Sloping off and skimming on

After spending Monday in the cafe, we had a very exciting day on Tuesday when 19 people arrived for breakfast, all at the same time!  On the same morning, we had booked a visit from our architectural designer to firm up the details for the plans we need to send for approval before we begin the next phase early next year, we hope.  All in all, quite a busy morning yesterday.  In the afternoon, we finally found time to ice the wedding cake we are making for our daughter’s wedding this weekend, so no pressure there then…

Today I finally started on a job I have been looking forward to for some months now.  Those who have visited the cafe will know that the slope shown below cuts across a view of the rock side from within the cafe, visually cutting the landscape in half and hiding much of the garden.  I am keen to remove the slope to improve this view, but we had to wait until we no longer needed it as the fire exit from the rooms above the cafe.

Removing the artificial grass from the slope

After Building Control visited last week, we now know that the staircase will meet approval once finished, so I expect to be removing the slope pretty soon.  I started by removing the layer of artificial grass on the slope, which we assume was an anti-slip device.  I cut the ‘grass’ into slices and have removed it, to allow the timber below to dry out, so Mike can chainsaw this into fire-sized pieces before next winter.

A bare slope, ready for demolition

Mike meanwhile continued bravely with his plastering.  You might have thought he would have had enough of this by now, especially after icing the wedding cake, but no – he continues to enjoy this task (which is lucky, really, as there are plenty more walls to plaster here).  Below you can see one wall of the sitting room on floor 3…

More photographs of plastered walls

… and below is the facing wall, also plastered.  In this lounge, only the sloping wall you see on the right hand of the photo remains to be plastered, so it shouldn’t be long before we are working on the final bedroom on this floor.  Oh, be still my beating heart!

…and even more photographs of plastered walls.

If this seems like thin pickings, please may I remind you that it is 26 degrees here at the moment.  Twenty six degrees!  Trying to work in the garden is tricky as the sun is just so hot and airless.  Trying to work on the third floor is difficult as it is so hot and stuffy.  Don’t get me wrong – it is lovely to have hot, dry weather, but 26 degrees!!  I mean, does our planet have no sense of what is reasonable?  Answers on the back of a post card please to….



This Lola is not a show girl

The hot weather is continuing here, but we have normally ignored this in order to carry on with the internal refurbishments.  However, this week I have cracked and done some landscaping, because the wind has changed!

I feel like I am washing my dirty laundry in public…

You see above the view from the upper level to the lower level by the river, where you may notice some trees and branches laying in the pathway.

…by showing how much junk there is on site….

Above, you can see some of the Rhododendron ponticum cut last year and left to dry out, ready for burning.  However, off-shot to the right are our beehives and we cannot normally burn the waste here as the smoke would usually blow straight towards the hives.  Fortunately, over the last week, the wind has changed direction so we have had a day or two when we could burn without fear of upsetting our little critters.  We have managed, having cleared the branches away, to remove a lot of the old cans / bottles / plastic / tyres etc to a proper receptacle for such rubbish.

…but not for much longer!

We have quite a volume of waste clippings in stacks waiting to be burned, so this might not be the only bonfire we have whilst the wind remains in a favourable direction.

See how the smoke is not blowing towards me

I have to tell you – it is hot enough here without the fire and having to wear the overalls, but we are bravely soldiering on.  In fact, I may have soldiered on too far.  On Friday, I stoked the fire by dragging branches onto it after spending all morning walking with my welsh class.  On Saturday,  my energy had obviously packed up and run away for the day.  You might be able to see that when Mike collected our new dog on Saturday, I couldn’t quite find the energy to get out of the chair and you may also notice I was wearing a winter weight jumper, and was still cold!  In this heat!!

Lola has arrived


Lola’s Facebook mug shot

She is a very pretty girl, though.  About 8 months old, and we are her second home, so let’s hope she settles in well.  She and the cat have already had a brief encounter so we will have to hope those two can agree to disagree peacefully.

One wall (really three surfaces) now plastered

What about the refurbishments, I hear you cry?  Mike has continued to plasterboard and then skim and is now working on the lounge on floor 3.  Here we see he has plastered one wall…

and one ceiling plastered too

…and here was can see the ceiling has also been plastered.  We are kind of guessing you might have seen plenty of photos of this kind by now, but hope to be posting something slightly more thrilling at some point.

The perfect cover up…

Just e brief posting today, since this week’s progress has mostly been of the non-exciting and non-photogenic form.  We have moved lots of waste around, swept and vacuumed, and cleared space.  I have dismantled a couple of old sofas and moved them down from the attic floor – all of this to create more storage space.  And not always successfully – the second, longer sofa was stuck for a surprising length of time at the bottom of some steep steps as I had underestimated the dimensions.

Today’s work was worth a photo or two, though.  You can see below one of the en suite bathroom walls which, for some reason unknown to us, was modified at some time to look like a stencil.  This wouldn’t have mattered so much except it is a structural wall.  It is on the top floor, but even so…

Not entirely sure what was going on here…

To rescue the situation we have overlaid a new plywood layer to stiffen the building and also hide the original horror.

…but we can’t see it now…

Obviously, all my own work!  A final coat of plasterboard will then be required, before Mike fires up his plastering trowel and gets skimming.

…and even less now.

But I hope we can all agree it looks a bit more like a building site now, less like a demolition site.

Things are getting quite quiet here, for a change

The refurbishment work continues apace, so I won’t bore you with details of my trial hairstyle, ready for being mother of the bride later this month (thanks, Lee), or the training I have attended on digital marketing.  No, I will get straight to the point, once I have told you how fantastic the weather still is here, and how beautiful the landscape is looking – although I grant that it remains necessary here to make allowance for the volume of junk still lying in inaccessible (but sadly visible) areas of the grounds.  We really must try harder!

Mike has de-nibbed the ceiling and is over-plastering the old swirled ceiling plaster.  (The colour is because we have sealed the ceiling with 2 coats of PVA; the first coat was yellow-ish, the second red-ish so that we could see where we had painted).

Have you seen Mike’s new toy – his new platform is proving invaluable

Meanwhile, I was taking down some old stud walling as the doorway to the en suite bathrooms needs to be relocated.  Imagine my surprise when one decent heave with the sledgehammer moved the entire wall!  I am not sure how visible it is in the shot below, but about central to the shot is a sheet of plasterboard that has left company with its frame.

Mike and I have been insulating the stud walls which has had the undesired side effect that we now cannot talk freely to each other from room to room; we have to position the radio very carefully if we are both to hear it; and if folk call ‘hello’ from downstairs, there is only a very small chance either of us will hear them.

This acoustic insulation is marvellous stuff – we can’t hear each other talk in adjacent rooms now!
Working on the stud walling below the window…

In bedroom 2 we have almost completed the ceiling and walls ready for plastering.  The ‘short’ wall under the Velux window was installed today, leaving a space for an inspection hatch as we have completed the pipework for the radiators, but will not be able to connect this up for another few months as we complete other floors.  The inspection hatch will enable us to fully investigate any damp patches that may result when we start the system running, which given our recent experience of unintentionally flooding part of the cafe is a sensible precaution, methinks.

…now plaster boarded

We have also insulated the wall below, partly because it is ‘a good thing’, but mostly because it made it simpler for us to install the electric socket in this wall.

This internal wall has been sound insulated

To take a quick break from the internal work, I have had my chitty signed entitling me to a day or two outside to do some much needed weeding, as our beautifully reclaimed land and the associated flower beds from last year had disappeared under long grass.  These grasses have been roughly removed and raked away because tomorrow, if I play my cards right, Mike is giving me permission to remove the slope you see below.  This used to be part of the fire exit from the rooms, but as we now have the stairs in place, this has become a redundant eyesore rather than a simple eyesore.

This slope is nearing the end of its life!

I will leave our detailed plans a surprise until the photos can reveal more, but thought you might also enjoy a quick snap of the hydrangea petiolaris doing its thing on the front wall.

The climbing hydrangea doing its thing

Look forward to showing you more of our endeavours in a day or two…

Noise abatement at Plas (not a phrase many people thought they would ever see)

Hi all, the far more relaxed and mellow Carrie now writes.  The Welsh exam was actually very interesting, in that I found the written section relatively straightforward and hope that the marks will reflect that in due course.  The oral section, however, was nothing like as relaxed, mostly because I seem to be incapable of adjusting the speed of my speech to reflect my relative inexperience in Welsh, which means I wasn’t giving myself enough time to think before saying things.  Oh well, at least its all behind me now, which is a great relief, until the next time, obviously.

Back to the refurb.   We finished insulating the end walls but I haven’t included any photos as I think you have probably seen enough of those by now.  I started the week with a stud wall, plastered on one side, and with electrical socket boxes in place, and have added the insulating matting which I will need to wedge in place with some chicken wire so that it can’t slump, before the building inspector takes a look and we can then put the final section of plaster board into the wall.


One stud wall…


…now insulated

Unfortunately, the insulation is spectacularly effective against noise.  Now if I bellow up the stairs that Mike is needed somewhere, he can’t seem to hear me.  Weird that.

I also tidied up a bit of wall which used to be hidden by the old floors, and once it was levelled, Mike added a bonding and then a finishing coat of plaster so it is almost looking like a regular stairwell now.

Mike got a little plastered…

In addition, I have insulated a further piece of stud wall which Mike erected earlier this week, and then Mike used his left over plaster …

and the small stud wall, also insulated

… to cement the gap where the walls meet the ceiling.  Having done this, he has put PVA all over the ceiling, tinted a lovely shade of green so we can see where he has worked.

Sealing the ceiling

so who knows what delighted may face us next week, after we spend the next couple of days in the cafe.

Preparing for my examination…

As I sit here writing on this beautiful early evening, I have the warm sun on my back coming in through the turret window (!) and a fantastic view if I look out of the window.

Of course, I’m not doing that, as I have a blog post to write, and then one or two other things to do before the evening is out… but this refurbishment lark is still great fun.

Last week, Mike and I were insulating the end wall on floor 3 using the ‘dob and dab’ approach to gluing things in place.  You can see below pieces cut to size for the right hand end of the wall…

Insulation ready for installation

…which went according to plan.

Half of the wall now covered…

On the left hand side, we started well…

It’s just like a big jigsaw really

…and then got diverted when we needed to insulate and plasterboard the stud wall…

Now insulating the wall cavity

to the right of Mike as he is standing below.  We then had to remove the window board and insulate around the window to complete the end wall facing the river.

…just needs a bit of careful fitting around the window

We had a non-refurbishing weekend during which I was in Cowbridge with Charley and Damien, getting the last elements of my mother-of-the-bride outfit, whilst Mike held the fort in the cafe along with a couple of excellent helpers.  Yesterday and today, we returned to work with gusto.   Mike replaced the floor in the main bedroom on floor 3 (the green bit being the new bit)…

Fitting the new floorboards in the main bedroom

…and then built the short stud partition to take the door frame of the second bedroom…

New stud wall to take the door frame

…whilst I put the gloss top coat onto the cafe store window, the interior of the patio doors above, and the balcony rails.

Gloss paint finally on the balcony rails

Here’s hoping that these coats of paint actually stay attached to the woodwork over this coming winter, unlike last autumns coats!

Our next bulletin may be a little sketchy as I have my Welsh exam coming up this Thursday evening in Bangor (which my be ‘o Fangor’, or ‘Ym Mangor’ depending on the context in Welsh, in case you are interested).  I might need to do just a teensy bit of revision between now and then, especially as it is many, many moons since I last sat (or stood it, as they say in Wales) an exam !

What’s in a name…

Before I report on the refurbishments, I would like to send our thanks to everyone who has sent kind words about Jasper.  It looks like his roles as chief welcomer to the cafe, twinned with his extraordinary efficiency as the sausage disposal mechanism, have been noted and will be missed.  The cat is trying valiantly to fill the void, but he is clearly also missing his house mate.

On Saturday, Mike switched his focus back onto the works as a distraction, and completed the plywood floor on the landing on floor 3 which needed strengthening to stop it boing-ing every time we walked on it.

New landing on floor 3 now reinforced with plywood

He then started on the electrical wiring for floor 3.  Firstly, we had to move a couple of old baths down the new stairwell so if you know of anyone looking for original period avocado baths, sinks, toilets and fittings, do please feel free to point them in our direction.  Once these were out, we were able to approach the walls again and start fitting socket boxes and wires.

Sunday and Monday saw us both in the cafe.  On Sunday, there was really quite a torrential downpour in the early morning.  The skies were emptying so fast that the Manor guttering – which we already knew needed some attention in the near future – was, in some places, spouting fountains of water nearly a foot away from the leaking joints.  As we discussed the timescale on which we might tackle this over breakfast, the thunder and lightening got steadily worse.  At about 8.45 am we remembered it was a good idea to unplug the computer during a storm, for which we were very grateful when at 8.50 am there was a very bright lightning flash followed almost immediately by an extremely load bang when we think the house (or, if not the house, something very close by) was struck by lightning.  As a result we spent Sunday serving the handful of trusty souls prepared to venture out in such atrocious weather, including the couple who had been camping out for the first time and whose tent hit the skip when they left the campsite several days early and popped in for lunch and an opportunity to dry out.

As a consequence of the strike, both our credit card machine and our wifi modem were fried, so apologies to anyone trying to contact us by email – it might be a while before we get through the backlog.

The weather on Monday was relatively settled, but definitely not the Bank Holiday weather we had expected.  Yesterday was dry so we prepared the paintwork and I primed, and today undercoated the doors and railings you see below.  (Those with a long memory may recall we got to this stage last autumn but, sadly, didn’t get the dry spell necessary to put on the gloss coat, so have had to start again this year…)

Woodwork on the balcony, currently being repainted

Mike meanwhile fitted the ring main wiring on floor 3, then the fire alarm cabling (see the red cables coming from the ceiling below), and then used the plasterboard delivered today to plasterboard more of the walls (on the right below) for the second bedroom.  We were unable to find the cable for the lights circuit, so that will have to follow in a day or so.

The plasterboard has been put to good use.

Floor 3 is now beginning to look more as it should.  On the other hand, we are running out of electrical components so, first thing tomorrow, I will be making my way to the electrical wholesalers before doing the routine shop for the cafe.  This is my favourite sort of shopping, not: I will be asking for a variety of components by the name Mike calls them, which will probably not be the same as the names in the wholesaler’s catalogue.  No matter, it all adds to the excitement of my day…