How NOT to Convert a Barn

We got to the best part. Sunshine pouring in through new windows, flooring going down, shelves going up, fresh paint licking corners and the excitement of ‘carpet day’ on the horizon. Even the sliding door, that kept getting stuck, started working. I was gloating over that door, thinking how silly I was to worry about it, all winter, when Building Control turned up. Then things went wrong.

What is Wrong with Building Control?

Nothing.  They arrive, inspect, and sign work off as legal and safe. You don’t give them eggs because that would be like trying to bribe the police, but they are reasonable and full of good advice.  It was all OK until they said.   

‘What are you going to do with the property?’

‘Oh’ I said. ‘Probably letitoutonAirbnb for a couple of years, to pay back the loan, and then it will be a family home.’

My brain gets busy when I say ‘letitoutonAirbnb.’ Do we really have to do that bit?  How? Who will want it? Will visitors complain about chickens clucking, or us? We might get bad feelings. Perhaps we can run a holistic musical chicken/cats retreat and pay back the loan another way? 

These thoughts were so noisy that I hardly heard the reply.

‘Oh well in that case you are going to need to make changes here then’.

Who would have known?

It takes 30 seconds to go from being smug about tales of other people doing home renovation and making idiotic mistakes, to becoming one of those people yourself. 

Holiday lets, even half-hearted ones, need extra rules because people on holiday have no common sense. If they set things on fire they can’t automatically find their way out, probably because they were too busy filing a petty complaint about the chickens. But if you take their money you have to make it easy for them to stay alive.

Suddenly the poor innocent little barn needed major extra work. Time to cancel the carpets and rip out a new window, along with half a wall, to make room for a bigger, escape window. We also have to wire in extra fire alarms, and maybe an entire huge expensive firewall to separate upstairs from downstairs, unless a fire risk assessment proves otherwise.

Time to Panic

There was fuss. Advisors and architects rushed back in, glossing over the mistakes with lines like ‘You never know with building control.’ Phone calls to Tom the window man, who has conveniently vanished and more phone calls to risk assessors who can’t come for a month. So everything stopped.

Time to get Zen. 

Being forced to stop is good, because there are plenty of other things to do.

Admire the Professional Flooring Work

Ben was already here doing Vinyl rocket science upstairs. Not sure he liked me much because I called him Bob for the first three days and made him decaffeinated coffee by mistake for the first two.  His only reaction when I confessed was to say ‘no wonder I was so tired’ before reminding me that he was called Ben. 

It started like this.

Barn floor before the tiles

And went on to this.

Latex to level the barn floor

Latex settling like an ice rink, transforming a rickety old floor into an almost level palace. 

And then the floor.

new floor in the barn

We spent a bit of time walking around on it and gasping at the utter beauty of vinyl tiles before locking up. Nothing else could happen now until the fire risk troubles were sorted. What else to do?

Remember that the Cat was too Fat

In 2021 the vet told us to put her on a diet. This happened but somehow she managed to gain another kilo by 2022. So the diet got more serious, with extra rules and less snacking.

cat on a computer

Looks like it worked. When you get time to stop and stare, you notice things like newly slimline cats.

Check out Spring in the Garden

Pretty flowers and bare earth. The chickens have been busy removing the lawn.

chickens and bare earth

I followed them around and remembered a wonderful dream. Something about teaching them to sit on command and making a video that went viral on Tick Tock.  It might be fun to have viral chickens doing tricks for Tick Tock. I took more photos.

chicken photobomb

And got photobombed.

Take up Difficult Photography

Across the country, everybody else got Northern Lights. We got a spectacular full moon, complete with multi-coloured halo.

I decided to capture it, to show that the moon can be as good as the Northern Lights.

Moon with a halo

It didn’t really work. Poor moon, turning up regular as clockwork every month, but tricky to capture. Then the Northern Lights steam in and get all the attention.

Go See a Play and watch a Film.

‘Help I think I am a Nationalist’ by Seamus Carey is funny and thought provoking. You can read his blog on this link. The Reason Why — Seamas Carey Music He has quite a lot to say about the holiday letting industry, and it is not all good…

So to change the subject watch Wild Men on iplayer. BBC iPlayer – Wild Men enjoy the Scandi scenery and laugh for two hours.

Go to a Special  Funeral

Not the distant, 97 year old relative, kind of funeral. That was last summer in the sun. Black suits, church and hymns, with ham sandwiches and heartfelt promises to ‘stay in touch’ for afters. That was a ‘grand day out’ kind of funeral with a happy swim on the sea on the way home. No tears.

Last week was different.  Sending a dear friend on her way with love, wild daffodils, songs and sweet speeches at a natural burial ground. It was on the North Cornish coast, an area drenched in rain and mist for 364 days of the year. But maybe our friend fixed the weather because it stayed dry until the last ballad. As a solo guitar hit the closing chords, we scattered daffodils in the grave and said goodbye. Suddenly the wind picked up, our flowers nearly blew away, and the rain cascaded down to wash away our tears. 

At the wake we connected with old friends like you do when you all just cried together. Everybody exchanged life stories, spoke honestly of things and, once again, we promised to keep in touch. This time we probably meant it more.

On the way home we discussed the natural burial site and a somebody said ‘what’s an Unnatural Burial then?’  Nobody knew, but it gave us something to think about.

That one was also a day out. Not grand, but special. The sort of day that sends you home with plans to get on with life, and not worry to much about windows that are the wrong size.

Daffodil on bare earth

4 thoughts on “How NOT to Convert a Barn”

  1. Wonderful as usual Jo, always laugh out loud – the photo bombing got me this time, building control made me squirm. But your funeral descriptions were absolutely spot on. Thank you xxx

  2. Taken longer to catch up than usual… and so worth the wait: this is poetry. I cried for your friend. Perfect writing, thank you.

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