Friday, 15 April 2011

Day One

How to begin a blog?

My approach is to take myself by surprise, so I am not daunted by the responsibility of setting any kind of standard. The motto is "just do it".

So this first entry in my blog to describe the ongoing restoration of Balintore Castle (1860) will be deliberately low key and short.

To take on the restoration of a large Grade A listed building as a individual of particularly modest means is on the face of it insane. However, you might be surprised to learn, that it is one of the most calculated things I have ever done. I could write pages on my motivations, and probably shall in later entries, suffice it to say that the restoration is pretty much the key to my "lock" of what I think is important in life. You may think that once the reality of such a project hits (the two years spent in a miniscule caravan was little fun) that I would be demoralised or flee! And others have indeed flown, and indeed many have doubted and criticised.

But for reasons unknown, my commitment and enthusiasm remain.

I have made so many good friends during this project, and indeed many as a direct result of being at the castle, that this blog is primarily for them and all other "Balintore friends" around the world who take an interest.

Ms. Balintore acts as a social introduction agency, and she also instantly assesses their character for me. I can now tell from how someone looks at the building whether they appreciate the beauty of the architecture or are casing the joint. :-) Their character is shaken out by their response.

I have just returned to the castle after a year in London earning restoration funds, and for the six months of "summer" of 2011, I have become a gentleman of leisure to help my stalwart roofer Andy push forward with progress. I feel privileged that I am able to take time off work. I know every moment that I am able to work on the building has been hard fought for, and I must not waste it.

So what happened today?

I blew the fuse on the water immersion heater (electrics are a work in progress) but worked around this so I was able to take my  first bath at the castle - ever! Before, I used the showers at work in Dundee - but the company is no more. The bath is set-up temporarily under a window in the kitchen. I placed a cardboard box in the hallway with the words "DAVID IN BATH" so Andy would not enter inadvertently and get more than the cup of tea he bargained for. Be warned hill walkers - do not look in castle windows!

I picked up a washing machine in Dundee (laundry facilities are a work in progress).
In consequence, clean towels are an unattained luxury, so the towel I used to dry
myself after the bath seemed to have been used by someone as an oily rag. I used the other side.

In the absence of clean clothes, I had to buy some emergency pants yesterday - these set off the beeper as I left Tesco's - I did not notice the security tag.
So I waited outside to be defused/arrested but no staff came. However, today
the tag proved to be a real handicap. It dug into my lower lumber region and buttocks
rather painfully while driving. I beeped entering and exiting Asda's. I have become
an object of ridicule. Andy noted my new shop-lifting career and the lovely lady
at Customer Services in Asda (I was charged £2 for the £1 packet of fuses to fix
the immersion heater) pointed out in the most well-intentioned way - the fact of my newly sprouted tail-like appendage.

Can I just smash it with a hammer? Not sure I can find the pants receipt.

Andy finished the flooring in the small room at the top of the great tower today - hurrah!
This is five stories high - so getting things up to the top is a major performance.
Andy and I passed things hand to hand up the tower. One of these items was
a huge sheet of wood. I took hold. Andy instructed "Just lift it through".

I had reached my strength limit, there was no way I could lift the wood and just
managed to reply "There's only two things I can do Andy, one is hold it here, the other
is drop it down five stories, you'll have to come to the top of the tower and lift
it out of my hands". Andy, as ever, came to my rescue.

I paid the first lot of money to purchase the reclaimed hardwood floor of the now demolished Eassie Village Hall (1925). This was a lucky find in a reclaim yard in Dundee - I just turned up at the right time and did my best to alert the staff to the other items I desperately need - chief amongst these is reclaimed HUGE timber beams. These are simply not used in construction nowadays, and getting these new is very expensive.

I called in at five plumbing shops in Dundee and failed to locate any quarter round guttering. It seems to be a "fabled" item and no-one had heard of it. I could not help myself from responding in an uber-geek way "But it must exist, I have found it on the Internet". Getting the "right" look for a Grade-A building can tax the ingenuity. I understand, from my intimates, that I have become the most interminable bore on drainage hoppers. And before I bore you, that seems an apt place to finish.

Oh yes, I emailed a seller on eBay that their "mediaeval oak fireplace" should be re-titled as "provincial gothic revival oak fireplace". Have you worked out that I am a bit naughty? But then I did compliment him on the diminishing quadrefoil detailing of his corbels.

To donate to the Balintore restoration project click here.


  1. Brilliant! It will be awesome to read about the daily life in Balintore. Please do write even if it is only a few lines of what you have been busy with in the last couple of days. I am always excited to hear about balintore.

    Good luck! :)

    And hopefully see you at the bonfire party.

  2. Regarding your guttering problems you may find this helpful (and no, I don't work for them !)

  3. David! Just discovered your Blog and am already enthralled. Your castle is truly a sleeping beauty! The details are wonderful and there is such character to the place. It sounds odd but there's a homely feel to it. I'm about to spend the rest of this rainy evening in Surrey with a glass of sherry and the rest of your posts...

    1. Hi Simon, delighted you have been enjoying the blog - one aims to please. I have many more blog entries up my sleeve, but with castle business shouting for attending it's very hard to find the time. Perhaps you should swap the sherry in Surrey for a whisky in the castle library at some stage - you would be very welcome. :-)