Injecting some fun into our project

This will be a quiet build week for us as Jane is on holiday, so we will be in the cafe.  In the meantime, just a few pictures I wanted to share with you:

This one is of Mike’s careful bracing of the ceiling in floor 2, necessitated because the joists on the floor above are being cut and re-attached to the new stairwell rising through the building.  Of course, we weren’t planning on walking on the floor whilst the joists were un-attached, but there is no harm in the belt and braces approach.

High tech bracing…

How you might have laughed, though, if you had seen us with the plywood.  We recently took delivery of plywood sheets 8 foot by 4 foot, which we needed to get onto the third floor.  The new stairs do not yet exist; the old stairs only travel to floors 1 and 2, with the third floor accessed via a very steep and narrow set of stairs.  We therefore had to bring the boards up to floor 1 balcony and in through the door; post the boards up through a gap in the ceiling on floor 1 (to the right of the area you see above); then turned through a right angle and manoeuvred up through the gap at head height (visible in the photo) and then we ran up to floor 3 and pulled the boards through.

Last Thursday we declared a different day (as it was not raining) and decided to spend a day weed-killing the rhododendron ponticum.  As you can see, we were armed for the task with a power drill and a small syringe

Tools of my trade

which we filled with magic gloop and injected into the rhodo stems, after removing the top growth (so that we could see what we were doing).

Approx 15 minutes in, and the waste heap is looking like this

The timing is important.  We have been advised to stem inject in October, perhaps November, as at this time of year the sap would be ‘retreating’ to the roots and so the weed killer is drawn back to the roots which we hope will prove very effective in weakening the plant.  During the day, we managed to clear one bank of approx 12 large plants which we trust will die off over the winter.

Me? Tired? Surely not – this is such fun!


We have one further stand of perhaps 20 plants that I want to treat this winter as it will clear the top path on the river side, leaving the top path on the road side to next year at which point (I hope) we will have cleared the higher ground and be ready to start the slow descent to the lower garden.  Or perhaps we will have another dry day soon and I will find my syringe finger twitching!

A couple of old lags tell their story…

You know what they say about a change being as good as a rest?  Sometimes I think they fibbed.  We keep changing jobs – partly to keep things fresh, and mostly because we keep finding we need to complete job ii before we can continue with job i and so on….

Anyhow, two sets of stairs went in a couple of weeks ago, noting that the third set cannot go in until we have installed the trimmer against which they will rest.  The trimmer needs to go where there are currently 4 or 5 large pipes feeding hot and cold water supplies to the bathrooms – and the cafe – so the pipes need moving.  We therefore needed to pull down the ceiling (completed about a week ago) in order that we can see what we are doing.  In the shot below you may be able to make out the pipes on the right hand side of the light fitting, due for movement.

Entrance hall minus ceiling


We have decided, given that swift movement will be crucial to minimising any disruption in the cafe, to employ a plumber to move these and he has asked us to remove various items which had been stored in the loft through which he will gain access to the pipes.

Mike and I popped up into the loft space and were rather surprised to see considerable quantities of old Christmas decorations here, which had been left behind by the last owner – so far, so normal.  What really surprised us was the volume of decorations underneath the glass fibre lagging which had been used to lag the pipes!

One loft space (above the long corridor)

The eagle eyed among you may notice the bricked up window (we think) near the front on the left hand side.  We are hoping that this will line up with a new doorway we will need to create when we update the toilets next year…

So we cleared this all out, and vacuumed through, and then started lagging the pipes (modesty requires we whisper it) properly.  First we had to get some light up here.  After the flood light failed, and then the torch, we made do with a table lamp….

Mike practising his scary routine for the end of the month…

and then we played the ‘to me, to you, to me’ game a bit, with me passing Mike the pipe lagging, and then pieces of duck tape, as the crawl space is really quite narrow and we were, obviously, looking for optimum efficiency of operation whilst we made it up as we went along.

Loft space with pipes now mostly lagged…

Other than this, we have spent our regular two days in the cafe.  I have also spent a couple of hours trying to gloss paint one set of external doors before the winter arrives.  We carefully checked the weather forecast to find the only dry day forecast this week,… and it still managed to rain before I finished painting.  Oh, the wonders of moving from the driest part of Norfolk to North Wales!

Let’s hope we can find something more exciting to write about next time….

Another break through…or is that two?

This week we have been having a slightly bitty week,trying to move things forward as fast as the weather and time available outside the cafe allowed.

I spent a day putting the insulation onto the inside of the stairwell on floor 1:

Back wall, stairwell, floor 1..
…now insulated and chicken-wire holding it in place.

The scaffolders arrived during the week to remove their handiwork so that, at last, we can see ours:

Now you can see it…

We had a delightful interval on Wednesday when ex-neighbours Terry and Karen from Norfolk popped over for the day, so we redoubled our efforts on Thursday and began to extend the stairwell into floor 3:

Mike had a breakthrough moment and removed ceiling on floor 2…
and floorboards on floor 3.  One false step, anyone…

As we began to install the stud work today, we did have a fun moment.  Mike was trying to screw the top and bottom of the uprights in place and, all of a sudden, he decided the best way to do this would be to let himself down between floor boards onto the stud wall below.  Oh, if only he had mentioned what he planned to do before trying to execute it – I would have warned him of the dangers of descending with one foot either side of a somewhat unsteady stud wall.  It loses much in translation, but let me mention that Mike faced quite a challenge trying to extricate himself from his very undignified position in which he had very little traction, especially as we were both helpless with laughter at the time.

I’m sure I was trying to do something down here…

Once restored to the third floor, Mike and I continued to install the wall – but you might notice only one of use seems to be able to use the camera today… this upright now?
Back wall of stairwell, floor 3, stud work now complete

Oh, and we still have some minor leaks in the house.  This velux window is leaking somewhere but today was not the day to find out where, especially as the wind and rain were so strong, I wimped out of going shopping this afternoon.

Surely everyone has a spare bath to act as drip catcher, don’t they?!

My treat today (during spells when I had to find something to do as Mike was concentrating) was to demolish another en suite.

One bathroom, floor 2

Above you can see that I had already partly demolished the bathroom you can see, but we needed to break through into the neighbouring bathroom (i.e. behind the radiator ), because as we install the stairwell, we would otherwise lose access to an exterior door in the room we are partitioning off in order to get rid of the many bags of rubbish we are generating.

One less (or is it fewer?) bathroom, floor 2

Now we can just step into the bath and out again, and walk right to the door that you can’t see.

I hope this has all been crystal clear, and that you can see we will be ready for guests any day now – oh, I don’t know when, but soon, surely?  Perhaps better to ask if you can guess what we will be doing next week!?!

Last time, we told of removing the floor joists, so today I can tell you of their replacement.  First, Mike installed a second joist and bolted it to the final one left in situ, as the pair should now be strong enough to bear the weight of the new joists via joist hangers.

Double joists, bolted together

Mike then began to install the new joists, now running at 90 degrees to the old ones.

Skilled workman pointing out his skilled installation

From this shot, you can see some of the old joists, and some of the new ones.  Aren’t you the lucky one!

Client’s view of skilled installation


Half of the new joists now successfully installed


Entrance hall by new stairwell

Meanwhile, other operative got bored with the joist installation and fancied something less constructive.  As I believe we mentioned last time, the water pipes turn out to be exactly where we don’t want them to be, so we will have to move them.  Consequently, we need to remove the ceiling so that we can see them.

Carrie in destructive mood


Entrance hall minus ceiling

You can now see, slightly to the right of the light fitting, a series of (lagged) pipes which need to be moved, of which more another time.

We also took advantage of the relatively dry weather yesterday so get someone to do some work on some of our trees.

If you look very carefully, you can see an operative removing dead wood from our tree

Below are a couple of pictures which are not as good as we wish they were.  Yesterday morning, the wind was extraordinarily warm, and you could almost taste burning.  The sun was really very red (despite what the photo seems to show) so we guess there must have been lots of Saharan dust in the atmosphere.

Drat that auto-correct in our phone camera – the sun was really quite red

And this afternoon, the sunset was really something.

and this sky was red rather than orange tonight


Joist the job…

Today I start with a brief recap.  21 months ago, we purchased Plas.  Last year we completely refurbished the old bar into our new cafe.  The intention was, this year, to refurbish three floors, each with 3 bedrooms, to create 3 suites of rooms comprising 2 double bedrooms and one sitting room. So far, so simple, you might think (like we did)…

A significant delay has occurred in getting detailed plans for the installation of an additional – fire rated – staircase which took 3 forms.  Firstly, the plans had to be re-drawn when we found some stud walls were actually load bearing.  Secondly, the plans had to be amended when we found that there was not enough room for the staircase as drawn.  Thirdly, the first set of stairs delivered were not made as per the plans.

Last week we finally, and successfully, installed the first 2 flights of stairs.   This week, we are working around the discovery that the large network of pipes carrying water both into the cafe and to the three floors above are precisely in the way of the trimmer required to support the next flight of stairs.  Whilst we plan how to manage this, we are diverting to complete other tasks.

Room 5 as was

Firstly, we have returned to building the stairwell.  This room is on floor 1 and you can see the stud partition, then the plywood, then the fire-rated plasterboard being used to create the fire-resistant stairwell, and also stiffen the building.  This shot was taken this morning: by afternoon, the view had become one of unbroken plasterboard.

Mike lifting floorboards on floor 2…

Then we switched to floor 2.  Mike began lifting floorboards, because we need to remove the joists (currently running East-West and supported by a wall which we will be coming out) and replace them with ones running North-South.  Whilst Mike did this, we considered it was probably a good idea if I was working elsewhere, so…

Who needs this wall?

I began taking out a partition wall in a nearby bathroom which needs to be removed to create a corridor space.  This photo was taken around lunchtime: by the time I stopped at 3pm you could step through this wall into the bath beyond.

Floorboards gone, so now to remove the ceiling below…

Having lifted the floor, and rolled up the insulation mat in case it can be re-used, Mike started to see if he could persuade the ceiling to un-attach itself from the joists.   A few (relatively) gentle taps with the wrecking bar made some impression,

…nearly done…


but we found some more definite engineer’s taps did the business mere seconds after this shot was taken.

Tomorrow I have Welsh class (and hope one day to learn the vocabulary to be able to tell people what I do all week!) but will then return to help Mike rearrange the floor joists between floors one and two.

Great leaps forward…

We have had a very productive few days, which I hope you will enjoy reading about.

Firstly, I should let you know, Mike has harvested his first 6 jars of honey.  It was a bit of a performance, as our bees apparently have not read the book on how they should save the honey.  The local bee inspector was visiting when Mike collected the honey, and he advised that the supers (where the honey had been stored) would not fit into a spinner, so Mike and I had to invent a rather long winded and extremely sticky technique to extract the honey but, believe me, it has been worth it.  The honey is divine!

Secondly, we got back to worth this week with a vengeance.  Mike spent a day putting in the platforms for the first two flights of stairs (also known as stairs 6 and 9) but my goodness, there was much sucking through teeth and muttering whilst this was going on.

Mike installing the first of the platforms (this one also known as stair 6)

Then Mike measured things and muttered, and looked at plans, and measured again, and tutted, and looked, and had a coffee,… and at this point I decided absence was the better part of not starting a fight and left Mike to it, whilst I painted something, preferably in a different room… and then, magically, Mike decided he would trim the steps…

I cannot tell you how many times we had to measure this before we were allowed to bring out the saw…

and stand them in position for a day or so whilst he considered his next move.

The steps ‘rested’ in position for a day or so before Mike was ready to commit

After some discussion, and the teensiest bit of arm twisting, Mike took Friday as a day’s holiday.  Miraculously, his mojo returned on Saturday and he fitted the first two sets of steps – permanently in place, with screws and everything!

Two flights of stairs, now fixed in place


Look at these –  weight bearing and everything!

Meanwhile, I had continued to keep out of the way/undertake other tasks (depending on your philosophical position), to give Mike the space to think, and have now finished painting the new grey onto the cafe walls, and then painting the window and door borders whilst the weather was good to us

Meanwhile, I have been busy with the paint brushes – both outside…

and painting the many, many coats of fire-resistant paint onto the next 4 sets of steps when the weather was less kind.

…and inside.


From tomorrow, I am told we will continue our ongoing work with the stairwell – although we still have to agree exactly which bit we do next.  Since I have meetings in Bangor and then Llanrwst tomorrow, I fully expect to find that Mike has decided on the next move by the time I get back!


Pearls are products of constant irritation

Oh my goodness,  we have had a good weekend!!

Since I last wrote, I have finished painting the multiple coats of fire-resistant paint onto the first two flights of stairs.  We have done little else on the refurbishment though, as Mike and I have been celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary.


Our Pearl anniversary as depicted on Shaun and Paul’s super gift

To celebrate, we invited family and friends to an evening of Lobscouse and music.  We are profoundly grateful to those who travelled long distances to get here, and then set out working hard to make the evening so enjoyable.  We opened our presents today, on our actual 30th anniversary, and were really touched by the generosity and thoughtfulness of all.  In addition, I enjoyed the vicar’s comment in church on Sunday morning, when he mentioned that pearls are products of constant irritation.  I’m not sure quite what he meant by that, as I am confident Mike doesn’t irritate me that much.  I was also puzzled by two cards we received about remembering that the key to a long and happy marriage is teamwork and compromise,  and then doing it her way which I am sure are meant to be humorous (you can tell from the cartoonish figures on the front) – but I’m not entirely sure I understand the reference…

For anyone wanting a real laugh, you could do worse than watching the ‘Monkey’ dance which spread from family to friends whilst we danced to the music of Jabberwocky.

Click on 00oct01 now…




Today being our actual anniversary, naturally we wanted to relax and do something different for the day.  In our case, this was to plant many of the plants we had been given in a new flower bed.  The day started just as beautifully sunny as our wedding day all those years ago, but whilst we had enjoyed a wonderfully sunny afternoon in 1987, you might notice that the clouds had other ideas today.

First we removed a couple of conifers from the hillside

9.30am start…
by about 11am

then we started laying the path edging from the left hand end, followed by planting up behind the edging

Getting on

By 3pm we could barely stand upright, having used the pick axe to shift quantities of rubble, and having had to move the path a couple of times when rocky outcrops unexpectedly appeared and caused us to change tack.  By 4pm it was time to pack up…

We must be maturing – we even left some things un-planted, to finish tomorrow, rather than powering through…

when Mike became surprisingly camera-shy.

No photos, please!


Just to you know, Mike has promised me that we will be making inroads into the whole stairs issue tomorrow, so I look forward to posting photos just as soon as I can.