Weather: There’s no disputing it has been cold and wet, so we were grateful and lucky to have had a small let up in the weather for this week. On Saturday May 29th we did get the Dreich!
May 16th The week before our friends arrive. In order to install the windows in the gable end of the Croft house, we busied ourselves in some intense, behind the scenes, preparation for this BIG event. We needed to make provision for 3 extra beds, organising some necessary catering facilities and making sure there were building materials and tools for the jobs at hand.
Meanwhile Andrew Kemp (Author and Publisher) rode up on his Suzuki from London to Newcastle to meet with Alan and son. Alan Wilson (Publisher, designer and all round creative force) and his son Joseph (software system updater/regulator) were set to drive up to us on Sunday May 23rd.
The party of 3 drove up to us, in a borrowed VW Golf from Newcastle. Alans’s van had (two days before their departure) developed an electrical problem so Derek the painter (and decorator) had saved the day and loaned the Golf as well as some power tools, for the adventure. Thank you, Derek. The journey to the Uist’s is always a major undertaking and often a kind of personal pilgrimage.
Back on the Croft, we had managed the final preparations in organising the Croft house, making it comfortable and welcoming for our guests. We even set a beautiful candle arrangement upstairs, in the newly decorated attic room. We waited eagerly for the arrival of the men.
The gang arrived at the Croft at 9pm – everyone was pleased, tired and excited to arrive. Alan, who has been main man on our Croft project, immediately inspected our building work– which was very lucky as our atmospheric candle installation, in the attic room, had caught fire and if it had not been for Alan looking upstairs, we would have had a devastating fire on our hands!
Alan, who is a positive force, thought this was actually a lucky omen and exclaimed in his fine Geordie accent
– “Howay man! now that has gan wrong the window installation will be a belta.”
Somehow this was reassuring, as the task ahead was daunting and is a noteworthy achievement.
After extinguishing the fire, we eventually managed to sit down to wine, homemade nettle soup and lentil and roast carrot salad. The much anticipated, week’s building programme was now officially underway.
On the Monday (May 24th) 8am – We were joined by Andy and Effie our brilliant next door neighbours. Effie came with a box of Scottish pancakes and was set to help (Nicola), for the week with the food and catering preparations – an essential and well received service.
Andy Rodgers – Crofter and retired Police Officer, had come to join the team of workers. The core crew was now complete!
Gaffer: Alan Wilson
1st Assistant Gaffer: Andrew Kemp
The Set, PA: John Kippin
The Operator (hammer): Andy Rodgers
1st Runner: Joseph Wilson
KITCHEN and WARDROBE DEPARMENT
Nicola Neate and Effie Rodgers
VISITING ASSISTANCE TEAM
Keith Dawson and Fran Cook
Bess the dog
As mentioned in a previous blog entry (The Croft), we had managed to source some large pieces of architectural strength glass, which had been rejected from a building project elsewhere (Thank you Anna and Frank). Alan our foreman and project Gaffer elect, had devised a plan to fit 3 of the larger pieces of glass windows to the end gable wall of our Croft house – which overlooks Loch Blashaval. Alan developed an ingenious design and system to install the glass windows, using framing and cladding.
Between us, throughout the week we all worked on various aspects of the project which included all building works, heavy lifting, banging and knocking down and rebuilding walls, preparing accommodation, meals, bonfires and daily trips to the Co-Op for provisions and lubrication.
The first task was to take the gable-end wall down. Alan outlined the back of the house wall (to be removed) and then with a stihl saw, cut through the inner and outer walls of the house. The work was dirty and hard – cutting through cement blocks and render on the gable-end was difficult. Andy Rodgers brought his 16lb Mell Hammer and whacked and whacked. It took 2 days to demolish the majority of the gable end, much of it due to Andy’s massive ‘taps and adjustments’… 50 -70 is now the new 30!
Wooden frames for the windows and their surrounds needed to be made. Andrew Kemp has precision joinery skills and these were put to use here. Andrew made strong wooden frames for the windows to fit snugly, his work was excellent. All the windows fitted perfectly.
Day 3 and 4 (Wednesday and Thursday) -The two side windows were fitted into the gable-end … without too much problem.
Wednesday May 26th,
On a trip to the CO-OP with Joseph, two Golden Eagles flew right in front of the car, what a treat! The weather was (luckily) becoming more promising and we were able to have a wee barbecue and bonfire in the garden that evening.
Thursday May 27th
This afternoon was the day of the large glass installation. Keith joined the group for the (most non-Duchampian) experience. In some miraculous way – using ropes, positive vibes, a complete belief (which was difficult to summon up!) that this was doable – the massive, incredibly heavy architectural glass window (4 x 110 x 265cm) was moved from round the side of the Croft house, to the gable end, and then positioned it into place in the wall of the building.
Looking out, every day at our beautiful view, we still wonder at how we all managed this fete, what and amazing and unforgettable event. We are so grateful to all our many helpers!
Friday May 28th
A celebration evening, another bonfire, this time with fish and chips from Hamersay House – which were delicious and crispy. We were joined, for this gathering by Keith and Fran and Rosie and Raphael. Effie made her amazing cheesecake – which is always a treat. Everyone was very relieved and pleased at what had been accomplished.
It was a great week with much amazing food and lots to drink (not all of it alcoholic).
Between us we managed to put the windows in and complete 90% of the external cladding (we ran short of some materials, and will be finishing the job ASAP).
Sunday May 30th our visitors were due and ready to depart. Everybody concerned was exhausted. The next visit we hope will be to stay and spend a more relaxing time going for some beach walks. For ourselves, it took a week or so to recover and regain some sort of order within our daily routines, with the added benefit now of the most spectacular view over Loch Blashaval.
When making coffee in the morning we can see herons flying by and 3 families of geese with their goslings have taken up residence on the water’s edge. At all times now the outside has become part of our inside experience. Our vision for the Croft house has finally started to become an actuality. The COVID restrictions and isolation we believe, have benefitted our motivation – to push on with, what seemed like endless days of wall papering, sawdust and demolition work. The building work is not finished, but we are now able to live in comfort (hot water and heating included), with a view to boot!
Throughout the week of window installation, Alice cat stayed in the bedroom caravan with us. We lent the house out to the crew for building and socialising purposes. All together this was a fun, hard and successful undertaking. We feel blessed.
 We set up a narrow corridor kitchen and hoped there would be enough space to make food and tea/coffee.
John: Andrew Kemp also played bass in our band from the 70’s ‘The Shad Thames Showband’ (There is no band like the Shad Thames Showband!)
 Alan and Andrew began every day at 7.30am, rain or shine and regardless of exhaustion or any possible hangovers.
 Nicola: Effie and I had discussed the catering arrangements the week before, both of us had prepared several dishes that we put in the freezer. The kitchen area was going to be restricted during the building work.
 Glass measurements: 2 (side panels) windows – 110 x 130cm, 1 (centrepiece) window – 110 x 265cm
 A stihl saw is a heavy saw for cutting through bricks
 Keith Dawson, always so lovely and happy to lend a hand, came along to help with our window installation – a brave man indeed!