Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Painting Windows in The Sun

Painting is one of the joys of life. It means that all the hard work of preparation has been done, and the easy but maximally transformative part is now at hand. Painting has its own rhythm: it cannot be rushed. The calm deliberation of the activity is intrinically meditative. I never understand why anyone would employ a painter. :-)

And what is better than painting bespoke artisan gothic sash-and-case windows for a Baronical castle in sunshine in the Scottish Highlands? Today was one of the rare days when landscape, task and weather come together to create memorable moments of great pleasure. Adherents of this blog will recall that castle restoration normally involves me rushing about in a state of hysteria in a howling gale. 

painting a window in today's sunshine
The window being under-coated in white in the picture is one of three matching windows that will give light onto the broad guest entrance stairs that lead into the great hall. Of course, being wooden and exposed to the elements for many decades the entrance stairs are no longer there, but the underlying brick slope still remains.

under-coated gothic sash-and-case window for guest entrance stairway
Once the windows are painted, the window openings can be-unboarded and the windows installed. Who knows, there be even be enough light to rebuild the staircase. :-)

Scaffolding The Kitchen

With the third turret restoration recently completed, a considerable amount of scaffolding has been freed-up. This is being put to immediate re-use inside the kitchen, so the walls and ceiling can be plastered and then painted.  The kitchen is such an enormous and tall room that scaffolding the entirety of the space is the only option when employing a plasterer. Plasterers like to do whole walls at a time and they can't wait for scaffolding to be moved about, and I wouldn't want to pay them for doing so either.
kitchen scaffolding: ground level view

When Andy and Gregor were insulating and plaster-boarding the walls and ceiling, they kept moving a small amount of scaffolding around - but they are jacks of all trades! :-) Clearly, it would have been more efficient to have set-up all the scaffolding at the start, but the turret was still being worked on at that time. As far as my memory serves, the restoration of the third turret started last summer - even just one turret at Balintore is a considerable restoration exercise.

Many thanks to Andrew (Andy fils) for moving and setting up the scaffolding in the kitchen. This is a heavy task and there is still some to do.

kitchen scaffolding: high level view

In fact I am having the ceiling of the kitchen "taped" rather than plastered. New build houses are no longer plastered. Instead, the joins between the sheets of plasterboard are taped-over with special tape. Then the screw holes and joins are hidden with filler. This is cheaper than plastering, and makes sense on the ceilings where the end result looks no different. Walls are another matter as these are subject to some wear - and of course plasterboards feels different to an old-fashioned plaster finish.

I will be doing the painting myself to save money, so I shall shortly be swinging Tarzan-like on these "adult" monkey bars. :-)

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Farewell to Rascal

There has been a bit of a delay in publishing this blog entry which I actually wrote 6 months ago. I was hoping to get hold of some better quality versions of some of the photographs. However, it felt timely to publish anyhow, and update the photos if necessary. Reading over what I wrote then, has made me cry again! This should give you some indication of how heartfelt the subject is.

It is with deep sadness that I have to let you know of the passing of Rascal, the delightful wee Jack Russell that has featured in this blog over the years. Before Christmas the vet suggested his time might be up, because at the age of 14 most things were giving up. However, on a diet of pure chicken (Rascal could no longer manage his solid dog food) and with great care and love from his family, he rallied a bit and there was still some quality of life. However, on the 2nd of February this year, after a last turn round his garden and a final meal of ham and roast beef, Rascal was put to sleep. 

Rascal in his element: Backwater Reservoir by Balintore Castle

Rascal at home: on a gold cushion in front of the fire
It is unbelievable how upset I am, and he is not even my dog. Rascal belongs to Carly, the daughter of my builder Andy. However, Rascal came to work every day with Andy at the castle, where he could experience the countryside and fresh air. In fact, Rascal became such a fitting, that I hope I am not too presumptuous in thinking of him as the "castle dog".

Rascal with Carly

Whenever I needed some fresh air myself or went on a walk with visitors, I would bring Rascal along. A dog enhances the pleasure of a walk many-fold, and I only wish I had had time to have done more of this. His energy levels were unbelievable, even after the longest walk when I was exhausted, Rascal would still be bounding along by my side. He was always as fit as a butcher's dog, and it is only really in the last couple of years that age caught up with him. His hearing went first, then other things including his sight, but he always managed to rouse himself for a walk almost to the end. It is sad and alarming how quickly dogs can age on a human timescale, and it shows that the castle restoration has taken half a dog's lifetime. 

Rascal with a young castle guest called Meghan
I first recall Rascal, when I guess he was 8 or so, sitting up on the scaffolding while Andy was slating the roof beside him. Rascal would occasionally look over the edge and give a little shiver, just like myself. :-) Rascal was a self-contained, independent dog. He was not a "rub my tummy" type. However, if you got his confidence and worked at it, you could still rub his tummy, He seemed to enjoy it, but there was always a bit of suspicion there.

He would guard Andy's car, parked in front of the castle, fiercely while he was sitting on the back seat.  It was all to easy to forget this because of the tinted windows, and if you passed too close, Rascal would throw himself against the glass snarling fiercely. It never failed to give one quite a turn! However, open the door and there would be much tail wagging instead.

On dog walks, he would do the normal thing of marking the territory. However, the "tank" tended to run out on the first 20% of the walk, and it would never cease to amuse me that the remaining 80% of the marking events were dry and ineffectual.

When Rascal disappeared from his garden last year, I was bereft. It turns out he must have got confused in his old age and instead of going back to his house along the country path in the dark, he had walked all the way to the main road and was standing in the middle of this. Thankfully, a passer-by retrieved him, and by the miracle of Facebook he was picked up from a police station very late that evening. The incident showed me how much Rascal had got under my skin.

Rascal had a wonderful life, thanks to Andy, Carly and family and I pass them my sympathy as well as gratitude, that they brought such a lovely dog into my own life. To say I loved Rascal to bits is a complete understatement. Andy knows how attached I was, and understood that I would want to see Rascal in his final resting place in his garden, with the many rosettes he won at the Scone Game Fare. When I went to say goodbye to Andy at the end of my last stay at Balintore, I had just said goodbye to Rascal for what pure instinct told me was the last time. I tried to then say some words of farewell to Andy, but nothing came out as I was so choked-up. 

Rascal in his final resting place at home
Thank you Rascal for being there as the "castle dog" for much of your life, and for bringing joy to us all.

Jack Russell figure marking where Rascal is buried