Guess who came into the cafe..?

We are both still waiting for the reality of Tuesday to sink in. We have approval (subject to sending two certificates to Building Control) to open. We have received one certificate, and the other is due here tomorrow, so progress is still creeping by.

I have been working on the web pages and various electronic interfaces, so that people can book rooms remotely. Just one or two wrinkles to iron out, but that process is also slowly reaching completion.

We have had a friend to stay this week, and Gill has heroically been prepping the platform outside one of the suites, amongst other glamorous jobs…

Just a quick lick of paint needed, I think

…so not much more sanding required now before we can paint it, then finish the railings, and then another task knocked off the To Do list. Mike has been fitting curtain poles and curtains, door locks, towel heaters and the like whilst I played at running the cafe last week.

Having said that, I did have a wonderful morning on Tuesday. I turned to greet a customer entering the cafe and got quite a surprise…

Is this a Welsh Rarebit I see before me?

…the most delightful couple had arrived who were on a road trip of unknown length, so brought their rabbit with them. It was fantastically well behaved and, in case you are interested, in only 6 months old at present so still has quite a bit of growing to do!

Ah well, onwards and upwards…

The man from Building Control…

…he said YES.

As of about 30 minutes ago, we are cleared to open as a hotel, providing we can let him see our electrical certificate and the fire certificate. Both of these have been promised by the companies who have tested our systems, so we should be getting them any day now.

In the meantime, I am back to work in the cafe, and then get some curtains tonight and then…. I will let you know more soon, when the emotions have settled down a bit!

So near, yet so far…

This week has been fun, but completely not photogenic.

We have taken delivery of our last big order for bed linen, so I have been washing and ironing everything, ready for when we open. But even I recognise that a photo of someone ironing sheets is not what most of us are hoping to come across.

Mike has been tweeking fire doors to make sure they fit precisely as they should, whilst I have been fitting the last of the intumescent strip to ensure a smoke-tight seal. We have been fitting skirting board and wooden beading to the last bits and bobs. Mike has connected the exterior lights for the floor 1 and 2 balconies to the electrical circuits and, in quite a change from the norm, invited Stuart (a rash volunteer) to help him fit two of the shower enclosures.

Nearly good friends

When he tried to relax one evening, he needed to speak a little firmly with Lola who was trying to tell the cat a thing or two. As you can see, his influence with animals worked well as both are contentedly lying by his side, but I think he might need to talk a little more firmly with his face before he takes the next selfie…

Welcome to the Eisteddfod

Having worked on lots of bits and bobs all week, we granted ourselves Friday evening off to visit the Eisteddfod. We can now see why the cafe was quiet last week: the Eisteddfod ground has everything you need to get through the day, so there was no need to leave the site to find stuff – there was even a phone recharging place!

Mike tucking into his Welsh specialty dish of chips and mushy peas

As it happens, our visit was late in the day and also coincided with some pretty heavy rainfall, which may be why things look a little murky, but we were surprised how busy it was, and what a lovely atmosphere there was.

So now back to the future, as it were. The fire alarm installation team were here on Friday, so the alarm points are all now installed and ready to work. Mike and I will be in the cafe for the next fortnight, covering for people on summer holidays, except for tomorrow when Mike will be furiously trying to do all the little things we ideally still wish to complete before Building Control arrive to inspect on Tuesday.

I will try to blog on Tuesday, just to let you all know whether we will receive permission to open then.

Close, but no cigar (#2-ish)

Woe is me. Not really – I don’t rate woe as a phase of life, but I do have a confession to make. You have probably guessed, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. So to distract you from the moment of truth for a sec., I will instead ask you to consider what might be going on in North Wales …

Whatever can bring so many people to Pont y Pant railway station?

Meanwhile, back to our little project. Long story short – Building Control phoned on Wednesday morning (31st July), just before our appointment, and asked about progress. Mike explained that he hadn’t quite finished plastering the stairwell whereupon Building Control cancelled the visit, since they would need to return to see the plastering completed before any sign off. So far, so fair. Unfortunately, the next available appointment was for 13th August, meaning we totally miss the Eisteddfod slot, of which more later.

Anyway, as Mike carried on working, he put in the last fire door of this sequence. He used expanding foam to secure the frame, which has to be pink (the fire-proof version) and, as you can see, some of it dripped onto Mike…

Don’t panic – it’s not blood…

…and what a mess it made. That stuff is clearly not designed to come off, so Mike now sports quite a tonsure where I pretty much had to shave him to get the sticky gloop off.

Mike was in a directorial mood

Nevertheless, the fire door frame is in – which is what I was hoping to illustrate, but I think Mike just wanted to show off my double chin, charmer that he is.

The fire doorway is nearly complete

Here is the frame for which Mike sacrificed his hair…

Notice how Lola is trying to show she is innocent of any charge of pestering the cat

and, looking the other way, you can now see the lobby after Mike had plastered it and I had given it two mist coats.

The view from the cafe towards the toilets…
…now showing off the new fire door

Here you can see that the stairwell is now enclosed within two fire doors on the ground floor and the whole area is plastered and (by end of play tomorrow) will be painted. Yes, we still need to add some architrave and skirting board, but have done all that Building Control needs to see.

Don’t get me wrong – there is still stuff to do. We have a few bits and bobs to finish in the bathrooms before the floors are completely ready to go live, but we should be ready on the 13th, so when we get the go ahead, all rooms should go live. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Back to my earlier teaser…

As some of you may know, the Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog railway had been out of commission since mid March, when Storm Gareth caused all sorts of problems. With the Eisteddford in town, there was considerable pressure for the line to be open and in the event it all reopened last week. To celebrate, a steam train came down the line yesterday…and many many people turned out to hear, smell and taste it!

The first Eisteddfod weekend is drawing to a close, and we can report it has been – – – a very quiet weekend in the cafe. The word on the streets is that the streets are empty because either (a) people are in the events or (b) they are at home because they are worried about traffic. We will keep a close eye on this and report further in the next post.

This accommodation phase nearly finished…

To remind you – the carpets for floor 1 and the stairwell were fitted last Thursday and Friday.

Mike putting in the finishing touches….

This marks the completion of construction work on floors 1, 2 and 3. We still have a bit to do on the ground floor to create the hallway – so we have fitted the fire board under the first stairs from floor 0 to 1 …

Now fire-boarding under the last flight of stairs

…and then blocking off the verticals to make the space safe.

…now nearly ready for plastering

I am not entirely sure what we will do with the space, but no doubt a solution will present itself in due course.

Slowly creating a great hiding place!

Mike’s next job was to reroute some old electrical cabling, so he crawled through the roof above the long corridor, and through into the roof the leads to the ghastly bit of Plas at the ‘bungalow’ end. All went well until Mike (who had been crawling backwards for quite some time) elected to turn around to crawl back whence he had come. On turning, he noticed a really rather sizable wasps nest…

Emergency averted – but only just…

…which we will worry about later. And now back to the important stuff…

The ceiling void needed to be levelled up first…

…the ground floor ceiling by the stairs was pulled down about 2 years ago so we could fit the stairwell. We then added various stiffening beams and, as a consequence, the ceiling no longer had an obvious flat base. So Mike had to fit more stiffening beams until we could identify a base, and then start fire-boarding it…

…and then we statrted boarding it up

…using the old broomstick trick to hold up the board every now and then whilst Mike exercised his screwdriver…

Mike and Alex work so well together – which is lucky really, as I was running the cafe

…until we (almost) have a new ceiling.

Ceiling now ready for plastering

Tomorrow I have to run to Llandudno, then have a breakfast meeting In Llanrwst, then return here for a church finance meeting – and then I will be ready to give Mike a hand with finishing the work, so that it is ready form Mike to plaster very soon. And I do mean very – Building Control are popping in Wednesday evening, and we are hooping to have the new fire door in place by then. Gulp.

Partly laid

As you might have guessed, we were still painting at 8 o’clock last night, but this morning we had a relaxed start for the day.

Just to remind you where we were at…

Whilst the last of the stairs (see above) were still drying out from the last application of the fire resistant paint, Alex was clearing out the last of the tools and materials from the rooms…

…and the rooms were being emptied as the carpet van arrived.

…and then vaccuuming through…

We don’t see this very often – a space with nothing filling it

…finishing just in time for the carpet fitters to arrive and start moving their stuff into the building.

The carpet and underlay started arriving…

Whilst that was going on, our crack team of (male) furniture builders were working through a pile of bedside cabinets. Our crack (female) team have taken the extreme step of holidaying in Finland to avoid this task but we want to reassure everyone that both teams are equally valued… (Mike, do you think I have got away with that?!?)

…whilst Paul and Shaun put together the flat pack tables.

The carpet guys showed incredible application to task today, given how outragiously hot it has been, and when they left about 7pm they have carpeted down two floors, and two of the three rooms on floor 1.

The carpet starts to go down

The stairwell now looks like it should…

The staircase begins to look quite different, now its painted and carpeted

…and some of the rooms are looking lovely.

Just need a few sticks of furniture now

Our immediate plans now mean we need to get back to work on the corridor and box in the base of the stairs and, and, and – oh well, more of that next time. Just for today, I think we need to sit quietly.

Less than a week to go…

I feel I should ‘confess’ before we go any further, that we have had a slight reprieve. The carpet firm called us on Thursday to ask if they could come a day later due to staffing issues their end. We did think about making a fuss for, let’s think, perhaps a microsecond or so, but then decided to be magnanimous and say we thought we could find a way to cope if we had to wait an extra day… so carpets will now be fitted next Thursday and Friday.

A window sill without a window

Mike has been plastering away. Here you see a weird part of the stairwell, which gets wider after the first floor. As a consequence, you can see in the shot above where some additional space comes into play. We decided, after considering various alternatives, that making a display shelf here makes more sense than anything else we could think of, so we have installed a bit of window sill. Now after Mike has plastered, it’s not looking too bad, if I say so myself.

The new hallway is nearly there

Whilst Mike has been plastering, I have been painting mist coat over the plastering as soon as it dried.

I rather like this photo – can’t remember why I took it though!

I think this shot was taken to show that I had been mist-coating the stairwell, but I am including it just because there’s something about the near symmetry in the shot that makes me smile.

The alcove is ready for its colour coat

Our alcove replacement for a cupboard has now been misted and awaits its colour coats. The eagle-eyed will see on the top left how we have boxed in a strange shape which appeared after we created the alcove. One of the delights of this refurb has been finding the unintended consequences of certain decisions, and then working out how to minimise the less than ideal results of our previous choices.

The old external wall has been ‘primped’ with a quick coat of dilute PVA

Shaun should be particularly proud of this shot. We decided ages ago that we wanted the back wall of the old manor to become a feature of the refurbishment, rather than be hidden behind plaster board as it was when the extension was first added. It needed quite a lot of cleaning down, as in its past life, clumps of plaster and other building materials had marred its beauty. After Alex brushed it down with a good stiff brush, it looked fine – but then Shaun suggested we seal it with a coat of thinned PVA, and it is really looking great. In case its not obvious, you are looking at the back wall just at the point when the roofline began.

The floor in Phil’s room is now continuous

We have now re-fitted the floor in the last of the bedrooms, and the builders sand insulation has been put back in place. It is such a strange sensation, walking on floors which we have had to hop over for years. We have joked that people might wonder why we dance over parts of the building as we show them around…

These two still seem to be agreeing some kind of truce

On a lighter side, Lola and Boyd continue to learn more about each other each day. I’m still pretty clear that the cat holds the whip hand, but Lola is so much more relaxed around him now than a year ago.

So we have been hopping over this gap for about 2.5 years – we will so miss it.

Back to the work…another bit of floor which has been missing for a while needed to be addressed this week. Here you see the part as you walk into the suite on floor 1.

First, we fit a thingummy (that’s a technical word, you know)…

We started by putting a block on top of a joist, to create a rest on which we could screw the new floor board.

…and then we could start fitting the floorboards

Once that was in and strong enough to take Mike’s weight, we continued to cover the area.

So far, so exciting. Today we have worked on the lobby for the floor 1 suite (photos to follow next time) and tonight we need to do a very detailed timeline for work still to do. Bearing in mind Mike still has some plastering to do, and we need to have gloss coated all skirting board by end of play Tuesday ready for the carpets on Thursday, you can see that this is really going to be a close run to the finish line.

Tomorrow we should both be on cafe duty, so there might be quite a bit to get through next week!

One week one day and counting…

A quick reminder for those less focused on the work…we have days left before the stair carpets arrive. Eight days, and about eight+quitealot days of work to fit in. we will just have to prioritise very carefully!

Below you can see Mike fitting a threshold in place

who needs a floor, anyway?

…after which he installed the door frame (photographed from the other side, incase you are feeling a bit seasick viewing this).

One new door frame opened…
…and another is finished.

The above door is at the far end of the same corridor – amazing what a few coats of paint can achieve.

Mike has also moved on to plastering under the stairs between floors 1 and 2 whilst I was busy cutting and fitting the skirting board, and then priming and undercoating the woodwork… my, I will be glad to put my paint brush down for a while in a week or two.

Mike continues to plaster under the stairs…

Our biggest challenge for a while arrived on Friday. Once upon a time, people accessed the rooms we have been restoring via a fire door from the main staircase in the old house. The plans originally showed a modified set of stairs allowing this access to continue, but as they would lead onto the fire exit, they needed to have a particular tread and riser dimension. This was not possible in the space available, so our architectural designer redrew this space showing a doorway and a cupboard beyond.

On Friday, as we bagan work on this, we realised the plans were not clear whether the door should be a regular or a fire door, so we phoned the architect for clarification – only to find her phone number has been de-listed. (We thought this was a bit extreme as we only wanted to ask a little detail, but we have filed on the ‘must get around to this’ pile that perahps we need to find out if she is no longer available to do work for us. Shame.) So we phoned Building Control, who said words to the effect of ‘you can’t have a cupboard there’ which kind of surprised us as we still have on file their email approving this option…

Mike, being ever the practical kind of guy, said ‘stuff this for a game of soldiers’ and we have installed our own variant – a fire board lined alcove, without doors or access back into the house. Here’s hoping this will work (because if not, opening could be rather delayed).

The old access route is being blocked off.

And we have plastered it, to make it look pretty…

Nearly done now.

and are hoping against hope that this will be ok.

On a lighter note, we see a truce of sorts has been declared by the pets. We came into the lounge one evening to find Lola and Boyd lying pretty close together, and Boyd with a front paw on top of Lola. Here’s hoping this is a sign of things steadying down…

After all this pestering each other, is it any wonder they are tired out.

SO other than our little hiccup regarding the alcove, we are pretty steady as she goes. We now have Shaun helping with the painting so hope we will be in time for next week. We are working on recruitment, and are still harvesting strawberries, so life is pretty good here.

Let’s hope I can say the same next post…!

2 weeks and one day to carpets…

…not that we are counting, or anything. The hallway is coming along pretty well. Mike has been hanging doors this week, as we need to be ready for Shaun to return to do some painting soon and he likes to be able to shut the door, to keep out all the building dust we are creating…

The hallway is coming along…

Work has been delayed only slightly by a mysterious delay in getting some plasterboard delivered. Not that there was much we could do about it – our only car is a Citroen C1, which doesn’t really have room for 8′ x 4′ boards, so we were pretty much dependant on the builders merchants lorry electing to drive up here.

…but we still have most of the ceiling to put up.

So we put the insulation in place and moved on to something else!

A bit of light relief – our first haul of strawberries since moving to North Wales
The floor also needs some work, don’t you think?

The floor is quite challenging because, as you may recall, we need to install a sub-floor so that we can fill it with builders sand to act as sound insultation. It will be very helpful to complete this stage, as we can then get rid of the large number of bin bags we have lying around the place, containing sand.

Charley and her invisible bump

Now, onto other news. Charley, our eldest, came up for the weekend to give us a hand. I think she really came up so we could see her 8-month bump but her dog Morgan clearly felt she should be allowed some privacy!

Just to prove we really grew the strawberries…
…and the peas are coming on too.

And these shots are just here for anyone who remembers our Norfolk garden and its many plants. I don’t have time yet to seriously get to grips with gardening, but see – our first crop of strawberries is coming on; the peas are growing well; and we have already consumed our first crop of Welsh broad beans. Mike does a really nice bean and garlic combo that marks our first home made food most years.

So, now that the plasterboard is here, we hope to finish the hallway this week, leaving us next week to put in skirting boards and so forth, ready for the carpets. Will we make it in time – who knows…but we’re going to give it our best shot!

3 weeks to carpets…

..which feels really quite scarey just now. Time is running short, but the ‘to do’ list remains long. Please don’t let me mislead you – we are still having a great time, but we are both seriously over-tired at the moment, so we ask you to forgive us if our enthusiasm is harder to spot at the moment!

Just a little bit still to do…

We have been working to create the hallway on floor 1, but what with the floor and ceiling not yet existing, there is still plenty to do.

Shaun, practicing his balance exercises…

We are delighted that Shaun is back to give us a hand. As you can see, he is a dab hand at papering ceilings, which means I can start painting them tomorrow…

The ceiling still needs to be made

…whilst Mike is still working to create the walls.

Happy chappy is back – great times!

As you can see, the papered ceilings have gone down really well with Mike…

We still need to do a little work on the floor….

…who is still working on the floor in various places.

I can’t see you, so you are not a problem…

I met Boyd and Lola earlier, both enjoying the sun, and both pretending that they hadn’t seen each other. I seem to have temporarily forgotten what it’s like to just sit in the sun…

Who do we think has the upper hand?

…but I just turned my back for 5 minutes, and find they are at loggerheads again. At least Lola seems to hink all she has to do is exercise her collie stare and the cat will cease to exist or something…

A slice of rainbow cake, anyone?

And now, for something completely different… Jane has been working on her scrumptious rainbow cake which has deservedly been very popular this week.

On a more sobering note, I will be working out the schedule for the next three weeks tonight, and I strongly suspect I will find that we can’t fit everything into the time available for it. No worries though – we will do what we can, and be a bit creative about whatever can’t be done…perhaps I will tell you more of this in the next blog.