Saturday, 18 October 2008


Listening to: Thought so. . . (Nightmares on Wax)
Weather: wind and getting windier

He made that kind of sucking sound beloved of mechanics and (in this case) builders. He shook his head a couple of times and added a "tsk" by way of a finishing flourish.

"Have you thought about knocking it down and building a new house?" he asked. Sal's bottom lip was wobbling badly as she told me the verdict over the phone. I wasn't surprised - the surveyor had left me no illusions. Woodworm, damp, inadequate roof, rotten doors and windows.

That was getting on for three years ago when we first bought the croft. Needless to say we didn't take the advice, but there are times when I can see where the builder was coming from.

Westray is dotted with the ruins of old croft houses, while many more are reduced to agricultural buildings. Many folk here are moving into kit-built houses - easy to build, equipped with all the mod-cons, good in a gale, lacking in any soul whatsoever.

But character comes at a price and progress on the renovation is glacial. I've tried not to set myself deadlines, but I had hoped to get the kitchen and one bedroom sorted out by the winter (Mrs Pig "Farmer" and I sleep in a caravan parked in the barn).

Ho ho, bleeding ho.

When renovating an old house, double the amount of cash you expected to spend and treble the length of time.

We started work on the kitchen in July, stripping the timber off the wall, breaking up the rough concrete floor, digging down so we were left with nothing more than a hole in the ground. . .

It's not the sort of job you can do on your own, so work goes in fits and starts.

In a tortuous week, the concrete base for the floor was laid and a few weeks later Eric and Big Tall Paul helped me sort out and lay the stone slabs, while Pete the plumber started work on the solid fuel burner and central heating system.

Here they are before we did the pointing (you can see Sal and I have been working around the chaos). . .

Then Eric and BTP surprised us by sneaking in and replacing the existing kitchen window and adding a second while we were on holiday in Edinburgh.

It's been a bit of a pain in the backside fetching water from the bathroom to do washing up, so it was a great relief when Eric came round this week to get the sink plumbed in and to give me a hand with rendering the stone wall at the end, leaving us with this. . .

. . . still some way to go, but a work in progress. The ambition is to have Christmas Dinner there - don't hold your breath.


Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd said...

I may be biased, as I live in a similar sort of house, but I think you are doing a great job! Da iawn bach!

Dave said...

It's come on a great deal since I was there in May, for which you are to be commended, given your livestock must take priority.

If I were twenty years younger I might relish a similar challenge - as it is, my soulless modern box is warm and dry, and that will suit me for now, thanks.

Sian said...

I can so relate to how you feel having undertaken a similar project with Sandside - but we cheated and got builders in to do the hard work. Old buildings are full of surprises and I have a kind of love/hate relationship with my house - but mostly I love it and hope you spend many happy years with some home comforts in yours!

fiwa said...

I think it looks like it's coming along great. It's a beautiful kitchen with lots of great character. I really love the floor. I feel for you both though - I know how miserable it can get when you have such a big job looming over you and so much other work to do. Best of luck.

smart said...

Looking good Malc. What wonderful friends you have made to help you out so much - especially with the surprise windows.