Reaching new heights

My latest three day report coming up, and I am pleased to note that we have achieved some of the objectives we set ourselves.

Plaster still drying

On Wednesday we found that the additional plaster was still drying, so we tried to find something important to do whilst it dried.  As it happens, we were both struggling to walk from floor 1  to floor 2.  The route was: up 6 stairs; up further steps with our heads through the narrow gap between the new wall and the old floor (where Mike had cut away ca. 30cm of the old floor to enable us to work on the wall); then shinny uncomfortably high up part of the new wall and lever ourselves up onto floor 2.

We noticed that we could cut through the joists and remove the part of the floor that overlapped the sixth flight of stairs (which stopped us just walking up the stairs) if we put in some suitable struts or props to support the floor for the next week or so, before it is permanently removed.  Below you can see the new props in place, just before we cut through the joists so that we could actually use our new stairs.

A new prop in place

Having done this, we moved on to putting in the last platform necessary…

Early stages of platform creation

… with the front trimmer being supported on another temporary prop.  With this platform in place, it was time to move the last two flights of stairs from the ground floor up to the second.  It was easy enough to walk them up the original main staircase to floor 1 after which we needed to hoist them up through the only access route, being a narrow gap between landings on floors 1 and 2.

Flight 8 of stairs being winched to floor 2

So we tied up the stairs (meaning Mike made use of a wide range of knots learned goodness only knows where, and I stood and applauded his manly efforts) and then Mike ‘guided’ the stairs up through the gap below, whilst I hauled on the rope (which was running through a Karabiner [other pulley systems are available] below an attic joist) running in the approved manner behind my back and under both arms.

The journey is difficult to show

By the time we had lifted both flights of stairs in this manner, we were both ready for a nice cup of tea and a quiet sit down.

Two flights of stairs on floor 2 await installation

Having managed to get them onto the correct landing, we then affixed the top and bottom newel posts and then installed the seventh flight of stairs into position, resting them against the platform shown earlier.

Seventh flight of 8 in place!!!

You may notice the design nicety which shows that we had to cut a hole out of the ceiling to accommodate the top newel post before installing the stairs…

The newel post runs through the ceiling, due for removal next week

and you can see below that we can walk up and down some of the stairs now – after a fashion, assuming you don’t mind ducking in various places.

Flight 7 with Mike tweaking something, no doubt something important, on the floor below

So next week we should be clearing the decks and finishing a couple of walls so that the final flight of stairs can be installed.  We had hoped to complete this in April but are letting ourselves overrun because we have visitors this weekend so plan to have a bit of a break, and then need to be on cafe duty early next week.   I will return to resume the story just as soon there is anything interesting to show you.

Justin other update on Plas P…

We have been in the cafe Friday through to Monday, so building progress has been rather slow recently.  On our cafe days, Mike prefers to adopt a fairly Zen attitude to life, whereas I find it very hard to relax if there is nothing actually to actually do (actually) whilst we wait for customers.  So, I am occasionally given dispensation to garden, providing I wear the overalls and arrive at the front door promptly if the old bell is sounded to summons me.

So over the weekend, whilst the weather was still fabulous, I spent some time raking the old rubbish down the slope…

The steep bank below the building

It’s not really the old bracken we wanted to remove, but rather the unbelievable quantity of old bottles and cans, beer glasses, crisp packets, random metal and plastic bits and bobs, old video cassettes,  and other choice articles from the slope as these were visible from the road.

Machete in hand, she stands to conquer

They are currently all tangled together at the foot of the slope, caught in the old bramble – I’ll get around to moving it all sometime soon, I promise…

View of Plas Penaeldroch (circled) from the top of Moel Siabod (the ‘hill’ you can see from the car park).

Meanwhile, our son Tom popped over to visit for the weekend and on Saturday sent us this shot of Plas, taken from the top of Moel Siabod, whilst Philly sent us the shot below of herself and her new BFF on Sunday.

The Archbishop dropped by to see Philly, obviously…


Mike making my birthday planter

Yesterday afternoon, I talked Mike into making the planter I had requested for my birthday, to be placed in front of an unsightly object outside the kitchen.

Our old disguise in front of an unsightly object


The new disguise in place, ready for herbs to be planted.

Today, we had an interesting start to our first building day for a few days.  we marched up to the plaster we had left to dry last Thursday, and measured the place where the next and last platform needs to go . . . and found that we hadn’t plastered high enough up the wall!  ‘Doh, silly us’, is what we both thought and said.  So Mike mixed up a quick bit of skim and plastered a new patch, whilst I moved items into the attic where I am preparing a new storage area.  And I also finished painting the many coats of fire-resistant paint onto the next two flights of stairs.

See the plaster dry – again

Whilst he waited for the plaster to dry, Mike has bolted together the next trimmer and prepared the other bits of wood we will need tomorrow to make up the platform.

Trimmer and other parts cut to size, in readiness

Oh, and I completely forgot to tell you- last Friday, whilst I was at Welsh class, the building inspector arrived and approved the work to date.  So we have the green light to continue, if that plaster would just dry…

Rubble, rubble, hardcore trouble…

Since I last wrote, we have had two cafe days (Monday and today), and three refurbishment days.  Some tasks were not remotely photogenic.  For instance, I was pretty confident you would not wish to see shots of me clearing out the lean-to previously used to store fire wood as we tried to clear an access path for the electricians coming to install a smart meter.  Or one of more wallpaper being stripped.  Or one of me putting the fireproofing paint onto the treads and risers of the 7th and 8th flights of stairs.

Instead I will share with you the shot below where I am still working on one of the steep beds which form part of the view from one particular table in the cafe.  Really this shot is here as a reference shot, so that you can be impressed when the wooden slope has been removed, after the new staircase is fully installed, and I get to fully landscape this area.

The view from the cafe, still being improved…

In the meantime, Mike had blocked off an access hatch into part of the roof space, before skimming the wall onto which the next flight of stairs will be attached.

Watching plaster dry…
… is such a thrilling pastime

The stairs should come about half way up this plastered wall, after which we need to make some careful measurements before pulling up part of the floor 3 floor boards whilst we work out exactly where we need to install the final trimmer against which the eighth and final flight of stairs will rest.

Thus we occupied ourselves on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday, we resolved to have a day in the garden as the weather forecast was so good.  You may recall that when we arrived, the brick weave path ran right up to the walls of the house, breaching the damp course, so had to be pulled away from the building.  As we did this, we discovered the path had been laid over a considerable depth of hardcore and assorted slate waste.  On the plus side, along the ‘long’ aspect of the building, we found a concrete edging which showed where a flowerbed used to be sited, so we cleared this and planted it up.

However, we have noticed that in a little under 2 years, the plants made surprisingly little growth, and a worrying number of plants have turned up their toes.  We decided to explore the situation, as one does, with a pick axe and mattock to hand.  After gardening in at least 2 feet of sanding soil in Norfolk for twenty years, I am still adjusting to the need for such tools when gardening.   I removed the small plants from the bed, then Mike used the mattock to locate (as we had suspected) the hard core still in some places in the bed, and flip them out.  At the point you can see in the photo, Mike has cleared from the right right hand edge of the photo to where he is standing and has pulled out the rubble at his feet and in the wheelbarrow.  We think that might explain the lack of growth!

Mike, managing the mattock

We are working along the bed, clearing plants, pulling out rubble, top up with the soil before adding some compost (as shot below) and then putting back all the removed plants, plus a few bonus specimens.

One empty bed – always a good subject for a photograph, I think

By Thursday evening, we had dug and cleared from the right up to the centre pillar of the double window, but as we will be in the cafe today and all weekend, I have a sinking feeling it may be weeks before we manage to get back to this task.

Accidentally, a before (left) and after (right) photo

On the other hand, and being essentially a reasonable woman, I recognise that after single handedly skimming two walls on Wednesday and digging out the pile of blocks (below) yesterday, Mike probably needs a bit of a rest day or two.  If it helps, the black water butt to the right of the picture is about 4 foot tall, so you can see how hard Mike is working at the moment.

If anyone needs any hardcore…

A recap-and-progress report

Hello again.  Last time I wrote, we had been locked out of Mike’s phone and so had had no access to our recent photos.  After a fairly fraught morning spent on the phone on Thursday, we now know that there is a hardware fault on Mike’s mobile, which means we have lost about 3 days of photos.  The rest are fine as they are automatically uploaded to the cloud, but the pictures taken after the phone refused to engage with the wifi are lost.  On the scale of life, I believe the appropriate response to this issue is ‘no biggie’.  On the other hand, Mike has adopted what was meant to be my phone to replace his phone.  Sometimes, when my position in Mike’s pecking order of importance is made crystal clear to me in this way, I can feel passive aggressive tendencies warring within me with a vengeance…

To remind you – Mike had finished plastering the wall in front of him below….

and he, Dick and I installed the final flight of stairs from floor 1 to floor 2 on Wednesday.

Sixth sets of stairs in situ

We then had a sort-of day off on Thursday, and on Friday we lugged really quite long pieces of 225mm x 50mm joists (that’s  9″ x 2″ in old-school) through the front door, along the corridor, up the stairs, through a door and round a very tight angle and into landing 1, so that they could be passed up to form the support for landing 2.

Timbers in place, ready to support the second floor landing

You may recall that last week we cut a hole in a wall, ready to support the trimmer.  Below you can see the hole…

Here is the hole ready to accept the end of the trimmer

…and below that, you can see the hole has been filled…

(the double length of trimmer, bolted together, running roughly central to this photo – the far end is now cemented in place in the hole you saw earlier.)

Saturday we were both in the cafe, as we had asked Jane to swap days off so she could cover for us today, when we should have been enjoying our helicopter flight which our family gave us as a 30th anniversary present last year.  Unfortunately, the flight was called off due to low cloud today, so instead we cut and fit the noggins to stiffen the landing (see below).

Now with noggins in place for extra rigidity

Once that was done, we cut and fitted the floor boards…

Flooring going in…

This afternoon, we put plywood and plasterboard in place on the walls between floors 2 and 3, ready for the wall to be plastered so we can begin work on the last platform we need to build for these stairs.  How exciting is that – finally we are working on the last two flights of stairs we need to install.  Yippie!

In the brief periods of time when Mike didn’t need his deputy apprentice trainee under-builder, I have started work on widening the flower border outside the cafe.  It seemed such a simple job for me, and a delight to exercise the green fingers again, but I hit an interesting snag.  We were pretty sure that slate waste has been dumped on this slope in the past (and you can see how grey the ‘soil’ is to the left of the embedded bricks), but I hadn’t expected to find long lengths of artificial grass buried here also.  You may be able to see, at the end of the slope, that there is a grey mass which is about 4 metres of plastic turf I have ‘liberated’.  Sadly I have found a further run of this stuff nearby, but it is so firmly buried that I will need Mike’s superior strength to shift this, which I am told I can access around the middle of next week.

Widening the flower bed visible from the cafe

The weather forecast suggest we should have a warm spell next week, so I am hoping to persuade Mike to join me for a day or two of R&R in the garden – assuming progress on the stairs is going as hoped.

iphonely we had some pictures to share…

HI everyone.  We have a slight technical hitch tonight.  Mike’s smart phone has thrown a comprehensive wobbly, which even the phone companies support network cannot resolve.  It looks like the phone is proper broke.

Trouble is, all our pictures, carefully taken on the phone and stored on the cloud, are temporarily inaccessible.  We have spent quite some time tonight trying to get them onto our PC totally without success and have decided it would be more sensible for us to give up and have a relaxing evening than continue to battle with forces that are pretty much beyond our ken.  Well, they are certainly beyond mine, although Mike has far more patience with these things than I do.

So, thumb nail update – Sunday and Monday we were working in the cafe.  Tuesday we cut and fitted the trimmers for the floor 2 landing and Mike did lots of important tweaks whilst I had a meeting in the afternoon.  Yesterday, we put the sixth flight of stairs in place, with Dick’s help for the hoisting and lowering section.  Today we had a day off – no, really, well okay we might have done a few useful things (two shopping trips, bit of help in cafe – you know how it goes) but essentially had a more relaxing day than usual.  This was prompted by my having an appointment with a physiotherapist who said I really should find another job…  No, seriously, it looks like I will need to start a proper warm-down routine at the end of our building works to avoid muscle tension building up.  He managed to relieve quite a bit of it today with some savage but no doubt very therapeutic leaning hard on various bits of muscle.  Shame it will be another couple of weeks before the next appointment!

We’re only making work for Michael….

The weather here was not ideal for walkers this Easter.  Holy Saturday was very cold, Easter Sunday was wet, and on Bank Holiday Monday morning, we were covered in inches of snow.  We therefore had quite a quiet weekend in the cafe, but I am delighted to report that we have been busy during the week, as the weather picked up.

We had a wonderful surprise on Tuesday when Alison, a super friend and excellent colleague from my UEA days walked in, unannounced, with her husband and daughter – so of course no work was done then!  I really should have thought to take a photo…

Wednesday saw us attaching a length of 4″ x 2″ to the old back wall of the manor, so that it can anchor the wall we will build to house a fire door.  In addition, we removed part of the overhanging second floor to clear the space needed for the floor 2 landing.

Anchorage point in place, about one third across from left of picture
Anchorage point now supporting lintel

At one point, we were drilling into the wall (which is the back wall of the old manor) and found out just how hard life can be if you are a drill bit.

We really didn’t think slate would be so hard to drill!

Thursday Mike continued to pull down part of floor 2 – which you may recall from the last blog when I was lifting floorboards, but he forgot to take a photo first…

Naughty Mike…
Still dismantling the old floor two

…and then cut a hole out of the block wall ready to house one end of the trimmer.

Great view up through all the floors

Today, Mike put a prop under part of the floor 2 floor and then cut away some joists and cut some plywood to face part of the wall.

Part of floor 2 cut away, and the plywood in place…

Mike also had to replace a tap in the commercial kitchen which has been oozing very slightly from a split seam.  Being Mike, once he had replaced one, he then got very uncomfortable as they were no longer a matching pair, so this is a record of the perhaps 10 minutes in which the universe didn’t quite work as it should until all was made good when the second tap (on the right) was upgraded.

One drip or two, sir?

You may have noticed I haven’t appeared much in today’s blog, which might be related to my having to spend quite a lot of time in the cafe over the last week days – always good fun – and having a two essay deadline of midnight last night so I might have spent quite a lot of time not actually completing my apprentice-deputy-assistant-trainee-under-builder role.  Oops, better get back to it before someone notices…