TV or Not TV? Part 3…

TV or Not TV? Part 3…

When I last blogged about the saga of our TV journey, it was early January and Mauro, from T-Com had been out and had given us a glimmer of hope that we could, one day, have fixed line internet. Meaning we could one day, at some point in the future, have TV like we used have back in West Didsbury. You know, the normal kind. For most of January, we muddled through with the fix we’d come up with, via a Manchester based company, where we were able to get UK TV via the laptop. It was a hassle and definitely not a long term solution, but we were pretty happy in the short term as at least I could my fix of Question Time 😉

And then, last week, out of the blue, Mauro returned. We’re still not entirely sure what he actually did, but it did involve climbing The Pole and we think it also involved “The Box” in the village. The one where all of the internet cables are and which we have previously told, “was full” – turns out, though, as we’ve long suspected, it wasn’t that full, as through some means, he finally managed to get us connected! Yep, after nearly 20 months of to-ing & fro-ing with T-Com, having to work with 4G internet (which was affected by weather conditions and dropped after a certain amount of usage, so definitely not ideal), we had FIXED LINE INTERNET! And, not only that, it’s unlimited! Hallelujah!

This meant we could, at long last, sort out the TV issue, and so back to the google searches to work out what the best solution would be for us. Excellent reviews were coming up for one box in particular – see here if you’re in a similar situation – and an order was placed on Friday 8th February. We assumed that as with everything here, it would take an age to arrive so didn’t get our hopes too high for a swift delivery. BUT, guess what arrived yesterday morning (Wednesday 13th February)? Only our new set top box! No bigger than the new i-phone, we couldn’t believe that this would deliver what we wanted – but with just a couple of cables to plug in, we were ready to go!

New set top box - and four solid lights on our new router. Success all round!

New set top box – and four solid lights on our new router. Success all round!

More 4! It's only More 4 :)

More 4! It’s only More 4 🙂

So, there we have it! Twenty two months since we set off on the journey to get fixed line internet to our house, and we are finally there. Maybe not quite as quickly as things happen back in the UK, but we don’t care now. The frustrating waiting is over and we are connected – and after nearly two years of Italian and Croatian TV, it feels so good 🙂

 

Lighting Up The Well Room

Lighting Up The Well Room

If there’s one thing that is consistent about The Well Room is that it is constantly in a state of renovation. Even when it *seems* as if it’s a room again, just off shot, is reno chaos…

To the right of this shot, is chaos...

To the right of this shot, is chaos…

The problem with this room has a lot to do with what we now call it – The Well Room. When we bought the house (and for a good few months), we had an internal stone well, slap bang in the middle of this room, with a deep, deep chamber where the rain water collected. It had been a working well, but as the house is connected to mains water, the function of it became pretty redundant. Nearly a year ago, the actual overground stone well was relocated to outside the front door and the chamber drained. A reinforced glass well cover has been on order for, forever. But we are in Croatia, so this is perfectly normal. Other parts of the house take precedence too, as need arises and so we never, ever seem to complete this room.

The other issue is that the front door opens straight into it, and so as work is being done around the house, this is the “messy room”. The one that always has the dirty floor when it rains – the floor is still the original stone so we don’t mind this too much at the moment, but it doesn’t lend itself to being overly comfy. Or warm. The window surrounds and cills need to be treated and fixed. The temporary well cover replaced. A wood burner fitted. A new wooden floor laid. But none of this can really be done whilst there’s still a lot of renovation work going on in the room, so we just chip and chip away.

Part of the recent chipping away, has been the sealing and insulation of one of the outer walls. This room is really cold in the winter – unsurprising with no heating (apart from our electric heaters and millions of candles) and a stone floor, single glazed & pretty ill-fitting windows and a front door which when open, brings in the elements. So, a false wall has been created, behind which is thick insulation. We’ve also taken the opportunity to sort out the “day bed” AKA the big lump of concrete in the corner of the room, which abuts this exterior wall. A false shelf, with very soft, integrated LED strip lighting, has been built. This is all in-situ, and now just waiting for the final plastering and painting. It’s looking like this, currently…

…but hopefully, by this time next week, will look quite considerably better!

We’re also taking the opportunity to final get up our beautiful white concrete light bulb pendant shades, bought from Moth in West Didsbury, when we renovated our last house. They are very delicate and very pretty and I’ve just been waiting to find *the* place to have them installed. Now that we have our LED shelf lighting and the same lighting on the steps going up into the kitchen from The Well Room, they will work perfectly, on a dimmer, in a line above the concrete dining table. Which might soon be used for its intended purpose, rather than a tool storage!

Although The Well Room is still in chaos, it's not quite this bad anymore. We no longer have an oven in the corner, for instance. This just shows the structur eof the concrete table we had built.

Although The Well Room is still in chaos, it’s not quite this bad anymore. We no longer have an oven in the corner, for instance. This just shows the structure of the concrete table we had built.

We’ve asked that the concrete shades are connected by exposed cables, so that they can hang at different heights above the table – and I, for one, cannot wait for these beauties, last seen in Arley Avenue, to be out of storage.

Pendants from Moth, West Didsbury

Pendants from Moth, West Didsbury

TV Or Not TV : Part 2

TV Or Not TV : Part 2

When I ordered the SkyBox – the one that I thought would solve all of our TV issues – I hadn’t realised where it would be coming from. But early on Christmas Eve morning, I knew exactly where it had come from, as we’d brought it all the way back to England with us from Istria. To Heywood, in Oldham. About 10 miles from Didsbury. It was dropped off unceremoniously – I don’t think Tom wanted to engage with me about the problems we’d encountered, on Christmas Eve morning, when all he probably wanted to do was not be in his soulless office. However, prior to leaving for our Christmas roadtrip, we’d had a bit of a breakthrough and this time Mike helped us to access UK TV. From his base in Wythenshawe – yes, we come all the way to Istria and we’re still dealing with Manchester based companies – he used magic to get us connected. So, we do have a way of watching UK TV, which is brilliant, but it’s still not the perfect solution.

However, when we were back in England, we got a call from Mauro, the engineer from T-Com. Out here, you get the same guy coming out to you, so you do get to know them – and this does make things easier as you don’t need to constantly re-explain the problem. My understanding was that Mauro wanted to come and collect the redundant 4G router – we’d upgraded the 4G service prior to Xmas and a new router had been delivered, which we hadn’t had time to set up before we left. We arranged that he’d come out when we got back.

Our main issue stems from the fact that we still don’t have fixed line internet – depsite the fact that it was all installed way back in April. We did have it for one day, and then the connection was “broken” and it has never been fixed. The frustration of the TV situtaion finally spurred me onto doing what I should have done months ago, and I emailed T-Com head office in Zagreb, copying in everyone, in the hope that my complaint would hit the right person. SUCCESS! Just after the call from Mauro, two emails pinged in from T-Com, one after the other…

Dear,

we are kindly asking you to write us back billing account number so that we can make necessary check of your technical difficulties. We advise you to register on the Moj Telekom portal for access to your accounts and current consumption and administration services. You can make a registration through a link.

Best regards,

 

Dear Ms. Corr and Mr. Ruane,

We apologise for the  inconvenience You  experienced  when activating our services. We are letting You know that we have reported a connection trouble at your location, which should resolve the inconvenience. As a contact number we have set the mobile number 385993333797. Please be patient until the above mentioned difficulty is removed.

Best regards,

To be honest, we had no idea what the implications of the emails were, but at least they’d replied. Which, for T-Com, is a massive result.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. Sunday 6th January – a big day out here as it’s The Epiphany and even though it fell on a Sunday this year, it’s still a public holiday. You know, the kind of day when no-one is working. Not Mauro, however, who rocked up with all of his kit and set about doing what he needed to do – to get our fixed line reinstated… Yep, that email to Zagreb had worked and he’d been sent out to resolve the problem! Almost ten months later, we have a glimmer of a hope that we can soon have normal internet access.

We’re not quite there yet. We now have a landline, with a Croatian number – and we are now awaiting, with bated breath, a call from Mauro’s colleague, who will assess whether this line can be upgraded to accommodate broadband. And if it can, that means that all of our TV problems are sorted! We’re trying not to be too excited about this unexpected situation, but we now have another router, and it has to be said, the lights all seem to be lit up correctly…

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV Or Not TV?

TV Or Not TV?

So, nine days after ordering, and paying for it, the Sky digi box and viewing card arrived. The UPS driver went away with a bottle of wine and we oohed and aahed over the delivery. A very exciting delivery and a very exciting day…

Everything was connected, the card inserted, the screen changed to a Sky screen – all good so far – and then we saw the message which we did NOT want to see…

Your Sky+ HD box isn’t getting a signal…

Prior to making the purchase, I’d had numerous email exchanges with the company, ensuring that a) they did deliver to Istria, b) that we did NOT need fixed line internet for this service and c) that the satellite we had in place would enable this all to work. I was advised that the digi box we had would not work with this system, so we purchased their Sky box – an additional expense but one we felt was ultimately worth it, if it meant we got UK TV finally. I was assured that our current satellite set up was perfect as we needed the Astra satellite and this is exactly what we had. Online instructions – and reviews – all suggested that this was a total doodle to set up, and I had no reason to believe otherwise as I read the experiences of people all over Europe, who were sitting pretty, probably watching “Strictly Come Dancing”.

Still no luck, though. Online chat was initially helpful, but it soon became clear that things weren’t going to be as smooth as we’d been led to believe. It was helpfully suggested that we get a local satellite engineer to look into this, and Oli left the live chat, making it quite clear he couldn’t really be arsed any more with my issue in Istria. Let’s just say the night we had planned in front of the TV didn’t quite pan out that way…

However, next day we felt a bit more upbeat. It couldn’t be that hard, surely? Everywhere you look around here are satellite dishes, so it had be resolveable. We found a shop on the coast that seemed to be the answer to our problems – we’d found out we needed a coaxial cable as well as an LNB and this shop had them. Hurrah! Investigating a little bit more, the guy in the shop didn’t think we’d need these as he felt we had everything to make it all work. All we needed was his man, Leonardo, to come over and hopefully just change the direction of the dish so that the signal from the Astra 28 (and this number is significant!) could reach us.

When Leonardo arrived, it all started out so positively. He could speak perfect English – always a bonus as our technical Croatian hasn’t advanced too far – and he made the right noises about signals and receivers etc. Unfortunately it all unravelled when he went to check the actual dish and spoke to a colleague. We’d need a MUCH, MUCH bigger dish (as in 3 metres wide!) if we were to have any hope at all of the Astra 28 signal reaching us. And, even worse, the signal would only work on a bright, clear day. Any fog, low cloud cover, rain, wind or snow and we’d get nothing. Zilch. To illustrate, as he could obviously see I was having none of it at this point, he did a search on the reach of the satellite…

See that outer lilac band? The one that *just* about covers northern Italy? The one that skirts over the top of Istria – the little bulge across the bay from Venice? Yep, proof that we weren’t going to be getting UK TV any time soon, as the coverage did not actually reach us! A quick internet search revealed that it used to, but the footprint had recently changed, meaning that people who had previously been able to receive a signal in Italy, the Balkans and Greece, no longer could. So a dish, no matter how large, was never going to help.

By this time, I was utterly despondent as we’d made a fairly expensive, but seemingly useless, purchase and were STILL no nearer getting the TV we were craving. (If you’re still reading and wondering why we don’t do it via fixed line internet, that’s a whole other story, which we’re currently pursuing with T-Com in Zagreb ?). So, it was back on the internet. I couldn’t accept that there wasn’t a solution. People must live in much more remote areas than us, without fixed line internet, and be able to access satellite TV other than the rubbish Croatian offering. And, seriously, I don’t say this lightly – it is appalling.

A day searching online was well worth it. By a process of elimination and dogged determination, I found an answer, through a company based back in Manchester! And, on Friday evening, we were at last able to settle down and watch *normal* television – and the added bonus we even got North West Tonight so got to watch was going on in the NW…

The set up isn’t perfect just yet, but Christmas came early to Istria this weekend and I was able to gorge on Come Dine With Me, SCD Final and The Apprentice Final. And, in a new twist, our brilliant builder/electrician, who loves a challenge, has been investigating the satellite option and is on his way over. We think he may have a solution…

 

 

 

Patience…

Patience…

One step forward. Ten steps back...

One step forward. Ten steps back…

The one thing that we have realised since relocating to Istria, is that PATIENCE is a quality which we must have, at all times. Every waking minute. Because everything, absolutely everything here, takes an age to get done. Nothing happens quickly. And never immediately. We are gradually shaking off our (*my*) impatient nature(s) and realising that things do not happen here, like they did back in England. And to think we would moan and tut and grumble about how bad systems were back in the UK! The above photograph illustrates why we need a daily dose of patience.

The work on the wall started over two weeks ago. Previous to this, the room did resemble a room. We were using the concrete table, we had created a sofa on the platform and gorgeous navy blue velvet curtians had been hung, providing us with warmth and privacy. The work has involved fixing insulation tiles with insulating adhesive, plastering it, fixing a mesh barrier, plastering again and finally a layer of skim. Then building a ledge which will sit along the back of the raised ledge, with lighting. So, quite a bit of work and time is needed for the paster to dry out – but it is taking forever. Because of the nature of our house – an old stone house that hadn’t been lived in regularly for some time before we bought it – we always have to factor in unforseen problems. And, so we need to exercise…

But, never mind, we have our lovely kitchen, which we have had to exercise much patience over. It took a good few months to get everything done prior to it finally being installed, but it’s still not quite finished. A couple of jobs still need to be completed by the company who installed. Another exercise in being patient, as we bat emails back and forth and we try to keep our cool so that they don’t just decide to go quiet on us. Other jobs are down to us, adding to the builder’s list – and again, as each job is added, another takes a bit more time to complete. Today’s job has involved installing the lighting for the shelving in the corner, meaning wiring all over the place again and everything having had to be moved from shelves and work tops. Still, at least it’s being done and I’m crossing my fingers that by tonight, everything will be back to normal and not looking like it currently does…

Back to a tangle of wires...

Back to a tangle of wires…

Never mind, it’ll all soon be put back togther and our corner shelves will have lovely underlighting. Hopefully tonight.

But, we are still having to exercise…

And this time, it’s properly killing me! We have finally, we think (and we hope, as it’s cost quite a few pounds) found a way to at last get UK TV. We’ve not got fixed line internet – patience again, being key here – and our internet situation is reliant on 4G, so we have to have satellite. But, and here’s the rub, Croatian and Italian TV are both pretty rubbish. We tend to default to BBC World News or Kitchen 24 – yep, a channel of cookery programmes, 24 hours a day, which means that at times we can gorge on Jamie, Nigella, Nigel etc. A little bit of TV sanity. The TV situation has been driving us mad – and we haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees, but have now worked out that by purchasing the following, we can, fingers crossed, be able to access everything we have missed on the TV.

And this is where I need to dig deep, into my reserves of patience. In my excitement, when I ordered and paid for it on Monday, all I saw was “Next Day Delivery” by UPS. And when UPS deliver, they usually find us, so I really thought that by yesterday (Tuesday), I’d be sitting pretty, watching all that is familiar.

Not to be! “Next Day Delivery” is apparently after it’s been despatched – and I’m still waiting to hear that this has happened. Guessing I won’t be watching The Apprentice tonight. I will however, be trying very hard, to exercise…

 

Working From Home…

Working From Home…

We think every day how lucky we are to be able to live where we live, and continue to run our website design business. Not only does it provide us with an income, it keeps us creative and in contact with our clients. But, we have had the dilemma of where to actually work from, in the house. Because we have a lot of visitors, especially from Spring time onwards, we need the house to be like a house. Not an office. And, to be honest, we didn’t really want to carve out yet another office space. Having worked in various places around the house since we moved in, we think we might have cracked it. We’ve got rid of all of the files of paperwork which have always clogged up every office space we’ve had. We’ve got rid of “officey” furniture. And we’ve integrated our working spaces into our living spaces, hopefully menaing that we can much more easily slip between work & play.

I’ve set myself up in a corner of our living room, which luckily is large enough to accommodate my work area. Although we have shifted out pieces of furniture which looked too “worky” and “officey”, we have to obviously have somewhere to sit comfortably, and the sofa option was unfortunately becoming just a little too comfy. On one of our many frequent trips to IKEA, I spotted this Lisabo desk and liked the shape of it and the 70s feel to it. Likewise, the Skruvsta swivel chair, which I figured could always be used as additional seating, especially if accessorised with a cushion and a throw.

As I’ve explained many times before, real plants and me don’t really go together. I forget to water them and feed them and so, what looked beautiful when it entered the house, usually leaves withered and very sorry looking. But, I do love being surrounded by greenery and so the decision was made that it had to be the faux route. My first foray in faux was via Rose and Grey, but I’ve since discovered places closer I can get faux from, so there’s no stopping my inside garden emerging! Our house is definitely taking on a different feel in the winter. Despite having powerful woodburners, there are still cold spots, which we’re working on, but these do provide a good excuse for getting the candles on. Instant atmosphere, and definitely not an office vibe, even when working. So, here’s my little corner, where I can be found most days…

PS Whilst I love a cushion or two, we don't normally have this many on the sofa ;) They've ben relocated from the sofa in The Well Room whilst the false wall is being built & will be reurning to their normal home...

PS Whilst I love a cushion or two, we don’t normally have this many on the sofa 😉 They’ve been relocated from the sofa in The Well Room whilst the false wall is being built & will be returning to their normal home…

But, I’m not the only one who needs a bit of space to work, and as the real work – the design – needs to happen somewhere that’s peaceful and calm (and at the moment, away from the continuous building work), we’ve carved out another work space in one of the bedrooms. Again, we didn’t want to go back to an office set up, with PCs and printers and shelving and all of that paraphenalia associated with a working environment. We also had to ensure that the room was still a bedroom, so that when needed, we weren’t doing major change-arounds. This bedroom has two single beds which can be combined to make a double – perfect for guests who’ve had a fall out 😉 We have had it set up as a double but it made the room seem small – so it’s now been separated and with a few softening touches, such as swathes of greenery, artwork (by our nephew), a comfy swivel chair, a warm, thick rug, cushions and lamps, this is now a lovely place to design websites from. I’ve even donated a couple of candles to the cause. And, even though I love my corner, I think that this room has now become something very nice, indeed…

Yes, that is indeed Elvis...

Yes, that is indeed Elvis…

Do you work from home? How have you created your workspace? We’d love to hear what you’ve done and how it works for you – just pop your comments/ideas in the box below. Thank you 🙂

 

 

The Stairs : Phase 1

The Stairs : Phase 1

Our stone house doesn’t have normal staircases. For over eighteen months, we’ve had exposed treads and no handrails. A bit like a big version of a stepladder. We have two of these – one going to the upper floor (the more sturdy set of stairs) and one down into The Snug (the less sturdy set of stairs), and both run from the living room. The stairs have been an on-going pre-occupation since we moved in because they were a) pretty horrible and b) pretty unsafe. This was what the stairs were like prior us to doing anything at all to the house. And before all of our furniture arrived…

As you can see, slightly precarious, definitely not good looking and not really the finished items. We’ve had a number of quotes for a number of different staircase options, but all were a lot more than we wanted to pay – but, we knew that if only for the safety of us, and visiting family and friends, we had to do something with them.

So, in between everything else we throw at him, we asked our builder to make them safe in the simplest, most cost effectvie way possible. The treads were all brought forward slightly, giving you a lot more foot-room going up and down, and pine boards were attached to the frames at the back of the treads, meaning that you no longer felt your foot was going to disappear out of the other side on the way up.

Stairs renovation in progress...

Stairs renovation in progress…

Pine boards attached to the frame of the stairs going to the upper floor

Pine boards attached to the frame of the stairs going to the upper floor (brushed steel beading was attached the sides to make flush & tidy)

No longer exposed and with lengthened treads

No longer exposed and with lengthened treads

Today, we finally got round to undercoating the stairs – and what a difference it has made. They will eventually be painted with Farrow & Ball Railings floorpaint, but the dark grey undercoat gives a pretty good impression of what they will eventually look like, when finished.

Obviously this is still a work in progress – the stairs down into the cellar haven’t even been started yet (and yes, that blob of paint on the wall will be whited out!) – but we think just doing this has made a huge difference to the living room. A industrial handrail will be fitted on the wall side, with three or four vertical poles (made of the same scaffolding poles) attached to the open side of the staircase. We want to keep the feeling of openess, but with just a little more of a nod to health and safety.

Very glad we didn’t run with the original quotes – the stairs undoubtedly would have been amazing – but a massive chunk of money would have had to have been handed over. Doing what we’ve done, we’ve paid for pine boards and paint, plus our builder’s time. A whole lot less than was quoted. And, we think that we now have stairs which will actually fit into their surroundings, rather than look like dangerous eye-sores 😉

 

 

Ongoing Reno in The Well Room

Ongoing Reno in The Well Room

It was only two days, I wrote about the windows and how they are now our focus. How all were going to be sealed and no more draughts would sneak in. Yes, yes – it’s all still ongoing, but as ever, we guesstimated how much seal we’d need. And guess what? We under-guesstimated. So, until we can get some more, we’re cracking on with the next bit of vital renovation to keep us much warmer than last winter.

Over the summer, we created a “day-bed”, using the concrete block which sits in The Well Room, abutting one of the external walls. We’d been led to believe that this was where the filtration magic happened with the well. But this has been debunked, as a bit of investigation from our builder revealed that this was no sophisticated filtration system, it was a great big hole filled with soil and building debris. Never mind though, we could still make something of it, and as you might know, I have a bit of an overspill of cushions and throws…

However, The Well Room is still a work in progress – wooden flooring to be laid, new front door, windows, woodburner to be fitted, TV to be fitted, concrete table to be finished – and so we don’t routinely use this room at the moment. And so didn’t notice the salt ingress, and patches of dusty damp, behind the cushions, until I moved them this week, to paint the wall into the bathroom. It’s serious when my cushions get damp, so remedial action was required. We had a nice looking Well Room, with one painted statement wall – the same as in the living room – for one night.

It’s all back to chaos now though! The offending wall has been treated with a sealant, usually used in swimming pools, and today insulation tiles have started to be applied. Once these are all in place, a hard mesh will cover them and then the wall will be plastered. We’re taking the opportunity to create a false ledge, into which lighting will be fitted, so that when it’s all finished, not only will this area be sealed and dry, but it will also be a whole lot more comfortable and stylish. The only problem now, is that I am imagining ALL of the stone walls being treated in this way. And imagining a day when we have smooth internal walls…

The swimming pool sealant is applied. And, in a pleasing colour, matching the newly painted wall to the right...

The swimming pool sealant is applied. And, in a pleasing colour, matching the newly painted wall to the right…

Next phase : foam insulation tiles are applied and the gap between tiles and wall filled with expandable foam

Next phase : foam insulation tiles are applied and the gap between tiles and wall filled with expandable foam

This is where we’re up to today. Our builder returns tomorrow to finsih the wall of insulation tiles, before the mesh is attached and the plastering done. Gyproc (plasterboard) will then be installed, with the creation of a ledge, at the height of the bottom left tile, with lighting. Still working out if this will be of the dimmable LED strip variety or dimmable uplit spots. Whichever, we’ll be so much happier with the new arrangement, which to be fair, on Sunday evening, we hadn’t even considered. Such is life when you are renovating an old stone house in Istria 😉

Winter Window Woes…

Winter Window Woes…

Taken on a warmer day when we loved our windows ;)

Taken on a warmer day when we loved our windows 😉

We’ve spent a lot of time working on our windows. A lot of time. They had all obviously been hurriedly installed and only benefitted from one coat of paint, which by the time we got round to dealing with them, was faded and flaking. Some were in a much better state than others, but all needed attention. The ones in the worst condition were the windows of The Well Room and our bedroom – these seem to get the most exposure to the sun in the summer, and then in the winter, take the full force of winds and rain. However, we have been working away on them, priming, undercoating, topcoating, siliconing and caulking. None of the windows had rubber seals, so this is being done to try and stop the draughts.

But the bane of our lives, window-wise, is the rain, as it’s still managing to get in. We had our builder out today to have a good look and basically they just haven’t been fitted. Look closely and it does look as if they have just been shoved into the gap. So, a whole new tranche of renovation work begins, to get them tip top. Given that they’ve never been looked after, they are all salvageable, bar one or two, but it’s just going to be another lengthy process. And it means that other things we wanted to do, are being put back. However, it’s just one of those things – we’ve bought an old house that hasn’t really been occupied for a long time and she just needs some TLC. And that means that the outdoor wiring and installation of uplights to light up the wall of ivy we’re attached to, is just going to have to wait. At the moment, I’d rather have the luxury of water-tight and draught-free windows. One day…

Bet rain doesn't get in *these* windows...

Bet rain doesn’t get in *these* windows…

Winter Is Coming…

Winter Is Coming…

It seems like only last week that we were enjoying long days of unbroken sunshine and at times, quite searing heat. Having to actually escape indoors, to sit in front of a fan. And knowing that largely every day, throughout the summer, would be like this…

But, half way through November – how did that happen? – autumn is now turning rapidly into winter. Trees are bare, the garden furniture is being packed away, garden pots are being cut back, and it’s dark here by 6pm.

We are still renovating the house. Most big internal projects, bar the upstairs bathroom, are completed, and we are now tackling the smaller jobs. Although “smaller” may give the impression, that we’re now at the stage of just titivating rooms – unfortunately not! By “smaller”, I mean that we’re no longer living in a building site, with holes knocked into the side of the house and a howling gale driving through the half built kitchen. Now, we just have howling draughts – and these are among the “small” things we are working on.

We don’t have the luxury of central heating as we did back in England. Central heating isn’t really a thing here, as woodburners and great big, open fires, are how people tend to heat their houses. We have two woodburners – a beauty we bought out here, with a concrete surround, and our gorgeous Dovre Vintage, which we bought at The Stove Room, in West Didsbury. Both are very powerful, but – and it’s a very big but – our house is quite open plan. We have no internal doors downstairs (apart from to the bathroom) and the stairs down to the cellar and up to the first floor, are open and exposed. (For now – as these staircases are also part of the “small” jobs list). So, we are now getting winter ready, and doing what we can to keep the house warm and toasty.

Over the past eighteen months, we’ve worked our way through each and every room, painting all of the walls white, even the exposed stone walls. We wanted to have a blank canvas before we decided how rooms were going to take on new identities, so everything was white-washed. Recently, we’ve started injecting colour around the house – pops of pink and banana yellow have made appearances, but I think my favourite is this statement wall in the living room. It’s an inky navy blue, which in some lights, almost looks black. Depending on the light in the room, it takes on quite a gothic appearance – I think I had in the back of my mind that amazing house that James Delaney inhabited in Taboo…

…very dark and brooding. It was a risk, because the colour we had mixed is very, very dark, but against the white, I think it works well.

The Dovre Vintage from The Stove Room, West Didsbury

The Dovre Vintage from The Stove Room, West Didsbury

When the burners are lit and doing their job, they do throw out a lot of heat, but until everything is sealed, we do still need additional heat. Cushions, throws and faux sheepskins (again, these are very popular out here – bars still operate outside during the winter, and chairs are always strewn in blankets and sheepskins) are being acquired like there’s no tomorrow! Candles, the same – and again, it’s amazing the heat that a few  tealights and candles can add to a room.

The Well Room is the next room up for one of the “small” jobs to be finished. Now that the actual well has been removed and is now positioned outside the front door, and the chamber drained, we’ve a reinforced glass cover and surround currently being made and lighting is going in – but like all things out here, that are out of our hands, progress is slow. We hope to have it all done before Christmas – we mean Xmas 2018, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was completed just before Xmas 2019. In the meantime, we’re sealing all windows with rubber sealant, applying silicone and caulking gaps we identify now that it’s colder. We’re working out what to do with one of the stone walls – salt residue is appearing and although we’re treating it, we’re discussing insulation and plasterboard. Smooth walls. Yes! My love of my dark wall is so great, that the wall leading into the new bathroom has had this treatment too. We have hung very dark, navy velvet curtains at The Well Room windows and between this room and the living room, and everything is now starting to tie up.

To create more artificial warmth, we’re also filling rooms, gradually, with greenery. All faux, because the temperature in the house isn’t consistent enough to guarantee we don’t kill plants, and we do go away a fair bit, so very realistic looking, but entirely false foliage, is our preferred option at the moment.

The one thing that we really do need to get our heads around, is wood. Specifically, logs to feed the burners. We did have a number of deliveries of pallets last year, but we need to get our timings right, so that these deliveries are cost effective. We need to invest in a good wheelbarrow to transport the logs from where they are dropped off, to our log store. And really, we need to order them August/September time, as they are dry at this time of year. A lot of places store pallets outdoors, so any downpour and you’re dealing with the issue of drying your logs. Our builder is hoping to source year old, therefore dry logs, for us, but like everything else, it takes time. So yesterday we decided, with dropping temperatures, that we should just head off to Bauhaus (the B&Q out here) and buy a pallet. We thought we might be able to slot the pallet into the car, with all of the seats down and bring it back more quickly that way, rather than ordering, paying a hefty delivery charge and waiting a good few days for a delivery slot.

Cue the city folk, arriving at Bauhaus. Any self respecting person around these parts, chops down their own trees and chainsaws up the trunks. Because, people here actually own bits of forest. Yep, that’s right. They own bits of forest. We’ve seen our neighbours driving past our house, with trailers attached to tractors, full of their own trees. And yesterday, our neighbours had the delight of seeing us return from the big city (Pula), having bought a pallet of logs from a DIY store – which we couldn’t fit into the car. We bought the pallet at 1.40pm and the store was closing at 2pm. Guess what we spent a frenzied 20 minutes doing? That’s right – city folk alert 😉