Saturday 31 December 2011

More Destruction

Patience Readers! Enough of the clamouring for me to write more stuff! I've been away again from computer and from mains power for a couple of days so. we've not been able to post. Back no though and in the chair, so bringing you some more pictures of the destruction phase of this rebuild project in Roscommon. You can see that it's mainly about ceilings at the moment, all of which are a bit stained with damp, or worse, and all of which potentially cover hidden dangers lurking, like rotten joists and woodworm.

We have also picked up the Yorkie "Coco" from the Silverwoods. Coco is an 'entire' male and has been battling with similarly attired Westie Maxwell. Mum has always had a hankering for a Yorkie so it seemed the best solution to take Coco on this transfer window and try him out with us. I'm not sure I approve, and have been known to snarl and grump in the car but nobody listens to me anyway, so I suspect Coco will be staying. He got his own bed from Santa for us to take to Roscommon. The only problem is that he, a typical Yorkie, is so tiny and delicate featured that all the humans keep forgetting and calling him "she".

The jobs this week for the humans were some more ceiling wrecking - the back upstairs right hand bed room, the bathroom, the dining room and the living room. The first to were plaster board. The dining room has a bizarre combination of black painted tongue and groove board which seem to be sound and free from any rot or woodworm but this is 'skimmed' with a layer of very light 3-ply painted pale brown and now completely riddled with woodworm so that there is a complete layer of woodworm dust between it and the T+G board. The ply is cut into roughly 4 foot squares and once nailed up has had beading nailed along each of the joints, north-south and east-west. This was a dust-mask job for the workers and all the windows open.

As well as all this ceiling bashing, Mum had at some of the bathroom stuff and we pulled out the sink, pedestal, toilet bowl, cistern and the olde plastic pale blue medicine cabinet / toothbrush panel the style of which Mum can remember from when she was little and living at Steak-Lady's house. To remove the sink, Dad had to hack saw through the copper pipes but this should have been no problem - the place has been unoccupied 15 years and was disconnected from mains water according to local legend, using a Water Board JCB because the aul' fella was in dispute with them over an unpaid fee. Anyone spot where this is going yet? So, we tidied up the day's rubble and retreated to the caravan for a coffee leaving the range going like the clappers, a full load of anthracite in its fire basket.

Returning to the house after dark Dad could hear the dripping of water onto the kitchen floor. With the torch, he found this as coming through from above, the newly gutted bathroom.Mum and Dad could also hear the copper tank attached to the range boiling a bit excitedly. We'd heard odd gurglings before but had thought this was just residual water in what we imagined would be the internal spiral-pipe (inside the tank)re-adjusting. Obviously not. The boiling water was now bubbling out of the sawn pipes upstairs and dribbling through to downstairs. Thank Heavens this is all while we are gutted, so there are no ceilings to sag and collapse. Dad put the Curver bucket under the end. The bubbling copper was alarming enough to stop us wanting to eat anywhere near the tank, so we retreated to the caravan resolving to check on the boiling scenario hourly and to proceed with the put-off removal of the tank as soon as it was cold (in the morning).

We took a day off house-bashing on Thursday to deliver on an invitation to English neice, Mads to bring her down to Silverwoods for the day to meet them and to play with all the Christmas toys and games with the children. Mads (20) is doing a University course on Hotel Management at Birmingham University and as part of this, has a work placement at Dunboyne Castle where she now has 35 days or o left of the year's placement. This was a bit of a day for the driving - it's a 2 hour drive across from Roscommon to Dunboyne, then another hour down to Silverwoods in Co Laois. Same again in the evening. But Mads fell in quickly with the Silverwoods and their children and thoroughly enjoyed her day building Thomas Tank Engine railway tracks, having gun battles with big showy "Air Blaster" machine guns firing foam bullets,playing Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Connect 4 and "Guess Who". She was also well fed and plied with wine. Silverwoods loved Mads and she loved them. Just a shame they didn't get together nearer the start of the placement year.

The copper tank was attacked Friday morning. Dad cut through the first pipe thinking this could only contain the dribble of water in the spiral pipe. Mum was there with the Curver bucket (10 litre) thinking all would be OK. In fact the water came out in a whoosh and kept on coming. Every time the bucket filled, Dad put his thumbs over the ends of the pipe to stop the flow while Mum emptied the bucket. 5, 6, 7 or more times this went on. Apparently there as no spiral pipe in the tank, and the pipes to/from the range must have had access to all the water in there, hence being able to boil it easily and cause it to bubble over upstairs. Ah well, all gone now, the tank hauled out (in the process collapsing through the woodworm infested shelf which had been (just about!)holding its corroded verdi-gris'd weight. The cupboard (hot press) is also gone and so i the last bit of plywood ceiling which had been above it.

All for now

Monday 26 December 2011

...and some more pictures

Some Christmas Pictures

Bedlam but we made it!

We made it through and it is now Boxing Day. We survived not only the Silverwood's Christmas Day with its alternating bursts of bedlam and calm but also the "No Laptops" rule. It was brilliant, so a huge Thank You to the Silverwoods for having us along for the ride. Mum and Dad halped out with bits and peices like present wrapping, cooking and child-wrangling too, so we think we've still a few hours of welcome left before it all wears off and they send us back to the damp and cold of Roscommon.

Format for the day(s) is a big supper on Christmas Eve, which in this case was of a risotto done with the meat from spiced turkey wings from the day before, plus prawns, before the various tired children are read "Night Before Christmas" by Mum and off they go to bed. No problem getting them to bed that night of course. The rules are that they get the stocking in their room to wake up to and must then stay upstairs till all 4 are awake which, naturally does not take long once on is up and about.

By about 06:30 we are all coming downstairs to get coffees and teas organised and for we dogs to get a comfort walk round the block. Mr S then disappears into the front room where the tree stands to turn on the Chistmas lights. In there are the big Santa sacks on various easy chairs - these are the sacks of presents from Santa (or in some cases signed by elves and reindeer) as opposed to the presents from relatives and friends which are under the tree. There are a couple of sooty handprints as evidence of Santa's comings, one on the door, one on the mantle. The kids are allowed in all together for the first bedlam session, the Santa presents.

These are brilliant and received with delight by the children, bikes for M and R, an electric guitar for Em-J and a model dress-making kit for J-M plus reams of other stuff. That done and some time spent playing with those presents, Mr S cooks a proper Irish fried breakfast with black and white puddings, bacon, eggs, beans, sausages etc. Then we all adjourn back in there for the under-tree presents which again are a big success. The rest of the day round till about 6pm when it's time for the turkey meal.

After that it finally does go a bit quieter as the little ones get wrangled off to bed and are asleep in seconds. Today is more of a relaxed affair with all the toys to play with and the catering is mainly about help yourlesf from the fridge mountains of left over turkey, ham, cakes, gingerbread, crisps etc.

Some photos of all this soon. We had another lemonade-into-laptop incident involving small child and we are down one laptop for messing with pictures.


Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve

Just a couple more pictures before we go into enforced lock down for Christmas. Mrs S does not allow laptops to be turned on from this evening round to Boxing Day, (Quite right too, It's family time!) so this will be the last post for a couple of days.These pictures then are of the Silverwoods Turkey being beaten into submission by Mum and young M (5). He makes a good assistant chef but started off this exercise unwilling to touch the bird (Yeurrgghh! It's Gross!) and ends up up to his armpits in the pushing sage-butter under its skin and stuffing up its jacksey.

The stairs picture shows the stud wall alongside the stairs stripped back to its skeleton. These hardboard stud walls were pretty much condemned by the surveyor as fire risk, and seeing the hardboard burn like cardboard on the bonfire we can see why. This wall will be gone completely (along with any other hardboard) opening up the one big room with he stairs leading off, so that the front door opens into the dining room with the wood burning stove (the ancient and much loved range will not survive this phase).

The bottles of fizz were our welcome for the first night in the caravan. Sorry about the not very stylish champagne 'flutes'!

Finally a shot of Mum with her favourite weapon, the flexible 2-handled Curver bucket which is used to wrangle broken plaster board, rubbish, scrap iron and anything else to its destination. It's just about the right size to not get too heavy when fully laden and she love it.

Well, as I said, that's all for now. House rules and all that. Catch up with you again on Boxing Day

Merry Christmas to all our readers
Love from the Deefs

Friday 23 December 2011

More on that build up

The observant amongst you will have noticed that we are now starting to publish a few pics of the humans involved in this saga. This with their permission of course, but mainly because all our readers have long since worked out who we were or got bored and moved on. These three pics then are of the sunset as seen from our dining room, out across the 2CV and the Fiat and through our very big mature Scots Pine trees. The second is of Dad relaxing in the caravan with both of us dogs and the third is of Dad enjoying a bit of pitch forking. The fork was among the few things of any use found in the outbuildings, most of the tools and implements having long since succumbed to woodworm so that the metal heads dropped to the ground under their own weight when lifted by the handle. So far we seem to have inherited from TK Min, just an ash tray / saucer, an enamel roasting dish in which, cleaned up, we have managed to roast a duck (see picture on previous post) very successfully in the range, and this hay fork. The handle of the fork is clean and new as if it has been nowhere near the woodworm.

Mum and Dad believe that this out building which has 2 human-sized doors and a chimney may be the original farm-house or single room cottage where the family would have lived until they moved into the 'new' house circa 1900. The chimney was clear but the hearth full of the inevitable jackdaw nest twigs and old debris, so Mum and Dad thought it would be fun to clear the area and light a fire in the hearth. This was just straw and old paper but it sent some smoke up the chimney while Mum and Dad sat back and thought that this was probably the first smoke going up that chimney for 100 years plus!

That was the plan, to do just the one full day and two nights up at Roscommon this week before retreating to Silverwood's for the 4 days of Christmas. We drove down today via the camping shop in Blessington (OK that's a bit of a diversion) where we needed a new mantle for the gas light. Those camping gas lights are very good but the mantle once burned to ash is very brittle and don't like being bashed around, so you need to keep a reserve of spare mantle cloth "tubes" available. We were welcomed 'home' by all the gang and have been fed and lubricated generously. We two westies and Coco the Yorkie have been shampooed to within an inch of our lives (and By God I needed it!).

Clean, fragrant, warm and dry!
Possibly staying clean for at least 4 days

The run up to Christmas

With Mum through her cough and back feeling ready for some more house-bashing, we head back for the house in Roscommon. The children are still at school, so we do the school runs first and also call off in Roscommon town for some essentials, not eventually arriving at the house till about midday. Mum heads for the caravan to make coffee, Dad into the house to get the usual fires going, one in the hearth in the living room, the other in the range. Rather fortunately we have discovered a stack of very old, almost rotted through sacks of anthracite on a pallet amongst the grass by the skeleton formerly known as "hay barn". The pallet and bags are almost gone but the anthracite is made of sterner stuff and a half bucket lobbed onto the range fire or into the real fire lasts hours and gives more heat than the peat briquettes or turves.

As a result of all this daily heat we are noticing that the poor old house, which has seen 15 sequential unheated cold damp Roscommon winters is starting to dry out and warm up nicely. There is residual heat in the place and the copper tank is still nice and warm when we first go in of a morning and we also think that chopping off the plasterboard walls, taking down ceilings and clearing away rubbish and dodgy floor layers lets the warm air get in and around helping to dry out the damp-traps. This morning we even noticed that the kitchen floor and the floor of the 'foyer' are properly dry in the morning despite rain all night, we have not seen that before - they've always been damp from wet walked in on our feet and boots the previous day.

Over these two days the jobs are to take down the ceiling of the right hand bedroom (east end), to take down the ceiling and the plaster board walls of the kitchen (plus cutting through the old plumbing of the ancient kitchen unit, removing it and breaking it up into scrap metal and bonfire). For a bit of fun we also clear out the out-buildings we are calling "the office" and "the original cottage". The latter is named because although it is now a byre, it has a chimney and a human sized door either side, making us think it was originally human habitation, abandoned when the new house was built circa 1900. Among the junk we are tossing out (old rotted wooden barrels and oil drums, wood-worm ridden farm implements and tools, numerous sacks of old baler twine bundles, bags of bags and an old shipping luggage chest labelled Queenstown. Queenstown as far as we know was renamed Cobh (Cove) in the 40's, so how old this old chest was we weren't sure, but it was crumbling with woodworm so it went on the bonfire.

Enough for now.
More soon

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Scrap Metal

A few more pictures from the early days of the project. First up a shot of Dad and the famous pre-electric washing machine with the wringer mangle attached at the back. In fact when we went to dispose of this we found a load of what was presumably washing from 15 years ago including the ol' man's shirts, still dry and perfectly preserved, waiting for the wash. Next a general view of the scrap and the car. 3rd one of the H man who had been helping to clear out the outbuilding known as "The Office" - it was where the farm had stored a load of farm-office type stuff. The other two out buildings are known as "The original house" - (it's obviously a cottage with a front and back door, one room and a fire place and chimney at one end) and the "Milking Parlour", self explanatory. Finally a shot of the bonfire heap with we two dogs in attendance.


Living in Roscommon

We are now living, at least part of the time, at the Roscommon house, planning to retreat every now and then to the Silverwoods with bags of dirty washing (and grungy bods)like teenagers coming home to Mum at the end of term. This just while there is no power or water on site. So we work through that first evening and then through Sunday and the morning of Monday getting started on the proper project, which should see us all entertained for the next three to six months.

First job is removing the plasterboard sheeting from the east end of the house in the big upstairs bedroom. This is our last chimney and we are looking to reveal a fire place which we can then rod out, clear of jackdaw nests and leave open as we have for the other three. An early punch through the boarding reveals a load of what looks like damp peat behind the plasterboard, so we think we have scored a direct hit first time. But this is not to be. The peat proves to be only a few inches deep, behind which is stone and cement. We start to open up going right and left, and digging out the peat but if there is a fireplace here then its a blocked up one. We can see where the chimney breast goes up, with its shoulders but if there was ever a hole, then it's now stone with a cement screed over. The stud wall goes straight across the room 'ignoring' the shape, so it's half an inch from the screed in some places,9 inches away, braced on horizontal struts in others.

This work goes on punctuated by coffee and smoke breaks, broken by meals wrangled on the hot range, and beginning an ending pretty much with the daylight. We get up at 08:30 as it's getting light, light fires and start breakfast, and by 16:30 ish we are running out of light. We can carry on a bit with artificial light but we have no mains voltage yet, so it's all propane gaz camping lights and battery powered 'torches' and work-lights. Inspired by Diamond's John (and Basil from the Cambria) we also clear away any debris after each short burst of destruction - "squaring away" the rubble and wooden stuff carrying it down to the rubble pile in buckets or rubble sacks, separating the wood into potential kindling and bonfire, burning what can be burned on the bonfire.

Mike-the-Cows has now dragged the old VW Golf out of the brambles with a tractor and left it down by the gate for collection (we hope) later. This has become the place to put scrap metal, hoping that the person who takes the car will also take the scrap. There are two old cookers, a very old pre-electric washing machine with mangle, a fridge lying on it's back like a chest-freezer now filled with rusty tools, nails, brackets, bits of hinge and unidentified farm-related bits.

This is turning into a long post, so I'll break off now and return to this soon.

Bringing up the Caravan

Saturday sees us bring the caravan up from the Silverwood's to the new house. This involves the whole family coming up to deliver it and to have a good look round, but with the dogs too, that's too many people for the one car so we decide to make the trip in three cars - Mr S's people carrier to tow the caravan, and Mum and Dad's cars just to get them there. This is a Saturday morning, and the S's don't normally like to do Saturday morning too early, having spent the week doing long hours at work or early ones at School, so Mum and Dad offer a lift to anyone who can be up, dressed and ready to rock by 07:30. This proves to be Em-J and J-M. It's a frosty morning and they don't do road gritting in this part of the world, so there is some ice and black ice about. Mum, with the girls in the Fiat has an interesting sideways moment on a bit of road just north of Athlone, ending up stopped broadside across the road with Dad (and we dogs) coming at her in a T-bone manner. Luckily Dad has just enough room and grip to dive round the back of the Fiat across the hard shoulder. It would have been sad to damage both the family's cars in one incident.

The people carrier and caravan are following us along a couple of hours later when it's daylight and the frost has had a chance to melt. In between these Mum's brother "Sparks" arrives to look at the electrics and also to take a good look round and see if he fancies doing "project manager" on the rebuild, with Mum and Dad effectively acting as unskilled labourers and him telling them what to do. Much to their relief he agrees to do this. His normal work is electrician and electrics tester and certifier on big civil engineering jobs like Dublin airport, Dublin's dock road-tunnel and more recently Dohar airport but with the financial situation here at present there's not a lot of that kind of work so he's available to play on (what he would call) small (but we don't!) projects.

We arrive at the house and start to light fires and sorting stuff out. The girls race off to explore, returning periodically to see is it all right to go in an out building, or touch various bits and pieces (old cookers, wheel barrows, planks as potential bridges over steams etc.) We get a text from Mrs S to say they are only 10 minutes away and soon the caravan roof is visible above the hedges coming down the lane. The turn into the drive is a bit tight for the people-carrier and caravan, so the van gets unhitched and pushed by hand into the drive, re-hitched for towing up the drive, and then released again while it's pushed into position behind the house in the cattle-race bit. By now the girls, and now the younger ones newly released from the car have found the wet boggy bit just beyond our cattle yard and the new wellies are taking a hammering from the delights of leaping off piled up grass into the muddy puddles. Mum meanwhile wrangles up spuds, sausages and beans on the range which is now nice and hot. Everyone retreats indoors for some hot food and a chance to warm up, dry the feets and dry the wellies. We have limited bowls and cuttlery, so it's a bit of a serial meal taken in sittings.

Mid afternoon all the guests retreat, Sparks armed with his measurements and details, the Silverwoods in a variety of borrowed warm dry clothing. We adjourn back to the dining room and caravan feeling like we have finally moved here and are about to spend our first night at the new place (all be it in the caravan, rather than the house.

Good night

Friday 16 December 2011

Where's My Bike?!!!

There is an enforced day off from the house-wrangling today as Mrs Silverwood takes Mum off for some extreme shopping in Portlaoise leaving Dad to wrangle children.It is the day for the play school to which Toddler-R (4) goes, to do their singing-in-a-circle for the Mums and Dads (and Uncles in this case), have their visit from Santa, get a present and get face-painted if they chose. This went well and kids were very sweet sitting in the circle doing their stuff except for R who was so excited to see Santa, who'd come in to hear the singing, she kept jumping to her feet and running over to stand in front of Santa, hopping and bopping and wondering where the presents were.

Unfortunately when the present arrived it was "NOT A BIKE" (it was a perfectly good, sweet rag-dolly) so there were tears and tantrums. Dad and Em-J calmed things down trying to explain that this was an extra and the bike would still come on the real day if she was good, tears were dried away and rather sad face presented to face painting babe to be converted into a pink and multi-coloured butterfly. The troops returned via the Super-Valu supermarket for hot sausage rolls and "chippies" and now all is serene as this is eaten on the sofa with we two dogs in eager attendance looking hopeful and hungry.

Mum and Mrs S are off Christmas shopping but also in search of all things camping which Dad does not already own from 2CV camping ready for the first night when the caravan is at the new house. This is stuff like a big water 'jerry can', oil lamps, oil for same and provisions. The plan is to take the caravan up there tomorrow and Mum and Dad and the two cars, so we've effectively moved up there. Momentous day! Also there that day will be Sparks checking out the electrics.


Thursday 15 December 2011

Cow Yard

Step outside the kitchen at the new place into the fresh air and you are stepping into what we call the cow-yard. It's a small area about 40' by 40' surrounded by the house, outbuildings, a stone wall and two galvanised farm field-gates. It would be familiar to anyone who has worked on a small dairy farm, and Dad certainly had one when he first started as a "GFW" (general farm worker) during student days. It provides an area to contain the cows when you've got them in for milking, or to manage them when they are 'indoors' so that they don't "poach up" (chop up by trampling) the fields when these are too wet. Generally they are either concrete or have a crushed stone base which you keep reasonably clear of poo by scraping and shovelling each day to save the poor beasts getting foot rot from wading around in cold wet poo all day. This one has a stony base.

When the farm became too much for TK Min and was abandoned, we assume that there was no great effort to clean up, scrape up poo etc, so the yard sat for 15 years with what must have been a good layer and this has long since grown a nice thick carpet of grass. Why am I telling you all about this? Because that is exactly where we want to stand the caravan when Mr Silverwood brings it up on Saturday and, rather than hop in and out of the caravan onto boggy grass, all be it only 3 inches or so thick, we decided that today's job would be to pull up some of this carpet to give ourselves clean dry concrete or stones to walk on. Wrapped around that we did all the usual lighting fires and strolling around scratching chins in a thoughtful manner, planning stuff. Mum and Dad even brought up from Silverwoods some left over garlic bread and pasta with meatballs which got heated up on the range in a first effort at cooking in the new place.

Dad loved the sounds and feel of the poo shovelling, evoking those early GFW years; the hollow scrape of shovel along wet concrete and then the swing, swoosh and splop of the wads of soggy wet poo flying off the shovel and hitting the muck heap. The humans are aching and tired now and will not need anyone to sing them a lullaby. We have returned to Silverwoods for a Birthday tea for J-M (12) which featured some of those trick re-lighting candles on her cake. I came home so manky from the exploring the poo job and piles of muck that Dad was too embarrassed to let Mrs S see me and was reduced to shampooing me in the kitchen sink before they came home

Eating an Elephant

This job has been described as "eating an elephant" as in the old saw, "How do you eat an elephant?" "One bite at a time!" (How we laughed!) and we are mentally trying to break the awesome whole down into bite sized pieces so that we have the task for the day. Today we have a couple. We have to meet the guy from the Irish Electricity Board (E.S.B.) about getting reconnected to the mains, we have to chop through the bases of the ivy growing up the side of the house and we have to (taraaaa!) clear the dining room including pulling up the lino.

We head out to the house fairly early and get the fires going at either end as usual. The house is now starting to warm up nicely. The E.S.B. man arrives and inspects and finds the equipment too old to be just turned on, so we have to pay them €390 for the privilege of a "new" connection. All they'll actually do is change the box in the hall and give us a brand new meter. What we need to do is engage a qualified electrician (step forward the family "Sparks") to declare the house wiring 'fit to be connected to'. There's a laugh. The wiring at present has all sorts of single strand wires twisted together, cables looping along the picture rails, ending in nothing where some kind of old electric fire used to hang. What Sparks will probably actually do is cut away most of this and leave us with one or two more modern bits of the installation so that he can sign the thing with a clear conscience. He'll then probably burst out laughing before giving us a quote for the repairs and rewiring.

We also get our first genuine visitor, the guy who rents the cattle grazing for the land, who we'll call Mike-the-Cows. He wanders in just to introduce himself and comments that he's been told that "an old couple" have taken over the house (Oy!). He's a lovely bloke who tells us he's happy to carry on the arrangement grazing the land and topping/spraying the rushy bits to keep the pasture in good heart, offers all kind of help including pulling out the old Volkswagen Golf from the brambles, ploughing the bit of ground I want to use for an allotment, helping cut down the loose barn sheeting and so on. He also provides a bit of local history including some 'back story' on our previous owners whom we will call, for these purposes TK Max (the old Dad, passed away in the 80's), TK Min (the son) and "the three sisters". Mike never knew the sisters but had plenty to do with TK Min. He also told us about a famous event which occurred nearby where a gang of bank robbers trying to escape from the Garda (Police) hi-jacked TK Max's car just along the lane from us and shot 2 Guards. The old boy was apparently upset enough to move out of the farmhouse and into the nearby town of Ballaghadereen.

Main job today was to clear the dining room and "lift the lino". Sounds easy doesn't it? Not quite so easy when there are three layers of lino in varying states of grottiness and decay. Under these was a layer of flattened out newspaper, then a layer of flattened fertilizer sacks and finally on the bottom a layer of closed newspapers dating from 1967, which had been in contact with cold damp concrete and walked on for 44 years and had turned into a greasy peaty stuff which had to be scraped up from the floor using a conveniently left behind kitchen knife. During the course of these works I got so sordid and dirty that Mrs Silverwood was aghast and there is another shampooing being threatened.


Wednesday 14 December 2011

More pics of the start

Some more pics to keep you going, but I'm a tired dog so I'll do you some more write up tomorrow.

1) Peat smoke from the Dining Room chimney (range) for the first time in 15 years

2) That unexplained "secret garden"

3) Some old wood-wormy chair legs go on the living room fire

4) Dad raking 15 years of jackdaw nests out of the living room fire place and chimney.

5) Old Mr K's VW Golf. Mr K has passed away in the 80's and the car has been there ever since. We reckon new battery, few pints of petrol, should fire up first turn of the key? Anyone wanna buy a classic.


Aerial view

Yesterday I mentioned a 'secret garden' we discovered while walking to the four corners of the the lump of land which comes with the new place. Neither Mum nor Dad knew it was there, having not done this on previous visits. To explain we have blagged this picture from Google Maps satellite.

Bottom of this picture is the narrow country road running along our southern border. Roughly central in the picture is the house (dark grey roof) with, behind it and set at 90 degrees to one another with light coloured roofs are the byres. The house sits in the left hand rectangle which is the original 1 and a half acres, and to the right making a nice neat square with the buildings at the centre is the field we also bought, which is currently rented out for cattle grazing but it's a bit boggy so the cows have been taken off it for the winter.

Running up the middle of the picture then, is a hedge run with the buildings half way up it, the bit 'behind' the house looking particularly thick, more like a spinney than a hedge. But No! When you go look it's actually rectangle tall-ways on in the view, roughly 30 feet wide and 90 feet long. It is a piece of ground raised about 2 feet above the rest of the land with a stream running down its eastern side. It is surrounded by a low stone wall perhaps 2 feet tall, now all overgrown with moss and grass. Outside this on the west is a row of mature pines and on the east, the hawthorn hedge. We are curious as to what it would be for. The raised aspect would improve drainage and the trees would protect it from wind, so we think it might have been a bit of garden, rather than more farm. Lovely though.


Tuesday 13 December 2011

Dogs get to see the place!

Yay! We dogs finally get to see the famous Roscommon house about which we have heard so much. Mum and Dad take us up there for today's first proper day of working. There's been snow this morning just when the kids were being readied for school (couldn't get any sense out of any of them - too excited, but eventually they were all wrangled off to their appropriate schools in time). Dad was wondering whether he'd be able to take scenic "White Christmas" photo's of the house and those lovely pine trees but this was not to be. There was just wet grass and a few slush piles when we got there, and a puddle of wet snow on the trailer cover and the 2CV hood.

We are all impressed by the superb transparent light in these parts. Driving up through the southern part of the county today we had the bright sun and blue skies behind us and in front of us a bank of dark snowy clouds. Between the two were the autumn colours of almost leafless trees including great drifts of scarlet-barked dogwoods. This was lit so brightly and clearly that Dad thought he must have super-cleaned his glasses and the car windscreen. We have heard about this special light in unpolluted areas but have never seen it with the naked eye. Spectacular.

We drive via a big Dunnes Stores in Roscommon for provisions - we have camping equipment on site but we needed coffee, bread, lunch, fire-lighters and peat briquettes (and Dad treated himself to a bag of real authentic dried out turf "sods". It's a genuine 2 hour drive from Silverwood's, more like 2hours 20 with the shopping. We arrive at almost midday and hop out of the car to start exploring. I love the place both inside and out, upstairs and downstairs, house, out buildings, garden and cattle fields (currently unoccupied). There are nooks and crannies, holes and old musty soft furnishings and it's all new and unexplored. I quickly reduce myself from the pristine white brushed show-dog that greeted Mum and Dad when they arrived here yesterday, to the soot and mud encrusted tramp they expected. Everyone's a winner!

Mum and Dad's main task today aside from exploring and a bit of tidying is to clear the three chimneys and light fires. All three are full of old jackdaw nests, probably 15-20 years worth in each, so there's a fair amount of shovelling debris from the grates into rubble sacks before Dad can even start rodding out the chimney. In one case the rodding hits a solid wad of nest and Dad has to take off the brush and just poke the set of rods about up there till the twigs start to fall down. It's a proud moment when they can finally light a small fire in the living room with an old, wood-wormy chair, and nip outside and see smoke coming from the pot - probably the first time in 15-20 years!

With a good draw established Dad lights a bigger fire and shoves on some of the briquettes and soon gets a lovely warm glow. It's a windy day with a hooley being blown up coming from the South (the front of the house) so it's nice to come in from the front garden and feel the warmth and to be out of the wind, bluster and noise from the pine trees.

Ther is a brief hiatus when Dad goes to light the range. He's swept out the chimney and has cleared out the range so he sets a small fire, but has not realised that the 'flue' for this runs across the top of the range under the hot plate and into a metal chimney at the back right. The hole here has a restriction (venturi?) only a couple of inches across and the metal flue has rusted over the 15 years with flakes of rust falling down and blocking it. The main chimney can therefore draw all it likes, but it can't take smoke from the range, and this starts pouring out of the front doors of the range like the house is on fire. We have to rush to open doors and windows to clear the smoke. However, further checks reveal that the rusted-in hot plate can be freed up and a small cover at the bottom of the chimney can also be bopped free with a rubber mallet, so that Dad can get his hand in and clear the rust flakes. Then we're away - proper draw, smoke clearing and a good fire got going in the range. Warm as toast.

I will tell you about the rest of the day and a secret garden in another post. This is enough for now. A dog is tired.


Monday 12 December 2011

They made it!

We are re-united again in Ireland. Mum and Dad had a smooth and successful run in the small convoy of 2CV, trailer and Fiat Panda. They managed the Faversham to Holyhead bit in almost exactly 8 hours, quarter to 2 to quarter to ten with all the machinery performing to plan and nothing breaking. This even though a massive rainstorm blasted through Birmingham and having soaked us all, laid down so much rain that everyone was swerving in the stranding water, banging their hazard warning lights on as they tried not to aqua-plane.

You can see from the picture what a bizarre load we had for the trailer; really just the leavings of the house when everyone had moved out and we were doing final sweeps, hoovers and clearing up, so it's the loft-ladder, various empty crates and buckets, cleaning stuff, the hoover itself and various straw hats found at the 11th hour plus, topping the lot, the three sets of fallow deer antlers which Dad hangs onto like some kind of talisman.

Making the port at ten pm meant a 4 hour wait for the sailing in which Mum and Dad tried to get some shut-eye but nobody can really sleep in a 2CV crammed with "stuff" so Dad was relieved to be allowed to board. The 2CV always seems to attract more attention than other cars from security blokes, and one with a trailer even more so, so Dad got stopped at every stage. Dad always thought "Look out, here we go!" expecting to be dragged out of the car which would then be stripped down to the last nuts and bolts. We have heard stories that when 2CVs were cheap student transport, the axle tubes, being empty of equipment never heat up even on the bumpiest ground, so were the perfect place for storing narcotics. However, all these blokes wanted to do was tell Dad they owned Ami's or Dyanes. The "security questions" were along the lines of do you have any compressed gasses or sharp implements "like knives". No, No... says Dad, neglecting to mention the fertilizer sack full of garden equipment and tools.

So they boarded at about 01:00 and Mum and Dad headed straight for the cabin and tried to get some sleep, only briefly interrupted by the Skipper doing his safety announcement, followed by a Terry Wogan sound-alike talking about mustering stations. They sleep like logs.

In the morning, another successful convoy run out through Dublin, taking in the Christmas lights all along the Liffey's banks and the new buildings in the City Centre. This time, Mum has the sat-nav going and Dad is following in the 2CV. They head out to Strokestown, County Roscommon where they link up with Mary Rose, the Solicitor, sign the final "Transfer of Ownership" and finally get the keys to the house in their little hot hands. They move on to the house where they get a good look round, unload some stuff and park (hide up) the 2CV and trailer. It's still as scary now as it was before, only now they own it!

From there a run down to Silverwood where we greet them with bucket loads of enthusiasm. We have been shampooed to within an inch of our lives and brushed out knot-free. We are all back together again. More on this tomorrow.


Sunday 11 December 2011

The Great Adventure

The big day has arrived. The Adventure begins in earnest. Today's plans involve collecting the trailer from 2CV Llew's place the other side of Canterbury and bringing it back here so that the two cars and the trailer can be packed with all the stuff that remains here. This is not too much although it has grown slightly since Mum moved into Diamond's with the addition of various gifts and acquisitions. It's what came here in the little Fiat Panda, plus Dad's overnight bag which came on the plane, a couple of boxes and a few bits which have lived at Llew's workshop since our (Oct 3rd) move out from the old house; a bizarre collection of empty crates and buckets, the loft ladder and the fallow deer antlers and a printer.

The box is the lovely collection of "silly" presents which the Swindon side of the family gave Mum and Dad when they were down for the Christmas meal recently. All individually wrapped and tagged with an amusing luggage-tag they would be things like rubber gloves ("for the hands-on down and dirty stuff"), a packet of "Builders' Tea" (for when you need a drink), woolly hats, vitamin pills, scrubbing brushes and so on, as well as more serious stuff like Jameson whiskey and fizz. We should have kept all the labels - some of the comments were inspired - but like you do, they ended up swept up in the wrapping paper blitz. There are also now Mum's leaving do gifts. We hope all this will fit in the two cars and the trailer fairly easily with nothing over loaded and no visibility impaired.

The plan is to pull out of Faversham (Wagons Roll!) about 1pm just so that we can do some of the journey in daylight and take it fairly gently up to North Wales and Holyhead Docks. We sincerely hope not to need all those 11 hours to do the distance. We are all booked on the overnight ferry 02:50 with sleeper cabins. Then tomorrow morning the plans involve driving across from Dublin to Strokestown, Co.Roscommon where we hunt down the solicitors office, sign the last bits of paper and take possession of the keys to the new house. We motor on to the house, fight our way in and then poke around to see how much "clearing" the three sisters have done, and what we are left with.

The 2CV and trailer then remain at the new place while Mum and Dad drop down in the Fiat to the Silverwoods where Mum and Dad and we dogs and the in-Laws are re-united and Brand New Life (BNL) starts for real. Everyone will stay the first night at the Silverwoods; after that it's all open to discussion and what opportunities arise as BNL takes its own new course.

So, readers, this is probably the last post for the moment till we can get enough kit and electricity together in the one place to restart the story. I know that many, many people are wishing us all the best and a safe journey and we all thank you very much for that. Updates soon.


Saturday 10 December 2011

Mum finishes Work

Some more pictures in the Photo-fest vein just to catch you up on UK life (for a limited period only). First up a 2nd nice picture of Dad's beautiful trailer. You can see more clearly in this one that the wheels are 2CV wheels so that the spares on the car and trailer are interchangeable. The cover for the trailer is actually quite a posh one made by a proper sail-maker, all professionally stitched and with proper eyes. They are normally some kind of cheap sheeting hot-seam welded together. This was done by 2CV Llew calling in a favour from the sail maker he knows and uses for boat stuff who is, apparently, a bit of a one for the drinking. You have to try to make sure he gets any jobs done for you before lunchtime because after lunch he's not a lot of use to anybody!

Next up is a pic of that "Faversham" stove cookin' up a storm with the peat briquettes.

The other two pics are of the ever more shaggy and workshop-dirty year-old Westie pup Boris-the-barking-bastard. Poor ol' Boris. He got that name and reputation as he was going through a phase. It got so bad that 2CV Llew was reduced to buying one of those electronic collars which fizz compressed air when triggered by barking, theoretically distracting the dog so he stops barking. Dad and Llew think that I may have a hand in grassing them up and telling Bozza he was about to get fitted with this thing because for no other reason which is apparent, he suddenly stopped the incessant barking and didn't need the collar. He did actually have another barking session later and was very briefly fitted with the thing but stopped barking immediately so that now all Llew has to do is mention the collar or get 'that tone' in his voice and Boris is now so angelic you'd think there'd not been a problem! I don't think the collar has ever actually triggered the compressed air. It seemed to be enough that Llew was grabbing him and moving to fit it.

Mum finishes work. She's done 10+ years at her 'firm' and has made good friends. She is well thought of and (we're not just saying this) very popular so that her leaving is always going to be accompanied by much celebration and a good whip round. She gets showered with gifts and in particular one of those new electronic 'Kindle' books, but also chocs, booze, a nice Zippo lighter, scented candles and so on. Everybody signs a big card with nice comments about how brilliant she has been to work with, best wishes for Ireland, how they'll miss her etc. Mum arranges for a breakfast delivery of croissants and pain-au-chocolates. There's a formal 'party' at lunchtime where the CEO does a nice speech and they've decorated the office with Irish flags and have even found a tape of the Dublinners (some Brits do tend to reach for the old familiar clich├ęs and stereotypes in these circumstances!). They all adjourn to the Pub after work where Mum "holds court" to a good gang of them including, again the CEO and some of the IT crowd with whom she's had loads to do across the years, being the main website and systems persons in the firm.

Dad and Diamond are assigned the task of raking her out of the pub while still thoroughly compos mentis and they all head for home via a good kebab shop, a wine shop and fridge to construct a good salad. The drinking goes on very gently into the evening before Mum, finally able to relax and wind down, unemployed, retires for a good night's sleep.

Well done Mum! You survived!