Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fenced in at last

Major progress on the house with the last of the really major items now complete - the fence round the garden. This was put up by a gang of guys in just a few days - all done manually. They even rebuilt the fence round the vegetable patch and put a gate into it to save me climbing in each time - and moved it slightly to accommodate the polytunnel. We also now have a proper farm gate to hang the house name plate on. The first photo shows the sheep trying to figure out why they can no longer reach the house and the second is the gate with the newly reconstructed vegetable patch fence in the background.

With all the bills now in the total build cost is just over £200K which does not seem unreasonable to me for what we have ended up with. We have now prepared half of the patch which will be as close as we'll get to "lawn" and I hope to seed it whenever today's rain stops - yet again we've had a very dry spell, so the ground has been really hard. We can also start to plant hedging etc to make the place look a little less bare.

The past two week's have seen a gap in activities, before my golfing week and Bron's brother and sister arriving, so we've had a sort of internal holiday, doing things we've not yet got around to. First up was a trip to Jura with Pam, who was over for 10 days, partly with us and partly camping on Islay and Jura, and Roz, who came for a long weekend. The photo shows us all having lunch in the sunshine at the Jura hotel. Unfortunately the Jura House gardens were not friendly enough for dad's wheelchair, but we sat on the beach until the rain finally arrived.

Bronwen and I have done a couple of walks and a very long bike ride. One walk was along the Sound of Islay to a bothy (in photo) on a very hot but quite misty day. We could not find the return path "just behind the bothy" as the bracken was above head height. Bronwen was unlucky in that she seemed to pick up a couple of ticks - we are now expert at removing them, in fact the surgery sells a small kit for doing so. Finally a photo of Pam paddling in a frisky sea at Lossit Bay on the west coast of Islay - quite near where the experimental wave power generator is located - you may have seen if being officially connected to the grid on TV. You can see why they put it there!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Gridlock on Islay

Been a while since I posted - been waiting for a wet day with nothing else to do - and there hasn't been one yet, so I'm watching the golf and updating this.

One of the highlights of the last couple of weeks was the visit of the "Liberty Belle" - one of the few remaining B-17 Flying Fortress bombers from WW2. This was organised by Bruno Schroder (of the bank of that name) who owns one of the large estates here and happens to be friendly with the B-17's owner. He even organised a prize draw for a flight in it (I was not successful!). The horrendous costs of bringing the plane over from the states ($120K in fuel alone) means that this will probably be its last visit to the UK, and Islay was one of its few ports of call - and the only one where a trip was possible. Amazingly small and very noisy I'm told. On the way back we met an accident at a narrow bridge (someone rushing to catch the ferry I believe) and got diverted onto the single track road by the bird reserve - unfortunately the traffic coming the other way was diverted to that road as well, which resulted in total gridlock as all the passing places filled up . We had to get out and direct 4 wheel drive cards into fields etc to create enough capacity to get things moving again.

Another highlight was a home visit from Bronwen's Gaelic singing class, (see last blog) including the tutor Ishbel MacAskill, who were out and about and came in for a cup of tea and to sing to myself and my dad - though I had been at the concert the night before.

On the house front, the fencing man has turned up for a look and to figure out what materials are required - he claims he will be back next week, but that could be an Islay week. This also forced me to actually measure the boundaries again and I'm now quite close to the measurement on the deeds, so that should do - its more difficult than you think when there is no fixed starting point at all. Otherwise the builder has sheepishly confessed to leaving out the costs of the bathroom fittings, which I told him he'd missed, but he insisted were included, so a slight increase on the costs. No bill as yet for the house painting and I'm still chasing the electrician for the remaining missing heater for the bathroom. The polytunnel has arrived but I'm waiting for the fence to go up before I decide its final position.

We are also having fun with the VAT man, trying to claim back the VAT we've paid out on the house kit and other stuff. They only had two queries - first demanding our bank details to pay the loot into, despite the guff saying they'd send a cheque - and indeed nowhere on the form to tell them the bank details. The only other query is they want to know how much was for the house and how much for the garage - goodness knows why.

Otherwise life continues at a relaxed pace. I am now officially on the Bridge Club committee and am getting dangerously close to the golf club one. We had our neighbours Jackie & Dougie round a few nights ago and had an impromptu bit of fiddling (Jackie being a very good fiddler indeed).

Friday, 11 July 2008

What Bron's been doing

There's been a theme running through my 3 months on the island. Though I 've done a good bit of digging in the garden, climbed a few hills (see a couple of posts ago) and done the usual domestic things, the rest has been virtually wall-to-wall music. Won't my big sis be proud of me! The past two weeks has been no exception. First there were 3 days of fiddle-playing at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile - the Gaelic college - taught by a young and brilliant neighbour here at Conisby. Very inspiring, but I do need to practice! Then I went off to Glasgow for a few days with Roz for the wedding of a couple of young friends. Then back home and into 5 days, again at ICCI, of Gaelic song with Ishbel Macaskill. Huge fun, and I've gathered a number of new songs to learn and had a tremendous week. I do seem to have spent an awful lot of time memorising song lyrics since I arrived, but I'm sure it's all a good Alzheimer's preventative.

So I've no idea what Scott's been up to and will be interested to read his next posting! We seem to have a few clear weeks coming up now, before the next visitors arrive, so we plan to spend some of it together exploring a bit more of "our" island. Can't do much more in the garden until the fencing arrives. Yes... we still have a patio full of sheep!