Our poor old 1907 weathervane rusted into place over 40 years ago, the wind always coming from the East South East.


I found some wonderful weathervanes online, made to order. I scrolled through and found a Welsh Dragon — perfect for Murmur-y-Don. It wasn’t cheap at all, but I bit my lip and ordered it.

When it came, I was delighted. It was galvanised to protect it against the salt air and breezes we get on this coast, and it was white, all ready to be painted scarlet. Which I did; coat after coat after coat.

We took it up to Harlech and got a guy to take the old weathervane down. He went up, came down, and went away to get his mate. After half a day the two of them struggled down with the monster.

We compared the old and new weathervanes.

Old WV: 5 foot 5 inches tall, weight three-quarters of a hundredweight.

New WV: 2 foot tall, weight nine pounds.

Much shaking of heads.

So here’s the old weathervane sandblasted, painted with white Hammerite and reinstalled.


At least we know where the wind is coming from now.

The little Red Dragon WV will be installed on the garage all in good time.

Antony Worrall Thompson

I bought this Antony Worrall Thompson-branded barbecue last year, struck by its shiny stainless-steel type legs. Here it is after a year on our sheltered verandah:

A rusty heap of junk courtesy of Antony Worrall Thompson

Antony Worrall Thompson branded BBQ

Should I buy any other product branded with this man’s name?

This reminds me of Krusty The Klown’s all-purpose endorsement: I Heartily Endorse This Product Or Service.


Sitting on the top of a cliff as we are (or, in the modern ungrammatical parlance, SAT on the top of a cliff as we are) and with a 210° exposure, we enjoy more than our fair share of weather. Wind and rain leaving Ireland have no place to stop until they hit Murmur-y-Don. And hit it they do. Not many people come here in the winter; those who do tend to remember it for the rest of their lives. 120mph gales are not uncommon.

This, together with the blistering, relentless sunshine we have endured for the past week all takes its toll. Nothing more so than on our poor wooden windows. When the house was built in 1907 they used wood which had matured, dried and seasoned naturally over years. We don’t know how to wait any more, so we kiln-dry our timber, which shortens its useful life by about 70 years.

We finally had the 1907 windows replaced in 1995. And now, having been unable to open any of the upstairs windows for the past couple of years, it was time to replace them, after just 20 years.

There’s a simple solution, of course: plastic windows. Unfortunately I hate and abhor plastic windows. They are dreadful, hideous, obtrusive, out of scale, ignorant of the beauty of fenestration, and they are of course indestructible. Long after their ticky-tacky houses have collapsed, those white staring uPVC windows will linger blindly on. They cannot die. They never rot. They can’t be disposed of. They’re made of a non-renewable resource — oil. Plenty of reasons to dislike them.

So we opted for timber windows again. And, I’m afraid to say, we went to the UK’s largest supplier of uPVC windows to have them made. The salesman looked as if all his Christmasses had come that afternoon. “You do realise these will cost TWICE as much as if you’d had them in plastic?” We gulped, and bravely said “Yes.”

Murmur-y-Don windows

New windows for Murmur-y-Don

I have to say they have done a great job. We now have opening, draught-free wooden double glazed windows. After much initial reluctance, they agreed to paint the casements in the Harlech house colour, Dulux Lizard, and they look hell’s smart. It was a deal breaker. Dulux Lizard or we don’t buy the windows. (I know our friends would have expected us to use Little Green, or Farrow & Ball at the very least, but I’m very happy with Lizard).

We have committed ourselves to a lifetime of repainting and maintenance. It’s probably not worth it.

But it brings peace of mind.

Bye Bye Pylons

You look at them and you always wonder “Who decided they wanted these hideous pylons marching over the hillsides? And who allowed them to do it?”

We never find out. We just have to live with the visual blight. For decades the Maentwrog, Llandecwyn and Penrhyndeudraeth area has been dominated by an intrusive array of pylons carrying, I assume, power from the now defunct Trawsfynydd nuclear power station to the surrounding towns and villages.

Today we learn that the pylons are coming down, and the cables will be buried underground. The National Grid has set aside £500m for the project, and other pylons will be removed in the New Forest, the Peak District, and Dorset. The funding has been made available by energy regulator Ofgem.

These four schemes have been prioritised out of 12 sections of electricity lines in eight national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) across England and Wales which were considered to have the most significant impact on beauty spots.

The four stretches of lines are in:

  • Snowdonia National Park, near Porthmadog
  • Dorset AONB, near Winterbourne Abbas
  • New Forest National Park, near Hale
  • Peak District National Park, near Dunford Bridge

Well, whoever decided they were to come down, I’m grateful. This probably gives Gwynedd Council the opportunity to shut Pont Briwet, a couple of months after it opened, while the work is carried out. I hope Hochthief isn’t contracted to do the work.

Hey — here’s a suggestion — why don’t they shut the bridge AND the road to Maentwrog while they carry out a study on what should be done and how long it might take? This would give us the opportunity to get to Penrhyndeudraeth by way of Barmouth, Llanelltyd and Trawsfynydd; a mere 39 miles and 1 hour 5 minutes instead of the current 6 miles and 14 minutes.

Planned Route — Harlech to Penrhyndeudraeth

Planned Route — Harlech to Penrhyndeudraeth


The Builders of Pont Briwet

How interesting.

If you have read some of my whinges over the years you’ll have heard of the appalling build overrun at Pont Briwet, the link between Harlech and Porthmadog.

It used to be a 100 metre toll bridge until it was closed for rebuilding in 2013.

For reasons not disclosed to we οἱ πολλοί by Gwynedd Council or the contractors Hochtief, it took 18 months longer to complete than scheduled. It finally opened last Monday, July 15th.

Then today this news report emerged:

“A German company has been found to be the biggest tax evader in Greece. A court in Athens found that Hochtief, the German company that was running the “Eleftherios Venizelos” Athens International airport was not paying VAT for 20 years. It is estimated that Hochtief, will have to pay more than 500 million Euros for VAT arrears. Together with other outstanding payments, like those to social security funds, it might have to pay more than 1 billion Euros.”

I am sure that Hochthief have paid all their taxes in the UK and that Gwynedd Council has been open and transparent in all its dealings with them, despite not informing the local population of any progress during construction.

Plastic Guttering

Don’t I cover the most thrilling subjects?

In the week that Pont Briwet reopens after being closed for 20 months and almost crippling the local economy, I’m going to write about gutters.

For years I have been hankering after cast-iron gutters hand-made by J & J W Longbottom of Huddersfield. I bought my air bricks from them, and they cost a fortune. But I can see they will last my lifetime plus a century more.

Longbottom’s gutters do, however, cost ten to twenty times as much as their nasty plastic alternative. And they need to be painted with red oxide primer, then Hammerite, then undercoat, then whatever gloss colour I choose — twice. Then that has to be repeated every two to three years.

I had the soffits round the kitchen replaced with wooden soffits. I undercoated the boards twice, then gloss painted with three coats. I then left them to dry for a year, not because I wanted to but because the bloke I’d employed to put them up never showed. I chased and chased. He wouldn’t answer his phone, his email, letters, anything.

Finally, 14 months later, he confessed he’d gone to work full time for Lord Harlech, the bloke who used to fix my Aga. He delegated the job to his mate Charley.

Charley was a right Charley. He reckoned the job would take three days. I paid him in advance. It took him six days, and I think even I would have done a better job. He used ordinary steel nails to hammer the fascias home. We’re on top of a cliff overlooking the sea, ff sake. You breathe salt here.

By the time I saw the finished job, a week later, all the nails had rusted. I don’t know what I can do. I won’t let that man near my house again.

Of course he’d broken all the gutters in taking them down. I simply do not have the cash for the superb Longbottom guttering, so I bought some cheap white uPVC gutters from Huws Gray down the road in Dyffryn Ardudwy.

I put them up myself. May I repeat that? I PUT THEM UP MYSELF. Me! He who splinters wood by glancing at it. He who thinks nothing of emptying a priceless box of brass screws down an immovable drain cover. He who is frightened of heights on the second rung of a ladder. I did it!

It was surprisingly easy, aided by the fact that the gutter round the kitchen is so low I could fit it standing on the good solid ground. Also aided by the fact that plastic guttering is incredibly easy to work. It took me just over an hour, and can I tell you? — it looks great. You couldn’t tell it from cast iron.

Until you touch it, of course.


I’m not much of a DIYer, so when I noticed rectangular patches of rust round the bottom of the exterior walls of Murmur-y-Don, I simply painted them white. I hadn’t a clue what they were supposed to be.

Then the other day when I jabbed a paintbrush at one of them, it collapsed completely. There was a bloody great hole behind it. So that’s how the mice get in, I thought. Luckily the ferocious Bembo, our black moggy, dispatches them cleanly.

Anyway, I did some research and discovered that these holes were built in 1907 for cast-iron Airbricks. Airbricks don’t even merit a Wikipedia entry (I guess America doesn’t have them) but a Chambers Dictionary definition tersely describes an airbrick as ‘a block for ventilation.’

But ours were cast-iron, and seemed to have the remnants of some sort of mechanism. More research, and I discovered the venerable firm of J & J W Longbottom in Huddersfield manufactured a wide range of cast-iron airbricks, including a model identical to ours, called the ‘Hit & Miss’.

Basically it’s a sliding grille. You can open it in the summer and close it in the winter. Great. Just what we need. I ordered seven. They arrived in London, and they weighed a ton. When I saw the invoice I had to take to my bed. They were eye-wateringly, humungously expensive. I had no idea. Bang went the plans for the new Maserati.

Items of such scarcity and value had to be well-looked after. So I carefully painted them in red oxide primer, making sure the sliding mechanism worked after the paint had dried, then I undercoated them, making sure the sliding mechanism worked after the paint had dried, then the first coat of gloss white, making sure the sliding mechanism worked after the paint had dried, then the second coat of gloss white, when I found that the sliding mechanism didn’t work after the paint had dried. I had to take a hammer to them, and now they will perform, albeit not as smoothly as when they were raw.

Hari Pugh is installing them as I write. I hope. Except that I bought seven, and now I’ve found we have eleven airbrick holes. So I’m either going to have to save up, or buy four plastic ones. The plastic ones are 98% cheaper than the cast-iron ones. I kid you not. 98.31%, to be precise.

I just have to grit my teeth and save. Nobody said this would be cheap.


Windows On The World

We had new upstairs windows put in Murmur-y-Don at the end of the last century. With the quality of British wood available then, they have now rotted in their smart new lead-lined dormers, which themselves were installed at vaste expence in 2005.

So we’ve bitten the bullet, and ordered new windows for the first floor, and the kitchen. They are sealed double glazed units, still made out of timber because we abhor plastic windows, but allegedly identical to the design we have here at present. The timber is guaranteed for several years and it will have to be, given how the weather treats us here in the winter.

Fitting is scheduled for the week beginning August 15th, our prime letting time. We couldn’t see any way round it, as the frames won’t be ready till July, when the house is booked — and the last thing you want to do on holiday is arrive to find the house shrouded in scaffolding and wake up in the morning to see a couple of hairy builders peering in at you through a hole where the window used to be.

It had to be August, and the first week I have a court case, and the second week I have a hospital appointment postponed since January, so it has to be the third week.

We can’t wait to see how they will look. And it will be such a change to be able to open and close the windows.


You’l need a strong stomach for this one. You’ll be able to read about our constant

— altercations with aunts, Andrew, animals, authors …

— battles with the builders, the bin men, the Barclay twins, the bank, burrowing mammals, BT …

— confrontations with the council, the clergy, the Co-Op, the castle …

— disputes with the doctor, the dentist, the drain man, the dietician …