Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Final Push!

We have had a very quiet time on the building front since June, so I have been busy making and renewing friendships. While I have enjoyed the whole 1, of restoring the Dower House and we have great new friends, the thing I have missed most are my old friends, so this summer and autumn I made up for that in spades. Old friends meet new friends!

The House

With Nick working alone a lot of the time doing Sandy and Tom's plumbing. Plumbing has never been Nick's favourite job, but it has always been a standing joke in our family that whenever we went on holiday there was always a problem with the plumbing, which he always manages to sort out. The air might be blue, but he gets the job done! Well done Nick, with a bit of help from the experts you had it all ready for when Gary came back in mid October. Martin has also been in over that period for a few days and we hope to get the final lighting downstairs turned on next week.

Archie in the late summer sun

Nick concreted doorsteps

Gary built the framework in the main bathroom and Nick fitted the bath, basin and toilets. 
No sign of any leaks now!

Towel rails still to be connected...

Gary tiled the floor ...

...and Jenny did the grouting.

Basin fitted in the second en-suite and 
towel rail waiting for Martin.

Could that be Jenny tidying up???

Gary starts tiling the main bathroom walls.

Martin and Nick sorting extractors. 
There is no way I could do my job without the advice and patience of the people we work with, I have very little understanding of physics...and never will, though I have learnt an amazing amount about managing a building next time it will be a lot easier!

In our side of the house we slowly do the finishing touches, though much of this will be after 
Christmas when Sandy and Tom's house is complete.

Katie's bath panel in oils now in the bathroom, waiting for some handles on the doors.

Katie and Dan left in summer and have been courageously helping the refugees in Calais ever since,   We hope to see them before too long after their exhausting and emotional few months, see-

My bath panel is in total contrast to Katie's and anyone who knows us would recognise the different style. I was also not confident enough to start in oils after a 20 year gap, so painted in acrylics.

When you lie in the bath it gives you the wonderful feeling of being in a warm loch surrounded by water and wildlife. We recycled one of the steel baths and I insulated it with foam, so once you are warm you can just keep topping it up and stay in until you look like a prune! 

(The photo shows the tiles as peach, they are actually cream)

Back to proper work the Boss is back...

Gary and Jenny put down the first floors upstairs 
for Sandy and Tom.

Nick sweeps up...I will say that just because I have the camera does not mean
 I don't do any dirty work... Nick is posing!

I stacked Martin's boxes in a neat pile out of Gary's way, Jenny had to move them to paint the wall, sorry Jenny.

...and all the plumbing stuff against the wall
ready for tiling to start.

We had a lesson in why the holes in slate have to be in a certain place, otherwise someone... Jenny has to punch new ones in all 50 million before Gary can put them on the roof! I'm working on that. We still have a few small roofs to slate, like the Watershed and workshop.

More beautiful floors and look out anyone who doesn't treat them with respect...
The Boss is on our case. I might even buy some slippers with steel toe caps!

With the floor down and skirting board on,
Nick then covers the floor totally to protect it and starts rubbing down and painting. 

Main bathroom tiling finished. 

Doors are hung. Back mould / facing/ architrave still to do.

Next the beautiful Oak staircase will replace the trusty ladder/stairs Gary built
 so many months/years ago.

Sandy and Tom worked out their tiling pattern for the downstairs shower room.

Nick had to re paint the his spare time!

...The rest is a reminder of why we longed to live on Islay for so many years and why we want to share it with You.

New recruits to keep Bertie occupied after losing all his little brown hens.
We asked at the vets for someone who might have some different breeds and went to see Pat and Bob near Port Charlotte. These beauties are the result and have settled in very well. They are standing in their pecking order and probably wondering if Bertie is going to ambush them at any moment!

Newborn calf...have I told you I love cows?

We always called this Andrew's house at Gruinart, 
it had a tin roof once upon a time.
 Now it's for sale, but I think restoring it might be beyond even Gary.

 I hope a new build looks as good.

Some of Mum's flowers...the ones the deer didn't get at despite my fence.

I'll identify these when I retire...

The only Painted lady I saw here this year.

Bees on fuchsia, the flowers provide food for the insects long into the autumn.

At Blackberry time I went to Glasgow twice in a month,

Firstly to meet a very special friend from Hull, whom I haven't seen for 20 years. Wendy follows our blog religiously and she imagines us on the beach every evening with a fire to cook on and Cassie watching the seals while the full moon rises over the water.
On Wendy's first evening we were greeted by Nick, Jenny and Leo, with Cassie, a fire and a bottle of wine, on the beach. We watched the full moon rise over the sea... 
If you don't believe me ask her.

Leo was having engine trouble when he took his boat back to Gus's boatyard, not only that the weather had turned and in the end Nick went as ballast to keep the front down as they hit the waves head on! It was an adventure and they enjoyed it very much!

How can this poor chap see?

A ram bundle on the Oa. I am told that the rams are put in with the ewes on Halloween on Islay, 
so not long to wait boys...

A Goldfinch on the thistles and Knapweed.

Of course for the proper experience you have to visit Highland cows.

The sun rose every morning...
(I should hope so too)

This is a Grey seal, larger than the common with a longer nose  (looks like a polar bear from the side, I think).

As I write the blog just before Halloween I can hear them howling out in the bay as this is the time they have their pups.

Grey seals are a bit more likely to bite than common seals...are you listening Cassie?

The Rowan trees at The Dower House

The Rowan tree is surrounded by myths and is said to protect our 
dwelling from evil spirits and witchcraft... 

The fruiting berries make wonderful jellies

 From Bunnahabhain  at the top east of Islay the views are spectacular as you look North towards Mull.

...we watched a heron and 2 swans as the light changed.

There are Faerie grotto's here too.

Kildalton with Wendy.

View to the North Ardtalla and the Paps of Jura

The cows are let loose to roam the estate in September and this one is definitely on "Islay time"!

Farewell Wendy until next year...

As I waved to Wendy on the 7 am ferry from Port Askaig the sun was just about to rise. It took me an extra half an hour to get home as I had to keep stopping to take photos, here are a few of them...

Cobwebs on gorse

Loch Indaal  and Greylag geese

Beinn Bheiger from the High road

Telegraph poles

Cobwebs on gorse Seal bay.

The enchanted forest, Kildalton.

Bertie and his new harem.

Over the last few weeks the spots have disappeared as the Fallow deer go darker to blend in with the winter colours.

When I took Rosie and Ellie out for a very blustery walk one Saturday with Cassie, we watched this young Buzzard on a post at the side of the road.

That may be a parent.

Rosie and Ellie got enough blackberries for a pie.

Rainbows and Rowan trees.

A Red Admiral in late September.
I saw very few butterflies this year at the Dower House and most of them in autumn.

A Darter dragonfly eating a bug

A Fox moth caterpillar (thanks Melinda!)

Haven't had time to look this one up any ideas?

The Lily loch.

A Common seal, one of Cassie's regulars.

A Bit Of Art!


From the early days at the Dower House, when I was running up and down ladders with armfuls of slate with the rest of them, I had this idea that I would love to paint on the West Highland slate...

To sell at £25 for a slate painting on recycled Dower House slate I'll be able to afford to go shopping
 to Oban at least once a year!

I have used acrylic paint and then varnish.
Most slates already have a hole to hang them by.

All my paintings are inspired by the natural world around the Dower House.


These are bathroom tiles for Sandy using ceramic paint.

Glasgow again...

For the second time in September I boarded the ferry and coach to meet another special friend and we had a great weekend exploring the university area of Glasgow, Mackintosh and the Kelvingrove gallery, it was a really great cultural weekend, with some good company and food. 

Thank-you Heather

We just saw this at the library and loved it.

As I arrived at the ferry from Glasgow yet another special friend was waiting...
Mel and son Jono came for a week and we worked hard, 
but also got out to play a bit.

Jenny and Jono have known each other since they
were knee high to a grasshopper and 
although they hadn't seen each other for many years, 
it didn't seem to matter. 

We all went to Sanaigmore with Cassie

It was a stunning day.

I'm sure they weren't really climbing the rocks to avoid the bull below, who wandered along the beach for a drink!

Seal watching...

Another sunrise, another day.

Jono is experienced in cutting trees and brought his chainsaw so that he could pollard some of Topsy's trees to use for firewood. It was amazing how much wood came from 3 Sycamore trees.

Mel, Nick and I moved the wood... an ever growing pile...

...that got  ever higher. 
Now we all need to go and chop wood into logs.
A very big thank-you to Jono, who says he'll be coming 
next year at the same time to do another few.
We have a plan for Topsy and us to be self sufficient in firewood when we have more time. This is a great start and I have said before if any of you have the expertise and want an expenses paid holiday in return for a few days work do contact us.

The Red deer stags started their rut in late September, 
this one is on top of the Fairy Hill.

A Wedding

Alex and Rachel Clayton got married in Winchester College
on 22nd October.

It was a perfect wedding!

Jenny made herself useful

Every friend is special

. This last week of October we had Jan and Bob visit for the second time this year, they stayed and looked after the house, chickens and that naughty little dog, who behaved they said, and welcomed our next friends, while we went South for the wedding.

Sandy and Tom, without whom we would not have achieved what we have today, they brought a car full of household goods...ready for Christmas, which Bob managed to pack into a matchbox sized cupboard. He must be a magician.

...and Lynn

Lynn came with husband Clive and appreciated the spirit of Islay as I knew she would, 
the space, the sea, the enchantment of the forest and the world around us....

The changing sunrise...

A bit of bread attracts all kinds of creatures 
in the enchanted forest...

As Gary is so so busy now Nick has taken on a job or two so that we can get The Dower House finished. Andrew and I helped paint Storm Dry on the walls to stop the damp penetrating. 

Meanwhile Gary and Jenny were in Port Ellen doing a flat roof that would have let water in this winter if not sorted.

...and finally....

I am told this is a juvenile White tailed eagle. It hovered above our car when Jenny, Andrew and I went to catch the evening sun at Claggain.

I know there are a lot of photos here, I always find it hard to choose and assume you can skip some if you are bored! As we are finishing the house, and Yes we will be finished inside by Christmas, we will all need time to relax a bit and enjoy what we have achieved in the last 4 years. Jenny is preparing the next instalment and when you hear from me next it will be Christmas. Sandy, Tom and family are coming to stay in their finished house. Next year you can stay in The Dower House if you choose as we will be letting parts of it for self-catering holidays.

Thank-you Gary, Martin, Nick and Jenny in anticipation!

Thanks also to Jono for the tree work, Andrew, who comes and goes, but always does a thousand jobs while he's here, Jan and Bob for always being there at the right time and Clive for mending Jenny's bike, after Andrew worked out which bits to buy. Sorry for missing our appointment at the garage too, no excuses just a complicated life.



  1. Love it all! An amazing journey. ..and never too many photos. 😊

  2. The juvenile White-tailed Eagle a few pics above is a Golden Eagle - the leading edges of the wings have a distinct kink in them and the beak is not big enough. Your dragonflies are Four-spot Chaser and Common Aeshna. Great photos and comments here as always

    1. Thank-you Malcolm, I've only just caught up with the blog and it sounds as though I need to get out identifying more, I seem to have lost my touch in the depths of an old building!