As one newly aligned door opens…

I am writing to you from a slightly gritty keyboard.  Over the past few days, we have moved the front door and dismantled a couple of slate-faced columns and, although we put up plastic sheets to control the dust, we hadn’t quite bargained on the strength of the wind.  This blew, then gusted, through the house whilst the front door was no longer completely secure, and then billowed round our carefully positioned defences…

Monday was slightly stressful as we unscrewed the (as it turns out, very heavy) front door; dismantled and moved the door frame; and rehung the front door.  We only needed a little bit (!) of help from Gary, the boiler man, with this as I fear my musculature wasn’t up to supporting the door in the increasingly accurately defined positions necessary for us to reconnect the hinges to the slots in which they belonged.

Front door in new location - primer anyone?
Front door in new location – primer anyone?

Tuesday saw me priming windows again (only 1 small set now outstanding, plus the door above) whilst Mike completed the necessary works on the front door and then began to dismantle the slate-faced pillars.  All went well until the breaker puttered and fell silent.  I won’t repeat the hour long saga of trying to work out why it had failed; contacting the supplier – who had no further breakers in stock but could collect it for refund; studying the internet to find no others available in local stores, so we had to order a larger version (think, ‘we’ll have to have it, it’s all that is available’, said in a tense voice) for delivery tomorrow….and then, around 6.30 pm as we pack the breaker back into its case ready for collection, noticing the nicked flex where, presumably, a chunk of masonry has ruined the integrity of the electricity supply.  A quick magic repair and all is well and collection for refund cancelled.  Phew!  Of course, we have not cancelled the order for the larger tool since I am assured we will find a need for it over the next couple of days / weeks / years…

Now, what was I supposed to be doing with this?
Now, what was I supposed to be doing with this block?

Wednesday was fun, as Mike and I took it in strict turns to either (a) operate the breaker and dismantle the pillar structures or (b) shovel all the mess into either the slate or the rubble wheelbarrow and then tip into heaps as appropriate.  Yesterday afternoon I made some inlay fans, a throw back to the veneering business we used to run, partly as the customer needs them soon and partly as my body needed a rest from the more testing pursuits of late.  Mike meanwhile finished clearing the new lobby, sorting out the electrical cables that emerged from one of the pillars, and considering how we would hide the soiled water pipe that we also uncovered.

On less strenuous fronts, we have seen a rep from a fire alarm company; have ordered the glazed panels for the front door (to replace plywood infill, and thus permit more light into the lobby); liaised further with Planning about the proposed labyrinth; and have begun revising the schedule to see if we can still hope to open the restaurant mid-August.

Primed and ready to go

Success – the leak is mended!  With a willing helper, Mike managed to re-erect the scaffold tower; tweak the lead flashing; re-gunk with silicone sealer and voila – all is now watertight.  We know this since later on Thursday the heavens obligingly opened, seemingly just to test the systems for us.

Our other entertainment for the day was to clear the attic room of items that needed to go into the skip (number 6) which is now nearly full.  Since these included items such as old metal bedsteads and similar, we lashed them to a long rope and lowered them over the balcony to the front path, which was so much more fun than just walking them down through the house.  We unlocked some of the cupboards in the attic which had been screwed shut to find they were full of old clothing and soiled bedding that could probably have walked to the skip unaided, but we gave them a helping hand.


Front door as at present. New frame being installed about 18" into the space shown
Front door as at present. New frame being installed about 2′ into the space shown, just this side of the beam

We have now primed the exterior of the 20 windows, and scraped clean much of the driveway (since the weedy scrapings needed to be put into the skip).  Mike meanwhile has built a new frame for the front door which will enable us to re-position the door at a sensible angle to the house, opening outwards (so that the prevailing wind isn’t always trying to blow it open), leaving room for a lobby that will lead customers either into the restaurant or towards the accommodation and toilets.  Tomorrow we will measure the top and centre panels and have these re-glazed to let some light into the new lobby.

Yesterday we had our first Saturday off for a while to go to the Dolwyddelan carnival which was really good fun, and to meet Penny at the Pont y Pant railway station.  Penny is visiting to complete one of her ‘7 at 70’ challenges, being to have a go at the zip wire in the slate mines in Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Penny, all dressed up and ready to go
Penny, all dressed up and ready to go

Here she is before the ride, but the grin on her face as she returned probably told the important part of the story.

We have been rather weary this weekend, so suspect that the punishing schedule we have set, in order to open on 17th August, is beginning to highlight that we are not as young as we think we are.  However, as we are now committed to employing our cook from 15th August, needs must!  Only a few minor jobs still to go….


The old floor est disparue

I know I should start by blogging about progress on the hotel but… we (being at the forefront of the IT revolution) have finally discovered the pleasure of box-set viewing.  We stumbled across “The Disappearance” (or Disparue to give it its real title, being a very stylish French production with English subtitles) listed in the top 40 on BBC iplayer.  We watched the first couple on Sunday since there was only football otherwise, followed by two on Monday and, yes, tonight we have just finished watching the last episode.  Obviously a murder mystery, but we found it thoroughly diverting and some of the action took place in a cafe-restaurant in Lyon, so we were kind of taking notes at the same time…

Back to business.  We had quite a lot of rain on Sunday, which has proved beyond doubt that the slate roof we installed in early April leaks.  As soon as the schedule allows, we will put the scaffold tower back together and tweak the lead flashing, which we think should solve the problem.  Actually, Mike thinks this, but I thought I would try to make it appear that I am as knowledgeable about these things for a moment.  Otherwise, we enjoyed a very restful Sunday.

On Monday I removed all the remaining wood-chip+ wallpaper from the restaurant whilst Mike pulled down parts of the ceiling, patched the holes, and then tidied up the considerable quantity of loose wires that festooned the walls and ceiling.  We then, after a little judicious nagging on my part, started to lay the concrete floor in the kitchen. We assume, having looked carefully at the old sloping floor that when this part of the house had acted as cellar to the bar, the floor had been installed at several different levels to permit easy rolling of barrels into the cellar, and also to prevent any spillage running into the house.  I now realise Mike had not quite worked out what he needed to do here, but after the little nudge, he settled down to lay the centre of three panels of concrete which meant he could test his theory before fully committing to the methodology.

On Tuesday we had to dance around the not-yet-set- floor so whilst Mike rubbed down the old woodwork supporting our new windows, and insulated part of the restaurant wall, I wrote a couple of emails that needed serious thinking, washed the ceiling in the alcove by the wood burning stove (yuk, and yuk again), primed the exterior of 6 windows and then retired indoors to do the accounts.  Bonus yuk – and still not enough.  It has been quite remarkable to note how very little insulation was included in the original extensions (installed ca. 1979/1980) so we have been trying to make up for this as we work around.

Today, Mike ended up having to complete his floor pretty much single-handedly.  We started off with me loading the cement mixer and wheeling the mix to him as is our normal practice if Adrian is not helping, but the chap from the Welsh tourism funding office arrived for a chat, so sadly I had to leave Mike to it at that point.  We had some horse riding visitors around lunchtime – a couple from Leeds on their honeymoon – who were great fun, and later another couple arrived to check out what was happening to the building.  She had been to several of the parties / raves previously held at Plas Hall and wanted her boyfriend to see the building, but I won’t share the details of her anecdotes here as some of you may be eating as you read this.

So there really can be only one picture tonight, which is of a still wet but nearly completed fabulous new concrete floor!


Here's hoping none of the animals try to walk on this for a day or so
Here’s hoping none of the animals try to walk on this for a day or so

Too tired to dream up a title

I have found a few moments for a little reflection before a badly needed day off tomorrow.  Not that we are a little weary here, but there hasn’t been a lot of conversation as Mike and I sat quietly in our respective chairs pretending to watch TV before deciding it was respectably late enough to retire for the day.  I’m glad I have found a tricky suduko to distract me from the general (salute, Tom) sense of exhaustion.  Since I last wrote, we have entertained two groups of horse riders from the nearby stables, both of which were complimentary about the location of the manor and what we are trying to achieve here – which was music to our tired ears.

On Thursday, Mel, Adrian and I made further inroads into the bramble feature slope whilst Mike finished off the stud wall for the stairwell and helped the boiler man site the really rather impressively large new boiler.  On Friday, I started to prepare the 20 windows (yes, 20!) for priming, and painted waterproofing solution onto the walls beneath the windows whilst Mike set the new kitchen door into its frame and fitted the various fittings.

We don't want any damp coming through here!
We don’t want any damp coming through here!

Today, Saturday, Mike fitted insulated plaster board to the walls beneath the windows and then cut and fit the window boards, whilst I primed the kitchen door and new window in the store-room-to-be.

Now insulated and ready for skimming
Now insulated and ready for skimming


Snug window, primed
Snug window, primed
Kitchen door (but not frame) primed
Kitchen door (but not frame) primed















As I finished an hour before Mike today, I treated myself to a little light weeding, and primped the beds we put in by the bar a couple of months ago and – if I say so myself – they are looking particularly lovely at the moment.

Hopefully the photos will show that it now appears we are making some progress.  We are working methodically -we hope- to eliminate possible future sources of problems (e.g. waterproofing a wall which shouldn’t need it, but as it had been very damp when we arrived it seemed a sensible precaution) as well as thoroughly insulate as we go, and in several areas now walls are ready for a plaster and skim so that they can dry out before decorating.  Still a few dirty jobs to go, then, before we can start consulting colour charts but at least that is now vaguely on the horizon.

Over the last week, we have given further consideration to the timing of this venture and reluctantly have to accept that we will not be able to open the kitchens (and thus the full offering in the informal restaurant) by end July.  It looks increasingly as though the earliest we could open the restaurant will be approx. 17th August but we will keep this date under review and post further details as soon as we have them.


Windows – the next generation…

We have now finished all twenty windows in the current tranche.  Twenty glazed panels (which all started double glazed, but several have clearly had an exciting life and had become single) that had to be removed from the timber frame, and then replaced with new double glazed panels.  My wrists are sore from scraping out the old putty and levering out pins – I am so relieved that tomorrow will bring a different task!  I’m not sure how clear it will be from the photo below just how much lighter the room now looks…

Nice windows, shame about the rest of the room!
Nice windows, shame about the rest of the room!


Other news: the new boiler has arrived and awaits the return of the boiler man to fit it.  Mike has finished the stud wall to separate the restaurant from the stairwell (pink as it is fire board), and taken the scaffolding tower down.  We have also made up some marquetry fans for customers from our previous business.

Our double skinned stud wall for the stairwell (you'll have to trust me on this)
Our double skinned stud wall for the stairwell (you’ll have to trust me on this)

On a rather less prosaic subject, we are thinking of putting in a labyrinth path on the grass at the lower level (between the house and the river).  The grass is really a collection of mowed weeds and we are considering putting hardcore above (to provide drainage) and then set brick pavers in a pattern of approx 11 concentric circles  with the gap infilled by shingle, topsoil and grass seed.  If we get it right, we will end up with a decorative path that can be walked for meditative purposes and we should also be able to mow over the top very easily.  We have written to the planning authorities to check whether any permission should be obtained and, if not, will then need to check when we have a spare moment to make this!

Honours, even!

Just time for a very brief catch up on the last couple of days.

Yesterday I was busy with domestic duties as we have a couple of friends, Gilly and Tim, with us for the weekend and so rooms needed preparing etc.  Meanwhile, Mike fixed the drip bead around the new door, ready for rendering on our next dry day, and then began to construct the stud walls that will separate the new stairwell from the restaurant.

Are you sure these walls will be square?
Are you sure these walls will be square?

Today we have been enjoying local walks and good food with friends.  Which all pales into insignificance against our big and surprising news today which is that, tucked away in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in the diplomatic section, was an M.B.E. for my big brother Michael Reed “Former Chairman, British Chamber of Commerce, Republic of Korea.  For services to British business in the Republic of Korea.” So proud, so humbled.


When one door opens…

The last three days have seen both of us working on relatively long term projects.  I have been chiselling away old putty from 20 window frames, as we hope to replace the glazing units early next week.  Mike has removed a pair of external doors which we plan to replace with a single door.  Both door frame and door were ordered, with the frame due to arrive on Tuesday (which it duly did) and the door on Wednesday (which it didn’t).  Mike carefully removed the old frame; built the new wall; and fixed the frame on Wednesday, but when the door did not arrive, checked with the supplier today who informed us the door had been received damaged and will be replaced early next week, so we have a slightly temporary door at the moment.

New door frame into kitchen seeks door
New door frame into kitchen seeks door

In other news: our boiler man is still beavering away on the hot water system – joy of joys, we now have hot water again; we met with the local fire safety adviser and had a very instructive conversation; and we have mowed several lawns and, given the rain forecast over the next few days, lit one of the bonfires to clear more rubbish.  It seems that previous residents may have enjoyed some sort of game requiring them to throw items from the upper area outside the bar into the lower garden.  We have already cleared four bulging bin liners of old cans and bottles, and tonight brought further success: we moved a wheelbarrow full of litter back up to our recycling bins after mowing.

On the flower front, we walked around a beautiful garden this evening which convinced us of one thing – we really will need to get a midge machine to be sited outside the restaurant as we both got bitten many, many times!  Also, a cactus plant which Mike rescued from his Grandad’s bathroom in 1986 has flowered again- not a bad return on 30 years of care.

Cactus flower
Cactus flower

Today, Matthew, Mike will be teleported

The warm weather continues here – with Porthmadog being the hottest place in Great Britain for two days in a row, you can imagine how much our plants need watering, and that’s not a phrase I was expecting to have to use so soon in our new location.

Mike has now completed his beehives and has only to finish the stand for them both before the bees arrive later this month.  At the same time, I have potted on a lot of seedlings and am rapidly running out of room to put them, so am having to cox and box a bit to keep things alive in minimum possible space.

Today felt almost like being on a proper building site.  We hired a teleporter for the morning because we cannot approach many of the gutters from a ladder or tower as low level roofs or other projections make this impractical.  The teleporter enabled Mike to be lifted to various positions, swiftly and accurately, by Tomas (in the cab) and he managed to clear large quantities of yuk from several gutters as well as establish that the smaller set of decorative eaves are essentially sound (so he washed them) whilst the larger set are completely rotten (so he had a cup of tea).

If I touch this woodwork, will it self-destruct?
If I touch this woodwork, will it self-destruct?  Probably….

At the same time, we have our boiler man on site to overhaul the boiler and install a new heater.  He has found that the very large copper boiler was installed in 1966 (by virtue of somebody having helpfully written this on the copper) and also has a leak which has left wonderful verdigris patterns but needs further investigation.  Of course, this inspection has required him to empty the hot water tank so we have moved from intermittent hot water (depending on who was staying and how much spare electricity the national grid could offer) to no hot water at all.  Frontier living is so glamorous!  What with all this, plus two or three sets of visitors during the day, its been a ‘progress is seen to be made’ sort of day.

I forsook my turn in the teleporter (as it will be coming back again soon) because I was working on that most important job of digging out old putty on windows, making ready for the glazing to be replaced later this week.  Eight down and only another thirteen to go.  When that got too tedious, I read the useful government guidance and produced our Fire Risk Assessment, just in time for a visit from a fire officer tomorrow.

We are still working towards opening the restaurant in late July, so if you have any favourite recipes that you would wish to see included as a star attraction, or any suggestions for food you would really like to see offered, please feel free to let us know.

The surprises continue

I feel rather painted out at the moment – as you might guess if you could see my clothes now streaked with white.  Many windows are now looking better but this has necessitated the erection and dismantling of the scaffolding tower more times than I care to count. While the weather has been wonderfully warm and sunny, our location means we almost always seem to have a stiff breeze coming to us up the Lledr valley and when this catches a loaded paint brush, thin wisps of paint make pretty pictures on clothes, paths and anything else nearby.  As a form of light relief, yesterday Mike took a break from painting to repair the sit-on mower and cut the lawn.

Then whilst I drove our youngest to Llandudno Junction to catch her train, Mike took out a plastic window in the snug so that it could be replaced with a wooden one which actually fits the aperture.  To our astonishment, once he had removed the old ill-fitting window we discovered that the window aperture was about 5 degrees out of square, so he then had to cut away quantities of render to enable us to put the window frame in square to the building.  Of course, at this point, we could have fitted a considerably bigger window in the aperture, but such are the delights we fill our days with at present!


New wooden window - upright - for snug
New wooden window – upright – for snug

Actually, whilst on that subject, I should tell you about yesterday’s other little excitement.  As the restaurant should open (we hope!) next month, we plan to upgrade the facilities that used to service the bar.  The current facilities for gents are pretty vile, so they will be converted to a drying room later this year.   For the ladies, there is a single door leading to a ‘large space’ containing two sinks, and then an archway leading to three cubicles and (if you venture through a doorway) the back stairs.   There is also a door, which many people (architect, surveyor, us) had assumed led into a corridor that links the front entrance to the new restaurant, the ladies toilets and then on to the old kitchen and other parts of the house.  The architect’s plan shows the creation of two new doorways from the long corridor into the ‘large space’ so that we can subdivide the current ladies toilets into three separate facilities: an accessible toilet, a ladies, and a gents.

Imagine my surprise when I tried to knock through the plasterboard skin in the corridor towards the ladies to find slate work identical to that on the exterior of the old house where I had expected to find a wooden door.  So I then tried to break through from the wooden door within the ladies towards the corridor.  Through the first little hole I could see some materials so assumed this was old insulation.   Enlarging the hole, I could see plastic and dark fabrics and genuinely had a moment wondering if I was stumbling across an old crime scene… Enlarging the hole further, I realised I was being a numpty as it became clear . . . I was looking into a laundry cupboard which doesn’t appear to have been opened in 20+ years.  Shame as we had hoped to find the doorway continued through and now we will need to put in a lintel and break out lots of external wall complete with dressed slate which is not going to be a five minute task!


Is this a cupboard I see before me (I haven't dared open any of the bags yet!)
Is this a cupboard I see before me (I haven’t dared open any of the bags yet!)

Anyway, today we have fitted the newly painted wood burner (thanks, Gill) into the restaurant (this time the appropriate distance from the wall, with cement board behind) and fitted the hanging baskets to the ‘real’ front door to feel we are going in the right direction, but am definitely looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

Amazing wehat a lick of paint and a few blooms can do to a place
Amazing what a lick of paint and a few blooms can do to a place
Stove looking a bit better than last time you saw it
Stove looking a bit better than last time you saw it

Getting whiter than white…

The unbelievably dry and sunny spell of weather continues, so my apologies to those who might be feeling a little cheated regarding their weather at the moment.

We have had a surprisingly busy and productive couple of days since I last blogged.  Yesterday, in spite of our schedule telling us what we should do, and despite the very tight schedule we need to follow if our restaurant is to be open in July, Mike erected the tower in order that we could paint some of the upstairs windows because this good painting weather is simply too perfect to miss.  Whilst it is true this is not, strictly speaking, essential before we start our catering operation, it does make the building look substantially more cared for, so we have decided to be rebels and repaint the sash windows regardless of deadlines.

We're getting there...
We’re getting there…


Gosh it's a long way down
Gosh it’s a long way down










Gill is still with us, and she and I have now removed lots of old wallpaper, painted several window frames plus the white panels on the porch of the ‘real’ front door and the overall effect is very impressive.  Adrian has helped with both the gardening and the tower.  Mike has put up plastic sheeting to limit the spread of dust and then knocked through from the hall into the restaurant, whilst I have finally finished digging and planting a new flower bed which contains many of the plants very kindly donated by a near neighbour.

In the early evening we discussed the possibility of marking out a labyrinth on the lower level lawn, using the brick pavers to define the meditative path which would also serve to provide a structure against which we could landscape the area.

Today we continued to paint the window surrounds and moved the tower, and were joined by two new helpers,  Jean who helped with the landscaping and Dick who helped with the tower.  Meanwhile Gill has wire brushed and then painted the ‘water damaged’ wood burner from the bar, which is now looking so much better than it did this morning.

Thanks to all for their help, but also the many words of encouragement we are increasing receiving from locals and visitors alike – it really is beginning to feel like this mad adventure may be a venture into the possible.