Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Home For Christmas!

 "Happy New Year" From The Dower House!

 Jenny's Christmas present was a mini drill/screwdriver, recommended by Martin. In
 the next few months she will be using it for thousands and thousands of screws,
 one day I may try and work out how many screws have gone into the house. 

If God has a big magnet we may be flying!

...and when she is not wielding a screwdriver, or mixing plaster or concrete in the rain, 
Jenny is hoovering in case the Boss complains!

We finally found the wall lights perfect for the lounge and Martin came to 
put them up a few weeks before Christmas. Martin has also finished "First fix" in Sandy and Tom's, so we can move on to , insulating, boarding and plastering.

Note the drill...

Also doing "First fix" is Lee and as you will see later he has put a lot of copper tube in the house and hopefully we'll soon be able to complete the boarding downstairs and start plastering upstairs.

There is a lot of planning and thinking goes on and because of the many other jobs Lee, Martin and Gary often have to think a lot to get started again. We are not the easiest clients to work for, 
but they always get tea and coffee and sometime even a smile!

Clips to hold the pipes...

Copper elbows, T pieces and taps ready to be used...

...and after just a few hours...

a lot of beautifully bent pipes...

I have noticed how organised and precise all our team are, they are very neat, perfectly in order...
and then there's Me...not so neat, not so orderly, but I do make a good cup of tea!

Bricks and Fireplaces.

We reclaimed some lovely old bricks from the Dower House and Gary suggested 
Sandy and Tom could have them incorporated in their fireplaces. So the best way to wash the old mortar off the bricks was to put them in the burn...

...which was fine until the massive amount of rain we had a few weeks before Christmas. The bricks got well and truly washed...out to sea. Nick braved the cold water and retrieved all that he could find and we have since found a few more.

A calm, sunny day, few and far between this year, so we went for a paddle, Me, just to drift with seals, Nick went off for a proper one.

The moon rose over Cnoc bay and a little seal sits on a rock enjoying the last rays of light.

Bricks part 2...

A few days later, after 3 weeks of seeking reclaimed bricks, many phone calls and organisation, 
Lee Ellis from Middlesbrough, arrived at The Dower House with a van and a trailer carrying 760 bricks from Gordon in Hartlepool via Gumtree. 
They came originally from a Victorian terraced house outbuilding in York. We had to find a courier with a trailer willing to load and unload by hand and then do the travelling and ferry. This all worked out thanks to Lee and Gordon. Lee stayed the night in the Dower House. He left in the morning with Jenny's old Suzuki motorbike to renovate for his wife and my car radiator.
Perfect...watch this space for the fireplaces, which are being planned at this moment. 

It was wet!

If you need  Lee to transport anything to Islay, that is too big for our courier's vans, 
Lee specialises in transporting cars and bikes, but will consider anything.


We had a hatch in Dorset, but this hatch has a very special view!

 Nick made a slate cover for the fire vent, rounded to match the hearth. 
(The diving weight on top is just there while the glue sets!)

The first shutters.

 We bought a piano from Re-jig, which needs a lot of work, it's a Bechstein and we like it, so decided to take the risk and one day in November it so happened that we had Gary and Martin to help. We carried it round the house and in through the door. There was a lot of white knuckles and red faces, but no-one complained and no-one dropped it. We've moved a few pianos in our time, maybe this one is here to stay. Does anyone know it's history?

Andrew has tuned it, removed a string or two and it plays a reasonable tune now,
 so there is hope for the future. What would we do without friends?

The porch floor before it was laid. Now finished and covered in wellies and coats oh dear!

A rare day of painting back in November.

No its not snow, just plaster and insulation. No wonder my camera is full of dust!

Insulating Lee's pipes before the floor goes down.

Tea break!
Islay came out of retirement to help with the insulation, thanks Islay.

More holes.

Lee is now taking the pipes up through the ceiling to the bathroom and showers.

It's amazing what can be done in a few hours.

More concrete lintels.

Thank goodness Gary has brought the cement mixer back.

Tiling in progress, but this bathroom is almost finished now.

Some of the tiles I have painted for the walls.

Nick planed the old floorboards on the landing ready for underlay and carpet

We had to take the blue carpet up before the floor went down in case there were
any nasty surprises underneath...there weren't!

Jenny waits patiently for the Bosses orders...

A rainbow

We returned a creel to the sea and Cassie decided to swim with us. She got too cold and had to go back, she then howled from the beach until we returned.

Lots of water...

This magnificent beast ate the top off our apple tree, but it's difficult not to forgive isn't it?
Better tree protection required!

This is a grey seal, that followed us back one day, which might explain all the wolf-like howling in November out in the bay. I am reliably informed that Grey seals make a lot of noise and have their pups in the autumn, not the summer, like the Common seals. It is unusual to see Grey seals here though, we have mainly Common seals (see below). 
Portnahaven is the place to get up close and personal to the Greys.


It's Halloween  there's a large waning moon and the stars are very bright, no light pollution.

On our way home from Topsy's  we entered the forest and something flew out of the sky and hit the roof rack. I stopped the car...very brave in the forest, it was very black. There was a scuttling and tapping on the roof... 
We got out... no torch, but Jenny had a dull glow from her phone...
 There was a little hunched figure on the roof. 
It was a bat. We picked it up with gloves, don't want rabies and put it in a sock.

 At home Percy the Pipestrelle stirred and took some honey.
 We warmed him up, had a photo shot and went back to the forest, Jenny driving. 

We bravely got out in the pitch black, placed Percy in a tree and drove on. 

Coming towards us was a stag, which didn't stop, just trotted past and just before Seal bay a Barn owl flew over. Jenny executed an excellent 5 point turn and we followed the stag, still trotting for half a mile. 
When we got home a witch flew over the Dower House...no? Ok that wasn't true, but the rest was. 

Just to prove that now and again we are brave enough to go out in the cold 
and have dinner on the fire. This was Kintra as the sun went down in November.

Our new suite of rooms is changing all the time and one day we will have all the right things in the right place, for now we are used to moving from room to room until we finish.

Jenny has been working away with Gary a lot recently, outside and it's nice to arrive home in daylight. There have been some very long, very wet days, when they have had to carry on to get the jobs finished despite the weather. I have a great deal of respect for all of those who work outside in all weathers and next time you are expecting a builder, plumber, or electrician to come and keep you in the warm, spare a thought for them and for goodness sake offer them a cup of tea...and a loo! 

Remember the curved wall that's part of our kitchen? Well Gary and Nick tried a few ways to curve the skirting board round, from hanging it up to steaming it in a mould, but MDF has a breaking and a mushy stage.

This is Nick's steaming method, which will work, but not with MDF. 

When on Islay you need to be patient, there's no point in coming to a beautiful place, 
if you don't take time to stop and take it all in. 
Waiting for sheep at Ardbeg was one of those times.

One of those mornings.

When Topsy came to dinner Jenny made Yorkshire puddings that were a bit flat, so just to prove she can make good batter take a look at this toad-in-the-hole Topsy!

When Nick had to go for a hospital appointment in Glasgow we decided to spend 2 nights and take the van for lots of shopping. We ended up leaving a day early due to the possibility of bad weather and cancelled ferries, slept in the van...I'm not saying where, but about half way next to a loch. 3 days later we couldn't get back, due to weather and cancelled ferries, so got a late booking in the very nice, Stonefield Castle Hotel near Tarbert. So all in all a longer and very enjoyable break.

Meanwhile at the Dower House...

Gary is putting the skirting board on in our utility,

Jenny chooses the Oak floor pattern...

Gary lays the floor.

We all love Xtratherm, because it keeps us warm, but we all hate putting it in. 
Jenny gets the majority of the fiddly bits and she's very good at it.

The green visquine goes on after the insulation, before the plasterboard.

Gary giving Jenny more instructions... Jenny no doubt questioning them!

Dot and dabbing the Blue room wall, Sandy and Tom's lounge to be.

Andrew relaxes with Nick in our newly furnished lounge after his cycle ride from
 Arrochar, about 65 miles in less than pleasant weather.
He had to camp near Kennacraig and wait for the morning ferry.

...I wonder what today will bring?

Katie and Dan arrive on the afternoon ferry at Port Askaig,
 having travelled from Exeter, leaving at 2 am. 
They were the lucky ones as many people got stranded as we know.

Michael delivers a pallet of plasterboard for Sandy and Tom's downstairs.


After...Gary is hiding, because we are all mad!

Nick and Jenny bringing in the Christmas Tree

Posing at Claggan, Cassie's looking for seals!

Katie and I went to Singing sands, while others worked at home and Topsy's...

...and while Cassie's back was turned 
this otter came out right in front of us, then ambled along the shore.

Too late Cassie!

Geese fly over the Oa.

Christmas Eve and all is still...

Jenny, Katie, Dan and Susan went swimming on Christmas day.
3 Seals came to watch the madness.

Happy New Year!

Sandy, Tom and Adam came up on the 28th and again had to stay in Tarbert until the weather improved the following day. It was really great to see them and even better that we could show them the massive progress on their side of the house. They have gone home with a much better idea of what they want it to look like when it's finished. There is a long way to go still, but this is the exciting bit, when they can be much more involved.

Mary-Ann's camera

The Moon rose over the Skerries on New Year's Eve.

Machir Bay New Year's Day.

Jenny's photos

Hey diddle diddle...

Jenny caught Adam in mid air, no photoshop, just cropped, see below.

...and lastly

New Year's Day, Saligo Bay, no swimming today!

At Machir Bay we had a picnic in the van and then went for a windswept walk 
with many others. One brave family had a BBQ with their little children.
We used to do that...now we sit in the van!

Well that's about all for now, there is more about The Dower House Christmas with some funny hats mad people and places to visit on Katie's travel blog


We have a plan to finish the Dower House this year and I have a feeling we will.

Thanks everyone and please put up with us for just a bit longer.



  1. Amazing job so far! Here's hoping 2016 is THE year. Keep up the good work!

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