You’ve Got To Love The 80s

24th March 2016

A funny old decade, the 80s. Women were encouraged to don shoulder pads that would put an American Footballer to shame, and men were allowed to wear heavy Aran jumpers, tuck them into their blue jeans and finish off the whole ensemble with white socks and black suede shoes! What’s not to love? The reason we mention this aberration?

Well, that’s when The Laurels was built. In fact 1982 to be precise. Maggie Thatcher (insert Marmite-type comment here) had already been on the ‘throne’ for a couple of years, encouraging her friend Gerry Mandering to divide boundaries in an effort to extend her reign. Whilst Maggie was annoying the Argies and planning to annoy the miners, led by Arthur Scargill who for reasons best known to himself insisted on wearing a Shredded Wheat on his head, some builder or builders unknown were constructing this fine building. We’re not exactly sure if it were they, or some other plumbing expert, but someone had clearly discovered that the 80s was when water suddenly started running uphill. This may have been a very slow process that went by unnoticed – You know, the way the magnetic North Pole and Magnetic South Pole are currently rotating around the globe so, in a few millennia North will be South, and South will be North. Magnetically anyway, if not from a ‘true’ perspective.

Anyway, we digress. The water running uphill thing. We’d always been a little suspect of the way one of our showers would drain. One day it would be absolutely fine, but another day our guests would report that it was very slow draining. This seemed to go on, with no discernible pattern that would enable us to nail down what the problem might be. Fast forward a wee while and we had the perfect opportunity to rip up the floor and investigate. And this is what we found.

Shower Drain
Yep, the shower drainpipe does in fact run very nicely in a downhill fashion, only to suddenly divert into an upward, gravity-defying direction, before finally plunging downhill again into the main sewer. The thought process around this isn’t clear, but having ripped it all out and routed the pipes in the direction normally favoured by Newton, we have a super-quick draining shower. Our future guests will no doubt be completely oblivious to this massive improvement, but that’s how it should be.
Whilst all this plumbing was going on, Helen was patiently adding the three coats of varnish to our Breakfast Room floor, as required by the instructions to ensure it would do ‘exactly as it says on the tin’. Her comments on this particular task are largely unpublishable but suffice to say, it took her a while!
Outside, the Specialist Surfacing Engineers had arrived to cover everything in some black, sticky stuff first invented by Mr McAdam some time back in the early 1800s. Having applied a nice thick base layer, followed by a super-smooth top layer, the expanse of new black stuff was something to behold.
Tarmac Carpark
Tarmac Carpark

In the video below you can enjoy their day’s work compressed into less than 60 seconds by the magic of our time-lapse camera. It’s almost as interesting to see what they do whilst waiting for the top layer to be delivered, as it is to see the actual tarmac laying.

We particularly like the bit where one of the ‘engineers’ cocks his leg upon the control arm of the roller. Keep an eye out for it.

Meanwhile, back in the 80s, which is where my poor addled mind clearly was, I decided it would be a really good idea to put on my roller skates and christen our perfectly smooth tarmac. So it was, over a decade since I last put on some skates, and over 30 years since I first did this with my Aran jumper tucked into my jeans, I tottered around on eight wheels.
It soon became evident that my brain was writing cheques my body couldn’t actually cash, but I very much enjoyed my brief spin, even if I did need a lie down afterwards.
You’ve got to love the 80s!

Press Release

22nd March 2016

From Sinkhole to Success in the heart of Staffordshire.

The Laurels Bed and Breakfast in the heart of North Staffordshire has triumphed in its battle to re-open after a major landslide and sinkhole over 2 years ago. After a long and heartbreaking battle, Phil and Helen, owners of The Laurels, are delighted to be relaunching their business with a lunchtime drinks reception.

The celebration will be an opportunity to thank those who have supported them throughout their journey as well as to share all that their business has to offer to visitors to Staffordshire. Phil and Helen had only just settled into their new life in Staffordshire in 2013 when disaster struck in the form of a large landslide, followed by a huge sinkhole at their Bed and Breakfast in the stunning Moorland village of Oakamoor.

After much press coverage and a few television appearances (including Channel 5’s Britain’s Horror Homes), Phil and Helen have worked tirelessly for over 2 years to, not only to bring their business back to life but to create a dynamic and active local community of businesses that they are able to work with to provide visitors with the best experience of Staffordshire.

As they prepare to open at the end of April this year, they are working with a range of attractions and local businesses to provide stunning experiences for their new visitors including days out at local museums, delicious afternoon teas to name a few.

The support of the Staffordshire tourism community has been invaluable as they plan their new beginning and will provide visitors with an outstanding holiday while staying at The Laurels. Quote: Phil and Helen said, “After a long and difficult journey, we are thrilled to be opening at last…” Alternative quote: Phil and Helen said, “Reopening The Laurels gives us a great opportunity to share the best of what Staffordshire has to offer while allowing us to continue our dream of living and working in beautiful Staffordshire.”

For further details & images, please contact: Phil and Helen 01538 702629 the_laurels@yahoo.co.uk

Dust? What Dust?!

12th March 2016

In our last blog post, we promised you an update on the work to our main entrance steps. So, in an effort not to disappoint, here it is. As Monday morning dawned another bunch of Men in Boots (MIBs) duly turned up to do their funky thang. Given that we’ve had more MIBs now than you can shake a stick at, we’re somewhat reticent to number these ones, so let’s just call them The Brickies.

It could be suggested that we’d tasked them with creating a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as we’d already had to half demolish the steps to allow the previous MIBs access the rear of the property. Still, they seem to have managed to make a good fist of things so far as you can see.

Rebuild entrance steps
Whilst The Brickies wrestled with bricks, mortar and the weather we’d asked our Workawayers to strip the varnish from our Breakfast Room floor. Unfortunately, the liquid varnish stripper we’d bought was only suitable for removing a few sparingly applied coats and not the multiple layers of goo that seem to have been liberally applied over the last 15 years.
This resulted in them having to repeatedly scrape every square inch of floor in an effort to reveal the beautiful solid wood floor that lay hidden somewhere below. After a couple of hours, we agreed this was a pointless task and decided to hire a floor sander.
This wasn’t something we were that keen to do, as there seemed to a plethora of stories proclaiming floor sanders to be the tools of Beelzebub, likely to wreak havoc in your home by careering off in an uncontrolled rampage gouging huge holes in your once perfectly flat floor.
Breakfast room floor
It was then, with a little trepidation that we arranged to hire this beast of destruction. However, before The Beast could be brought home, we had to first collect it.
You probably wouldn’t think it would be that difficult, but involving HSS, apparently The UK & Ireland’s national supplier of equipment and tool hire, things quickly became a little trying. Our first mistake was deciding that paying nearly £30 for delivery and pickup was a trifle expensive. In an effort therefore to save a few quid I decided I could pick up the machine from the shop in Leek myself. So, having rung them to reserve it, I looked up their address on Google, entered the details into my sat nav and drove off to Leek, our nearest large town to pick it up.
Now, I’m a great fan of sat navs, as they generally save all that map reading, writing down directions, getting lost and the general annoyance that accompanies going somewhere you’ve never been to before. So it was, with a certain amount of smugness, that I arrived in Leek at the exact road and property number, as provided by the HSS website. My smugness quickly turned into irritation, however, as it was clear that I was parked outside an empty shop! Clearly, the sensible thing to do at that point was to give them a ring and clarify their location. However, given I was sitting in a rural market town surrounded by beautiful hills and valleys, my super-dooper techy mobile phone was bereft of a signal.
Feeling ever more naffed off, I decided at that point to drive home and sulk a little. On my arrival home I was greeted with a quizzical look from Helen, to which I responded by indicating an immediate need to use the phone. On speaking with a very helpful chap at HSS and recounting my fruitless journey, he informed me that he’d been trying to get the powers that be to change the details on the website for ages but had failed dismally. He did, however, pass on the correct postcode, which I duly entered into my satnav the very next day.
As I drove towards Leek again, the satnav informed me that I should be taking a different route to the one I expected. Now, although I’m a fan of these clever bits of tech, I’m also aware that they are nothing more than dumb machines, prone to acts of willful idiocy. Being of a much higher intellect I decided to ignore the helpful suggestions of Sally the Satnav and continued on my previous route towards Leek.
As I journeyed ever onwards, it became obvious that Sally’s estimate of my time of arrival was actually getting later and later, indicating that I was going away from where I wanted to go, rather than towards it. It was at this point that I decided to check the indicated route, only to find that I should have been heading to Stoke and not Leek at all!
Suffice to say, once I’d arrived at Stoke the guy in the shop gave me a right good listening to. And the sanding machine? Well, that’s a complete pussy cat. Very easy to use, but boy does it generate some dust. Even though I was wearing a good face mask I spent the next day coughing like a smoker on 40 a-day. And don’t even think about having guests around for at least a week, because that’s how long it will probably take to clean the rest of the house.
As you can probably see from the vid below, Helen spent as much time hoovering up behind me as I did the sanding, resulting in us generating at least two large black bin bags of woody dust.
And here’s the result. All we have to do now is apply a nice coat of clear varnish, to keep it looking lovely.
Breakfast room floor

And The Next Contestant Please

2nd March 2016

No sooner had our American friends departed, than another set of intrepid travellers arrived on our doorstep, willing to swap their time and expertise for the comforts of our B&B and experiencing all things English.

This month’s volunteers are a couple from Oz and a chap from Chicago, whose ability to pack all their belonging into a large rucksack never fails to astound.

We’ve had guests stay at the B&B in the past, apparently staying for just one night, who turned up with more luggage than was used to test Terminal 5’s luggage system just before it opened  – and we all know how that ended!.

The most recent task we challenged them with was to board out our loft. It’s not that there were no boards previously, it’s just that they weren’t screwed down and were placed strategically enough to provide sufficient confidence that you thought you wouldn’t fall through into a bedroom below, but actually putting you in great danger of doing so every time you went up there.

Like any Englishman’s loft, this one is full of extremely important stuff that we’d moved from our previous house’s loft and will probably be moved to our next home and ensconced in the loft there, such is the importance of our continued ownership of a load of stuff we haven’t used in the last 20 years. Still, we now have a nicely boarded loft, enabling us to move the stuff we’ve been storing in our workshop for the last 18 months (and not using) into the house, where it will continue not to be used.

Outside the house, we’ve seen the arrival of the MIB3s. These new guys, from Evans Paving have been employed to put our upper drive back to the state it was before all things slippy slidey.

In our experience, most paving companies arrive unannounced outside your door in a Mitsubishi Shogun, with a magnetic sign on the door proclaiming them as ‘Paving Specialists‘ and sporting a thick accent which promises you a fantastic price because they’re “doing work in your area” (begorrah).

Luckily the boys from Evans Paving are not the norm. They spent a huge amount of time preparing the surface, checking levels and generally ensuring everything was spot on before they even unpacked a single pavior.

Upper drive paving
Upper drive paving
Upper drive paving
Below you can see a timelapse video of the guys braving rain, sleet and snow over 3 days compressed into just 60 seconds.  The next chapter of this story should see our entrance steps and carpark wall returned to their former glory.