Between the rock and the glass places…

As we approach the Bank Holiday weekend, Mike and I are gearing up for a few more days of hard work – we hope. We have ‘Jabberwocky’ playing in the cafe tomorrow night, so also need to get ready to boogie the night away, remembering that our last music night was great fun. Meanwhile, a short recap of the last three days pretty much reads as: Mike has been remodelling the windows whilst I remodel the rock face.

Mike first. He has been replacing the glass, first in the second set of patio doors leading onto the balcony, and then in room 7 which is just above the cafe.

These 'windows' were reasonably sound....
These ‘windows’ were reasonably sound….

whilst these windows were pretty poor - indeed the entire sill has had to be cut away and replaced
whilst these windows were pretty poor – Mike removed the entire sill and has replaced it with his own version. Can you see him yet?

I have been working mostly on the landscaping. You may recall a previous shot:

Some rock exposure now achieved, but still plenty of 'stuff' to remove
Showing that rock exposure has begun

With the help of Osian, we set to on Wednesday and managed to make quite a difference. Between the two of us, we removed several dodgy saplings, and levered off quite a collection of rhodo stumps. These stumps are of seriously impressive dimension. Over the past who-knows-how-many years, the rhodos have layered and seeded such that there is a huge network of roots and stumps all growing close to the rock face, all interlinked, and requiring a lot of welly to move them.

Just trying to find the best point of purchase against which to lever this stuff off the rock
Just trying to find the best point of purchase against which to lever this stuff off the rock

but see the difference it has made.
but see the difference it is making.

This last photo is not as clear as I would have liked, but you can see a massive piece of rhodo root (upside down, on right hand side) that we have levered off, leaving a new section of rock exposed. It took three of us the best part of a couple of hours to shift this. The breeze block in shot was intended to give a sense of scale, but I am not convinced it will cause you to be sufficiently impressed when you see it – it was huge!

We were all careful to keep our toes out of the way as this one slid off.
We were all careful to keep our toes out of the way as this one slid off.

The rest of the time has been spent on regular life; burning the huge pile of roots, branches and leaves we have moved; and filling the skip which arrived yesterday and which is already full with broken glass and yet more mattresses.

Windows into our world

I start with apologies regarding the last post. We had written an update on 20th April, but didn’t notice we hadn’t posted it live until someone (thanks, Charley) asked when the next post would appear. So today, even though we are posting the day after our previous post appeared, the news covers the last five days.
Last Friday and Saturday saw us working on one of the sets of balcony doors

Evidence that the sun does shine, even in Snowdonia
Evidence that the sun does shine, even in Snowdonia

Carrie removing the old paint before Mike re-glazed the door
Carrie removing the old paint before Mike re-glazes the door

Mike helped me to clear the jungle which had been growing on the rock which ‘overlooks’ the long corridor. He got quite an ow-ie when he was using his superior strength, and the mattock, to break old rhodo roots off a rock. The momentum pushed his finger up against an old branch and it was then trapped by the hammer handle. It is healing well, but there were a few choice words said at the time.

The rock face, without the weeds, old rhodos and brambles, and assorted bottles, tins, cutlery ...
Part of the rock face, without the weeds, old rhodos and brambles, and assorted bottles, tins, cutlery, cups, glasses …

but, were we could, leaving the moss, ferns and other desirable plants in place
but, where we could, leaving the moss, ferns and other desirable plants in place

On Sunday and Monday, we were both working in the cafe most of the day, but I snuck a few moments for further clearing of the rock face, my reward – I was told – for calculating and submitting the VAT return.

Some rock exposure now achieved, but still plenty of 'stuff' to remove
Some rock exposure now achieved, but still plenty of ‘stuff’ to remove

Last night, our sleep was somewhat disturbed by the hail showers, and we woke to see Moel Siabod and our cars clothed in white. During the day we had further hail showers, but we continued with the stripping and re-glazing schedule. I only took a few minutes out to clear part of the slope of dense brambles which were beginning to obscure the platform outside the doors we are working on, to help it look slightly less neglected.
I forgot to take a 'before' picture but I assure you it was a tangle of bramble, dead rhodo, leaves and assorted household waste.
I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture but I assure you this was a tangle of bramble, dead rhodo, leaves and assorted household waste.

All we need to do now is work out what sort of plants to put in to stabilise the soil and brighten things up – and find the time to put them in. Dim problem!

Making progress again

This post composed 20th April:
Mike and I have spent the week so far mostly on two different projects.
Mike has been sensible and stayed with the programme of replacing the double glazing units. He has progressed to the second room on the first floor and removed all the glass from one window

look: no glass!
look: no glass!

and later removed one panel from the french windows to the balcony. As the builders merchants delivered the glazing panels yesterday, he was also able to re-glaze this final section today.
Mike tells me all of this went according to plan, except that as he was removing the fixed panel in the window shown above, after he had removed the putty, he was gently easing the units out, when at the very last moment he spotted that the exterior pane of glass was no longer linked to the interior pane and so, with irritating inevitability, it fell and smashed- rather spectacularly – on landing on the rock eight feet below. I believe the clean up probably took longer than the original job….

Meanwhile, after I restarted my painting marathon with a simple door prime, I continued to clear rhodo stumps from rock that will be overlooked by the new suites of rooms. Yesterday and today I moved to the area that can be seen from the long corridor and have begun grubbing up stumps. This might be more accurately described as trimming stumps with secateurs and/or loppers, and then whacking at the stumps with mattock and/or axe until some parts could be levered off, and then continuing until it finally breaks into sufficient pieces that it can be removed.

View from long corridor of rhodos and general scrub
View from long corridor of rhodos and general scrub

Roughly the same area, but now with the evergreen removed and some of the scrub cleared
Roughly the same area, but now with the evergreen removed and some of the scrub cleared

The tree having a rest after its exciting trip down hill
The tree having a rest after its exciting trip downhill

It doesn’t look much yet, but I am hoping that over the next few days this area will be fit to be photographed, but there are still many rhodo stumps to remove, along with a great deal of litter, building rubble and soil, between now and then.
Our other news is that Mike has put aside his chain saw envy and invited some guys to help him process the trees. You may recall that last year, some chaps appeared to fell four trees which were fouling the power lines. They had some very powerful chain saws. Mike invited them at the time to let us know if they ever had any spare time, and yesterday was our lucky day. In one afternoon they reduced the 4 felled trees, plus one other, to slices which we can now manoeuvre reasonably easily.
Now we just have to work out how to get it from here to the building!
Now we just have to work out how to get it from here to the building over some very rough terrain!

It’s a miracle!

On the refurbishment front this week, Jacquie and I managed to partly clear the third floor rooms, ready for redevelopment. I say partly because we plan to bring many of the contents out via the new staircase once it has been built, but many items have now been rendered into smaller pieces, making it easier to move them around. We also, with Mike, continued to work on clearing the hillside as we prepare to reveal the rock face.

After cutting back the old growth, we have these large rhodo stumps to remove
After cutting back the old growth, we have these large rhodo stumps to remove

but see how lovely the rock is that they are sitting on
but see how lovely the rock is that they are sitting on

Mike showing off his muscles - but also giving  a sense of scale to the stumps
Mike showing off his muscles, having chain-sawed the stump into quarters – but also giving a sense of scale to the stumps

As it was nearly Easter time, on Thursday Jacquie and I had time off during a shopping trip and managed to fit in a trip to Plas Newydd on Anglesey.

Plas Newydd, with the Menai straits behind
Plas Newydd, with the Menai straits behind

We spent a few hours pottering around the house and gardens admiring the bluebells and the Rex Whistler mural. On Good Friday, we walked to a beautiful garden 15 minutes away up the hill over the road and joined other folk from local churches for a time of quiet reflection, followed by a walk around the labyrinth. And on Saturday, Jacquie treated us to a superb meal out in Craig y Dderwyn in Betws-y-Coed, in their river-view restaurant.
If you are thinking that it sounds like we haven’t done much on the building, you might be right. We are much relieved to report that the cafe has been much busier over the Easter period and, what with Jane taking some well earned holiday, we have been more committed than usual to the cafe each day.
So what is this miracle, you may be thinking?
This week, my cough had gone from bad to worse. Many times I have had to leave a room as I struggled to stop the coughing spasm, and I haven’t been able to eat any chocolate all Easter – disaster! I even had to leave church during the service on Sunday so last night I asked Mike to see if there were any possible cures listed on the internet. He found one which we thought sounded sensible, and another less so. The first was to take codeine – apparently, this tends to numb the throat, making it less sensitive so less likely to initiate a coughing spasm. This has helped a bit. The second was to put Vick’s VapoRub on the soles of your feet. Yeah, right. This sounded sufficiently ridiculous that we realised we were going have to try this. Amazingly, it has worked brilliantly. I have no idea how or why, but we have ‘Vicked’ my feet several times now and been thrilled and shocked by how effective this has been.
From the Plas Newydd Italianate garden
From the Plas Newydd Italianate garden

Sometimes, it is good just to stop and be grateful just to be able to breathe.

Oh happy day!

Best news first – so we can ensure you don’t have sleepless nights worrying about our project…
We heard from our architectural designer yesterday, and (pending confirmation from the building engineer) it looks like we have a relatively simple solution to the structural wall issue. To recap – what we all thought was a stud wall turns out to be a load-bearing wall on floors 1 and 2, and possibly on floor 3. This wall cannot remain where it is, if the original plan for apartments is to go ahead. Well, the new plan involves adding a new load-bearing wall; ripping up part of the floors; inserting new joists running in a different direction; installing a new load-bearing bit of wall; and then removing the problem wall, and hey presto off we go! So there are some very relieved people in North Wales (or will be in a couple of days when we receive confirmation that this option has got the green light).

The highlight of Saturday's quiz - wildlife taking centre stage on the rock behind the cafe
The highlight of Saturday’s quiz – wildlife taking centre stage on the rock behind the cafe

We had our quiz night on Saturday, followed by a busy day on Sunday which also happened to be my birthday. I spent quite a bit of the day cutting back dead rhododendrons with friend Jacquie who is staying for a few days. Far better even than this, Jacquie had a brainwave and has suggested that rather than trimming back the rhodos and then replanting (which was my original plan) we might instead remove all vegetation and expose the underlying rock. On further investigation, the rock seems to connect to the rock at the back of the cafe so we are going to give this a go and see how it all looks.
The red team, all ready to  tackle whatever arises!
The red team, all ready to tackle whatever arises!

This is the hill side we are currently trying to upgrade, as the new apartments will all have a view over this hill
This is the hill side we are currently trying to upgrade, as the new apartments will all have a view over this hill

At the top of the same hill, looking back to Plas - note dead rhodo stems
At the top of the same hill, looking back to Plas – note dead rhodo stems

Same hill, with rhodos cut back, and beginning to remove soil and other plant life
Same hill, with rhodos cut back, and beginning to remove soil and other unwanted plant life

not to mention the bags of rubbish we are digging out from old bonfire sites hidden under the scrub.
Quick sidebar (as I believe the young folk say today – got a totally top birthday present from the offspring, all of whom are visible in the jigsaw puzzle they had made for me!

Totally top present, guys - thanks!
Totally top present, guys – thanks!
And thanks also for the flowers, chocs and port – you know who you are. Indeed I was a very lucky girl who received some wonderful presents which were all greatly appreciated -thanks to all.
Anyway back to the narrative:
As if that wasn’t enough, Jacquie then suggested a way to get rid of the wooden walkway behind the cafe, which we think will also work. Its very clear that we need fresh eyes on the project to keep us on our toes!
I wouldn’t want you to think this is all the progress we have made. Mike has been slaving away inside the house, but as this is all mending window frames, and trying to make them hang properly, its not terribly photogenic…

As a consequence of this conversation, Mike and Jacquie wandered behind Plas and found that a line of trees had been blown over by storm Doris, and we hadn’t even noticed!

Just a quick trip over with the chain saw and we should have fire wood for years!
Just a quick trip over with the chain saw and we should have fire wood for years!

Normal positive service resumes

Normal positive service resumes
(This post composed and entered on 8th April, but as a new page rather than a blog post. Sorry to those who couldn’t find the update – I have now moved it to the blog and will delete the new page…eventually

Hi all. I hope life is treating you as well as it is us.

We are still learning to live with the uncertainty about the way we need to progress. We have heard nothing from the professionals so have changed tack and are now prepping the windows.
As with the cafe, all of the windows on the three floors will need re-glazing. On Tuesday, Mike removed the external doors from their normal location in one room and placed them in the door hospital (ysbyty drws). The glass was removed, and he then removed the previous rather dodgy repairs after, we presume, the door was blown open and damaged rather extensively in the past. Unfortunately, by the time I tried to take a photo of the impressive infill, the door had been replaced on new hinges, and the weather board had been replaced so you can’t see anything of the repair.
I really must try harder at this photography lark.

and here is the partner door, stripped (my job) and ready for repair
Here is one door, stripped (my job) and ready for repair

And here is the repaired door, back in the opening, and protected from the elements!

Repaired door back in the opening, and protected from the elements!

Other big news of this week is that I has caught a snorting cold, but have been very brave, naturally. A couple of people have worked a trial day in the cafe this week but, life being what it is, we were relatively quiet on both days so they haven’t had a true flavour of what might be in store for them. At least we should be ready when the rush starts.
We have also taken the opportunity presented by the building hiatus to do some tidying and sorting. Our tool repository has been reorganised; I have primped the area around the chalet to try to make it look less derelict; and I have written the quiz for tomorrow. Written, plagiarised from the web and books, its all a matter of how you look at things…
View from the car park around 5pm today - just incase you need an incentive to visit some day View from the car park around 5pm today – just in case you need an incentive to visit some day

Yesterday, we met a super couple who spent their honeymoon here 32 years ago. They have taken a leaflet and said they might pop back in 3 years to see if we have accommodation on offer – no pressure then!
The really good news this week though is that Mike drove to Anglesey on Wednesday to collect a new nuc (a queen plus a small colony of workers) of bees. He and Adrian put these into the newly sterilised hive. I am told the operation went smoothly, but my question is – how did so much of the (incredibly sticky) sugar syrup end up decorating the two bee suits, plus the boot of Mike’s car? I guess this will remain a mystery since I don’t think either of the chaps plan to tell me the full story.

The view back towards Betws-y-Coed...need I say more?
The view back towards Betws-y-Coed…need I say more?

Oh well, I shan’t worry as I have lots of rhododendrons and other shrubs (courtesy of Anna and the remaindered plants bench) to plant this weekend. Yippee!

Ah – slight problem here…

We were so excited to get going with the next phase that we set off at a fast pace. We have been short handed this week since the cafe has been gratifyingly busy, and thus I could only work on The Project from about 9am to 11.30am, and again from 4-5pm. No complaints from us, but just thought I should let you know that the cafe is beginning to get busy.
Last Wednesday, whilst Mike was tearing down walls from room 7, I was removing tiles from the walls of the en suite. The slight fly in the ointment became apparent towards the end of the day, when Mike found on removing the plasterboard from some internal walls that they were plywood faced, which wasn’t what he was expecting.

Notice as the plaster board was removed, the plywood liner was revealed, indicating a structural wall
Notice as the plaster board was removed, the plywood liner was revealed, indicating a structural wall

There then followed phone calls with the architectural designer during which they both sucked through their teeth and threw around apparently random comments regarding the seriousness of the problem and possible solutions. Mike had to lever up floorboards and remove skirting boards until it was clear where these plywood walls ran and, more importantly, where the joists ran and were joined together, where appropriate. My understanding is that a long conflab is likely to follow tomorrow when we find out whether this means the plans need to be slightly amended, or whether it means returning fully to the drawing board.

joists are joined over these structural walls
See how the joists are cut either side of this wall we now know to be structural (the wall below this shot is also ply-clad)

01apr04

In his downtime, Mike has put together our table tennis table, drained the heating system on floors 1-3 of the extension, and driven to the coast to buy up as many 1 litre rhododendron plants as he could find! More news with our next blog, and let’s hope that one might be a bit more positive.