Monday, 30 April 2012

The rain stopped...for a day

Oh and we should finally have our Nikon back by the end of this month, hopefully before we leave this beautiful view and head 2.5 miles down the hill to Pottery Cottage.

Pottery Cottage: one chimney down

Pottery Cottage is positioned on a slope, so on the street side it is below ground, meaning that the first floor bedrooms are about shoulder height if you're standing on the pavement. This was very handy today as they took down the chimney breast in the boys' bedroom and were able to pass the stone out of the window into a mini-skip on the pavement below. A messy, gaping hole is left in the bedroom, which will now be filled in and there will just be a flue passing through the bedroom, maybe to the side so we can make full use of that back wall.

Drive to work

The rain stopped for a day and the drive to Cae Marchog to deliver 8 metres of books to fill the bookshelves was hardly a trial. I just love that drive over the common. The house is just left of the centre of this photo, nestled at the foot of the Twmpa. Job almost done there, I need another beautiful spot to work on...

Gravel envy

Mondays is the one weekday that Bo and I get to hang out, just the two of us, all day.  I usually have a long list of things for us to do, today starting with a visit to F J Williams building merchants in Hay to check out gravel options for Pottery Cottage. A very exciting outing for a little boy, and when Seth saw the photos on my phone he said: 'You ACTUALLY went there, just you and Bo, to see the gravel?' and then asked for a one-on-one date with me tomorrow to F J Williams and told me, 'remember, WITHOUT Bo...'. Seriously Seth, you've never been jealous of your brother in almost three years, and now you're upset because I took him on a gravel reccie one-on-one??
But actually it's ok because I picked out this gravel from F J's choice of four options, but apparently there are hundreds of gravel options if I drive a little further to Hereford.... so we'll do that tomorrow and Seth won't have missed out after all.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Accidentally gorgeous

Have I posted this already? It's from an article in the LA Times about walking with Bill Bryson in this part of the world. I loved this part: "It's certainly not a wilderness like you'd find in the U.S.  It's a handmade landscape, and it's been tinkered with and improved for centuries. The hedgerows and the barns and the little humpback bridges and the steeples are all there to serve a purpose, and the result is just accidentally gorgeous." So true.

'Nine years - and life after'

This was the inscription in the front of a copy of Cuba Noticed a photobook by Oscar-winning cinematographer Richard Greatrex which he gave to us for our ninth wedding anniversary on Thursday. We travelled around Cuba for our honeymoon, and Richard's photos brilliantly capture the atmosphere of Cuba off the tourist trail. Such a lovely present that brings back great memories of our three weeks there, just married. (Oh and also, I was in The Haymakers on Thursday and Pauline Patterson handed me one of her little jugs and told me to put it in my pocket. I found out later that the 9th wedding anniversary is symbolised by pottery, which makes the jug a little special! I must call and let her know.)
Can't find any photos of us now or then, just this one that I found on Facebook of us on our wedding  4th anniversary, back in 2007, us looking an awful lot younger at Club Tapiz in Mendoza, Argentina.

Wash out weekend

Seth was meant to see the Queen on Friday at the 'Diamonds in the Park' Jubilee event at Glanusk Park near Crickhowell. It would have been a fun day out if it hadn't been pouring down with rain, and if Seth hadn't thrown up on the bus. I had to drive down and collect a subdued Sethie who was by then on the shoulders of our patient friend James, who managed to smile for this photo even though Seth's waterproofs were rubbing mud over his face, and his chocolate ice-cream was dripping over his head.

Some of the kids from Clyro School got to give flowers to the Queen and she visited the stall of Hay Vets (headed up by Clyro School parents) to watch their sheap shearing demonstration.
Here's a video clip from the Telegraph website.

We dashed back to Whitney, collected Bo, plonked them both in the bath and took them back down to Clyro to the Village Hall where Friends of Clyro School had put on hot dogs for the soggy-looking kids who had returned from Glanusk, and a family quiz evening. It was mayhem, but great fun.

Meanwhile, Ollie was off the coast of west Wales, sea-fishing for the day, and returned with a bag of little fish that I now remember I haven't done anything with... 

We've had a lazy weekend, lots of sitting around by the fire drifting into family siestas while the rain lashed down on the cabin, me starting to dream about Argentina and how nice it would be to not have to wear socks and feel the sun on my face again. 

Job done

The House in the Hills now better reflects the setting and history of the house, right down to the visitors book, which I recovered in an old Bartholomew's 1/2 inch series map of the area.

On the walls is artwork by local artists and photographers including Sonia Rollo, Frances St Clair Miller, Niel Bally, Victoria Keeble, Mari Fforde, and Maggie Stewart. The Haymakers co-operative of professional artists, designers and craftspeople, have provided ceramics, wood carvings, 'Wyer' sculptures, and felt objects and stone carvings. I've added Welsh blanket curtains and cushions, made by The Great English Outdoors in Hay, and filled the bookshelves with books about the area, by local authors, or set in this corner of the world, and books for all ages about the wildlife that can be found on the doorstep of the house. To finish things off I'm hoping to persuade Gail Stokes Hayward to accept a commission to make a leaping hare or a winged owl Wyer sculpture for the wall above the TV in the barn. 

Pottery Cottage renovation: six months in

Ceiling joists and wall partitions are finally going in. Below these new joists will be our dining table. Straight ahead, behind the boards is a fireplace that will be repaired and will have a wood-burner, so we'll be able to eat by the fire. The door out to the boot room is to the right (looks a bit odd because the light is shining through the boot room window), and leading off to the left is the kitchen. It is all now open plan. It's hard to see on this photo but the ceiling is lower above the dining area but after the big old oak beam the ceiling is higher. We are really happy we've managed to do this, so when we walk into the house there's a relatively high ceiling and we have as much natural light as possible from the window on one side and the bi-fold doors at the garden end. The post that you can see supporting the oak beam will be removed this week, as the beam is now supported by two huge steels which are hidden by the ceiling joists. An open staircase will run across the foreground of this photo, i.e. beside the dining table (hopefully the round lapacho table we bought last year in Argentina, if we can manage to get it back here later this year). In the upper left-hand corner of the of the photo above you can see that the original exterior stone wall has been extended and new concrete lintels added to give extra support for the roof (both required to comply with building regulations).
The photo above shows the steels in place and with the oak beam in its pre-restoration state. The stud wall and Kingspan insulation will now be replaced along the length of the exterior wall as in the right-hand corner of the photo. 

Below is the little reading nook upstairs, outside two of the bedrooms. I'm going to put the Abigail Edwards 'Owls of the British Isles' wallpaper behind floor to ceiling bookshelves so the owls peek out from behind the books.
The boys have been exploring their bedroom, which we've decided to keep open to the eaves, and the chimney is being taken down (we'll just have a flue) so they have more space. 

Here's the dividing wall as it was being built up. We had to take all the original structure out, this time built on the new supporting steels below.
It looks a right old mess, I know! but the boys love it. Here they are checking out the view from their window (from their perspective it's perfect: cars and the castle tump (den-building country!). 
It's all been so much work, but we've been able to rejig the layout and one plus of this is a bigger family bathroom including a walk-in shower, which will slot into this space. The complicated structural work will be finished this week and then we should flying towards a habitable place. We're due to be moving into the guest cottage on May 18, although we'll be 'camping' out in the house during the festival when we have various friends coming to stay in the guest cottage! Agh, loads to do before now and then....

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Slipware bowl

My latest pottery creation. It's a mould pressed bowl decorated with slip, scraffito and glaze. I also did a plate which had better colours (chocolate brown, blue and dark green) but I wasn't as happy with the design. I haven't been to classes for a while, but popped in yesterday to pick up the bowl and remembered how much I enjoyed it. Hope to be back later next month to practice slipware, which I think I enjoy most (slip has a consistency of double cream, I love the feel of painting with it!).

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Boys weekend bliss

Period Living magazine have asked to do a feature about the house I'm working on, so I'm now trying to have all the work by local artisans and artists placed before they show up. 

While I hung paintings my three boys had the best time...

Hanging out in the hot tub
Lounging about in the oversized leather armchairs

Running home across the common

 ...and one happy little boy learning to drive.

My little charmer

On Saturday morning Seth announced that he wanted to give flowers to his friend whose party he was going to that day. We went down to the flower shop and he went around sniffing them and told the florist he wanted some flowers that smelt beautiful. He chose some purple freesias (good choice!) and went off to the party with the flowers and a huge bow and that ridiculous grin. Aaaah, love him!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Kashi nostalgia

I heard today that Kashi Cafe, my favourite cafe in all the world, has changed ownership. I spent almost every morning of our months in Fort Cochin in Kashi, chatting, reading the local papers and drinking green tea while Seth was in Apple Kids and Bo was being fed watermelon slices by the 'nightdress ladies' (the Kashi cooks who wore the traditional brightly-coloured floor-length nighties as a uniform).

Kashi has been bought by Edgar Pinto, who also owns the Teapot Cafe, which is quirky and charming, but had terrible service and the food wasn't a patch on Kashi, so I'm a little sad it won't quite be the same. I've been dreaming about going back - on my own - or with the boys to show them all the places we used to hang out when we were there and they were tiny, but I'll be a bit lost without Kashi.

Here we are, looking very hot and sweaty just before the monsoon, on the steps of Kashi, back in 2010.

'There's Papa!!"

Huge excitement in the car today when Seth spotted Ollie's photo staring out of the window of Booth's Bookshop, advertising the event he's speaking at there on Thursday 10th May at 7pm.

Madrina maravillosa!

Thanks to Sethie's madrina, Macu, for another fab pirate book. It was a bit of a challenge to get him to stand still for this photo for her....
In a calmer mood he suggested this as a pose, so Macu could see his face in the TV, before caving and looking at my phone and grinning.

Pottery Cottage update

I realised today that not a single interior wall, floor or ceiling has been left as was in Pottery Cottage. Every wall has had to be taken down, just leaving the original exterior timber frame, the exterior stone walls and the brick extension. This week the remaining timber frame partition walls were dismantled and a new frame is being built up.
New walls, old walls
Every floor has gone - on the ground where we took it out to bare earth in part of the house, and damp-proofed and insulated it throughout. On the first floor all the joists came out and are new.
We've even had to redo the roof throughout. So we effectively have a brand new house inside a 400+ year old shell, which is exciting (we have the house we want and have designed), challenging (how to make it look old and fit with the original building) and terrifying (the costs, oh, and that we need to be living in it in under a month's time!).
In the photo above you can see the new first floor joists. The stairs are going to be moved out to before the door way, so our bedroom will be on a higher level (so we get some height in part of the kitchen) but we will have a rectangular bedroom without a short flight of stairs jutting into the space.
Our new garden wall and steps are shaping up, made from stone reclaimed from the cottage and garden.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Set in steel

We now have eight steels bearing the load of the roof. That's the easy they have to prop up the roof while they take down the supporting walls and build them up again from these new steels. It's the most hairy part of the job so far, so I am really, really hoping it doesn't all collapse next week (a real possibility!).

Stone steps

Our new garden steps. I love the stone work, but I've asked for that one lighter, Indian stone flag in the middle to be swapped for a local stone flag. All the stone used for the wall and the steps and the new little patio outside the guest cottage has been reclaimed from the cottage and the garden.

Open plan

So this is what the ground floor looks like now. The dividing wall came down today, handily providing us with all the remaining facing stone we needed for the garden wall, and we now have one big open plan room. The main entrance to the house is where the light is flooding in from a doorway (the porch) in the photo below, and (looking at the photo) to the left of the doorway is a fireplace for a woodburner and then the kitchen will run along that wall to the bi-fold door leading onto the garden. That area then turns the corner where there will be a walk-in cupboard and on the outside wall, my desk.
Where the pile of rubble is in the photo below will be where the stairs will run (an open staircase so we'll be able to walk either side of them.
In the fairly spacious area between the stairs and the fireplace we'll eventually put the lovely round dining table we bought in Argentina. The black post you can see in the photo below is coming out. I am really happy with the new layout, and it's especially great because the reorganisation gives us a bigger bedroom and bathroom, including a walk-in shower.

Light source

This side wall window was knocked out this week, which brings in a fair bit more natural light into that room. The window will be slightly narrower than the hole there at the moment, just so that the window doesn't sit right against the exterior wall. I'm very happy with it though (looking desperately for things to be positive about this house project having found more structural problems this last week). We're close to having lights in the guest cottage as we had the wiring installed last week. Getting there...

Mini me

I found these photos in an album at home. Can you see the likeness with Bo (top photo) and Seth (bottom two)?