Stop press – gravity still working!

As someone famous used to say, I wanna tell you a story….

A couple of days ago, I might have got a bit chippy with Mike when I found my warmest jumper (which mysteriously had been in the laundry for about 4 weeks) damp on the piano in the library (how ‘Cluedo’ does that sound?!)  We were both puzzled but however it had arrived neatly folded on the piano was nothing to the fact that it was damp, and had thus raised the polish on the piano lid, and it’s not like we have so much nice furniture that we can afford to trash items without due cause.

Anyway, roll on a few days, and we noticed as we tried to make up one of the bedrooms in the Manor for visitors that the bed was wet.  Mike went into the attic to investigate and found a cupboard on the floor above this room which was wet inside, and presumed there was a leak in the roof above this, which did not seem unreasonable given that rain was lashing down at the time.

Today we have come to a new realisation.  We spent the best part of the entire working day laying tiles in the restaurant, as we are now beginning to get quite twitchy about being ready to open in a little over two weeks.  Well, not so much getting twitchy as that the twitchy-ness is really ramping up… so by 4pm we were both very tired.  I had enjoyed a brief tutorial about lunchtime on Facebook from Shaun, so was not perhaps at my most alert.  I was also very wet as I had been using the tile cutter in which the cutter wheel is bathed in water, which then bathed me in water every time I tried to check exactly where the cut line was.  So, in a slight fug, I wended my weary way up the grand staircase and past this particular room.  Fortunately, we normally leave the door to this room propped open as that feeds light onto the landing during the day so as I walked past, I became aware of the sound of running water.  I peered into the room and noticed water was falling from several spots in the ceiling, but I guess it is a sign of our times (or just how wet I was) that I continued past to our bedroom in order to change before investigating further.  When I returned, I noticed the mattress on the bed was completely soaked; several cascades of water were falling onto the carpet; and water was raining over the TV and dvd player on the windowsill.  So I did what any sane woman would do under the circumstances – I went downstairs and called for Mike.

Mike went to have a look.  He followed his previous pattern of checking on the floor above and noticed that the same cupboard was wet, again.  But this time, as the external rain was more of a drizzle than a downpour, he checked more thoroughly.  He noticed a couple of pipes each with a valve (exhibit A below),

Exhibit A - 2 pipes and valves
Exhibit A – 2 pipes and valves

but at the same moment he realised that both times we had found a leak in this room, Gary (who is currently installing a new boiler to supplement our existing provision) had been working on the pipework.  Mike called for Gary who identified the values as air release valves for the central heating system, which were commonly installed in the 1970’s at the high points of such systems, to release any air trapped in the pipes.  As they discussed them, they noticed water was definitely leaking from these into the cupboard.  It turns out that the narrow pipes beyond the valves should have been vented externally to the building all those years ago so that any water flushed out with the rising air was safely expelled to the outside world, but instead these tubes have spent the last 40 years coiled into a neat roll and left in the cupboard.

Having botched a quick fix, they both returned to the bedroom in question to find a section of the ceiling on the floor.

Gap where ceiling should be
Gap where ceiling should be
The curtain pole looks like it was in the way when gravity acted
The curtain pole looks like it was in the way when gravity acted

Oh joy, oh rapture.  Mind you, we had been puzzled when viewing the house that part of that room’s ceiling had clearly been repaired in the past and had the distinct appearance of a repair after a bath has flooded, but we couldn’t work out how that was possible given there was no bath above that room.  Now we know!

And when Mike checked the rest of the house, he noticed a small but significant dribble from the light fitting in the library, which was dripping onto books left on top of the piano, so now we also know how the jumper ruined the polish on the piano.  This is one of those days when working in admin at UEA seems like ampler alternative!

Oh, and in case you are still interested, here is a photo of the patch test, each colour having been painted twice now.  Any opinions welcome.

Better or worse? Better or worse?
Better or worse? Better or worse?

Your advice requested…

So far this week has been dominated by tiling and painting and possibly my least favourite job so far, grouting.

We have painted over part of the restaurant floor with a bitumen product to try to maximise the water-proofing of the concrete floor, which probably was not installed as well as one might have hoped all those years ago.  We have laid a few more tiles and started the not inconsiderable job of grouting between, although this is slightly hampered by the large stack of plasterboard which we are not yet ready to install.  Mike has also fixed the first piece of skirting board…

Grouting-check. Sizing-check. Ceiling first coat (probably can't see it) -check. Skirting board - check. Huge pile of plasterboard in the way - oh yes!
Grouting-check. Sizing-check. Ceiling first coat (probably can’t see it) -check. Skirting board – check. Huge pile of plasterboard in the way – oh yes!  Note the fire door casually taking its ease…

Mike has been finishing off his wiring, and Jason very kindly visited to confirm he is happy with Mike’s work.  This means Mike can now start to baton out the kitchen and store, ready to install the plasterboard above.

What can I say? Walls, with batons.
What can I say? Walls, with batons.

We have also begun analysing the kitchen equipment listed by various suppliers to try to make the most economical purchases, and today I have been in touch with Barclaycard (for credit card machines), our bank (for best terms once we start trading), the licensing office (to record that we have amended the licensed area), waste collection (long story – will let you know the outcome) and so forth – you know, actually starting the business of running a business.

Today, to my delight, I have actually started proper decorating!  I have applied the last of two sizing coats of paint to the newly plastered areas, and have now put one coat of white paint on part of the ceiling, so the room is beginning to look as we hope it will when we open.  But we need your help / opinion / brick bats.  Below is a photo showing one coat only applied of two colours of paint which we need to choose between for the walls.  We realise the colours will change subtly with the second application, but would value your opinion if you already have one, since we both like both colours, recognising the yellow is laryier (is that a real word?) and the peach is quite a bit darker, in a room already quite dark:

Do you prefer the peachy one or the yellow one?
Do you prefer the peachy one or the yellow one?

We have now deliberately put one of the new chairs between them, so that you can see the colours against both the tiled floor and the furniture.  Please would anyone with any taste / any views on these paints let us know which you prefer.

So, which colour goes better with both the floor and the furniture? Can you help?
So, which colour goes better with both the floor and the furniture? Can you help?

I don’t guarantee we will go with your choice as we will likely go with majority opinion, but it might help break a deadlock between Mike and me.

Oh, and in case you are wondering why our progress is not as great as usual, I should say that after waving goodbye to family on Sunday, we welcomed visitors from our previous village on Monday.  Irene and Sally had been over to Wales to enjoy the Llanberis steam railway, and they dropped by to stay on Monday night.  We had a lovely time chatting about mutual friends and were all astonished how soon time passed and they had to leave on Monday.  Unfortunately, the weather was such that Moel Siabod did not make an appearance whilst they were here – a clear sign that they need to return to see the even better view next time!

Pip became 21 yesterday

Our youngest daughter, Philippa, known as Philly or Pip was 21 yesterday, so we have many visitors to the house helping us celebrate.  I hate to say it but, my goodness, don’t the years fly by when you are not paying attention!

This cake just about says it all
This cake just about says it all
Happy Birthday girl and some of her family
Happy Birthday girl (fourth from left) and some of her family

The work summary since Tuesday is pretty routine:

On Wednesday, the weather was relatively dry and I painted the newly rendered walls above the bar, gloss painted the exterior of 11 windows and then began to size the newly plastered walls in the restaurant (or at least those which had already properly dried out).  Mike plastered and skimmed several other walls, and then finished constructing the arch from the restaurant into the kitchen.

This wall will look so much nicer once painted - and should be much more water resistant, which is quite important in Wales
This wall will look so much nicer once painted – and should be much more water resistant, which seems to be quite important in Wales

On Thursday, I sized more walls, and then cut tiles to shape to fill the fiddly bits near the walls, and in the afternoon attended a church meeting in Betws y Coed and did some serious shopping ready for yesterday’s celebrations.  Meanwhile Mike finished wiring the ring mains for the kitchen and restaurant, and put in almost all of the loop for the fire alarm system.

Filling the fiddly bits
Preparing the fiddly bits
Gaps now filled
Gaps now filled

On Friday, Mike and I made a concerted effort to lay more floor tiles, and were agreed by the end that two people working together definitely made more progress than we might have expected.

The dogs enjoy helping us....
The dogs enjoy helping us….
39 boxes of tiles down - only another 25 to go
39 boxes of tiles down – only another 25 to go

Yesterday, Saturday, we spent a lot of time waiting for family to arrive, but of course this being the first Saturday of the school summer holidays, some people have had extremely long, hot and frustrating journeys for which we apologise – after all, it is our fault that Pip’s 21st fell yesterday.  Thanks to all who made it such a memorable day.

Sun, sea and still lots to do!

We have had a busy, and very agreeably warm, few days since I last wrote.

On Sunday. we went to Llechwedd slate mines with my brother Mike and his children Max, Emma and Mia and experienced the thrill which is the cavern zip wire.  We got home to find that the promise of good weather had been maintained, and sat outside in the warm wind with Will and Lucy to drink a large jug of Pimms, entertain a couple of horse riders, and enjoy the roast beef dinner that Mike whipped up whilst the rest of us became quite merry.  So not much progress on the hotel today then.

The Reeds have dropped in on their visit from Thailand
Big brother Mike and his Reed-lets have dropped in on their visit from Thailand
Mike White on the zip wire
Mike White enjoying the zip wire

Yesterday, brother Mike and I took Emma and Max to Black Rock sands in Porthmadog followed by a brief trip to Criccieth castle where Mike bought me a set of cookery books for Welsh specialities, and then home via the Co-op in Blaenau Ffestiniog and Dolwyddelan castle.  When back in Plas we made some Welsh Rarebit which was really very good.  Meanwhile Mike White with his new retinue of helpers (Will, Lucy and Mia) had been extending the network of floor tiles in the restaurant, which eventually led to Mia being given a carpenter’s pencil in recognition of her fine handiwork.  Mike and Chris (neighbour) then led all bar Lucy to an inspection of the bees.  Suffice to say we were all so weary from our busy-nesses that Llanrwst fish and chips were the order of the day.

Well, have any of us seen one of those before?
Well, have any of us seen one of those before?
Dolwyddelan Castle in the sun
Dolwyddelan Castle in the sun

Today, we waved goodbye to Mike and Co, having had a wonderful few days with them all, and knuckled back under (although I guess that really only applies to me since Mike had continued to follow his schedule whilst I enjoyed the beach trip).  I took his surprisingly extensive shopping list to the builders merchants, and then returned to gloss paint as much as I could and also paint stabilising solution onto the new render above the snug.  We understand that North Wales may be in line for thundery showers soon, so want to try to both complete as much external painting whilst also waterproofing the render as soon as possible.

Plas Penaeldroch in the sun
Plas Penaeldroch in the sun earlier today
The tiled floor, including those laid by Mia, and those tiles cut by Will and Lucy
The tiled floor now includes tiles laid by Mia, and also tiles cut by Will and Lucy.  This picture includes Toby, Charley’s dog, temporarily resident with us.

Whilst I fiddled with these tasks, Mike manfully tweaked the lead over the new slate roof (since we still have a tiny leak somewhere), and also boxed in the area above the new fire door, and repaired a couple of the restaurant walls sufficiently to insert some wood ready to create the wooden arch between the kitchen and the restaurant.  We have also received an email suggesting Mike should refrain from checking the bees for a few weeks whilst the new queen is developing.

Newly glossed windows drying rather quickly
Newly glossed windows drying rather quickly
Mew fire door to front door on left; new arch to kitchen on right, both still in 'raw' state.
New fire door to front door on left; new arch to kitchen on right, both still in ‘raw’ state.

What happens next will largely depend on the weather.  If sunny, lots of exterior work will be undertaken (whether or not this will cause us to fry); if there is any risk of damp, I am told there are several square metres of tiles for me to grout whilst Mike skims some internal walls.  Oh, the excitement: I wonder which way our cookie will crumble?!?

Part of what went up …has now plummeted

Thank you for your useful feedback on the slates – I can reveal that 100% of the views expressed suggest we need to oil the slates, so we will get around to this.

We spent Wednesday in Keele with Pip, Hugo and Charley, watching Pip celebrate her graduation which was not only great fun, but also allowed us our first sighting of blue skies for quite a few days.  We found as we left Keele that we had also received an email telling us we did not require formal planning permission to install a labyrinth in the lower meadow, so we got started on scraping a patch of grass, adding rubble to improve drainage, and then levelling the area, ready to set blocks in due course.

Pip 'in' the Keele statue commemorating their 50 years in 2012
Pip ‘in’ the Keele statue commemorating their 50 years in 2012
Pip by the Freshers' Gate (obviously)
Pip by the Freshers’ Gate (obviously)
View from upper level of labyrinth base area on lower level. A pattern of bricks and either slate or grass will be overlaid on this in due course
View from upper level of labyrinth base area on lower level. A pattern of bricks and either slate or grass will be overlaid on this

I spent Thursday putting Polyfilla (other fillers are available) into holes and dents in various surfaces , and taking delivery of two fire doors and 64 boxed of floor tiles whilst Mike continued to wire up sockets and tie them together.

On Friday we undertook lots of domestic tasks since we had a busy weekend ahead of us: my brother Mike is visiting with his children, as are Will and Lucy.  During my vacuuming tour I made a sobering discovery, which clearly I shared with Mike as soon as I saw it.  On the second floor of the original manor, we knew there were a couple of non-trivial leaks in the ceiling in one room, which we had been vaguely keeping an eye on (as we won’t have time for remedial work until at least after the restaurant opens).  Imagine my surprise to find large chunks of the ceiling now on the floor….

Gravity making its mark
Gravity making its mark

In the afternoon I lifted old floor tiles in the restaurant, whilst Mike worked hard to install the fire door frames upright and square, since the permitted tolerances between fire doors and their frames are really surprisingly exacting.  We also took delivery of a third door and liner and tinkered with the restaurant pretty much until our guests arrived during the evening.  And, also to our surprise, in the evening we found that the mattress in one of the rooms we had thought was watertight was damp when we went to change the beds, ready for visitors.  Oh well, the ‘to do’ list just gets a little longer.

Starting to work on the kitchen floor
Starting to work on the kitchen floor
The restaurant floor is coming along now
The restaurant floor is coming along now

On Saturday, I took brother Mike to see Blaenau Ffestiniog and later Llanrwst before spending much of the afternoon baking with brother Mike, Emma and Mia, which seemed a good idea given the state of the weather.  Whilst we were thus occupied, Mike (White) carried on laying the tiled cafe floor, ably assisted by Will and Lucy.

Tomorrow we are off to experience the zip wire in the Blaenau caverns, so I am posting this to give me time to recover after tomorrow before re-posting.

This time with more illustrations

Tomorrow we are, unusually, having a day off to go to Pip’s graduation, so I am blogging early.  Having had a hint that more pictures would be welcomed (thanks, Di) I am planning to include a few more sweeping shots this time to help illustrate that things are beginning to improve, we think, more rapidly now.

With back to wood burner nook, looking towards new kitchen (still a twinkle in our eyes)
With back to wood burner nook, looking towards new kitchen (still a twinkle in our eyes)
Standing in same place, looking towards gap where entrance door to restaurant will soon be fitted
Standing in same place, looking towards gap where entrance door to restaurant will soon be fitted

On Sunday we treated ourselves to a trip to the Ugly House to check out what some of our soon-to-be competitors are doing, and enjoyed a very good snack lunch.  We spent the rest of the day strictly doing nothing so we could recharge our batteries.  We note that if Andy Murray recognises at the grand age of 29 that it takes longer for his body to recover, think how much longer it is taking ours at nearly twice his age.

Yesterday was a good travelling day.  I travelled to Llanrwst to pick up some essential building supplies, then travelled to Mochdre (close to Llandudno Junction on the way to Colwyn Bay) to visit an electrical wholesalers and bring back vast quantities of goodies, only to find on my return that the order for grommets had been overlooked.  Since Mike insisted he absolutely must have these before he could do anything else, after entertaining our Dutch horse-riding visitors, I nipped to Blaenau Ffestiniog to see if I could get any.  Have you noticed how this looks like a travelogue of exotic sites in Wales, all in one day?  There really were some lovely views that sped past the window as I rushed (in a relaxed sort of way) on to my next destination.  Suffice to say that whilst I had wanted to buy a couple of hundred grommets, a visit to two shops in Blaenau produced the grand total of 7 packs, each containing 5 grommets, so on my return home I placed an order with Screwfix (other internet suppliers of electrical bits and bobs are available) for further grommets for delivery on Tuesday.  I then placed an order with the local builders merchants for plasterboard and other thrilling items (some of which can be seen in the above photos).  Having warmed to the internet ordering theme at this point, I also ordered some business cards, some routine stationery, requested a quote for more furniture, and then recorded an outgoing answerphone message that I have been meaning to do for only a month or so.

Today I put a second coat of undercoat onto the (once black) beams and suspect I splashed myself more than I realised, based on the slightly sideways looks I received in the Co-op this afternoon.  It was only when I checked my glasses because I couldn’t read a particularly small label in the shop that I noticed the speckled effect….  Meanwhile all Mike has done is attach about 20 electrical socket boxes to various walls, and then added the cabling and clipped this to the walls.  I know he had to drill holes in the walls to fit some of these but really, is that the sort of commitment we expect?  Of course, Mike would probably say that he has been working like a Trojan and I have just been swanning around in the car, but clearly that’s just fiction.

Just inside new door into restaurant, looking away from the kitchen
Just inside new door into restaurant, looking away from the kitchen
Standing in centre of restaurant, looking towards fire exit (behind pillar on left)
Standing in centre of restaurant, looking towards nook which houses the wood burner

We have tried an experiment on the dressed slate-faced pillars.  I have spent some time brushing years of dust and gunk (including old plaster) – and chewing gum! – off the pillars but they still look tired and worn.  Yesterday, having purchased some raw linseed oil, Adrian painted some onto one of the pillars and you can see the result below.  I would be grateful is anyone still reading at this point would let us know if you prefer the slate to be left alone, or oiled up (which has turned them darker in colour).

Your opinion would be valued: should we oil the slates, or leave them alone?
Your opinion would be valued: should we oil the slates, or leave them alone?

And finally, I include a couple of shots showing the effect (I hope) of our having moved the front door.  The door had been at a 45 degree angle, at the end of a corridor, but as the door is mostly unglazed, this made the corridor very dark inside, and made it quite difficult to find the entrance from the outside.  Here’s hoping the changes will improve things, especially when we find time to fit the glazing.  I hope that the extra photos prove interesting – do let me know if you have any further comments!

Internal view of corridor that used to lead to the front door. Door has been moved out of shot to left hand side, and the old door into the cellar has been bricked up (which is the grey area in shot)
Internal view of corridor that used to lead to the front door. Door has been moved out of shot to left hand side (but you can see where it used to be based on where the carpet stops), and the old door into the cellar has been bricked up (which is the grey area in shot)
Front door in new location, seen from inside hotel
Front door in new location, seen from inside hotel

Is this the end of the beginning, or perhaps the beginning of the end?

Good evening, all.  Update time, so pin back your lug’ oles as someone used to say.

On the work front, we have completed a number of smallish projects over the past few days.  Mike has cemented the lobby floor, with most of it level to the internal floor level, and a small section sloped downwards towards the front door, to try to contain any driving rain that might come straight in under the door.  I should perhaps let you know that today’s weather has been testing this theory very well – gusting winds and rain being driven towards the building – and things seem to be ok still.  He has also tarmacked the new manhole into place; patched the concrete floor by the fire exit to the restaurant; repaired panels within the ceiling; put decorators caulk into all gaps in areas I have undercoated; and managed to get all of the lights in the bar working.  Meanwhile, I have finished washing the ceilings (yippee!); finished the current undercoating; cleared through the restaurant to remove clutter; and vacuumed through the hotel.

The restaurant-to-be, looking a little lighter, but not quite finished
The restaurant-to-be, looking a little lighter, but not quite finished

On the non-work front, Pip arrived on Thursday to collect the car we found for her a couple of weeks ago, and when we had finally taken delivery of the log book earlier today, she left here with something of a smile on her face this afternoon.  As she stayed over yesterday evening, she and I had a quick shopping trip to Llandudno and on top of an uncharacteristically large pile of impulse purchases, I now have a new outfit for her graduation on Wednesday.

This afternoon, as the rain was strafing the building, I re-drafted our work schedule.  We have achieved quite a bit over the last nearly seven months, but there remains a scarily long list of tasks to complete over the next 5 weeks.  That notwithstanding, we are having tomorrow off and will not think about this again until Monday.  On the other hand, we are a tad more relaxed since yesterday when we took delivery of two sample tables with chair combos which we assembled last evening and tried in the restaurant today.  Pip had advised on the paints we purchased last week and vetoed one of our choices, but if we say so ourselves, we now think the furniture and colour scheme will look rather good together, so we hope you will come and check them out some time.

Can you guess what it is yet?
Knit one, pearl one anyone?

We have bees

On Sunday, Mike took delivery of his two nucs – two boxes full of one queen and many thousands of workers bees, with occasional drones.  They were most odd – white boxes about 30cm x 20cm x 15cm absolutely crammed with tiny moving things, trying to burst out of their confined space.  These were left in the car to settle whilst we helped our youngest, Pip, and her young man, Hugo, to select some furniture to take into their first unfurnished flat.

After their van had been filled, Mike togged up and bravely led the way to the hives, which he has positioned at the extreme end of the lower level land where they will get some sun but be (as far as it possible on our Welsh hillside) relatively shielded from the wind.  The high spot for me was when Mike triumphantly returned to change and declared that he had shaken the bees off his suit, only for me to find 10 bees crawling around on his back, and two further bees in the room through which he had entered the hotel.  I think we might need to create some sort of de-contamination space for the future!

The last few days have been a more-of-the-same kind of time.  I have been washing the restaurant ceiling, and one can certainly tell that people used to smoke in the bar.

Yuk, and double yuk...
Yuk, and double yuk…

When the cleaning gets too much, I have been swapping between priming /undercoating various surfaces, or brushing down the slate pillars and removing items like chewing gum and other effluorescences that have been festooning them, or more latterly undercoating the black beams in the restaurant.  We have purchased a rather lovely rose tinted paint for the beams, and suspect we may need to seal the beams to stop the old colour and grime showing through – so to test first, we are undercoating and will soon find out if any seepage is seen.

Mike meanwhile has finished cementing in the new external drain for the kitchen, created some shaped plywood panels round the pillar / window interfaces, tweaked the new kitchen door so it opens properly, and plastered and skimmed the walls under the windows and also the stud wall to the new staircase-to-be.

Exciting news since Saturday is that (a) we have found someone who has agreed to work with Mike on the electrical installation, which may even be in time for our opening, (b) we had a visit from a company that specialises in providing Welsh products for restaurants and hotels  (c) we have ordered some sample furniture for the restaurant to check for colour and (d) we have ordered the tiles for the floor.  They are browner than I would have chosen, but we are hoping that their irregular shape will help disguise the irregular lie of the floor.  So what with all of this and creating a further 20 inlay motifs in our spare time, things are looking . . .steady as she goes.  And slightly less black than before.

we are hoping that the lighter colour might help 'lift' the ceiling - do you think it's working?
We are hoping that the lighter colour might help ‘lift’ the ceiling – do you think it’s working?

Plumbing the depths – or should I say down the drain?

It’s time for a quick update before we stop for our day off tomorrow.  My apologies if this posting feels a bit light: we have been busy, but seem to have relatively little to show for it.

Since I last wrote I have undercoated a lot of windows; insulated the panels either side of the relocated front door; and looked after a couple of groups of horse riders.

Mike has replaced all the window furniture on the restaurant windows; replaced the locks and catches on the restaurant fire door; made a stand for his beehives; but most importantly has fitted a new drain which will serve the kitchen.

I think this is about how it should look
I think this is about how it should look
Beware: trip hazard!
Beware: trip hazard!

As you can see above, he has dug a trench and inserted the new device into the drain line, and passed a spur back up to the kitchen-to-be, so that next week (!?) he can start to consider plumbing the kitchen.

We have also met with Tomas to discuss how to relocate the building rubble, once we have heard whether or not we require planning permission for the labyrinth.  Only 6 more weeks to go now before we open…..