'Twas the week before Christmas...
The moon rose over Dower House Bay
The sun set over Port Ellen
All was still...
...and all through the house
people were stirring...
There were people under benches...
...people making cupboards...
wiring in lights...
...people grouting walls...
...appliances being fitted...
Worktops installed...and protected!
into the night...
...people rubbing down
and doors being oiled...
... more grouting...
...floors cleaned and cleared...
...people laying floors...
and we're almost there...
A ramp built ready for our visiting V.I.P...
This is my cousin Geoff, who after a farming accident 25 years ago is an extraordinarily independent man and inspirational paraplegic. The most difficult problem for Geoff is pain mostly in his legs, which he cannot move, otherwise he says he doesn't really mind being disabled (if any doctors are reading this he needs a cure for pain, then life would be perfect). He has sailed the seven seas on tall ships, rafted down the Grand canyon, toured Canada, done the building work on his home and often drives to Europe. He is one of the most generous, kind people I know and never complains. That does not mean life has been easy... It is not.
He has been my inspiration from the beginning, to build into the house, rooms suitable for disabled people to come and enjoy a wild place, without having to worry if the door is wide enough, are there steps that other people have not noticed, is there a suitable toilet?
We needed his help to get the most important parts of the project right for my vision.
Geoff helped plan the wet room and has been my constant advisor on all those little things the more mobile of us don't even notice.
Gary, Nick, Jenny and Martin have also been brilliant in working things out and making it work
We now have a tried and tested flat for wheelchair users...
with just the odd tweak needed
Nick and Geoff cycled to Ardbeg. Next time they'll get as far as the new path and on to Port Ellen, he thinks his bike is too long to get out at Lagavulin, but we'll have to wait until his next visit to know.
It was a bit muddy, but with a bit of a shove through the gate and over the step Geoff wheeled his way round.
He also got the chance to try the lift in the minibus, which was great, once in he transferred to a seat, the van has holding points for wheelchairs so that is another option.
New Stair carpet for Christmas.
And in the other side of the house...
Nigel (professional carpet fitter and part of the family like it or not)
and Nick were fitting the stair carpet...
Wow, thanks Nigel!
'Twas the night before Christmas...
and all through the house
they are drinking tea..
there's furniture to go in...
Finishing touches to do...
Sandy, Tom, Sue and Adam arrive in 3 hours!
Happy Christmas we made it!
We celebrated a warm beautiful house with Champagne.
From left to right
Adam, Mary-Ann, Nick, Sue, Tom, Nigel, Pauline and on the floor Jenny, Sandy and Coco (Where's Geoff? Still in bed?)
After a lot of hard work and not a small amount of worry about where the money has gone, now the house has more work to do giving people the experience of peace and beauty in this wild, unique spot on our planet.
A winter tradition from childhood...
Jenny and Adam go for the ritual Christmas morning swim, with a dram before, to give them courage...not a healthy option I think!
Nanny comes for a photo...
Christmas morning Tom is ready to go looking for golf balls
Sandy and Mary-Ann have obviously had too much already!
All is quiet in Seal Bay
Kilnaughton, Geoff couldn't get to Singing sands.
Mmm... Nick has a boat!
Jenny F, Cassie, Jenny K, Rosie and Ellie,
Missing Emma, but she will be up again soon.
A windy walk/wheel at Kintra
New Year's Day we met up with Ruth's family for a very cold windy picnic at Bunnahabhain
(Ruth is Geoff's sister who, with her husband Alan, now owns the Post Office in Port Ellen)
Rosie and Uncle Geoff
We all went to the Ceilidh in Port Ellen, which was really great...better than the photo!
Jenny sang at the beginning, then danced the night away with her cousins.
I hear there is a lot of "shed envy" among men, but you have to consider Nick has waited 66 years to get his dream shed, to work off a mortgage and then 4 years hard labour on the Dower House.
I think he deserves it...however I do think he could be a little more generous with the space he has and at least put the tins of paint in there, instead of it having to go in the garden shed...which is only big enough for the lawn mower!
"Gary Builds a wall!"
The idea is not to keep people in, but to be able to sit on it and gaze at the view, or just drink a glass of wine as you watch the moon rise over the sea.
The practical side is to stop children and wheelchairs from using the garden as a ski slope!
During a wet week after Christmas Gary and Jenny worked outside on the terrace wall.
The path will go all round the house with ramps at each end for wheelchair users.
Geoff's advice "make a shelf just outside the door for a whisky glass. He broke his on the way out one starry night in December!
Another keen photographer.
Geoff sourced a state of the art shower chair and while Nick and he worked out what to do,
Gary put it on the wall... nothing new there.
The final job, which is very daunting indeed is clearing the building site and transforming it into a garden. We may need a digger! Nick and I have been working away at this for weeks now in between other jobs and having some time off too. Jenny is also sorting and moving thousands of slates to places they need to be for future building.
We had to burn the worst of the pallets, Buildbase are taking the rest back.
They made a very good beacon, which I'm sure you could see from the passing Calmac ferry.
Then the sun came out...
...and this is Sandy and Tom's beautiful, bespoke, kitchen/diner,
With their ideas it was built and designed by Gary, amazing!
More pictures and information on VisitScotland The Dower House
4 Bedrooms with views.
Disabled friendly flat lounge (temporary furniture)
New seat in the wet room
Packs neatly against the wall when not in use.
The toilet hand rail also folds neatly away if not needed
After New Year the work goes on.
Nick has been longing to use his block and tackle to move this really heavy slab into place for the doorstep.
Katie and Dan spent a couple of days cutting logs for Topsy from the pile Jono cut last year.
Gary starts laying the paving. We have used all the slate that was in the bar area of the old hotel for paths and all the broken bits as crazy paving. I sorted them, Gary lays them and Jenny will point them, Nick and Geoff helped a bit!
This is as far as we have got and Gary has gone to do roofs, but he'll be back.
A day off.
Katie and Dan came up in January for two weeks and we managed a fire on the beach to cook pancakes, with much smoke and wet wood.
After a very hard, dark period in their lives helping the refugees in Calais, Katie and Dan are once again heading off in "Burt" the van, a bit further afield to Switzerland, then South to warmer parts of Europe, before going as volunteers trail building in Iceland later in the year. Katie's travel blog is very topical and this month it's about ocean life see www.featherytravels.com
So, we are almost there, a bit more painting for Nick more work on landscaping the outside in time to open at Easter for self-catering bookings. So if you are interested have a look at VisitScotland. We hope you will come and visit us sometime in the future and experience this amazing place yourself.
The next blog will be about the people who have made this possible, it seems a long time since Sandy and I walked into a bank in Dorchester to be told our husbands were too old to borrow enough money for the project. Well it just shows, don't believe everything you are told. If you want something enough you can get it. Look at our husbands 4 years later, still working full time and now looking forward to reaping the fruits of their hard labour.
Of course Sandy and I just sat back and watched it all happen..!
Remember if you want it enough you can make your dreams come true. If you sit back and watch life go by you may have nothing to tell your Grandchildren!
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P.S. If you are wondering about the car repair, well it worked for about a mile and then broke down again, so we were wrong and Peter Thomson came out for the AA and the rest is history, I did however learn a bit about mechanics, so that must be good!
Thanks for your help Peter, Jenny is now driving to work again.