So after spending six months in Longhope on Hoy, it was time for another move. The holiday cottage was being sold to folk on the island. There was no rush for me to move out, but as I had just got a job in Kirkwall I was keen to move off the island. The commute of getting the ferry from Longhope at 7.15 am and not getting home till 7pm was way too reminiscent of my life south to be comfortable.
It was July (2001) and summer is not a particularly good time to be looking for rented accommodation for a few months in Orkney as it's the tourist season. Most folk with spare property will be doing holiday lets, while others will want longer term tenants. Anyway I was fortunate to find a property just outside Stromness, it even had a view of the house on Graemsay from a tiny window at the back! All my furniture from "south" had been transported over to Hoy, so now it was packed up again and brought over to Stromness. The property was rented furnished but there was a large room where I could store the all my possessions so that was good.
My commute to work now took me through some lovely countryside and along the coast, no traffic jams (no traffic lights!) - a far cry from much of my former commuting life. I also went along to some archaeology history classes to learn more about the land I now called home, and began making new friends and socialising a bit more.
Meanwhile the builders continued to work on the house. The deadline which they had set was December 2001. So we all worked towards that. The builders were confident they could be ready.... you know what's coming don't you..... I'd handed in my notice on the rented property......organised a removal firm (again), packed up (again).... then Arthur Ritch phoned from Graemsay. He'd been popping in to chat to the builders and see how things were going. He wasn't convinced they would have the house ready. But with nowhere else for me to go, the move had to go ahead....
So it was on a very wet windy day the removal firm, McAdie & Reeve, loaded two large containers and several pallets (thankfully wrapped in plastic) onto the deck of the MV Graemsay to take me home... I was rather alarmed to be sharing the voyage with my new bathroom which was also on the deck! An indication of things to come..... Arthur was at the pier with tractors and trailers to take everything up to the house. Two removal men had come over too. Everything was winched off the MV Graemsay onto the trailers and carried up to the house, in the same way that all the building materials for the house had arrived. Anything you want delivered to the island comes this way!
I went and opened the front door to be greeted by an array of builders, joiners and decorators.... not one room finished.... I threw a wee hissy fit.... I think I may have said some sweary words too ;-) Anyway within the hour a room was made ready and all the furniture and boxes could be piled in there by neighbours and the removal men.
Meanwhile the bathroom was being plumbed in and I was assured that the water would be running later that day so the heating could be put on. Um... did I mention this was December? The kitchen was nearly complete but had no sink, fortunately there was one in the utility room (read "porch"). The cooker worked so that was something.
The builders ensured that by the end of the day I had some heating, a toilet that worked, hot water and a bath that I could use as long as I didn't jump about in it (those were the words of the plumber!).
Poor Fitzi-cat was completely traumatised and hid under the duvet which was on the bed - the only bit of furniture to make it upstairs that day. Slowly over the next few days I got furniture arranged and unpacked. The kitchen and bathroom got finished and the decorating continued.
I was "home" at last. There was still a lot of work to be done on the extension, which we knew wouldn't be complete by December. That was fine as it was a separate part of the house. This was going to contain a couple of guest rooms with shower room, a workshop, and the conservatory. THIS was the bit that caused all the problems with Historic Scotland.
Stone masons had done a good job of matching the stone to raise the roof of what had once been byres, wash house and dairy.
And the underfloor heating was still to be completed in the extension too. Hot water run through pipes heated by an oil fired boiler (furnace).
The extension roof to be completed using Welsh slate from Penrhyn - not very good in terms of eco miles but I was pleased that part of my Welsh heritage was also part of my home!
And the exterior walls were to be "pick and pointed" - that meant that the harling (rendering) had to be taken off to reveal the stone underneath and then pointing placed between the stones. You can see in this photo that it's been partway completed.
It was painstaking work that took months to complete by skilled masons. But slowly I felt as if the house was beginning to breathe again...
Meanwhile...December... Christmas!! It was my first Christmas in the house. Fitzi-cat and I celebrated in style. J. was working away again (I think, anyway he couldn't get to Orkney for Christmas). We had snow AGAIN!
I was still living out of boxes, no carpets on the floors or curtains at the window, but finally I could feel at home. And the sitting room was finally without boxes!!
And on Hogmanay I had a party so folk on the island could have a chance to see the house and to echo the tradition that the last residents of the house had maintained - Hogmanay at Sandside.
The story to be continued..... with further challenges and with fun stuff about hens, and the house now.......