Settling in

Our first three sets of guests couldn’t have been nicer, they’ve all left us lovely comments in the guest book, one has left us 10 out of 10 on Reevoo, which is the feedback service Cottages.com uses for its properties, and they’ve been very patient with the little teething troubles we’ve had.  I was away when the second guests checked out, so Mick popped his head in to make sure all was okay and turn the heating back down.  He reported all was fine, they’d very kindly stripped the bed and left used towels in the bathroom.  ‘Perfect,’ I thought, ‘Don’t need to do much before the next lot arrive on Saturday.’  On the Saturday morning I waved Mick off to London for work and went down to clean.  Picked up the towels from the shower tray and found they were all soaking.

You can insert your own Scooby-Doo ‘Ruh-roh’ noise here.

Yes, there was a massive leak in the back corner of the shower where the glass screen met the wall.  Neither Jeff nor Pete were picking up, but Pete’s was going straight to voicemail which indicated he might actually be using it, so I sent him a text to see if there was any chance he was free to come and rescue me and then got on with sorting out the rest of the house.  Three hours later, when I’d finished everything else that needed doing, I went home, watched a few YouTube videos on how to use a silicone gun, thought it didn’t look that difficult and was just marching back up the drive with it tucked under one arm and a knife in my pocket, when Pete screeched to a halt at the top of the drive.  He’d actually been in the village when I was trying to call him, but his phone had no signal, and he’d got all the way home to Reay before my message had got through.  He tried to call me back, but my phone had no signal here either, so he’d rummaged in his shed for some silicone, jumped in his van and come all the way back.  On a Saturday.  Megastar!

I left the guests a note asking them to try and avoid spraying that area of the shower too heavily that evening and asked them to let me know if there were any further problems.  On Tuesday they let me know there was a bit of a leak from another bit of the shower and the basin was leaking like mad.  This time I really did need to summon up Jeff.  I went down while they were out on Wednesday afternoon and managed to fix the shower myself (proud DIY moment!) and then Jeff and I took the basin to pieces on Thursday morning.  His theory is that there are too many joints in the U-bend waste pipe and the angle it goes into the wall is putting pressure on them and loosening them.  He tightened everything up, stuffed a towel into the back of it to catch drips and is coming back tomorrow with a bottle trap waste, which he reckons should solve the problem.

The next guests are due on the 14th and if we’re very lucky with the weather next week (this week is rubbish) we might get the problem chimney harled before they arrive.  Pete has finished the big job he was working on and has been bringing all his scaffolding to our house today (he’s going to replace our roof with proper slate as our old fibre cement slates are completely knackered), so it’s here and ready to go up down the road if we catch a break.

Ethel’s is now removed from the council tax register and onto business rates.  I’ve applied for 100% rates relief, which I should get, but it would be about half the normal council tax if I had to pay it in full.  Scottish Water is coming on Monday to survey the house to see if I’ll be better off with a water meter fitted and then I have to find a water provider.  Apparently there are 20 to choose from in Scotland at the moment (list here), so I need to work my way through those later and see if any of them give the remotest hint of what prices might be like.  I only need water supply, the drainage is to a private septic tank, so that’s one fewer bill at least.

The final thing I have to arrange is commercial waste and recycling collections.  The Highland Council has a very easy form to fill in and, even better, lets me split my year into two seasons, so I can have a fortnightly collection from 1st April to the end of October, which is the usual residential cycle, and then from 1st November to the end of the year on 31st March, I can just have an uplift once a month, which helps save me money.  Unfortunately I got an error message submitting the form, so I’ll have to try again tomorrow, but for a normal sized wheelie bin for a self-catering cottage, the current Highland Council price is £5.03+VAT for a rubbish bin and £2.20+VAT for a recycling bin, so not extortionate.

In Coldbackie news, we have all the financing in place, which is absolutely fantastic.  Just a small boundary query for the solicitors to sort out between them and then we should be all systems go.

Girl done good

The day our first guests were due to depart, I saw no car when I went to feed the sheep, so went in through the main gate rather than the back one and noticed a pink envelope on the coffee table in the living room.  I went in and found that not only had they left the house practically cleaner than it was when they arrived, but they’d also left us a thank-you card and this very lovely message as the first entry in our visitor book.

I really hope they’re all like this!  I emailed them to say thank you and they gave me a couple of bits of useful feedback, firstly that there was a draft coming from the front door (which I have been trying to replicate and have concluded that I need to put something in the information book about lifting the handle up to engage the entire multi-point locking system when closing the door, because that’s the only way I can make it happen) and secondly that the shower screen leaked.  We have, I hope, got that fixed after Mick checked and then re-did the seals around it – it’s just finishing off 48 hours to dry out and then I’ll give it a test tomorrow.

Today has been an exciting day as the valuer came round.  He couldn’t give me a number then and there, but he did say the stunning views and the fact that it’s essentially a new house inside a traditional shell (he said he doesn’t see many traditional croft houses in this kind of condition, which I hope was meant in a positive way!) would be reflected in the value, so I am hopeful that we’ll at least get to the figure I estimated on the Cumberland application and possibly even exceed it.  The last two three bedroom houses sold in the village, which were both in good repair, went for £15,000 and £22,000 more than the number I came up with.  He was carrying on west and going to value the house we’re buying straight afterwards, which was useful, because I was able to tell him what I’d estimated rental income at and he said that without even seeing the house, that sounded reasonable – although obviously again, he couldn’t guarantee that’s what would go in the valuation report without going round it.

Anyway, he said he’d get his reports back to both banks by the end of the week and since these valuations are the last things I’m waiting on before full formal mortgage offers are issued, I think I’m going to spend the next few days biting my nails.  The solicitors are primed and ready to go!

We have lift-off

What a week.  David came back with a newly-toughened understairs cupboard door and also two custom-made plank doors for the byres.

Pete turned up on Tuesday morning and decided the woodburner wasn’t safe to light.  What’s happening is that rain is being forced through the porous blocks in the chimney and onto the outside of the flexible flue liner where it touches the chimney wall.  The water, thick with soot and tar, then runs down the flue liner and drips down the stovepipe onto the hearth.  Pete suspects the whole liner is coated with tar and if we light it, best case scenario is that the whole house smells like a tarmacing team, worst case is that it ignites and we get a chimney fire above the blanking plate that’s completely inaccessible and burns the house down.  One swift call to the agency later, it’s been removed from the advertising as a feature and all guests contacted to explain the situation.  The solution is to get the chimneys harled, which can’t be done until the weather settles down, so we’re probably looking at end of April/beginning of May at the earliest.  In the meantime, Pete will come and remove the stove to clean everything down and then we’ll put newspaper or rags above the blanking plate to catch any drips, replacing with fresh at each changeover.  I really wish he’d been able to come back and see this BEFORE we started advertising, but hey ho.

It was third time lucky for BT on Tuesday afternoon, in that the engineer did turn up and fitted the master socket in the house.  Jamie from Openreach was also in the village, trying to track down a fault on our line at home which has developed a really bad crackle and intermittent broadband.  The engineer found a fault on the line at Ethel’s as well and the two of them put their heads together and worked out that it was a problem in the big 50-pair cable on the main road, somewhere between the farm and the farm cottage.  They’ve had a number of complaints in the village and this should now allow BT to link them all together and get fixing the cable bumped up the priority list.  It was supposed to be done yesterday, but thanks to the large dumping of snow, we’ve still got a crackly line.  However, hats off to BT, I got another two engineers at lunchtime today and by 1pm they’d got the phone and broadband at Ethel’s up and running for me.

Yesterday and today have been a serious case of stop it and tidy up, and I underestimated how long it was going to take.  I got the bedrooms sorted pretty quickly, they just needed a dust and a hoover, ditto for the landing and stairs.  I cleaned the bathroom, stocked the bathroom unit with loo rolls, got Mick to put the bathroom mirror up and then emptied both the cupboards under the stairs and gave them a really good scrub out, as they were absolutely filthy.  Setting up the kitchen was the big time sink.  There was a serious amount of packaging to deal with – this is just from the crockery!

The guests were coming up from Angus and I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to make it, as for most of the day the snow gates on the A9 were shut and we were completely cut off from the rest of the country.  When I checked my email at about 2.15 to find a message timed an hour earlier saying they were just 80 miles away, I had a slight panic, because the kitchen at that point looked like this:

One very focused hour later, I was just about there.  (And yes, I did remember to put the dog water bowl on the floor!)

It’s almost exactly two years since we got the keys and just as a reminder of how much we’ve done, this is what the kitchen looked like on day one, shot taken of the same back wall.

Our guests made it to the village about 5pm – Mick had just got home and we spotted a car driving slowly along the village road, stopping at each driveway.  I thought that had to be them, so Mick ran up the drive and it was.  He gave them directions, told them to ring or come and see us if there was anything they needed, and so far we haven’t had a screaming guest at the back door demanding a refund, so hopefuly that means they’re happy with the place 🙂

Racing for the line

I had an email today from our first guest!  Thanks to a bit of a booking mix-up, she actually wanted to stay 1st to 5th March instead of 4th to 8th – would it be possible to swap?  I said yes, but warned her we might not be completely 100% finished with the landscaping, which she was fine with, and then went into full on strategic planning mode!

Fortunately Mick has done an amazing job this week.  At the start of the week, the bathroom still looked like a building site.  This is what it looked like this afternoon:

All that’s left to do is seal round the shower, grout the slates on the windowsill and swap the plastic toilet seat for the oak one we bought, the rest is just set dressing.

Jeff, our heating engineer and plumber, came to have a look at the basin, which had a small leak somewhere (it turned out to be spiralling down the thread of the u-bend) and service the boiler.  I have never before in my life seen a man take a boiler to pieces and then hoover cobwebs out of the various components!  It’s now testing at 94% efficiency, which is excellent for its age, and should last at least another year.  We did have a chuckle when we realised we’d both turned up in the same outfit 😉

The weather has been beautiful today, so along with helping me take a big bale of hay down to the horses and bringing the sheep up to Ethel’s, using the little garden gate as a shedder to separate out the ones having twins, keeping them up here for feeding and putting the rest back out on the point, Mick has been sorting out the front garden.  Ever since the gravel went down, the gate has dragged on the ground and it’s been difficult to locate the hole for the bolt, so a few inches has been sawn off the bottom of the gate, the bolt moved up and a stone set in the ground with a hole drilled in it.  It now all works perfectly.

All the grass has been strimmed back.  The centre section is going to be a patio area made from the old flags that were outside the front door.  The grassy area to the left was going to be where we rebuilt Ethel’s rock garden, but it’s a much bigger area, so the rock garden is being used to edge round both grass sections and then I’m going to sow wildflower seeds in both bits when the weather warms up and try and get a sort of wildflower meadow effect going, with poppies and cornflowers and ox-eye daisies and so on.  Fairly low maintenance in that it just gets strimmed back once the flowers have set seed!

I’ve been inside, working on door frames.  David had to plane them back to get the doors to fit properly which, of course, took the white paint off, so I’ve been carefully repainting them and using several miles of masking tape in an effort not to paint any oak or hinges.  They’re all done and I’ve touched up all the spots the roller missed on the bedroom and living room walls.  I’m off south tomorrow to see (a) Erasure at the Hammersmith Apollo and (b) my mum 🙂 so Mick has been left with a short list of things from my snagging list that are jobs he is far better at than I am, and the rest I should be able to get done Monday to Wednesday next week.  I desperately need Pete to come and commission the woodburner as at the moment it still has a bucket behind it, and David needs to come back for another look at the door he built for the understairs cupboard – the flipping underfloor heating has warped it and it won’t shut, so I can’t paint it until it’s sorted!

Offer accepted!

Very wonderfully, our first offer was accepted, and my solicitor managed to get a formal offer to them before close of business today, which is only conditional on us getting both mortgages.

The paperwork has arrived for the Ecology one and it appears they want written estimates for all the work we intend to undertake, which is fair enough, but not something that I’d factored into the timeline, so I suspect I’m going to be spending an hour or so on the phone next week trying to co-ordinate getting Dougie, Pete, David, Jeff, someone from ERG Windows and a Green Deal-approved energy assessor all in to have a look without annoying the keyholder neighbour too much.  Ecology requires a full schedule of works together with costings, and I suspect my back-of-an-envelope scribbles will not cut the mustard, as they give it to their valuer when he comes round to assess whether or not our plans will get the required two grades of improvement on the EPC.  On the plus side, once I’ve got all that together, plus all the bank statements, proof of income etc., they say they can turn round an application to a full formal offer in four weeks.  We’re going to need the money from the Cumberland first and that’s just one form plus proof of income and a month’s bank statements, so I shall get that done over the weekend and then concentrate on Ecology.

Want to have a look at the house?  Video below 🙂

Fingernail-biting time

So we did make an appointment to view inside house number 4, Mick took a half day last Friday and we spent an hour having a really good look around it.  The executor was up visiting friends and family, so showed us round herself, a really lovely lady.  It was her aunt’s house, which she’d bought in 1976 as a kind of insurance policy against being asked to leave her family croft if either of her two older brothers came home and showed an interest in taking it over.  They didn’t and so she stayed on the croft, with the house remaining mostly empty apart from the odd family holiday week and an occasional prayer meeting in the living room.  She eventually moved into it in 2013, when she started to need more regular care visits and the house was more accessible for carers than the croft, which was down an unmade-up track.  After two years there, she was moved to the local care home.  For a house that’s been mainly empty for the past 42 years, it’s in pretty good shape, though it does need a fair bit of work.

We got home, had a good chat through it and decided to go for it.  Cumberland, who does holiday let mortgages, had a look at the details and said that sadly it needed too much work for them to lend on it, but they’d be happy to do so once renovations were complete.  I found a bridging loan company who would lend me up to 60% of the value of Ethel’s plus this one, but it would have been at 1.25% a MONTH and they wanted all the interest and fees taken out up front which (a) totalled over £20,000 for 9 months and (b) wouldn’t have left us with enough to get the renovations done.  After a lot of calculator-bashing I realised that if we did it as a buy-to-let instead of a holiday let, then the Ecology Building Society might be able to help – they specialise in lending on houses with the potential for energy improvements and since the EPC graded it F, there was certainly plenty we could do on that front, so I gave them a ring at the start of the week and then went through things in more detail with a mortgage advisor yesterday morning.

The upshot of that call was that they’re happy to lend me up to £96,000 or 80% of the purchase price, whichever is lower, subject to completing a full application form and providing proof of income for us both.  I’d also been in touch with Cumberland about taking a mortgage on Ethel’s and after a few questions, they also got back to me yesterday afternoon to say we could borrow £100,000 as long as we used some of it to pay off the remaining 0% credit card debt from renovating Ethel’s and could get Scottish Cottages to write us a letter confirming expected income was more than £7,500 net of commission.  At 4.45pm I got through to the selling agent and, after a discussion with them about where to start negotiations, made an offer.

We’ll see what happens, I have a good feeling about this house, and it was 10 years ago on 14th February that our offer on the house we live in was accepted, so I’m hoping this is an auspicious time of year for house-buying for us!  To take my mind off things, I’ve been busying away down the road.  The hall is now completely painted and the knocks on the stair skirting touched up.  Just the cupboard doors to go on, lampshade to fit, sockets to be screwed in and coat rack to be purchased and put up opposite the bottom of the stairs.

I’ve also touched up the scrapes in the kitchen and painted over the plasterboard cut-out round the extractor.  You can tell that something’s been done there (the paint was still wet when I took this) but I think that’s sufficiently disguised not to need anything putting over it.

For comparison:

I painted the new wood frame around the bathroom window bay and, despite being very careful not to press the masking tape down too hard and removing it slowly as soon as the paint was dry to touch, a load of grey paint peeled off, so today’s first job is to sort that out!

David has been making doors for me in his workshop at home, one for the cupboard next to the bathroom and two for the byres outside, so I must drop him a text today and see when he’s coming back to fit them.  Mick has taken next week off so we can have a big blitz and get everything finished.  My to-do list is still looking frighteningly unticked, but I cheered myself up yesterday by realising that more than a third of the items on it simply involve buying something and putting it in the correct room.  I shall crack on with that as soon as my cashback credit card ticks over to a new statement period in the next couple of days!

When the going gets tough, the tough…go shopping!

It was slight panic stations here on Friday, as I woke up to another booking – for 4th March!!  That means four weeks today we have a paying guest arriving and we haven’t finished the shower or the decorating yet.  But the sun was shining and it was the first day of the year with a whiff of spring about it, so I’m afraid instead of picking up my paintbrush, I jumped in the car and headed west to have a drive past a few houses I’d picked out as potential next purchases.  Nothing like a spot of window shopping 🙂

House number one I only really went to look at because I was going within 5 miles of it, I wasn’t really considering it.  At £280,000 it’s by far the most expensive of the four (or was when I set out, read on…), but it’s currently being run as a holiday let and that price includes all the contents and the income from the forward bookings.  It’s got three ensuite bedrooms and has the most stunning view over to Ben Loyal.

Judging by the photos, it needs absolutely nothing doing inside, but I am slightly put off by the proximity of the house next door and that the conservatory is on the end rather than on the front.  Plus £280,000 for up here is a LOT.  At a guess, the house on its own is worth £200,000-£210,000, they’d probably have paid about £25,000 for the contents new and they say a year’s-worth of bookings is worth £25,000, but they’re not fully booked for the year ahead at the moment.

Next on the list was a 2-bed bungalow.  This one interested me, because when I was Googling it, I found a home report for it dated 2009 and the land registry showed no sale since it was built in 1999, so it looks as if they’ve been trying to sell it for a while.  The home report was about as clean as they get, the house was a bit dated, but only really needed decorating and some new doors for the kitchen cabinets, and at £120,000 it was about the right price.  I suspected what might be causing the problem was its location and access.  It’s right on the edge of the carpark for the cafe next door and the only access to it is through that carpark – so if the owner locks the gates, you’re stuck.  That blue sign in the first picture says, in very large letters, no parking for the house, so I suspect there’s a dispute of some sort.

The bungalow does have a big garden with a little summerhouse and deck looking out over a great view (that’s the cafe garden in the second shot, but same view).

Without solving the access problem, it’s a no-go – BUT the cafe is also for sale.  It’s a cafe plus gift shop plus owner’s accommodation plus two en-suite letting rooms.  The owner’s accommodation and letting rooms would turn into a single 3-bed holiday let with no modification needed.  Buy that and the bungalow and bingo, no more access problem, and you have two holiday lets and a small business, which could either be run by a manager or leased to someone else to run.  The problem?  An asking price of £395,000, so £515,000 plus stock at value plus furniture money required to buy it.  I did run the idea past Pete, who I can trust to tell me when I’m living in cloud cuckoo land, and he said it wasn’t idiotic at all, but to look at it on the basis of the income from the holiday letting part of it covering all the costs and treat any income from the cafe and shop as the profit.  It just about stacks up on that basis, but even if I threw Ethel’s into the mix as security, I don’t think any bank in the land is going to lend me £550,000 (about 70% LTV) on previous experience of one renovated house with 4 weeks booked!  If both of them are still on the market when we’ve got a second project done and dusted, then we might take a look.

Number three was a little house I’ve had my eye on for a while and it’s recently come back on the market after a sale fell through.  i know what the matter is with this one, it’s a pre-fab and therefore unmortgageable, hence the asking price of £75,000.  To be honest, the only thing you could really do with this is knock it down, the rooms are absolutely tiny and it’s not in great nick.

But is this a £75,000 view?  Close to it, I think!  One for when we have a lot more working capital.

House number four is another one that has recently come back on the market after a sale fell through.  I have to admit, I like this house a lot, not least because of its stunning view.  It’s on at £130,000.

The roof is fine, albeit in need of a good scrub, and the gutters need clearing.  Those aluminium windows need replacing.

It has a little garage on the side with the oil tank in it.  This needs taking down completely – it’s likely to be asbestos sheeting and it looks as if it’s been built over the neighbour’s boundary line.  Every time I’ve driven past this house there’s been a car pointedly parked in front of the bit of the garage that’s over.

The garden needs clearing and the boundary fence replacing (currently dilapidated post and wire), and there are a couple of trees I’d want removing just to be on the safe side, but once tidied, this would be lovely to sit out in, looking up at the Watch Hill.  Sadly it’s not quite steep enough to get views over the top of the house to the sea!

The main problem with it is that it’s very, very close to the road and this causes problems with parking – the road is single track here, so parking on the road outside the house completely blocks it.  In theory you can put one small car inside the garage and another outside it in front of the garage door and house (there are some slabs down forming a rudimentary parking space).  The car in the below picture is where I think the boundary actually is and is taking up most of the dropped kerb, so I think permission would be needed from the council to drop a further bit of kerb and turn everything past that post into a parking area for the house.

Inside it’s currently laid out as five bedrooms and one downstairs bathroom.  I’d turn one of the upstairs bedrooms into a big family bathroom, remove the downstairs bedroom to make a big kitchen diner and turn the current kitchen into a utility room – like this:

I drove Mick out to have a look at it on Saturday morning and he loved it so much that he was happily making plans for us to move there until I pointed out that there was no land with it, and the back garden was way too small for 3 horses and a flock of sheep!  But with the paperwork for decrofting Ethel’s now submitted to the Land Registry, we can definitely start the search for our next project and so I’ll be speaking to the agents next week to try and arrange a viewing for us.

 

Pay day!

Excuse me while I jump up and down and whoop a bit, because when I checked my business account today I saw that £75 had been deposited yesterday, which is 3 x £25 deposits from our first three bookings 🙂  We get the balance month-end before the stay, so at the end of February I’ll get the balance of the 3-day stay booked for March less the annual property registration fee of £105.  We’ve also had another week booked for September.

I had an answerphone message from BT on Monday telling me that the engineer would be visiting again on Wednesday 31st January and please could I be in from 8am until 1pm?  The line was a bit crackly, so I double-checked with BT’s Live Chat who confirmed the engineer was booked.  I’d picked up some new plaster, so was able to get those last few screw heads and plasterboard joins filled in, but confidently expecting that BT wouldn’t let me down twice in a row, I hadn’t taken down much else to get on with, and I couldn’t carry on painting the hall over wet plaster.  So I made a big snagging list (it runs to three pages):

And I discovered that my phone talks to the TV as they’re both Samsungs.  I can throw my phone screen to the TV or put the TV screen on my phone, and if you put the phone screen on the TV and then switch the camera on, you get this:

(Can you tell I was slightly bored by this stage??)

Anyway, no-one showed up again, so I stomped back down the road, and at 1.12pm an email pinged in saying they were continuing to work on my line installation and would contact me with further information on 5th February – at which point I was so icily polite to Live Chat that they opened a complaint without me asking them to!

Today I’ve been re-doing the screw heads in the plasterboard, because the first lot of plaster shrank a bit, and then decided to have a go at sorting out the hole David had to cut in the plasterboard to put in some stud to attach the extractor hood to.  I mean, plastering a wall around a freshly installed extractor over brand new hob and wood worktop, what could possibly go wrong??  I did the sensible thing and got a sheet and some masking tape.

And amazingly managed not to make too much of a mess!  The nice thing about this paint, annoying as it was to apply, is that all its claims about being washable are true.  Once I’d plastered around the cut-out line and filled in the screw heads, I was able to wipe it over with a J-cloth and take most of the excess plaster off.

(Those three little dots are nail holes, I have no idea how they got there.)  I’m not 100% certain I’m going to be able to cover it up properly, but I’ll sand it tomorrow and then see how well it takes another coat of paint.  I need to get rid of David’s pencil marks as well.  If it doesn’t look good then we’ll go back to the original idea of getting some brushed metal cut to size and attach it to the wall.

Another month gone

I have 31 days left until we’re officially open for business, which is really quite astonishingly scary.  BT was supposed to come this week (although on Wednesday, not Thursday as I wrote in my last post) and even phoned me on Monday to remind me to be at the house for the engineer.  I got there just before 1pm, took the lid off the plaster ready to fill in the remaining plasterboard screw holes in the hall from when David had to make the door into the kitchen smaller, and found that it was (a) solid and (b) mouldy.  So I masked off the front door and the skirting boards and was happily slapping a base coat of white matt emulsion over the walls that didn’t need filling while listening to Judge Rinder and Escape To The Country (I do like having the TV working down there).

Escape To The Country finished, so 4pm and still no engineer.  I’d run out of things to paint, took my overalls off, sat on the sofa and played backgammon on my phone for a bit.  At 5pm I saw headlights, which got my hopes up temporarily, but it was Mick home from work and come to see what was happening.  He went home and let the dogs out and I stayed until 5.55pm when I decided the engineer probably wasn’t coming, went home and got straight onto Live Chat with BT.  They were extremely apologetic – apparently there’s an issue at the exchange which meant my line couldn’t be connected that day and they weren’t expecting an update until 5th February.  They’re going to compensate me for the missed appointment, I didn’t ask them to, it was offered automatically, and I’ve asked them to make sure that I won’t be billed for the line and broadband until it’s actually installed and working, because my first bill is supposed to generate on 3rd February.

Dougie has been back, fitting ethernet and TV sockets in the bedrooms, along with the outside lights and finishing off a few things in the kitchen.  The oven needs an inline 15amp fuse, which isn’t standard and he’s had to order, and when he opened the box for the weatherproof outdoor switch (we have two outside lights which will illuminate the back garden and the sheep fank) it turned out to be a socket, so that has to be changed, but we do now have the under-unit lighting working in the kitchen and it looks great – the spots in there are very bright, but these give the perfect amount of light for eating supper round the table.

Mick has been working in the bathroom all weekend.  For a man who claims to hate tiling, he’s really very good at it.  Shower screen up and shower fitted next weekend, we hope.

Finally, as we’re supplying all logs, peat and kindling for our guests, we thought we’d better get cracking on with our woodpile.  We got it delivered free because it came out of Strathy Forest when they were felling for the windfarm, which is only three miles away, so it’s been lying in the field for a few years while the sap dries.  Now Euan is turning it all into woodburner-sized chunks for us, so we can cart them down the road and stack them in the big barn to finish drying.  Jack is inspecting progress here!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It’s been a funny sort of week.  I really, truly, honestly was intending to get the hall decorated, but I lost most of Monday having to go into town, Tuesday we had a dumping of snow and I ended up hauling 45kg of sheep lick quarter of a mile down the road on my garden trolley and bringing a couple of bales of hay for the horses on the return trip, which left me rather too knackered to do much else physical,  and on Wednesday I went down to feed the sheep, intending to get started, and found Dougie there, which was a nice surprise.

He came back Thursday and Friday morning as well, so that was the week gone for painting, as I’d have been in his way, but we do have the electrics mostly done and dusted now.  Still outstanding are a special 15amp inline fuse for the oven, which is not standard and he’s had to order, earthing to the pipework in the bathroom, and the outside electrics.  He’s making up a board for the power to the byre, which I’m going to have to clear out next week, as he’s unlikely to be able to get into the first one to fit the board at the moment, from memory there’s rather a lot of junk in there.

Also this week, Colin Chessor’s came out and fitted the satellite dish on Thursday, which meant I had to buy a TV licence finally.  At least no more stern letters from TV Licensing 🙂  BT is coming on Thursday to get the phone line installed, but Openreach asked if they could come this week and do some work, as the original line to the house had been reallocated to someone else and they needed to do some rewiring.  Because of the snow, Jamie couldn’t find the access point nearest the house, but we’re now wired up as far as the corner of Ronald’s field and he’s left my line clearly labelled for the BT engineer to hook up on Thursday.  Hopefully.

I’ve been meaning to get the electricity key meter swapped out for a credit meter as well, because I’d always thought that pre-paid electricity was more expensive, so I rang SSE on Wednesday to arrange it.  They took all my details, asked what the house was used for, ran some calculations, and worked out that I’d be about £55 better off a year by sticking with the key, as the credit tariffs have changed and the key tariff hasn’t.  So I shall just have to add a tick box to my changeover checklist to make sure that there’s at least £50 credit on the meter before each new guest arrives.

Saturday’s job was a bit more of a fun one – head up the hill behind the house and try and take a decent marketing shot of the house in the snow, showing its wider position.  Sadly I missed the blue sky in the morning (we were in town), but Joyce had her drone up taking footage of the village and though it’s mainly her fields and the beach, she’s very kindly given me a USB stick with the raw footage on so that I can edit together a promo video to show that Armadale is just as pretty in winter.  She’s also offered to come and fly the drone over the point and take some specific footage of Ethel’s for me when we have some green grass, blue skies and sunshine again.  In the meantime, this was my best effort!