Thursday, 1 September 2016

Entertaining at The Dower House summer 2016.

The House

To enable Sandy and Tom to stay in their side of the house this summer we worked really hard to get a bathroom tiled, toilet and shower put in and succeeded in turning the water and heating on the day they arrived. Thanks to our great team who really put themselves out to achieve it. We also bought 2 single beds from Rejig and made them a bedroom. Adam and Ed had to sleep on mattresses on the floor still!

Nick made benches from the old recycled beams that were thrown out of the Post Office. 

Waiting for Sandy to try out all her new bedding.

Gary did the tiling, May-Ann a few fiddly bits he got fed up with, and Jenny
 did all the grouting as she is the best finisher!

Last minute plumbing to get the hot water on for showers. We are all very grateful to those people who really put themselves out at 6am the morning Sandy and Tom arrived. They would have had to run next door to have a shower and make a cup of tea. Instead they had heating and hot water!

When the new windows were fitted there was a lot of  filling and sealing around the edges to be done and the filler is either white or sand colour. So I got my acrylic paints out and mixed all the different greys and browns to match the stone colour as closely as possibly and with some masking tape on the windows we now have a neat line and unless you look closely you wouldn't know it wasn't the stone.

Nick is painting and varnishing the doors. Today he was thwarted by a heavy storm before it was dry and tomorrow he will have to do the odd one again.

The  solid wood doors have contracted a bit since last year, so they need touching up in some of the joints. Also the knots have leaked through and are proud, so they need rubbing down and sealing before a top coat goes on again. We have spent money and time on a solid, good quality exterior, so the preparation is really important at the beginning to make the ongoing maintenance easy.

A few minor Hiccoughs...

We knew there was a pressure drop in the water heating system, which meant there was a leak somewhere.

 It was in a place that showed straight away and Gary was able to cut a hole in the floor and Nick repaired it very quickly,

Many moons ago we persuaded Gary to lay a floor using the old floorboards, much to his disgust! He did it anyway and so we still have a little of the original house buried in the new.

We are fortunate to have an excellent, professional carpet fitter in the family, Nigel retired last year, but was willing to make an allowance for us.

Nick cuts the ply wood

I helped Nick and Nigel nail it down over the old floorboards.

Underlay next

1 true cut...

Pauline and Nick try out our new bedroom's bouncy, so Mum says, Cassie is banned... for the moment!

I clingfilmed Sandy and Tom's wood burner to spray on the dust 
and brick sealer that Phil Parton (ACS Limited, Yeovil) provided. Thanks Phil you always seem have an everything!

Nick spent 2 days burning the old stud walling from the Post Office for Ruth and Alan while Gary remodelled the interior of their shop.

It was a washing in and windows closed day.

A positive end to a very trying day and I can't even remember why it was trying now, I just remember feeling relief when I saw these amazing rainbows.

Jenny's friend Abby came to stay for a week. The first friend of many this year, it is so lovely to have a room for guests now...with wonderful views and new bed linen.

Trip to Dorset and London July

Don't you just love the M6?

Jenny, Abby

and I set off for Dorset on the afternoon ferry, with sleeping bags and flasks. The idea was I would keep driving until I got tired and then stop for a sleep en route. It would have cost £5000 to add Jenny to the van insurance!

We got to Pauline's in Dorset in less than 11 hours despite many 50mph roadworks, driving through Birmingham centre, as the M6/M5 junction was shut at 3 am, and...

Hitting 2 Sika or Red deer 1 mile North of Charnock Richard services doing just under 70mph. The deer were facing each other and one head hit each wing of the minibus. I was in the inside lane following a lorry and didn't even brake, as it was so sudden. By the time we reached the services the emergency services had been called and incident signs were showing. The damage cost £1,800. I have asked myself why then and there, when Islay is full of deer? I have said thanks that we were in the minibus and not the car, we would have been at the very least hurt. The only consolation is that both deer must have died instantly, money is nowhere near as important as our health! Also I got to see more of my Mum when she was unwell.

Singing at St Paul's Cathedral.

Walking along the Thames to St Paul's Cathedral where Jenny and Abi were singing Evensong with The Thomas Hardy School choir. 

Emma took a fancy to a panda in London, but it was too big to bring back on the train.

Jenny and I took a trip down memory lane with a visit to Lake Pier, where our family has spent many hours over the last 30 years, paddling with very special friends at Poole Harbour Canoe Club

We also went to see Angus and were so impressed with his amazing hand carved bowls, that we bought a few back to keep and sell before he sells them all at Christmas.

Back Home To Islay.

Jenny had to fly back as the minibus was not ready in time to start work, but also to make Topsy a birthday cake

Oh and to give Cassie a cuddle!

 Emma and I caught up with Katie and Dan at Inverary on the way home in time for an ice cream on the sea wall. We left at 4.30am and had plenty of time to catch the 6pm ferry, but not quite enough for the 3.30pm ferry. No deer to hinder us this time!

Katie got two lovely cameras for her birthday, we bought her an underwater Olympus and Dan bought her a very posh Nikon. Katie is now set up to move forward with her travels and her blog.
Currently helping refugees in Calais.

The little van needed some holes patched before they left.

Dan treated us all to home made pizza. 
One of Dan's specialities is making bread.

Emma came to stay for five weeks and 
went home a different person!
Jenny and Emma entertained us every night to
music on the piano and singing.
They discovered Emma has perfect pitch and also
that their voices work in harmony.
Roll on the next time, the house is very quiet now.

Katie took Rosie and Ellie climbing on one of our rare days out.

Katie the painter transformed one of our bath panels into an oil painting for the main bathroom. I am working on the other for our en-suite.

Emma, Jenny and I put together lots of little packages for Katie to take to the refugee children, they also took a whole box full of Beanie babies...remember those?

Off on their next adventure...

Katie and Dan wave good-bye as they leave for France, 
Spain and Portugal, 

Red deer in ragwort...

An evening walk with Cassie.

Enjoying a SeaSalt take-away on Kilnaughton beach

A beautiful evening at Kintra you can see one of the 
Paps of Jura in the background pink haze.

Emma has a few photography lessons.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars and soldier beetles.

A small toad.

Another toad! Just before Nick and I went on holiday Cassie cut the digital artery in her foot on a shard of glass, whilst digging for rats or rabbits. She was quickly operated on by Beth our brilliant vet on Islay and spent the next two weeks with pink and purple dressings. Jenny and Emma did a good job keeping her out of the water the week we were away...

 Holiday on Shuna

Home from Home Nick and I joined his sister Helen and brother-in-law Ian for a week on the beautiful little island of Shuna, near Oban. No cars, no phone,no internet: bliss!

Isla and Lauren show us their crabs.

A Lion's mane jellyfish.

Under the pier was a feast for otter, fish and humans.

Is that Nick I see on a sit on kayak?

No life boat, those are the rules.

We stayed in the top of the boathouse, which has been made into a lovely flat.

Each house had its own boat, ours was red.

Ian might not be able to drive his car again yet, 
but he took the helm of the little red boat with glee.

Common seals bask on the local islands.

The fallow deer are whiter than ours on Islay. 
These came from Kent originally.

When the rain was at is heaviest we spent an afternoon otter watching from the house and harbour.

The wettest picnic ever...

Paddling on Islay

A well earned paddle after work one July evening.

There's something of the clown in Nick!

Meadow brown butterfly

A courting couple of Small copper butterflies on the Skerries 28.08.16

Clear water to spot sea urchins, starfish and jellyfish among other life under the waves.

The evening sun starts to set...

over the Dower House.

Katie and Dan  enjoy a calm paddle. 
Last year they went up towards Ardtalla; it was a bit 
of a challenge in a rough sea.

This is U Boat Cove and if you go on one of the Islay Sea Adventure Boats they will show you where it is.

Seal watching...

Pauline's 80th Birthday celebrations...

Started with a beach fire at The Dower House
There's nothing like cooking sausages on the fire, 
swimming in the sea and paddling kayaks in the sun.

Marshmallows on sticks for pudding.

Birthday picnic at Saligo a favourite spot on Islay

This hole was made by big pebbles going round like a washing machine...not sure who the three on top are!

We named this beach "The beach where the tide comes in" 
and it does in great surges, but what a beautiful colour.

Birthday party at the Islay Hotel with 24 people,Steve, 
Karen and Ben flew in for one night as a surprise...and it was.

Another Jenny cake.

After a lovely party at The Islay Hotel the majority of us went on a real "Islay sea adventure" with Gus Newman and his team.

                 Waiting for the Skipper at Port Ellen harbour.

One of many common seals we saw on our trip.
Sadly we saw some dead seals, killed for sport by Orcas/Killer whales, which have been seen off the Oa in the last few weeks. Gus told us that the day after they were seen the seals had all disappeared into hiding. Not surprising really and much as I would love to see Killer whales, the cruelty of nature does shock at times!

Gus overtakes the others in the rib, as you can see it was not a calm day, but that made it all the more exciting.

                                     A dram to celebrate...

Jenny leaps overboard into deeper water than she imagined,
 to fetch Ben's case, inflated her life jacket and screamed,
 much the amusement of all passengers....
Jenny just laughed along with us. The life jacket may not recover!

Wildlife watching in calmer seas.

Thank-you Gus, Alec and Harold...I think we enjoyed ourselves!
 The Coryvrechan whirlpool next year Mum?

Pauline and Nigel.

Pauline and Sandy have another dram. Are we counting?

Another birthday...another cake...a messy Mary-Ann cake!
It's the Dower House can't you tell?

Last to go were Sandy and Tom, which gave us a few days to discuss the Dower House and the final push to get it finished.

Lily loch

Lastly this one is for you believe in fairies?

This year has been slow progress on the house for various reasons, some very positive and some less so, but what we have managed to do is enjoy ourselves and enjoy the house after all the very hard work that has been done in the last three years. This autumn Gary, Jenny, Martin and the rest of us will be working hard to get the house finished. Finished, as in the whole house can be lived in and no doubt there will be a bit of snagging and a lot of landscaping going on well into 2017!

We will be starting a website and we will be renting part of the Dower House as self-catering accommodation in 2017 for 2 to 10 people, with a suite of rooms with wheelchair accessibility.  
You can e-mail me on 
for more information. 

Thanks Everyone it has been a great summer.