meter of each of our bedrooms, but it does mean that we won't have to build another staircase, whereas Sandy and Tom will. I think it will go in the old hotel kitchen, which will also be their kitchen. They were thinking about designs at New Year when they visited, as it is going to be very difficult to not block out the light from the seaward side window. Tom's on the case, and I'm sure will find a solution for this.

I think that's the upstairs done with for now. We currently have two computers, but only one monitor and the photos of the other bedrooms are on the one we're not using... Will try and sort this out!

Onto downstairs... I won't draw another award winning diagram of this because it's pretty simple.

This is the blue room, situated underneath rooms 3 and 4. It is on Sandy and Tom's side and is going to be their sitting room. The three piece suite was in situ when we arrived. At the moment this is Katie and Dan's bedroom, so I'm sure they're making use of it as we couldn't fit it out through the door! The picture below shows one of the fireplaces. Unfortunately, this one is unusable as the chimney flue was cut when the corridor was built upstairs. 

It's a very big room!

This is the view.

This was the old hotel kitchen and will be Sandy and Tom's kitchen diner. It is underneath rooms 1 and 2. The floor is pretty strange.. When we first got here part of the wall was plaster-boarded over all the old hotel cooking ranges, to essentially hide them from view without removing them.

Right... on to our side. This is our kitchen, sitting room, office, dining room and music room. Actually, take away bedrooms, it's our only room! (And it's really cold...)

And this, lovely room, is our bathroom... It's really quite horrible. It is in the end 'shed' on Sandy and Tom's half. It used to be the hotel's ladies toilet.

The room next to our kitchen, underneath room 5, this is currently Mary-Ann and Nick's bedroom! It looks much nicer now, although the dormer window above is leaking and dripping down onto the bed... Not so good.

I'm not going to label all these next pictures individually, as firstly it'll take ages, and secondly, I never actually saw the house before it was stripped, so I keep having to ask Nick what it all is! But they should give you a bit more of an insight into how much there was to do when we first arrived, and even now actually. The mushrooms are particularly alarming.

The end shed of our end. It is now a garden tools, wood, paint and canoe kit store.

Plants growing in the v's between the sheds. This is over the toilet, so when it's raining you get dripped on...

Dead flies in the skylight over the stairwell. 

The attics and the old water tank which we are still using.

This is a quirky view of the old guttering and a dormer window. We have new guttering up now! Just waiting for Nick to finish the down pipes, but we've had other priorities for few weeks now.

Stripping Out and Cleaning Up

First things first..! 

Cleaning out the contents and stripping back to the outside walls.
Sandy, Tom, Nick and Mary-Ann did a lot of the cleaning out back in October 2012, whilst here for week. The house had a lot of things left in it from various previous occupants. For example, there was a box of six eggs on the table with 2011 sell by dates! Many fridges as well, and general appliances. 

Bob, Nick and Andrew on the first evening back in February 2013. You can see the first box of laths behind Bob, we have tons of this stuff that made up the walls. The photo below shows them still in situ on the roof over Bob's head. Isn't the wall pretty? Shame it has to be covered up really. At the moment we're looking at seeing if we can have some sort of double glazed pane over the wall to show the rocks behind. If this goes ahead it will mean taking out the new pointing in the specific area and neatening it up a lot.

They built a chute out of the window to get rid of the old plaster, which went into a skip hired from Currie's. When Andrew and Nick got the skip weighed it was 10 tones and cost £1000 to dispose of. We were almost as appalled as Gordon Currie, but not quite. Subsequent plaster went into the shed base..

The interior slowly disappears...

From February to April last year there was very little rain and bright sunshine almost all the time. Why isn't it like that now? It's raining as I write this. Not as cold as it was last year though, so that's something.

Nick and Bob took a few hours off to row Nick's Shetland Skiff from Knock bay to our bay.

Drying the washing is still a problem. I try to pick the sunniest day possible and do it really early on so it has all day to dry. Luckily, we bought some slates from the owners of Cairn Cottage, and they happened to be getting rid of a tumble drier, so we use that to air the washing and dry it when it's raining.

We try to make time for at least one day out a week. This is Mary-Ann Nick and Bob walking at Gruiniart. 

When they arrived that February having not been since the previous October, we discovered that someone/s had catapulted marbles through the windows... Hmmm. We've asked no questions and nothing has happened since, but everyone we have told has been very shocked.

The porch looking very scruffy. Then again, it doesn't look all that much better now..

Andrew removing the stairlift.

Burning old timbre.

Warming up by the fire. The kitchen looks so empty then!

That toilet definitely needs to go.

We left Nick and Andrew up here alone for 6 weeks, this is them watching a film in Andrew's very well kitted out caravan. I should mention that Topsy looked after them brilliantly. The first time they went to her for their showers she had cooked them a restaurant standard meal, which they ate, and drove home having drunk probably far too much of her Berrys Red wine. And it became a tradition. One we still hold to in fact! 

Left to their own devices, Andrew and Nick dug a trench to the bore hole, bought and fitted new pumps so that we had water that could be pumped into a tank on the end of the house. Running water. On the outside at least. Better than having to go to the burn every time you need a drink!

Once this was done, Bob built a wall around the bore hole.

And they enjoyed the sun.

Easter into Summer

At Easter, Adam and I were finally allowed to visit, along with my cousin Ben! We turned this hill that was totally covered in rhododendron into...

A hill with a few less rhododendron on... A little way to go I think. That's me falling over there.

Then of course we had to burn all the cuttings. Which took all week. Much to Ben's delight!

Sandy and I introduce ourselves to the swans.

Adam and Nick having a look at the 1970s Lister generator.

We did a lot of work in the garden, because the weather was so nice. This is Andrew stamping down brambles.

Nick, Tom and Adam beat down the plaster board and removed the old hotel ranges.

In full safety equipment of course!

The weather was almost good enough to sunbathe.

Mary-Ann and Sandy doing the housework!

Adam, me, Mary-Ann, Sandy and Tom after a brisk walk up the fairy hill.

Another walk to Ardnave to see the geese.

Mary-Ann and Sandy planning out the garden.

It was warm enough to sit out for lunch, but not quite warm enough to get out of my sleeping bags in the morning.

One of the monumental things that happened at easter was the water tank, which provides the water for 2 toilets and 2 sinks in the bathrooms. Before Tom set this up, we had been collecting water from first the burn and then the outside tap for toilet flushing and hand washing. The tank does still have to be pumped (with a switch, not by hand, thank goodness) but it's far less labour intensive. Except when I'm looking after it, as I seem to have a distinct inability to multi task and totally forget about it, resulting in a flood..

In May time Angus came to visit, during his stay we thought it would be lovely if he helped Nick to sort out the septic tank pipes. Because we're nice like that! Once a trench had been dug, mostly by Andrew I think, the pipes were exposed and they could see the problem. A significantly smaller pipe had been shoved into a large pipe leading from the drains with no connecter. They sorted this out, while I wasn't there luckily!

The Roof

Ah the roof... 

In June the scaffolding went up and we had Gary Clark come in to do the roof. When I say do the roof, I mean strip off all the slates in sections because it's such a big roof. We did the end with the sun on it first, then the seaward side, half at a time, followed by the other end and then the front in thirds. Then all rotten sarking (timber that the slates are nailed onto) has to be replaced. Roofing felt is then stapled on top once all old nails etc have been removed. It's a long job. In the mean time, the slates are stacked to get them out of the way, when they're being stripped you don't have time to do this so they just go everywhere. Then they have to be sorted into half inch sizes. Another big job, considering we had sizes 17" to 5"... We were labouring for Gary, and it took us quite a while to understand what we were supposed to do, so this job took a long time. (A couple of months to perfect) Once they're in size order, old nails have to be knocked out and the slate must be dressed. This means taking off any edges that aren't straight, and ensuring that the slate is square, well rectangular actually, but you get my meaning. In a lot of cases new holes then have to be punched. Gary and Willie do this onto their knees... I did not. I value my knee. Finally, the slate can be put in the 'good' pile and taken to Gary. But only when he wants that size. More often than not we ran out of the size he needed and Mary-Ann had to race around Islay trying to bargain slates off of people! We had many people help us with this along the way, Ben Clark came in May and left in September, so definitely did his fair share! Rick, Katie, Dan, Adam, Joe, Ben, Bob, Angus, Nick and Mary-Ann obviously, and me. (Sorry if I've forgotten anyone!)

Nick building up a pallet to collect slates from Cairn Cottage. (I should add that the midges were proving a problem here, he even has his midge hat on!)

Jenny, Mary-Ann, Rick and Nick after collecting slates from Cairn Cottage.

Gary and Willie were a little alarmed when I appeared on the scaffolding to work in crop top, shorts and flip flops. (Where are my steel toe caps??) 

We slated the seaward side dormers with spanish slate, because we decided no one would see them clearly and it would be so much quicker. With the front dormers however, Nick even slated the end one, using his newly acquired skills, with west highland slate.

This box of copper nails is worth £300.. They are the best for nailing in the slates though, so no expense spared.

Nick's first attempt at slating. 

Michael, from Buildbase, delivering the spanish slate. In those hard weeks when we were on the roof constantly we all looked forward to Michael's deliveries!

Ben Clarke, Joe, Adam and I formed a conveyer system to get all the size 13" slates onto the platform for Gary at short notice. We worked really well together once we'd figured it out.

Katie and I dressing and measuring slates. You can see how thrilling a job it is from our faces.

Eventually mess turns into order.

Gary, Islay and Nick stripping the slates.

By the time we got t the road side, Nick was stripping by himself. (There's no other way to write this..)

Waiting for the slates to fall.

New Arrivals

Archie isn't exactly new, in fact, we've had him for 14 years, but he's new to Islay. This is him just before I shut him in the cat box and drove him 580 miles to Scotland. 2 hours in he pooed... it was quite honestly the most horrendous journey. Mary-Ann and my cousin Ben were in the front, whilst I sat in the back with Archie, trying to stop him yowling.  never want to smell another 'forest green' air freshener in my life.

Archie's first night with Ben and I.

He soon settled in though.

He was followed by Isla the dog in June.

This is Becky the chicken after she got shut outside in the rain. Obviously, she had to come inside and sit by the fire. It wasn't long before she found her way onto my lap...

Bertie the cockerel, named after Bertie Wooster (you can guess why.) was next to arrive. He fitted in straight away and is very protective over his girls. If you try to give him food, he just stands there clucking until all the chickens come and eat it, and when it rains he makes sure to herd them up and hide them somewhere dry. He's even a lot more brave with people than he was, he lets me stroke him when I'm in the cage with them getting the eggs!

Cassie the puppy. She cam from Callumkill estate at Ardbeg and is a labrador x German wire haired pointer. Some of you may have read about our struggle to find a name that fitted, I even had some help from our twitter followers. For a few days she was called Tammy, which, I will admit I absolutely hated and was, understandably, I think, furious when Mary-Ann told me this was her name over the blog... Haha! Eventually however, Cassiopeia, which is a constellation, was settled upon.

Islay wasn't keen, I don't blame her though, Cassie is caught in the act of stealing Isla's wood here!

They co exist well enough though.Even Archie doesn't mind sharing his lap with her sometimes.

It would great if she'd stop chasing the chickens though..

But finding clutches of eggs is fine, if she wants to carry on doing that!

Sunrises, Skies and Wildlife

These don't really need any comment.

Machir bay.

Summer Visitors

Time and again I find myself saying that we couldn't do this without our visitors. Friends and family flocked up summer of 2013, and really made it for us. Yes, worked slowed down a little, and sometimes it was difficult to balance-we ended up stripping part of the roof on Nanny's (Pauline) birthday, which was a bit rubbish, but I still managed to make a cake, and Joe, Adam, Ben and I ran around tying up balloons 10 minutes before she arrived! 

At least it was sunny.

We had a lovely meal in the Islay Hotel in the evening, and the whole restaurant sang 'Happy Birthday' as the cake came out! This is Nanny looking a bit shocked.

Of course, in between trips out and BBQs on the beach work carried on with a variety of helpers.

Nick rebuilding a dormer window with Adam.

With Rick.

And another with Dan.

And also with Joe! Well there are 10 of them. Dormers, not helpers.
Meanwhile, we lit a few fires on the beach and I cooked for all 20 something members of the family. Greedy bunch, I end up cooking for hours!! That's me there, the bright red one in an orange top!

Luckily we all could go kayaking after wards to cool off.

Speaking of cooling off, I should probably mention the swimming incident at Machir bay... We don't go to Machir all that often, but whenever we do, I seem to end up swimming in my clothes. So this time I decided to, and I took all the younger generation with me to the shore, Adam, Ben Clarke, Ben Short, Emma, Jenny, Claire and Ellie, thinking that they would just stand and wait so I didn't look silly swimming by myself, and the whole lot of them ended up in the sea, with no spare clothes or towels! Sorry parents, I take full responsibility. 

Jenny and Claire drip drying!

Sandy and Tom played it safe, just paddling!

Isla loved all the fuss.

Nick showing Lucy and Ruth a jelly fish at Sanaigmore.

Lucy is probably our most avid blog reader-thank you very much! Here she is enjoying the view.

I miss a lot of things from my other life in Dorset, but most of all Nanny!

As we left Angus arrived again, bringing his wife Sue, and daughter Amelia.
This is Nigel helping them put up their giant tent!

One of our last, but very important, none the less, visitors was Mary-Ann's Uncle Chris, who came on a boat chartered by Ruth's husband Alan to bring the family from Northern Ireland to Islay for the day!

We never climbed on the scaffolding. Especially not in our pajamas.

We always wore full safety gear.

Never sat on the ridge for fun.

Never swung off the bars.

And most certainly never dried our washing on it...
(I miss the scaffolding)

Hot chocolate on the beach after our bout of rule breaking. Why am I so short?!

Ben putting up his tent. Camping was about the only accommodation we could offer.

Saying goodbye is always an issue. Hoe do you make the people on the ferry see you? This is Adam's attempt.

And us all saying goodbye for a while. (I was only leaving for a week.)

Ben tending the fire with Archie.

Christmas and A Few Disasters

Disaster number 1 came in the form of Topsy's Middle holiday cottage roof ridge blowing off! Nick, Mary-Ann and I spent the day replacing it in a force 7 with it snowing. There was a little anonymous mention in the Illeach the following week.

I didn't look forward to Christmas at all this year, we weren't going to be with family as we are most years, it was cold and it was wet, even Katie and Dan had gone to Australia! But, true to form, I decorated the house with vigour, here I am looking like the Michelin man in all my layers hanging up paper chains.

In the end though, it was a brilliant Christmas. Mary-Ann and I went to the school house, Ardbeg, to sing carols for charity, and I ended up doing an impromptu rendition of Puccini's 'O Mio Babbino Caro', which led onto the Sing with SID carols, where Gordon Currie caught me at the door and made me (made is definitely the word) sing in place of someone who had been unable to make it. And then I ended up singing at the ceilidh as well, which was highly embarrassing to be honest, I don't sing much folk and no Gaelic at all, so my little section was a little different... 
Topsy's Christmas dinner went above and beyond and we were so full we didn't eat christmas pudding until 8pm! We were also invited to stay and ended up being looked after by Topsy until the 28th!

Then we had the second disaster. We arrived at the Dower House on the morning of the 27th and found Roland's boat embedded in the rocks. Lets just say that none of us expected to be swimming in the sea for 4 hours in December. Topsy cooked a brilliant soup for when we got back though!

 Autumn and Winter

I spent part of September painting the inside of the the shed... this is where I live now, but it's a little more habitable than it was there.

I had to go back to Dorset for 2 months in October, Dad and I enjoyed the ridge for one last time before I left.

With the main roof completed we then moved onto doing some indoor work as the days shortened and the temperature dropped. This meant pointing. For those of you who don't know what this is, I explained it in depth in my last post back in January, so I won;t go into it again as it's really quite boring... This is one of the four attic walls, my last in fact. I had to use the saw bench to stand on in order to reach the top! The perils of being 5 ft 2''. It's finished now though. 

All of the upstairs rooms had to be pointed as well, although they were a lot bigger, not all of the old mortar had to come out as some of it was still very hard and strong, unlike the attics, where every single crack  had to be chipped out, as you can see.

Some parts of the outisde walls had to be done whilst the scaffolding was up. This is Mary-Ann pointing one of the chimney stacks.

And Rick pointing, or more like rebuilding, under the eaves in order to put up the guttering.

Which came next... this is Mary-Ann checking that the water will flow with a spirit level. Of course, before we got to this stage all 60 or so gutter brackets had to be attached to the wall, which was extremely difficult and frustrating as there is so little space to hold the screw that we kept dropping them!
Then the gutter has to be cut and de-burred. I cut one of them too short near the end resulting in us having to buy a whole new length. Oops.

While the scaffolding was still up we had a long list of jobs which had to be completed, removing the satelite dish was one of them.

As was sweeping the chimneys and identifying which fire led to which chimney pot. This is Dan sweeping while Katie waited for the brush to appear. And possibly hit her in the face..

In November Bob and Mark came up to help for week, bringing my motorbike with them! It promptly broke, but luckily Mark's a mechanic so he sorted it out! We saved the dirty jobs for them, testing out the metre of chimney flue, for example. Which just happened to get stuck in the chimney, so naturally, Nick and Bob got covered in soot while Mark stood on top checking to see if had gone down.

Dan and Nick fit a window. We've only fitted the upstairs windows for now as we haven't stripped out the downstairs.

Nick and I lit a fire upstairs to try and dry out the attic walls.

Just before christmas we had a delivery of all the wood needed for the stud walling upstairs. It's still sitting in the old kitchen of course!

Just after christmas, we had a delivery of the insulation and plasterboard for our upstairs quarter.

Carrying 3.1 tonnes up the stairs wasn't great..

One problem we had to fix while the scaffolding was still up was the leaks. The water was still coming in through the chimney stacks and the dormers. Peter Dewar suggested that we paint them with a waterproofer called SBR.

While we did this, I had to dry the cement on the dormers and waterproof it with mastic.

Bob tied the roof onto the house with metal rods!

Tom, Sandy and Adam came for new year and helped us do some pointing.

I should point out here that this was about 11am on New Years day after an evening in the Islay Hotel... I was a little worse for wear. (But people kept buying me drinks...)

Here's a few photos of the house before the scaffolding came down. It shows some of the better days we've been having with the weather.

Bleary eyed from a 24 hour coach journey from Dorset to Islay Nick and I threw ourselves straight back into work this January. At Topsy's house, Tigh Cargamon, Andy Thomson taught us how to use chainsaws! (When I say 'us'... well I wasn't that great if I'm honest. For anyone that knows me, this is plenty obvious, as I do often find it pretty difficult to walk straight and stand still without falling over or over balancing..) Anyways, Mary-Ann, Topsy, Dan and Nick all learnt how to chainsaw.

Back at the Dower House, Angus' parents Mary and Tony had sent us an apple tree. Which was right up Mum's street as before we moved to Islay she ran the Trees for Dorset schools project. 

Nick spent a few days digging a drainage trench right across the drive as the water was standing there..

Cassie wanted to join in, and so did the chickens, who nearly lost their heads a few times.

A few weeks ago the scaffolding came down. This seemed like a massive step in the right direction.

But it's a bit of a pain when you need to reach the guttering...

As It Is Now

The kitchen. Otherwise known as our everything space.

Sorry about the mess, I'm afraid we do all tend to put things down ad not pick them up again for a few days!

The end shed.

With a ridiculously big stack of canoe paddles.

The roof has not been done on the end sheds or the porch so the joists are a little wet.

The workshop. Its not quite as good as Nick's old garage workshop, but give it time.

The porch. (We've actually just moved the fridge into the kitchen. Yay!)

The old hotel kitchen, full of wood for stud walling and roof batons.

Also acts as another garden shed.

The bathroom is really quite disgusting... And it leaks so the floor is always wet.

The stairs haven't changed much other than being an awful lot more dusty.

Upstairs-the corridor leading to our end.

My future room! My one requirement was a fireplace, which meant I ended up with the smallest room. But it's still bigger than my old room.

It's currently the store for half of the plasterboard. I love the slant on the roof.

Mary-Ann and Nick's future room, or what you can see of it. There's rather a lot of insulation and plasterboard.

The view from room 3.

Up there in the attic is going to be a room too.

A couple of panorama's of the two end rooms, rooms 7 and 8, which are currently not partitioned. 

In room 7 we've had to take up some of the floor boards as they had rot growing underneath them.

The view from room 7.

The view from the end window, which will be part of room 8, Mary-Ann and Nicks living room/ kitchen.

The front view from room 8.

A door way between rooms 6 and 8 that we discovered whilst sripping out.

A panorama of rooms 5 and 6.

The corridor down through Sandy and Tom's end.

Room 4. I actually cleaned this out earlier today, it's still full of canoe kit, but the floor isn't covered in old lime mortar anymore.

The view from room 4.

Corridor between rooms 2 and 4. I think this will be blocked off when the plasterboard goes up.

Room 2 also functions as a workshop overflow! And is full of everything that doesn't have a place.

The view from room 2.

Room 1 has so much old insulation and wood that it was difficult to take a photo.

This is the view from the end window.

It is also full of a lot of stuff.

Room 1s sea view.

The attic above rooms 1 and 2. Newly pointed.

View from the attic into room 1.

The pink room! Room 3. Looking a little different, but still quite pink... This is the cement mixing room at the moment.

Room 3s sea view.

The house at the end of the year. Looking a little better with the new roof and the new top floor windows, as well as the new drive.

If you've made it to the end of this post I applaud you as it's taken me nearly a week to write and it's probably exceptionally boring! Sorry about that... I hope I've been able to show the improvement we've made, but also how far we still have left to go. Every new job is another hurdle, and usually we find 20 more jobs hidden underneath it, but then, nothing ever goes exactly to plan, and if it did something drastic would probably go wrong at the end! I know I haven't covered everything and a lot of what I have covered has already been written about, but it's nice to have a full years sum up all in one place that we will be able to refer back to in the future. Now, my feet are totally numb and cold, so I'm going to leave it here. (Can they be numb and cold at the same time? Maybe not, perhaps 'numb with cold' is better.) 

So thank you to all our helpers, our friends, family and even our visitors who brighten up our days and add a little interest when the work gets monotonous. Please keep coming! Anyone should feel free to come and have a look round, Nick loves giving tours and saying how it is all going to be in the end, so really you're doing us a favour!

Also, apologies for spelling and grammar mistakes, it was far too long to proof read!

Just as a little aside, Adam has made a video to go along with this, I know a lot of people will have already read it so I will post it again next time, but give it a watch!

Dower House Annual Video Update