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.

Hello 2018

We’re having an unexpectedly soggy start to it up here – we were forecast a nice dry day with a gentle breeze to the south, so Mick set off down the road this morning intent on clearing out the woodwormy boards from the barn and having a big bonfire.  It was going well until about half an hour ago when the skies opened, but he’s manfully carrying on, as there isn’t that much left to go (we had a big fire on Saturday as well and got rid of all the wood lying out in the field).

I’ve been cramming myself into the corners of the bedrooms with my tripod and camera and think I’ve managed to come up with some photos good enough to go up on Scottish Cottages.  They accepted the exterior ones anyway, which is good, so I’ve sent five shots of the bedrooms over and tomorrow I’ll get Mick to help me load the coffee table into the car and then I can stage the living room and photograph that as well.

In very exciting news, we have our first booking!!!  Cheating a bit, because it’s a friend, but she emailed me the other day to say she’d booked a week in the summer and was looking forward to seeing us 🙂  Neither she nor I have had a confirmation email through yet, but I’m assuming that’s because everything’s shut down for the holidays and the agency won’t confirm until the deposit has cleared through their payment system.

As far as I can tell at the moment, the start of 2018 for us is going to look something like this:

January & February: finish Ethel’s.  We have 59 days until we could potentially have a guest, as it’s available from 1st March.
March:  Hopefully welcome first guests (it’s an early Easter this year).  Get house-cleaning routine thoroughly documented so it can be handed over to Clean Bees if necessary.
April:  Get to grips with social media promotion before lambs start arriving for cute photo ops!

What we’ll do post-Ethel, we’re still not 100% sure.  Our options are:

  1. Buy another holiday let
  2. Buy another project to renovate into a holiday let
  3. Buy a plot and build a holiday let
  4. Build a house and agricultural shed on a big field we already own in the village (I need to get planning through for the shed this year, as I need to apply for a crofting grant for it before Brexit happens – it needs full planning rather than prior notification because the site is less than 25m from the road, so we might as well put a house on the same application)
  5. Renovate the house we live in which is, to put it politely, looking a bit tired

One thing’s for sure, it’s not going to be boring 🙂

It’s a Christmas miracle!

Or that’s what I thought yesterday morning, anyway, when I was feeding the horses and looked up to see David’s van coming down the road!  He spent yesterday trimming doors and is in town this morning picking up some more wood and some different hinges, as he thinks the ones he got originally will look too heavy for the smaller upstairs doors.

Even better, we’re now up and running on the agency’s website!  I’ve been taking some exterior photos this morning, which are so huge that my email provider refused to send them, so they’re going via WeTransfer and I hope one or two will be good enough to use.  I keep forgetting to check the fitting on the bottle lamps, but between Christmas and New Year I’ll get some lightbulbs and then start taking some interiors.

Caroline causes chaos

Well, that didn’t quite go as planned.  Storm Caroline arrived earlier than expected, and after I got pinned against the field gate with two buckets of horse feed until the gusts dropped sufficiently for me to open it, we decided to abandon the idea of trying to get the coffee table into the car on health and safety grounds.  The electricals were loaded up and we went down the road, only to find that the power was off at that end of the village.

This was a problem, because (a) I still needed to hoover and (b) the sky was so grey that there wasn’t enough natural light to take interiors.  So we zoomed back home, rang SSE to report the fault (who, I have to say, have been absolutely excellent at getting it sorted and keeping me informed of progress) and then rang Annie, the Scottish Cottages area representative, to see if she still wanted to come up or whether it would be better for her to turn back.  She said since she was only 20 minutes away she might as well come on up and we could at least get all the paperwork done and do the grading.

So the upshot is that we’re all signed up, Ethel’s House will be going live on their website in about a fortnight (if I can take good enough pictures myself) and will be available for guests from 1st March next year (which gives me a chance to get a few friends to stay in it and tell me what I’ve missed), and I am the proud owner of a 4* (and apparently a high 4*) holiday cottage 🙂

Time to shop

I’m NEARLY there with the landing!  Just one top coat of Milk White to go on the bannisters and I’m declaring it done, although in truth I’ll probably paint that loft hatch white as well over the next few weeks.

Dougie has been back.  Remember we had a problem with the hot water not working and Jeff the heating engineer told me the switch had been unwired in the boiler?  Dougie gently reminded me that he’d fitted a master control switch for the boiler next to the manifold and had we checked that the hot water was on…?  Sure enough, one quick button press from OFF to CONTINUOUS and we were in business, so I shall be ringing Jeff tomorrow to tell him I’m an idiot and asking him to come back on a dry day and service the boiler!  I also need to order some oil, but the padlock on the tank has rusted shut again and Mick is in London until tomorrow evening.  It’s not super-low, so it can wait for a couple of weeks, as they won’t be able to deliver with (a) carpet fitters and furniture vans parked outside next week or (b) the landscaper digging up the parking area to gravel it.

Anyway, Dougie has nearly finished the kitchen lights, which look great, and will be popping back and forth over the next fortnight to finish everything else off.  (They’re all silver, but they reflect the wall colour, so look turquoise in this picture!)

We emptied out my office a bit further at the weekend – I’m thinking I should have maybe gone for silver appliances 🙁  Oh well, when these need replacing I can change.  I absolutely refuse to have integrated ones, I hear nothing but grumbles from people who have them!

Parcels are starting to arrive now – the three Velux blinds are here, the two Roman blinds are in transit, the curtain poles and curtains have all arrived too, but it’s all sitting in the office for the moment.  I took advantage of a Debenhams one-day 50% off on bedding and bought 5 duvets, 10 pillows and a king-size mattress protector (all the singles were gone) for £100, but at checkout they advised delivery for the Highlands was up to 2 weeks, so I hope they get here in time for the photographs, otherwise it’s going to be a sprint over to Tesco.  I’ve also ordered all the lampshades and cushions from a fantastic local business, Just Wright Crafts, I’m particularly fond of this Highland Cow lampshade which will be going in the hall and will hopefully put a smile on people’s faces when they walk in!  I’ve found some plain white wooden candlestick-style lamp bases on eBay, so have ordered one to see what they’re like – hopefully they’ll be fine for the bedside tables and the living room.

Tomorrow is Black Friday and I’ll be shopping primarily for the following:

  • Television
  • Blu-ray player
  • Freesat box
  • Bluetooth speaker for kitchen
  • Microwave
  • Bedspreads
  • Bedding
  • Towels

However, Schofields Insurance has put together this incredibly handy list of 200+ items you need in your self-catering cottage, so I think I need to print it out and start ticking it off.  For things that are easily breakable or stainable, I either need to shop within an hour’s drive (e.g. crockery from Tesco – their new Fox and Ivy premium homeware range actually looks very good) or buy generic (Out of Eden’s plain white Egyptian cotton bed linen) so it can be replaced by another brand if necessary without looking mismatched.

That’s the way to do it

Every year my mother, my cousin and I go away for a week together somewhere in the UK and stay in a holiday let cottage.  This year it’s been a particularly interesting experience for me, because Mum booked a 4* cottage through the agency I’m going to be using – Dove Cottage in Nairn.

I have to say, it’s gorgeous.  A period cottage in Nairn’s Fishertown, a short walk from the beach, and not expensive.  The living room has given me serious fireplace envy:

And the kitchen looks very familiar – I spy another Howdens afficionado!

The bedrooms are set up as two doubles and a twin, with one of the doubles being downstairs off the living room.

The bathrooms are neutral with a big walk-in shower upstairs and a bath downstairs.  (I need to try and track down those loo roll holders!)

And outside there’s a small courtyard space.

A few points that I need to learn from:

  1. Although the cottage takes dogs, and judging by the visitors’ book many guests do bring them, you wouldn’t have known.  It was spotlessly clean.
  2. One small grumble in the visitors’ book about the beds being too soft.  We’ve found them softer than we’re all used to, but absolutely fine.  However, I think I’ll go for mattresses in the medium-firm range.
  3. The Belfast sink in the kitchen is beautiful, but there’s no draining board for things we’re washing up by hand and as that’s a real wood worktop, we don’t want to put wet stuff on it and leave rings.
  4. I need to think about mirror placement in relation to power sockets – I don’t ever use a hairdryer, but Mum does and though she chose the twin room as it’s nearest the bathroom, she’s been using mine to dry her hair in as it’s got a big mirror near a plug.

One bonus of being a tourist so close to my home patch is that we went to the big sheep sale at Lairg on Tuesday and I bumped into David, who was selling there.  I got a little confused, but I think he’ll be back either next week or the week after to get the jobs list finished.  Can’t wait to get back to work down the road and get it finished now!