Monday, April 07, 2008


The ferry, providing a lifeline service, plies its trade between the Outer Hebrides and the mainland of Northern Scotland. The journey takes two and three quarter hours each way.It leaves Stornoway twice daily throughout the year, with a third journey at lunchtime on some days during the Summer months. There are no sailings on Sundays, because of Sabbath observance, but that may change in the near future It's a comfortable boat, with a restaurant, bar and places for the kids to play. The ferry is capable of carrying up to 970 passengers and 123 cars, but would only carry those numbers during peak tourist months.

I had planned to put up a photo this week of a whale( Deceased) which was washed up on the shore at Balantruseil here on the West Coast of Lewis, a couple of weeks ago. The creature is apparently a Cuvier's Beaked Whale and is about five metres long. I heard about it a few days ago and went to look for myself yesterday. It's got a curiously shaped snout and is sometimes also called Goose Beak Whale . When I got there, although it was very recognisable as a whale, the gulls had set about it and stripped off much of the outer layers. I did take some photos, but after giving it a great deal of careful thought, have decided that it was too decomposed and gruesome to justify assaulting your senses with. Anybody who really, really wants to see it can contact me and I'll forward prints in a plain brown paper envelope - post and packing extra.

Exciting times at the house. The builder moved out yesterday and I'm moving back in this weekend. I shall be camping in one room until the decorating is done and that will probably take several months because I can't really take time off work to do it just now. It will have to be done in the evenings and weekends.
The heating, water and lighting are working well, the bathroom is in and looking smart, but there are still a number of jobs that will need to be done over the next few weeks. The Building Inspector won't issue me with a completion certificate until the builder has put some more ventilation panels in and the cooker and hob are not working yet because the plumber with the right qualifications can't come to fit the Calor Gas hob for another couple of weeks. Sandwiches and microwaved pasta until then for me I'm afraid. The wood burning stove will also be a few weeks before it's working, because the right parts to fit it in the chimney have to be sourced from the mainland.
This renovation has driven me nearly mad at times and I've had to draw on reserves of patience, particularly with tradesmen, that I never knew I had. At least the end is in sight now.

I've learnt a number of lessons whilst having this house rebuilt and thought you might like to receive the benefit of my newly acquired wisdom in case you ever want to renovate a house here.

1) Itemise every piece of work you want doing and get your builder to give you a detailed fixed quote. Through naivete and lack of knowledge, I missed out loads of essential works in my original job specification to the builder and consequently, my costs have over run by about 25%. I can just about fund this, but If I had not anticipated extra costs in recent weeks, the result could have been financially disastrous.

2) Always assume your builder will charge you more than his estimate. He will. Have a contingency for this.

3) For goodness sake, go to see the Building Inspector before you seek estimates from builders and certainly before you start any work. I failed to do either through unfamiliarity with the system here. This put me on an immediate wrong footing with the Inspector, who assumed I was being cavalier in my approach to the job. I've had to back peddle and grovel to get him back on side. He has been invaluable in pointing out work that needed to be done to comply with current building regulations - but all that extra work has cost loadsa money.

4) Don't assume your builder will always do work to building regulation standards automatically, without being told. Mine hasn't, even though he has been in business locally for over twenty years. This has been a real hassle to sort out later with the building inspector.

5) Assume the work will take twice as long as the builder estimates. It will and mine has.

6) Check all the fittings and materials yourself as soon as they arrive at the house. That should prevent the workmen from being able to deny damage they have caused. This is crucial and failing to do this has cost me dearly.

7) If at all possible, move all of your property out of the house before the work starts. The workmen simply will not consider your possessions to be as precious as you do.

8) If you have the skills and the time, do the job yourself.

9) If, like me, you have agreed with the builder that he will organise the plumber and electrician, question him carefully to ensure that he is able to ensure that they turn up sober, on time and when you need them. Unreliable tradesman have been my biggest source of stress during this renovation.

No comments: