I drove the 300 km from my friends' in Norfolk to my place in Oxfordshire ..... only my new lodgers had locked me out of my own house. :-( The door had been locked from the inside so my key wouldn't work. However, no amount of knocking on doors or windows could summon anyone from inside. After 20 minutes of this, I tried to phone the landline number to see if I could rouse anyone in this way. However, my mobile had locked up and there was no light to see how to sort it - the interior light of my new pick-up truck is presumably blown. Anyhow, I knocked on my neighbour's door: I like to draw them into my farces. :-) I used the light in their hall to sort out my mobile and phone - after 5 minutes of ringing my front door was opened. Phew !!!!!
What had happened was that I had told my lodger that I would be arriving, but he did not communicate this to the girlfriend.
After seeing my dentist in the area (the final check up of the dental repairs carried out after I was mugged last year and repeatedly punched in the face), I was able to drive off to the castle in Scotland.
After 700km of driving, I arrived at 3AM in the morning at Balintore Castle. Only I could not get in. My builder had left a heavy duty padlock in place - and he has the only key. I had emailed when I would be arriving, but it transpired that removing the padlock had simply slipped his mind.
After 30 minutes of going round the building checking for openings, and after some climbing I managed to break in through a sash window. When I was half-way through, the sash slid down on top of my hips and held me fast - I was stuck! And yes, I did scream like a girl. No help arrived, but by wiggling and lifting the sash with hands behind my back I got free. The only problem was that I was now in a room locked from the outside. To get to my bed - I was now desperately tired after 11 hours of driving - I tried to break the locked door down. However, nothing I could do would make it budge. I tried flying kung-fu kicks; running forwards into the door full force and running backwards into the door fill force. Backwards is better, as bottoms absorb shocks better! Anyhow, after 30 minutes I eventually bent the catch enough to get a narrow implement through the gap at the edge of the door to try to hook the bolt out. Knives did not do it - finally I used the round handle end of a metal kebab stick as a hook to pull out the bolt. It took about 10 goes even then.
So around 4 AM in the morning I collapsed in bed totally shattered. The next day I had arranged to pick up an antique oak fireplace in the morning. However, because there was no sensible way to enter the castle, I was unable to unload my laiden truck. Fortunately, my builder came to my assistance - much appreciated on a Sunday morning. He unlocked the padlock and then we could unload the truck. My friends from Dundee came round to help me collect the oak fireplace, and we got to the antique warehouse just in time. Ironically, one of the things I was unloading from the truck was another fireplace bought over 10 years ago, just in case I ever bought a castle later in life! :-)
I breathed a huge sigh of relief over lunch on Sunday - getting home had been quite a trauma. My friends had considerately brought over a casserole - much appreciated as I had had no time to shop.
It has been deeply unsettling psychologically that I was unable to get in to either of my two houses through no fault of my own. It took several days to make up for the lost sleep.
Anyhow, it is superb to be back at the castle and trying to make a difference - even if this is only working as my builder's assistant, and sourcing materials to keep things moving.
The current little project is flooring and insulating the loft space at the top of the entrance tower. This tower is being plumbed-in, and insulating the loft space where the tanks are held should help prevent burst pipes - last winter the temperature went down to -15C and the kitchen plumbing simply did not survive. So the idea is to also squeeze a small extra bedroom/study into this loft space as a refuge from the cold weather. The room is sufficiently small to need very little heating and we are insulating this to within an inch of its life - see the photos taken today of the work in progress. Of course, it makes sense to insulate to the max for the building as a whole. We are placing rock-wool insulation behind solid insulation. The rock-wool was obtained with an amazing £1-a -roll government-sponsored scheme from NPower. For once I seem to have grabbed the moment, as this has now gone up to £3 a roll.
Needless-to-say, when I arrived back at the castle the telephone and the InterNet were not working, The BT engineer finally came out on the third day. He had to replace a section of line due to shotgun damage. I'm not pointing any fingers, but I am surrounded by a shooting estate. :-) The day after the InterNet came up, my lap-top went down. :-( This was collected today, via a return to base HP warranty, by UPS. Fingers crossed this is repaired soon, as I am improvising this blog on an ageing desktop!
IT support seems to be such a full-time job here, that it's a wonder any castle restoration gets done!
|north pitch of entrance tower roof - insulation almost finished|
|south pitch of entrance tower roof - insulation in progress|