A folk-ing good night was had by all

Quite a lot has happened since I last wrote.

Mike has tinkered with one or two minor blips in the water containment abilities of this property.  First we found a few drips from one of the pipes leading to a radiator; and then a minor leak became evident during a rainstorm in one of the new roofs – but at least this is being caused by some work we knew would be necessary but have not yet started.  We have had BT out to repair a faulty phone line.  Mike has finished constructing the shell of the linen cupboard which I have now painted, so Mike should be able to add the shelves this week.  I have shopped till I dropped ready for our first big ‘event’ in the cafe.  I have sorted all the linen (no mean feat in a hotel which has had several owners recently) and have had another Welsh lesson.  We have fitted new signs to the building which were beautifully produced by Signz of Llanrwst, and Mike has fitted 5 exterior lights, to enhance the walk from car park to entrance.  Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have taken photos of any of these momentous items…

Then we come to the main event of the week: on Saturday night, we had the pleasure of hosting an evening of European music from the folk band Mouton (https://soundcloud.com/moutonnorthwales).

Mouton making music
Mouton making music


Mike and I really enjoyed the music, and the evening seemed to pass in a blur of good humour, conversation, chilli, and just a vague suspicion of alcohol.  As this was our first ever attempt at such a night, we hope it was as much fun for everyone else, and look forward to the next such occasion.


Speaking of which, a quick plug:

  •  on Friday 9th December – yes, in just under two week’s time – we will be hosting a Christmas Quiz night
  •  on Saturday 7th January 2017 – an evening with the covers band Jabberwocky.

Full details will be on our web pages shortly!


Winter draws on…

This might be quite a short posting.  It has been gloriously comfortably warm recently in the building, as our new boiler has definitely made the heating system better able to cope with the size of these premises, but we are destined to be quite cold tonight.  This is partly due to the weather which is cooling rather rapidly tonight, with frost forecast overnight (and maybe snow), but an even greater factor is that we appear to have run out of heating oil.  How is that possible, we hear you cry?   On the plus side, at least we now have accurate information on the likely oil consumption rate of two boilers running, rather than one.  To defend us against not unreasonable charges of incompetence, I should say that the boiler man did have to drain the tank several times lately which presumably used rather more oil than we had thought – and he kindly removed some of the accumulation of watery oil lurking in the bottom of the oil tank….Thank goodness for multi-fuel burners, that’s what we say!  We will just need to retire to bed early tonight, with lots of hot water bottles and perhaps a hot chocolate drink.


Some of the first snow of this winter highlighting Moel Siabod
Some of the first snow of this winter highlighting Moel Siabod – as seen from our car park


To briefly summarise activities over the last few days: we have enjoyed meeting some lovely guests both in the cafe and to stay – including a delightful little boy of about 4 years who thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Duplo we have saved for our grandchildren, should any ever arrive (no pressure).  We took delivery of new signs from  a local supplier (Signz of Llanrwst) to help us improve our image.  I attended the AGM of the Betws y Coed and District Tourist Association and joined the committee.  We held our first Welsh conversation session (Thursdays 2-3pm with Adrian) in the cafe.  And last but not least, we had sufficient dry weather on Saturday to finish painting the area around the front door.  On a less positive note, our credit card machine broke down overnight.  It was astonishing to see that not only did the card reader alert us to the problem, it gave us the number to call, and this office explained what we had to do to reset the system and get back to business.   The power of technology these days still has the power to amaze me – and I’m only talking about relatively routine stuff!

To help us all relax after the mention of technology, I show a photo taken from our phone, minimised by a free internet resource, and posted on a blog- like you do…

Probably the last of our autumn views, taken from roughly the same spot each time outside the cafe
Probably the last of our autumn views, which have all been taken from roughly the same spot just outside the cafe


followed by a quick snap of the river, so we can follow it as the voume rises for our next theme
followed by a snap including the river, so that we could follow a new photographic theme watching the river volume rise.  The white froth on the water can just be seen as the shadow touches the wall towards the centre right


Mike’s work on the linen cupboard is beginning to make real progress.  Here you can see how he has fixed the novel feature known as a floor.  Since we now know this cupboard feature sits in a void running unobstructed from the ground floor to the attic, he’s lined the floor with fire resistant board and sealed the edges with fire-proof expanding foam to help reduce the inherent risks.

Fire-resistant gap filling foam edging the new (only slightly recycled) floor
Fire-resistant gap filling foam edging the new  floor (made from only slightly re-cycled materials.

This afternoon, whilst we had a particularly quiet time in the cafe, we put up some seasonal strings of lights.  No Christmas decorations yet – those will follow once we are in December – but we thought you might want to see how cosy the cafe looks with some extra lights.

With models....
Day time photo, complete with models….


...and without
…and night-time photo without models (please ignore the box of Christmas decorations behind the chairs – they have now been moved elsewhere) but with the floodlights on to pick out the rocks (which is better seen in person)


Lest we forget

You won’t find me writing bonus blog posts too often, since (obviously!) I am normally working my fingers to the bone with some important but slightly off-beam activity or other – as is my beloved, currently in the middle of making me a linen cupboard.  I don’t like to air our dirty laundry in public (as it were) but in the last house, we had lived with a temporary airing cupboard for about 20 years, and as we are eventually planning on offering accommodation here, the need for a clean – and thus necessarily well built – linen cupboard is huge.  The back story is ridiculously long, but we understand from the local fire service (and from careful inspection) that the current version had been used for unexpected activities, and has also housed a fire at least once.

Mike has stripped out the very rickety shelves to discover the cupboard had no floor (you can see a couple of feet down to a rats nest of old cabling) and no roof (you can see up into the attic floor) and when he gently prodded on one wall, found it to be rather more mobile than is normally the case for the side of a cupboard.    Below I include the photo after he replaced the studwork which had previously suffered several floods (at a guess, given how soft and squidgy the wood was) and then ‘glued’ the wall to the cupboard via strategic application of (really quite a lot of) builders expanding foam.

Right hand wall of the linen cupboard which we hope will now stay in place!
Right hand wall of the linen cupboard which we hope will now stay in place!

Anyway, this is all by way of a long and almost irrelevant intro into the real story.  Mike should have been working on the linen cupboard today, and I should have been sorting and prepping the linen, but instead following a conversation with one of our customers, Anna, earlier this week about the poppy installation at Caernarfon castle we decided to take the afternoon off to go and see it.  There follows several shots which may give you something of the flavour of the piece, but almost certainly not the numinous immediacy of being there.

Anna in front of the poppies
Anna in front of the poppies




A view from one of the battlements
A view from one of the battlements

and if that isn’t enough, we also took a shot of the remembrances placed for individuals within the castle grounds.  Each of the remembrances was either on a wooden cross, or crescent, or star of David, or crosses with stickers on for Hindus, or a shape for Sikhs, or a sort of thin hourglass shape for those of no religion.


A shot showing approx three quarters of the remembrances
A shot showing most of the remembrances

We had a very interesting and sobering afternoon looking around; walking through the various exhibitions in the castle; and in particular sharing thoughts with other visitors.  We didn’t get a chance to see the exhibition in the Tower of London, but are both glad we managed to catch this one.  For anyone local, the poppies can be seen in Caernarfon castle for free until 20th November.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

A Sterling performance

We went to Llanrwst to see the fireworks on Saturday night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  They were so good!  Before we moved to Wales we used to hold fireworks parties each year, and this has got us thinking again how much we miss seeing everyone.  Maybe next year…

I’m not planning to dwell too much on the refurb tonight as I am really writing to share some photos.  On Sunday, Mike went down to the river and took various snaps of the frontage of the manor, so that I can show them to garden designers as we start planning for the landscaping.  Examples include:

The view from the river
The view from the river bridge


and the view having walked a few metres towards Betws y Coed
and the view having walked a few metres towards Betws y Coed, showing just how much of the land is covered in rhododendron ponticum


and here is the view from the lower garden area
and here is one view from the lower garden area


As you can see, there is quite a challenge ahead to make a garden on this rocky land, but I hope we can make a pleasantly colourful one more in keeping with the landscape in due course.

Mike is like a dog with two tails at the moment.  Last week he built a roaring fire in the front room which roared so well that it has burned out the motor in our stove fan.  Undeterred, Mike took to the internet to find a replacement and, to his total joy, has found one driven by a Sterling engine.  Some year ago, when Mike was inventing a gadget which sadly didn’t make him his fortune, he found out about Sterling engines and has since been fascinated by them.

Our new Sterling engine-driven stove fan
Our new Sterling engine-driven stove fan


This photo doesn’t do the majesty of the craftsmanship any credit, but I hope you get the idea.  Of course, if you want to have a closer look, just pop into the café and see it in action.

Our other news is that we have persuaded Adrian to visit the café this Thursday from 2pm to 3pm for Welsh conversation.  Anyone wishing to practice their Welsh is welcome to join us.

Gobeithio gweld chi yna (as the say something in Welsh website suggests I say)!


Let me just trumpet our success a little more…

It’s been a relatively slow few days in our efforts to restore the old manor.  So I will start with a pretty picture….

The view about 9am today
Our view about 9 a.m. today


Our boiler man announced on Tuesday that he had finished the installation of the new boiler; flushed out the entire hot water system; re-laid out the pipes in the boiler room (curing a couple of leaks as he did it); fixed the leak in the immersion tank; replaced the air bleed valves (which you may recall failed spectacularly a couple of months ago); and installed a new flue onto the boiler.  Unfortunately, one of the gland nuts was split, so we had to call him back later in the week to replace that.  I am now happy to confirm that the task is finished, and Mike is now able to lag the tanks and pipes and perhaps conserve the heat rather better than has been possible up to now.

I have finished painting the wall adjacent to the front door, and Mike has finished top coating the outside of the door (since it was dry today, but I was elsewhere), which is lucky really, as I don’t think there will be too many more reliably dry days coming up in the near future.  Mike has installed exterior lights by the door, and on the path from the car park, so that now we are in Greenwish Mean Time and evening arrives shortly after 4 p.m., it is still possible to negotiate the path to the house successfully after sunset.

All evidence of recent building works finally erased by a nice clean layer of white paint
All evidence of recent building works finally erased by a nice clean layer (or two) of white paint




I have also planted quite a few bulbs in the planters and pots around the front, and been to see a sign writing company about our needs.  Otherwise I have been unusually busy with meetings (or at least that’s what I tell Mike, to explain my lack of productivity!)  Today was the usual round of Welsh class in the morning, and shopping for groceries in the afternoon, whilst Mike swanned around here putting up shelves and things, and then going to check on his ladies (aka the bees).

I feel the need for another pretty photo:

Our view about 3pm this afternoon.
Our view about 3 p.m. today

As rain with some wind is forecast overnight and into tomorrow, I wanted to share this with you, since the next shots might not be so colourful.

The café had a very, very busy day on Tuesday, followed by three unusually quiet days.  If only we knew how to even out the demand….  In the meantime, we have decided to hold a quiz night in early December, and another music night in January – watch this space for further details.

Autumn in all its glory

This posting is prompted hugely by the unbelievably fantabulous landscape in which we now live.  To give you a quick taste, below is a view if you stand outside the bar next to the fence and look left towards Dolwyddelan.  Notice some of the trees have now shed their leaves, so I plan to major on more photos today before the wind has a chance to arrive as is forecast for later this week and takes so much of the colour with it.


Or perhaps you would prefer this view, which is essentially a moodier shot of the same view but standing a few feet further to the left of the last one, and taken several hours later.


Incidentally, between the two shots above, you may also notice Moel Siabod’s disappearing trick in action.  Its become quite a sport between us to check every day whether Siabod has been overtaken by modesty, or is proudly showing its grandeur to the world (or at least those living nearby).

Now to turn to more domestic issues for a moment.  Mike has been repairing the ceiling in bedroom 8.  You may recall a couple of months ago that we had an internal waterfall and part of the ceiling collapsed.  Now that it has fully dried out, Mike took the scaffolding tower up into the room and has patched the ceiling with plasterboard and plastered over so that, once we have painted, no one will ever know…..

Here's the reapir Mike made earlier
And this is the repair Mike made earlier


Meanwhile, I have had by far the more exciting job – yes, I’ve been painting…

Putting the black top coat over the grey undercoat for the door panels - then only the white top coat and I'll be finished
Putting the black top coat (right) over the grey undercoat (left) for the door panels – after that, only the white top coat to go and I’ll be finished


You might notice from the state of my (now) painted jumper that there has been some collateral damage during this exercise.  In case you think I have been particularly careless with the gloss, I should reassure you that most of the paint on my sweater is due to applying masonry paint to the new render on the front of the cafe.  It was fairly obvious where I had painted onto new render, as wall changed from grey through light grey to white with the second, final, coat.  However, when painting over areas that had previously been painted, it was not so obvious that they were wet.  So when I started to lose my balance on the small step (in shot) when painting behind and above the guttering (see pic below) I must have leaned against a wet bit momentarily – or at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  Oh and when I was climbing the ladder to paint about 5 metres up, I might have found myself  cradling the paint between my jumper and the ladder, so one or two of the drips from the tin transferred to my clothing.  Personally, I think this is a sign of committed painting: Mike thinks its simply that for me, painting is something of a whole-body experience.

Up a bit, back a bit...
Up a bit, back a bit…mind the dog….

At least the new work trousers took all of the damage below the waist.

This week also saw us cleaning out the grease trap (yes, that really was every bit as exciting as you might be imagining), meeting some more lovely people in the cafe, booking a band to play here in January, and I attended a masterclass in social media use, which I hope will become evident over the next few weeks.  In addition, Mike has been repairing the linen cupboard (since one wall has clearly previously suffered from at least one flood and possibly also a fire).  His investigation lead him to check out the room above this cupboard, and from there into a cupboard which had been nailed shut when we arrived.  It turns out this door was hiding a roof access, and on entering Mike has discovered the reason for one of the major roof leaks that has been showing several linear feet away- and cured it!

On Saturday,  Jasmine (who I used to work with) visited and we had a great time catching up on Norwich-centric gossip.  We have also entertained family this weekend.  Tony (Mike’s big brother) and Jo popped down from Yorkshire for a short weekend to see the new cafe, and son Will swung over from Sheffield.  Will is a self-confessed IT nerd who has been amazingly helpful this weekend sorting out glitches on our electronic systems, but I think it is likely I will have built up a new list of problems by the time of his next visit.

But enough of us.  I will finish with what may be our last shot of the stupendous autumn colours  just outside this building

The view from outside the front door, facing right towards Betws y Coed
The view from outside the front door, facing right towards Betws y Coed (with our two new raised beds just visible at the bottom)

How can you resist – do come and visit some day!