Raising the bedroom bar

Well the hole-blocking efforts of last week appear to have worked. This weekend I was not woken at silly o’clock by the frantic antics of a bird in the bedroom.

I was woken instead by glorious sunlight streaming into the house. With the large house party that invaded at Easter, I finally had to bite the bullet and move into the master bedroom suite upstairs, complete with the madly-mosaiced bathroom and 20ft walk-in dressing room. To die for – right? Of course. But….

Well personally I quite like being woken with the natural light, which is just as well because upstairs there’s no shortage of it. There may only be one very small window in the bedroom, but with the very open-plan, mezzanine-style layout, I have the advantage of light from the opening in the stairwell, the glass roof in the snug and the 17ft high window in the music room…

Of course, the minor problem is that in Scotland, by the time we get to the Summer solstice, it doesn’t really get properly dark that far North. And it is fully light again by about 3am. So I may not enjoy being woken with the light then!

But how do you fit curtains to a glass roof? And the music room window is proving equally problematic. Not because of its height, (any idiot can add a couple of extra metres to the bottom of a curtain), but because there is a gallery on one side of the window and a protruding brick plinth the other side – which are getting in the way of putting up a conventional curtain pole. It sort of defeats the object of having great big windows letting in lots of lovely light if you end up blocking most of it because you can’t open the curtains properly…

Well I’m handing that problem over to the resident expert curtain-maker, otherwise know as my Mum – I’m sure she’ll come up with a genius plan soon…

The other minor issue with finally moving my bed upstairs is the balustrade – or rather, the lack of one. I banned all visitors from the upstairs at Easter, as I didn’t really relish the idea of having to scrape anyone off the stone floor of the music room if they fell over the edge.

But I haven’t really given it any thought on my own account.

Admittedly to my knowledge I have never been prone to sleep-walking before. But you never know do you? With all the stress going on in my life right now I could well randomly decide to take a midnight wander without realising it….

So this weekend’s job is a Health & Safety one – get the balustrade put up in the bedroom.

It’s the same concept as the one I put up in the kitchen – pre-grooved oak and glass. Just screw the base rail to the floor, put up a couple of posts either end and attach the top rail. How hard can that be?

Well one or two minor differences to the one in the kitchen. To start with, unlike the kitchen balustrade which is only 1.5 metres, this beauty is over 4 metres wide. And secondly, where the opening in the kitchen is between two nice, normal, straight brick walls, the bedroom walls are stone – lumpy and solid. Not the easiest thing in the world to attach an oak post.

I was also initially concerned about attaching the base rail, since it sits across the top of a steel lintel and I had a few nightmares wondering whether I could get self-tapping screws that would drill through steel. But actually I’ve decided not to bother. The rail actually sits on a solid wood floor that in turn sits on a chipboard floor. 2 inch screws every 10 inches or so for a whole 4 metres – believe me, that rail ain’t going anywhere!

So next job is to fix the posts at either end.

Well here I should thank my architect for his trendy ideas for the vaulted roof, which means there’s a very convenient roof truss right at the point where the balustrade starts.

So on the assumption that the trusses are not going to move – because if they do it pretty much means my whole house is falling down – the top of the posts have been secured to the roof trusses. And the bottom of the posts can be fixed through aforementioned oak flooring and chipboard. And behind the plasterboard on one side of the balustrade is a fortuitously placed timber frame. So that just leaves one hole to be drilled into a granite stone wall then. Which is a bit lumpy, so to get the post to be properly vertical, I had to attack the wall with a hammer and chisel first!

In the end, drilling into the granite was actually the easy bit!

After that it was just a matter of making sure the top rail was level and that the grooves on the top were directly aligned to the grooves in the base rail.

Hmm. Well on that one, to be honest, I won’t know whether I’ve got it right until the glass arrives. But I live in hope. In the meantime, this should be enough to keep me safe should I ever decide to go sleepwalking…



There’s a bird in my bedroom!

Oh the joy of the Friday night commute. The plane was late as usual, and when we arrived we were parked on a remote stand because, according to the air steward, the airport wasn’t expecting us (Eh????). And then the lovely people at Edinburgh airport have decided, in their infinite wisdom, that buses picking up passengers from remote stands should drive round to the entrance that is the furthest possible distance from the arrivals hall…..

And then I got stuck behind a tractor. On the A93, at 11.30 at night. Wtf??

So when I finally crawled into my bed at well past midnight  I had no plans to get up at the crack of dawn in the morning.

Needless to say, I wasn’t best impressed when I was woken up at 6.30am by what sounded like an army marching through the loft. And then a bird flew out of the bathroom, through the bedroom and into the snug – where it proceeded to headbutt the glass roof, chirping madly. Finally deciding it couldn’t escape through the glass, it gave up and presumably flew down into the living room. There was an almighty bang, and then silence.

Well how’s that for an alarm clock? I contemplated just going back to sleep again, but since I was awake and the sun was streaming in every window, that seemed a bit pointless. So I got up. At half past six on a Saturday morning. There should be a law against it.

When I got downstairs, I discovered what the ‘bang’ had been. Mr Chirpy had seen the daylight through the large windows in the living room and had made his bid for freedom. Full pelt into the glass. I’m not sure whether he died of shock or a broken neck….


Well that’s a nice thing to have to deal with before breakfast! I disposed of him outside and went back in for a cup of tea.

Since there weren’t any open windows or doors, he must have got into the loft and found a way into the house from there. Well at least that decided on the job for the day – time to seal up any bird-sized holes in the building.

There were two obvious places he could have got in:

Where I installed the flue for the woodburner, there is a gaping great hole at the point the flue goes into the loft.


It’s been on my to-do list for a while; it kind of defeats the object of lighting the stove to get all cosy and warm if you’re sitting under an arctic draft coming in from the loft. And clearly it’s an invitation to any wildlife that takes up residence in the loft to come in and explore.

It’s not actually that hard to fix. The lovely chaps at Stovefitter’s Warehouse do make a finishing plate that fits around the flue and just screws into the wall. A tricky little bit of ladder work, and some fire-rated expanding foam, and job’s done…

It’s a bit of a shame that the foam is fluorescent pink, but hey, nothing that a black marker pen won’t hide….



Option two for unwanted bird intrusions is through a hole into the loft just above the bath upstairs.


It’s been there forever – one of those fiddly little finishing off jobs that I have done my best to ignore. But since it appears to be another entrance for birds in the house, I need to get it sorted. Again it’s not a difficult fix; a couple of bits of wood wedged into place and a small piece of plasterboard. Job done!

So that should see end to birds in the house…

Well at least until 6.30 on Sunday morning, when I was once again woken by a bird bashing itself silly against the glass roof, chirping loudly and leaving its obvious signs of panic on the floor. Clearly the non-return of Mr Chirpy the previous day had caused concern amongst his relatives and a search party had been sent out. But since I thought I’d blocked up all the holes, I had no idea how it had got into the house.

Not succeeding in getting through the glass roof, this one followed Mr Chirpy and flew straight at the living room windows. Fortunately it didn’t manage to kill itself; when I got downstairs it was fluttering feebly on the floor and looking rather stunned.

I let it out the back door, where it flew up to the roof of the pump house and sat there glaring balefully at me like it was all my fault. Really??? How do birds manage to migrate half way round the planet and back again, when they can’t even find their way out of my loft and back?

This time I did go back bed, with a cup of tea and a good book. 6.30 in the morning on a Sunday shouldn’t exist for anyone.

But 10 minutes later there was a mad fluttering, tweeting and cheeping in the corner of the music room and a bird dropped out of the ceiling and fell to the floor.

I’m now starting to feel like I’m in a Hitchcock film. I think this might have been the same bird I’d just released, come back for a second look and got lost again. They really are stupid creatures. But at least I’ve discovered the secret entrance.

When we came up at Christmas to a broken down heatpump and a freezing cold house, I cut up an old duvet and went round the house on a mission to block any unwanted draughts. Including the Siberian Bora wind that was blowing down from above the music room window. This, it seems, is where the birds have found an entrance to the house. I suspect they’ve been nicking bits of duvet for nesting material and have created a hole.

So today’s job is to find a more permanent solution than half an old duvet shoved up with a broom….


Whilst it is mostly hidden by the overhang from the roof, anything I put up there will be visible against the glass. So I need to find a solution that looks vaguely decent from the outside.

My cunning plan is a long strip of varnished wood, attached to battens so I can screw it into the window frame, stuff it full of insulation to keep out the draughts and fix a piece of plasterboard to the bottom.

That should put an end to those unwanted early morning wake up calls.









Snug as a bug in an insulated rug…

It was a fantastic weekend with a house full of people at Easter, when I briefly, but happily, deluded myself that life at the barn was all about relaxing by the fire and consuming G&T.

But now it’s back to reality with a bit of a bump! As I think I said at the end of the last blog, there’s still a very long list of things that need finishing, so tempting as it was to have a nice long lie-in on Saturday morning, unfortunately the overalls were waiting and there was work to be done.


There’s nothing delusional about 15 rolls of insulation that need to be put into the loft. Bought a while ago, I wanted to get them laid before the Invaders arrived, but that was yet another one of those jobs that I was a bit too optimistic about.

Actually there was a bit of intentional procrastination going on as well. I hate insulation – it’s nasty stuff to work with; no matter how carefully you try to cut it, it gets everywhere. I’m probably not sufficiently ‘Health & Safety’ conscious as a rule when working on the house (as any picture of me up a ladder will demonstrate!)

But think about it – this stuff is a supposed to be an eco-friendly sort, made out of recycled glass bottles. I’ve never figured out how you make ‘wool’ out of glass bottles, but does it mean that all the little particles that fly around are actually bits of glass? Who knows – but I don’t think I’ll take any chances. So it’s full battle armour – overalls, gloves, boots, face mask.

Of course, this had to be one of those rare weekends in a Scottish spring, when the sun appears and the temperature almost reaches double digits… A weekend when any self-respecting Scot dons shorts and T-shirt gets outside to enjoy a bit of fresh air.

A perfect weekend to get suited up like you’re part of a bio-hazard squat team, I don’t think.

The first problem I encountered was getting access to the loft. A few months ago, when Bodgit and Fudgit had such a disastrous week up at the barn, they not only managed build a gutter that required water to flow uphill, but they were using my ladder when they did so. By the time I got it back, it could have taken pride of place in a modern art gallery under the title ‘Abstract: Ladder killed by Concrete’.

It was taken away to be jet washed, but was apparently so bad they couldn’t get it clean. Instead they replaced it with a new one – which was a little bit bigger and a little bit longer than the old one……

……So it doesn’t actually fit straight up into the loft hatch. The only way I could get it to work was by leaning it against the side wall of the roof light and taking a bit of a leap of faith into the loft!


OK. That minor detail sorted, it should all be relatively simple from now on. Just measure width between the rafters, cut insulation, roll it out, job done.


Well the cut insulation bit is easy enough. One thing I have learnt is that if you saw it while still wrapped it creates a lot less dust, is easier to cut, and easier to manhandle afterwards.


But after that it all goes downhill.

My loft is a plastic pipework graveyard. Every conceivable length and diameter of plumbers pipe has been left up here to die. All those trips I kept making to B&Q to buy ‘a short length of pipe I need to plumb in ……’ – all totally unnecessary as I appear to have a complete stock of everything in my roofspace!

And then of course there’s all of the miles of ‘live’ pipes and cables that I clearly need to avoid cutting, piercing, breaking, moving…..

So, just cut a piece of insulation and roll it into place…… I think not.

Cut a piece of insulation, manhandle, manipulate, (swear a bit), coerce, and occasionally brute force shove it into place is a bit more like it! All while roasting in full body armour in an attic space that’s got a bit of sun on it.

As with all good project management, I appear to have over ordered on the materials, and underestimated the amount of time it would take!

But now my roof is as snug as that proverbial bug – bring on the snow…



And relax………

Or maybe not. Apologies to all those of you expecting a blog last Sunday. I meant to write and post it before the Invaders arrived, but I was still running round like a lunatic trying to get things finished.

Including a bit of last minute putting up of curtain poles, (when I realised that anyone standing in the kitchen could see straight through into my bedroom)

Followed by some frantic cleaning up after the builders who had been in.

But hey – there’s nothing like a deadline for getting things done. And I have to say, the barn has never looked to good, nor has so much ever been achieved in such a short space of time as I’ve managed to get finished in the last 6 weeks.

Scotland did its best to entertain on the weather front – providing rain, snow, sleet, gale force winds, glorious sunshine and hail all in the space of one weekend!

We drove all the way up to Speyside for a nature watch at dusk. But it was not a pleasant drive home 3 hours in the dark, in a blizzard on some narrow country roads.

(I can’t take credit for the photo of the pine marten – my niece is clearly a better photographer than I am!).

Fortunately there were enough patches of dry weather to allow us to get out for an Easter egg hunt in the forest and a few long walks up the hill.

Not to mention the chance for a bit of Robin Hood practice:

Sadly I didn’t get to join in with the archery party. The piano man decided that Easter Monday was a good time to come back and finish the job he’d started the week before. Since it required dismantling practically every part of the piano, and it’s probably been about 10 years since it was last tuned, it took him a while to finish. But it certainly sounds a lot better now it’s done!


All in all I’d like to think quite a successful first ‘house-party’. It was really lovely to have my guests to stay, and I think it’s fair to say that the barn has been initiated into accepting visitors – the heating survived, the hot water appeared to cope with the demands of seven people, and the log burner was well and truly broken in!

And whilst I didn’t have a fully functioning kitchen, the Aga and fridge seemed to cope with the food and alcohol requirements!


But for anyone who’s worried that this might be the end of the blog – fear not. Whilst the invaders from the South might have spurred me on to make more progress in 6 weeks than I’ve managed in the last year, there was a whole lot of things that I didn’t quite get finished: The kitchen was just the Aga and the fridge – so although I could provide ice on demand for the G&T, we still had to go up into the freezing cold cottage for washing up.

And I didn’t quite get the balustrades finished – so upstairs was banned for everyone except me.


And then there’s the cottage – which I’ve sort of turned into a bit of a building site…


And although the new conservatory is looking great from the outside, the same can’t be said about the inside….

And at some point I really need to do something to clear out the boiler room… and the garage

The list of ‘finishing’ still seems endless. And of course, even when (if) the house is ever completed, there’s a couple of acres outside that need a bit of work……


Hey-ho! I think I might be writing for a while yet…..