Frogs and mushrooms…

One of the last jobs my builder completed before we went our separate ways was to fit the windows – all thirty of them – including 6 sets of French windows, a 17ft high wall of glazing in the music room and a glass roof over the snug above the fireplace. (The barn as I bought it was unusual in the number of openings it had, allowing me to incorporate masses of glass without upsetting the planning committee too much).

Relations with the builder by now were not great. The disaster with the foundations could be put down to inexperience (if I’m being polite – blatant incompetence if I’m not) but his apparent inability to comprehend the very simple concept that water will not flow uphill in the valley of the roof was beginning to worry me.

Unfortunately at this point the windows had already been ordered so it seemed easiest just to let him put them in before I let him go. After all, a window’s a window right. He must have put plenty of them in before – what could possibly go wrong? Well, call it minor detail if you like, but I did have to point out that that he’d put the windows in the glass roof in upside down (it was the little sticker I saw on the outside of the glass that gave it away- it read “this side of the glass should be on the inside of the building”…. ) And I do have one small window that will never open more than 2 inches because it was put in too close to the stone wall… But hey, easy mistakes to make, right?!

A couple too many for me; we parted company at that point!

Still, I had windows and they made a huge difference to the feel of the building. It suddenly felt like a place that might one day be habitable. Admittedly that was back in 2006, so there were still a fair few years to go. But it was at least a hint of things to come…

At this point on ‘that’ telly programme, you usually see people break open the champagne, or at least do a bit of a celebratory dance or some thing. Got windows = the building is wind and watertight. Big milestone in the project.

I wish! One of the problems with being a hands on builder on a project in Scotland while living and working in Germany is how long it was taking me to get the roof slated. Given the size and complexity of it, even if I had been there full time it would have taken a few weeks. As it was, with just the weekends available, it took me almost a year. The Scottish summer lasts about 3 days. The rest of the year it is wind, rain, snow or hail, and frequently all at once.
Well maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but that’s what it felt like. I was up on that roof in all weathers!

So although the windows were in, the building was still exposed to the elements through the roof. Every time it rained my barn turned into a giant indoor swimming pool.

I tried everything I could to keep it dry. But the tarpaulins I put up to try to protect the building just got blown away in gale force winds. I bought a dehumidifier. I diligently swept all the water out every weekend. To no avail – might as well try and bail out the Titanic with a wineglass.

I had a family of frogs move into the library. They looked like they were having so much fun splashing around, I didn’t have the heart to evict them. I discovered mushrooms growing in the walls upstairs in the bedroom. (how’s that for rising damp?) There was so much damp in the building, the dehumidifier drowned. At that point I realised I was fighting a losing battle.

So I gave up trying to keep the place dry, waded through my living room in my wellies, and just accepted that when I did eventually finish slating the roof, it was going to take the building a very very long time to dry out. Well at least the frogs were happy…

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