Monday, December 8, 2014

Ta Daaah!

We have a new house. The outside, anyway. We love it. Here's the tour. A fairly traditional front:

Then round the corner to the gable end:

The somewhat ecclesiastical window has our bedroom behind it. A friend of ours visiting from Wales, who's training to be a Baptist minister, said it made him feel very at home.

The drainpipe is not an unusual feature but was a temporary measure.

The one below was taken a few weeks ago when the plaster was still wet and the edging to the flat roof had yet to be finished. Joe's doing a bit of guttering fixing up there. 

This is one of the views from the roof terrace - posh name for the flat roof, but it will have decking and a glass surround. Not sure if it's my eyes or if this is a bit out of focus.

And here's the south-facing side. All that glass for the solar gain. The upstairs glass has a sitting room behind it. The downstairs will be the kitchen. And there's a rainbow growing out of the roof! Only just noticed that.

And last week the insulation went in. It's cellulose, another name for shredded newspapers, and it gets everywhere. This is Adrian with the last bag of the stuff. You have to wear face masks when going inside as there are tiny bits of newspaper floating through the air. I like the idea of my walls being filled with all those newspaper stories.

Inside it's tricky to get a clear view of some of the rooms - there's piles of plasterboard obstructing everything. But here's an idea. Downstairs sitting room:

Upstairs sitting room:

All we have to do now is sell our present house. We've had two sales not go through as the buyers haven't been able to sell their own houses.

In the meantime I have two lovely gardens to work on. Lots of black polythene down now. I'm going to plant potatoes in there next spring. I've already put in overwintering onions and garlic.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cover up

We took the scenic route to get to the north east over the long October weekend so we could put the covers on the boat - we're leaving her up near Carrick-on-Shannon for the winter. We were in the camper van which has an astonishing amount of storage space, especially if you use the shower area as a very big cupboard. Out of the boat came duvets, cushions, memory foam mattress toppers, tea cosy, wooden spoons, charts and books, all carried across the handily laid shortcut across the gap between pontoon and grass.

Putting on the covers takes longer than you expect, even when everything goes according to plan. It's these things that make it so tricky:

Shock cords that are easy to pop over the knobby bit that sits just under the rubbing strake (undoubtedly it has a proper name but I can't even think what to Google to find it) when you're standing on the jetty, but devilishly difficult when you're kneeling on the deck and feeling for said knobby thing while trying to stretch the elastic over it.

Joe began that job up at the bow where there's a nice broad deck, but when I offered to do a bit he said yes rather too quickly. The closer you get to the stern the narrower the deck, difficulty compounded by the stanchions linked by chains that hem you in ever tighter to the coach house roof. There are many of these shock cords.

The job was almost finished in a stiff breeze and sunshine, but the black clouds approached. Hurry hurry.

Not quick enough.

But finally the back was zipped up and the final touch of the piece of twist wire secured the zip.

At which point we decided we needed to put on a spring to stop the boat drifting back and scraping herself against the pontoon. The spare line was in the cockpit.

All wired up again.

Deck shoes still inside.

All wired up ...

You get the idea.

But finally all done. Winter Solstice tucked in for the winter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumping out in October sunshine

Friday evening, Dromod, eating pizza at Harkins. Saturday morning we moved the boat to that dreaded part of the harbour, the pumpout station. We hadn't tried the Dromod pumpout before, but I wasn't hopeful. Would it work? Would we remember which way to set the lever on the holding tank? Would there be shouting? I was expecting No to the first question, but if yes then No to the second. Yes to the third whatever.

So up came the seat in the saloon.

Aoife retreated to her bed at this stage, tail down.

Joe was ready, holding tank pipe secure in the hole in the deck. The card had been put into the slot in the pump out machine and credit taken. The readout in the little screen prompted me to press the button on the right. And away we went.

 Stuff was coming out. I pressed the button for another eight minutes. Stuff was coming out. Then no stuff. Joe reckoned it was pumping water from the river now, so time to switch The Lever. There was to be a system. I'd switch the lever and Joe would tap on the window once for OK and twice for Not OK. I switched to the left. There was a wild scuttering on the window pane. I switched it back to the centre and scrambled out of the boat.
'What??! You said you'd knock once or twice.'
'I panicked. Try the other way.'
Back in the boat, switched to the left. Four knocks on the window. Back to centre. Out of the boat.
'So what this time? You said ...'
'I know! I'm not sure.'
'The noise changed. It sounds like it's really doing something.'
'OK switch it back.'

So this is the record of what we did. The centre to start, then switch to the right.

The answers to the questions turned out to be Yes, Kind Of and No. The best result ever. Hire boats having to use the pump outs is, I'd suggest, what's made the real difference.

The astonishing weather continued into Saturday. Here's Winter Solstice in Drumsna shortly after we pulled in. It was late morning. By evening the harbour was chocka. I'd say people are putting off lifting out their boats, keeping their fingers crossed it continues like this until the October weekend.

There's a curious phenomenon in some of the Leitrim harbours, especially noticeable in Drumsna. People were drawing up in cars, filling containers with water and driving off again. The Shannon, of course, is the border between counties all the way up the country, and here it divides Leitrim from Roscommon. Much of this part of Roscommon doesn't have a clean water supply - there's been a boil notice in place for the last couple of years in some areas. So people come to Leitrim for their drinking water.

Wonder what will happen when water is metered.

Perhaps at least then the glorious new body of Irish Water will sort out the Cryptosporidiosis problem in Roscommon. I suspect the put-upon residents are not holding their collective breath.

Monday, September 22, 2014


This was a visitor to Winter Solstice on Saturday night. We were in Richmond Harbour in County Longford in a village that is signposted as Cloondara and Clondra. These signs appear right next to each other on the way into the village. Whatever the spelling it's a sweet spot on the river, although slightly marred by the noise of the traffic on the N5 (just need to go and check that's the number of the road). Tis indeed the N5, which passes through Tarmonbarry also spelled Termonbarry.

The cat was very vocal and had no worries at all about the small dog. Aoife gave it a couple of sniffs then went and put herself to bed. The cat was too confident by half for her. It settled down for a nap once it had checked if there was any food available (there wasn't ).

The weather was unbelievable for the end of September. As we left Richmond Harbour I was stripping off clothes ready for the lock. Yes I know that sounds odd but it can get very hot down in the slime of a lock with the sun beating on the boat and no breeze.

Once we'd done the cycle / car thing, had ice creams, brought the boat to Dromod, we gazed in wonder at the Mediterranean-like lake.

Joe and Aoife watched the boats in the harbour:

We went to order pizza from Harkins Bistro, the little restaurant right beside the harbour. I just opened their website to get the link, came back to the blog when music came from nowhere. I wish they wouldn't do that. It's startling to say the least.

The great thing about the all-new pizza menu at Harkins is that they do gluten-free ones. Amazing! So a pizza apiece and a house salad. We said we were on a boat right there and they said they'd bring it down to us. Half an hour later (they'd warned us they were busy) and I look out of the boat to see the owner and a waitress.
 'The plates are very hot!' said the owner. Jesus. Rush into the boat for the oven gloves. I wasn't expecting this. Takeaways normally come in boxes. The salad was in one of those wonky bowls that are higher on one side than the other. Some service.

Here's the bistro, umbrellas up, outside tables busy.

The pizzas were good. So was the salad. And look at that sky.

Sorry to go on about the weather but really.

Cold at night though. The range is lighting tonight for the first time this year, even though it was sunny all day. I suppose winter will be here soon enough.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Shipping on the Shannon

When we pulled into Dromod this ship was taking up the whole of the end wall. It was Thalassa, a vessel we first saw cruising up Lough Derg. We were in Terryglass, a crowd of us leaning on the wall, staring astonished at this elegant monster, asking foolish questions like 'What is it?'. She tied up on the outer wall, crew and four Jack Russells on board (two of them pregnant). (Jack Russells that is). We had a tour, as did the rest of the harbour. They'd only just brought the boat onto the Shannon, so were still in proud showing-her-off mode. Half the boat is taken up with engines, one of which is the engine to start the engines. She used to be an American patrol boat on the Rhine.

Next morning Thalassa was leaving, but this was no easy lifejackets on and off we go. The pre-engine was rumbling well in advance, giving time to clear boats out of the danger line. The corner behind Thalassa was first. We were tied up on the wall where the harbour narrows - it's not the easiest of harbours for a big boat, requiring a jinking motion as you come in and out.

We moved to the opposite side before Thalassa began her manoeuvres. Here she goes.

The ducks are too busy to notice - someone's throwing bread for them.

I've done this back to front. Before Dromod we were in Drumsna where there was a snorkel / swim in aid of the Simon Community organised by the local sub-aqua club. Forty odd took part, starting below the weir (of course) in Jamestown and following the bend of the river to Drumsna. It took about an hour. Here's some recent arrivals at the slip in Drumsna. This fellow looks like he's grown an extra-long arm.

It was here we met Donnacha Kennedy and his wife Tikkie - their grandson was swimming. It was Donnacha who, in 1975, raised the barge 45M from the bed of Lough Derg, where she'd been resting since she sank in the winter of 1946. I love those unexpected meetings on the river.

Here's Aoife in Rooskey saying 'won't'. She'd just gone belting down the road towards the lock, then trotting back, full of purpose. I've no idea what the purpose was. It's usually to sniff, but not this time. I had trouble keeping up with her. She's had a series of four weekly injections of a drug called Cartrophen, and it's made the world of difference. She was barely walking ten metres before the treatment. It's for arthritis, has mending properties as well as painkilling. At nearly sixteen it's given her a new lease of life (in being bolshie as well as walking).

And here's Winter Solstice in Rooskey. I've just put this in as I like the photo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In Boil-the-Water Land

 I was taking the small dog for a pre-breakfast walk in Boyle Harbour, and as I passed a boat a voice asked 'Is the roof on yet?' Someone who read my blog!? I didn't want to presume so muttered some class of query. But it was. And Angela gave me a DVD of her travels too, called Angela's Journey, 2013, so a splendid start to the day.

Of course Angela asked the question because the house build has taken over this blog, but we've been boating too, driving up to Leitrim for a few days, then back to do house stuff. We were in Leitrim Village, first on the dodgy jetties where this notice makes you nervous:

 These jetties were supposed to be released to Waterways Ireland, who built a bridge allowing access to the carpark and facilities. Never happened. The developer went into receivership and apartments just up from this sign, and the jetties, are now the responsibility of NAMA. Some boats outstaying their welcome were chained to the jetties, a boaty version of clamping.

So we left the boat on the wall below the bridge while we went home for a few days:

Then part of a timber-boat sandwich in Cootehall:

And then to Boyle, where there's a boil notice on the water. There was one in Cootehall too, but I couldn't resist the boyle and boil. Sorry. This water problem has been going on for 18 months, and is unlikely to be solved until the new water authority comes into being. Fortunately we were forwarned so filled up our water tanks before entering Cryptosporidium County.

After Boyle we mooched into Lough Key, heading for the Forest Park's new jetties. We'd seen them from the land a couple of times, and they didn't look particularly appealing - we were sure we'd prefer our usual spot on Drumman's Island - but no harm in dropping in for an hour or two. We slotted into a spot that was surprisingly pleasant. Everything looked different from this point of view. We could look out into the lake and the island with the castle on it, were close to trees. Not so bad after all.

It was also a great opportunity for Joe to do his salesman thing with 'Skipper', which he did with his usual verve. He's truly amazing. I'm still shite, embarrassed in the background.

There's all sorts of jolly activities at Lough Key. Look at these guys on Segways:

I've just found out more than I ever knew about the Segway from Wikipedia. It's proper name is Segway PT, PT standing for personal transporter, which sounds a bit Star Trek to me. The name Segway comes from segue, which means smooth transition. Segue is one of those words you see written down more often than you hear it spoken. When I was doing my MA, one of the tutors was going on about one thing segueing into another, and he was saying segwaying. My God, I thought, he's making a fool of himself. Fortunately I said nothing, thereby saving myself a red face (why is it OK to confess such things on a blog?). The thing is, Joe thought it was pronounced 'seeg' too. You know, as in words like vogue. How you get segway out of segue seems peculiar even for the English language.

Another activity was this sort of thing:

No, monkeys haven't been introduced to the park. This is a man. There are many children too, clipped on and clambering, zipping, climbing, swinging, even cycling through the trees. This was the domain of Zipit Forest Adventures, and I have to say I was tempted. Not by this stupidly high-off-the-ground stuff, obviously, but by the low-down zipwires designed for eight-year olds. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow, however, started damp and got wetter. No zipping. No cycling until we finally went out in the rain in late afternoon. We finally left, still waterproofed up, and decamped to Carrick where it finally stopped raining.

And then, finally, to Drumsna to relax with tools and wine.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Up she goes! Our own Grand Design.

This afternoon I was lying flat on my back (how else can you lie on your back?) on the roof terrace of our new house. The PVC membrane went on this morning, and it's all clean and smelling like you could get high on it. I was high in a different way, however, looking at the clouds in a blue sky. Having been chilly all day I was shedding layers as though I was in the Med. Then Joe came to join me. We were both lying there, imagining living here.

This is the roof terrace (OK, it's just a flat roof at the moment, but it will be a roof terrace once we've decking and plants out there).

And here it is looking into the house. That hole will be all glass with a door on the right.

Of course I'm going backwards here. Joe had been supplying me with photos all week. Here's the exciting bit arriving - the crane. And there's the scaffolding behind it, put up a couple of days before. I was incredibly disappointed to be missing the crane.

And missing the lorry arriving with the house on it.

Actually this was only half of the house. There was another lorry's worth. It was a giant numbered jigsaw puzzle. And guess what. One vital piece that should have been in the first load was in the second. Tricksiness before the build had even begun.

Behind the first lorry load was a carful of tourists. They'd spotted the house-bearing lorry, recognised what it was from too many viewings of Grand Designs, and come along to watch. Joe says they were practically having a picnic.

And here we go. Bits of the jigsaw up in the air.

There's the sitting room!

At this next stage I was beginning to think Joe was codding me. He'd just bought a child's house-making kit and was putting it together on the lawn outside the kitchen window. But look! There's a real man standing on the scaffolding. Those little boxes are the downstairs loo, a bedroom, the utility room and the pantry. They look too small to be real.

And then I came home from the parents last Thursday evening. I was supposed to be in Shannon by 6.30 but that's when the flight took off. It was delayed for an hour and a half, our intended plane having been struck by lightning on the tarmac in Bristol (not encouraging, not to be dwelt upon). Frustration. But never mind! It was still light enough to visit the site. All those photos hadn't prepared me for the shock of a three-dimensional house. So long looking at 2D plans, and here it was.

This is looking inside from the sitting room to the kitchen. The rooms no longer look improbably small.

This will be our bedroom. Nothing like fresh air for a good night's sleep.

But finally we have a roof, pitched as well as flat, and all that natty red stuff is a fireproof cavity barrier thingy.

Next is the outer block wall and slates on the roof. The views from upstairs are fabulous, and from downstairs nearly as fabulous. Hurray! It's all fabulous!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

New build photo record

Back from the boat, which we've left up in Leitrim for a week. Not much time as I have to go over to my parents today (hospital stuff), so here's the photos of the latest developments on the site.

Jan the digger man put down the radon barrier.

Jano the block man put the blocks on top.

And yesterday the men from Tuam in Co Galway erected the scaffolding.

This will more or less be the view from upstairs. We're going to have to get a telescope so we can see who's going up and down the lake.

The build starts on Monday. Should be well under way by the time I get back on Thursday.

In the meantime Joe is doing a mighty job of project managing.