Nailed in!

Model Show
Tesla Electric Supercar

Tuesday we have been ‘nailed up’ into our half of the house so that the considerable amounts of dust and noise caused by the removal of the concreate floors. I also had to source and pop out to get a shower screen for the new bathroom as Jewsons had not included it into the design DOH!

I finally manged to beat the WiFi into submission as it was playing ‘silly buggers’ and not allowing machines to connect although everything seemed to be set up correctly. So now we have a fully working office, although rather cramped and not the slightest ‘bijou’. Anna’s work is reaching a crescendo as the start of the World Championships loom. This year they are in Indian and as we know Anna loves the heat!

A rather unexpected treat at the weekend was visiting the Orkney model show at the Grammar School. I was told about this by our new found decorator Gary who is a keen collector of Lorry models. The show was much bigger that I had expected and the quality of the models was exceptional. Everything from train sets through to Warhammer models were there, a particularly interesting stand was a guy who built models of Orkney houses out of stone, I took a picture of one of the John Rae’s House, the Hall of Clestrain.

In the centre of Kirkwall there was not only a display of old cars from an immaculate Model T Ford right through to the new Tesla electric supercar which they were offering rides in.

An unexpected treat on the Tuesday was announced with a knock on the door and our old friends and ex-client of mine Peter Scott-Smith and his partner Frankie turned up with a bottle of Moet for us. They had just arrived for their annual visit to Orkney and after showing them around amongst the chaos and rubble we arranged to see them for a lunchtime meal at Skerries Bistro in South Ronaldsay on Friday, we shall look forward to that !

More pictures of the ongoing renovations ( destruction ! ) 

The Move version 2

Anna's temporary kitchen
Sitting Room

What a weekend that was! We started moving all our possessions either into the old part of the house, that has just been renovated or into the large container that we own and graces our front garden. After a brief visit into Kirkwall on Saturday we started on the moving with a vengeance.

The tiny sitting room is to become our new sitting/TV room as well as our office for the next few weeks. To say cramped is an understatement! The weather was not great so we had to pick our moments to move stuff out to the container. Anna did a great job of moving everything from the kitchen into the considerably smaller utility room which at the weekend still did not have the plumbing finished for the washing machine so not all the cupboards were available to Anna, this work would be done on Monday.

After a meal out at the Ferry Inn on Saturday night we prepared ourselves for a Sunday of more moving stuff. By the end of the weekend we had got the smaller TV mounted on the wall of the sitting room and everything had been moved. The office was in place but not wired up, that would have to wait until Monday. The larger furniture that we could not manage ourselves we left in place as Ross and Graham said they would move them for us on Monday. The old kitchen we put on Facebook and it sold quickly, and the buyers came over on Sunday and started to dismantle it, again the sink would have to wait for Monday when the final plumbing would be done.

Sunday night we collapsed exhausted but very pleased that we had got everything moved. The next day when the builders arrived we got the impression that they were surprised at how much we had got done! Monday was a chaotic day. The final  large items were moved into storage, the plumber, Dwayne, turned up to complete the final bits that would need to be done, the decorator, Gary, arrived to paint the areas that were not critical to our move but great to get painted even if it did mean that he considered that my ‘final coat’ needed another coat !

I spent the time in between answering queries from the various trades, wiring up and configuring the network and the office machines, it took me back to my time as IT manager for the World Bridge Federation and getting the networks up and running before a Championship! To say that Monday was chaotic was and understatement, the office was not completely up and running until Tuesday but that is for another Blog post.

Moving Again!

Just a quick progress report.

By the way the photo shows the scientific way that we made the final decision on what flooring to have in the new living area!

Last week we were still being let down by our decorators, they seemed to have over-committed themselves, but instead of telling us that there was no way that they could make the time to do the work, despite being given several weeks’ notice, they just kept promising to turn up in a couple of days. This was stopping us moving rooms as none of us thought it would be a good idea to use the new bathroom or the utility as a temporary kitchen before they had been painted. In desperation Ross managed to get a different painter in who could make a start on Thursday which he did. Hooray!

But on Friday there was no sign of him so at the weekend I decided to start painting myself, at least to get the woodwork primed. Come Monday, still no sign of any decorator so I continued painting during the day, the same on Tuesday, on Wednesday Ross got a message from our ‘rescue’ painter that there had been a death in the family and that was why he hadn’t showed! Fair enough. So Ross started to make some more calls and eventually found a company that could help him out. They turned up that day to take a look at what was involved and that afternoon started painting. By Friday afternoon all the main rooms were painted, we had decided to leave the hallway for later as that was not stopping us moving rooms.

So this evening ( Friday ) and all over the weekend will plan to be moving our bedroom from the little sitting room into the guest bedroom and then move our lounge and office into the little sitting room and the kitchen into the Utility room. There is quite a lot to do but we will be able to at least use the multi-fuel stove in the sitting room as the weather has turned a little cold ( 10 deg C  ).

We can now move the clothes out of storage and into the splendid built-in wardrobe that Ross and Graham built for us. The guys will move any big furniture for us on the Monday when they turn up to demolish the rest of Mill Cottage! Wish us luck!

End of Ness

Openday at the Ness
Decorated stone

Well, all good things must come to an end and the Ness of Brodgar dig has done just that for this year at least. On the Sunday they had their second open day and all the volunteers were asked to help, which we did. There were over 1200 visitors that day and everyone seemed to have a good time. The weather was fine but windy and after standing outside all day we were all quite tired. Anna took some great pictures that day and they are on her Fickr account here.

The recently found marked stone was put on public display for the first time and there were lots of activities on the site and also down at the local town hall. Just before the open day started there was a private tour by Nick Card for members of the Orkney Archaeology Society so of course we both went. It was nice to be able to show Anna some of the things I had been talking to her about during my period of volunteering. After this tour Anna went back home whilst I carried on helping out.

When the open day came to an end, Anna came back to pick me up and brought with her a large box of freshly made cookies that she had been baking that day. We both went round the site distributing these to the diggers and the volunteers, this was very gratefully received, particularly by the guides who had not had much in the way of a break all day, when he heard of this Nick Card came running across to claim his cookie!

After returning to Mill cottage I sat down to watch the recorded F1 Grand Prix, although I must admit that after the second lap I saw nothing until half way through as I fell asleep!

On the Monday after, it was my last day of helping out at the NoB shop as the shop closes on the Wednesday and the dig finishes. It was a fairly busy day but during a lull between tours I saw a Policeman drive up to be greeted by Nick and they both went onto the dig. Now this can mean only one thing, a burial has been found. Any human remains found must be reported to the Police who then decide whether or not it is work opening the files on a 5,000 year old case or to let the archaeologists carry on! In the shop we were bursting with curiosity and so I popped across and past the site barriers. We are not allowed into the site unless invited for obvious reasons, so I stayed on the grass at the edge with the other diggers including the girl who found the skeleton. It was of a small baby. I was sworn to secrecy and told not to publish anything about it on the Social media until they had excavated it fully and announced it. All exciting stuff if like me you are interested in such things and to be there for such a discovery was great. Here is the article all about it.

It will be difficult to top a couple of days like that!

Floors down

Utility room
Guest Bathroom
Guest Bedroom

Plans of Mill Cottage

The building works have got to the stage that things are being put back and the rooms are starting to look liveable in. We are still sleeping in the small sitting room but at least now the floor coverings are down in the older part of the building. The bathroom and the utility room have a fully waterproof plastic laminate flooring that looks like lightly painted white wood planks and is slightly springing to walk on. For the porch and corridor we had decided on ceramic tiles that looked like distressed planks of wood. We got the impression that Ross was really not too sure about our choice as he was laying them, but when it was all finally done he did agree that it did look ‘bonny’ which I understand is good.

The plumbing is progressing apace and Dwayne of Irvine Plumbing is making a very neat job of things. There is so much to do but he is getting there, my new fancy heating controller turned up and I had a short time to play with it until we discovered that the charging unit for the controller was faulty and so it had to go back, shame, as Dwayne had allocated me the job of figuring it all out because as he said ‘you do IT’. The sink in the guest bathroom has a waterfall tap with colour changing lights that illuminate the water flow the colour depending on the temperature of the water. These lights are powered by small dynamos driven by the water flow, I’m looking forward to seeing this in action. The bath has a waterfall tap but no lights in this as I could not find a branded bath tap with lights that we liked, lots from China but quality could be an issue. The mirror in the bathroom is Bluetooth enabled so you can play music through it, as Dwayne amply demonstrated when they installed it whilst we were out, and we returned to Dwayne’s music blaring out through the house!

Brian the electrician has also been working hard and coping very well with our changes of plan as the build develops. We now have lighting and power throughout the old cottage and I was able to roll up the extension lead that we had been living with. It also means that we don’t have to use a torch to go to bed at night anymore. We are starting to feel civilized again and little less like we are camping out.

Our decorator has let us down again and after a lot of phones calls it has been decided to get a different decorator in to at least get the important work done that needs to be done. So we can move the bedroom from the small sitting room to the guest bedroom, the office and lounge into the small sitting room, the kitchen into the utility room and use the guest bathroom as ours. When we have made this move and put anything left over into storage, then the builders will start digging up the existing concreate floor and building the extension the final phase of the development. We might go out that day!

The Mess

The Office
My poor computer

Just before we show you the photos of the magificant progress everyone has made on site, I thought I would post a couple of photos of the dust and chaos that we have had to live in at times. The photo of the Office was taken the day the floor was laid in the hall and we had to move the desks as they were blocking the only way out of the house that day!

Everything has a not so thin layer of dust on it, it really is not worth cleaning it off at the moment, or that is what we are telling ourselves!

Not everything has gone smoothly, deliveries have been missing things, people have missed deadlines but on the whole it has gone very well thanks in a large part to Ross Spence and his project management. The problem with being on an island is if something is missing on a delivery it can be a couple of weeks until a replacement can be got and this can throw things out, but everyone seems very used to this and 'rolls with the punches'.

We have now turned the corner and the place is starting to get straight as my nexty post will show. 


John Otway

John Otway Copyright

The other day John Otway made his first visit to Orkney to play a couple of gigs. I remember him from the late 70’s when he had the hit “Really Free” (1977) .  He became very much a Punk Icon with his range of songs including some cover versions where he deconstructs a classic. His version of “House of the Rising Sun” with hecklers is brilliant and holds the record for the largest ‘choir’ of over a thousand ever recorded. In a poll by the BBC when listeners were asked for their top lyric writers of all time he came 7th with Paul McCartney 6th ! If you haven’t heard this guy you should seek him out on YouTube, particularly the classic Old Grey Whistle Test gig which brought him to fame as he landed badly after a jump and crushed his ‘man parts’!

I had a hard time trying to describe this guy’s music to Anna and she really wasn’t sure about going. I even tried to convince a couple of friends here that it was worth the £10 a ticket. But they chickened out. In the end Anna agreed to hold my hand and keep me company.

We arrived at the venue, a popular one in Stromness of the Town Hall, which just to confuse the new-comer is in fact an old church in the centre of the town. Although the poster on the web said doors open at 8pm, when we arrived they were about to start. As we collected our reserved tickets ( well you need to book for such a mega star don’t you ? ) I noticed a rather scruffy tall gentleman standing by the table talking to the girls on the door, this turned out to be the man himself!

We were ushered through into the hall which was laid out with circular tables rather like a restaurant, most of the seats were taken and people had brought their own booze. Damn! I hadn’t thought of doing that! We found a seat on one of the tables that wasn’t full and settled down with a rather apprehensive Anna to what followed.

John started the show with the first of his two hits, rather than saving it to the end, as the show continued through the numbers involving his famous two headed guitar, lots of extreme silliness one or two very poignant numbers ( check out Poetry & Jazz ) it was not long before both Anna and myself were laughing our heads off. At half time John came out and sat and chatted with some of the audience which was great.

The end of the show came all too quickly and John Otway seem quite surprised to get not one, but two encores, the final song he did was “Headbutts” , this was one of his longstanding music partner, Wild Willy Barret, numbers who for this tour had been replaced by a Fuzz pedal.

On leaving the venue I treated myself to a DVD of his movie and one of his CD’s which Anna got signed with a kiss.

What a great night, come back to Orkney soon John Otway we are already missing you!


Cranes and Vikings - Only on Orkney!

A couple of weeks ago it was the time for the annual shows. |The amount of rain this year meant that the fields were very sodden still and several of these shows had been cancelled including the Vintage car show which was a real shame as I had never seen this before and was looking forward to seeing the considerable number of vintage cars collected by the islanders.

Despite this, the Dounby show and the main County Show were still held, both of which we attended. I helped out setting up and taking down the John Rae Society stall at the Dounby show. This show is smaller than the County show in Kirkwall a couple of days later, but is considered a more friendly and relaxed affair. We certainly had a great afternoon wandering around chatting to the many people we have begun to know. Most of the stalls were either run by the charities or local organisations or had an agricultural theme to them. In the Main ring there were various exhibitions and around the fields there were the usual areas for judging the livestock.

On the Saturday after the Dounby show we took the park and ride to the County Show in Kirkwall. This is the main show for the island and is quite a big affair. We treated ourselves to a couple of Buffalo burgers ( Indian Water Buffalo living on Orkney ) and wandered around. I had a long chat on one stall about their fibre glass boats that looked just right for the loch! As we were about to leave one of the mini buses taking people to and from the show got well and truly stuck up to its axles trying to leave the showground. Even the tractor had trouble getting it out! Elsewhere the fairground and the beer tent were doing great business, in fact one of our builders sent his apologies on Monday as he was still suffering from the effect of the County Show!

Party and Plumbing

Drains back filled
Awaiting the reed bed
Neat pipework
Bath fitted

On Thursday evening we had a lovely party at the house of Nick Card and his wife. The house is on a hill overlooking the valley of the Ring and Ness of Brodgar, it could not be a more perfect position for Nick. We chatted to lots of people, most of whom I had met in my volunteering at the NoB shop. It was a lovely party and we left the diggers tucking into the free food and drinks, the dig had been cancelled for the next day because of the predicted bad weather so the possibility of having to dig the next day with a hangover was removed!

Back at Mill Cottage it was a very productive Friday where the main drain was back filled and a lot of the bathroom plumbing was completed ( see photos ). The drain works could not be completed as the reed bed had not arrived on the island yet, that should appear mid-week. So because of this the digger is now off site, no doubt on to another job for now. It will return later in the week.

We are having a delay in getting the plans drawn up for the en-suite. This information is needed now as the position of the drains have to be known before they lay the floor of the extension. So on the recommendation of most on the site we approached William Wilson on Saturday to see if they could come up with something within a week. After some discussion about what we would like we left them to go into town to do some shopping. Three hours later I noticed an email on my phone with the first draught of their idea! We then bumped into the owner in Lidle a bit later and continued our discussion. On Sunday Anna and I sat down with graph paper and cut-outs and tried some of their suggestions. I then scanned and emailed them our idea based on their suggestions. By 8:30 on Monday morning I had an email with then new layout and full visualisations of our new en-suite! How about that for quick service!

Busy busy busy

WOW! What a busy day. There were six workmen on site today. Graham was fitting the skirting boards, Peter and Allan were digging the new drain trench going to the sewage unit. Dwayne and the ‘other Graham’ were fitting the bathroom and the hot water tank. The sun was shining and all was progressing well until we came to unpack the bathroom items.

Although we should have been able to fit the taps to the side of the bath this was not possible so after a round of phone calls and finding that there were no wall mounting bath taps on the island we decided to fit the taps at the end of the bath.

Next there was some confusion over the bath room plans that we had had designed. The supplied units seem to bear not resemblance to the plans. After another round of phone calls it turned out that we had been sent an early set of plans. Things became a lot clearer when the correct ones were sent over.

Apart from a couple of end panels needed that it was decided would make the unit look neater which were duly ordered there were no more ‘hitches in the bathroom department’ ( sounds like a euphemism for a medical condition ). The digger managed to find our water supply without going through it and it was a modern blue plastic pipe so that was a result along with some of the rain water drains.

It is quite hot outside today and this evening we have been invite to Nick Card’s end of the Ness of Brodgar Season party ( a week early this year ) which should  be great and we are looking forward to it.

More fun a games tomorrow, top priority is getting the design for the en-suite bathroom sorted, and this weekend we will be sorting out more of the details in the next section of the house as work will be starting on that very soon! Heavy rain is predicted tomorrow so I will not be needed at the NoB shop as the dig site will be closed.