The Ardross-man


November 2016

Operation Hand Over

I’m afraid I’m having to temporarily hand over the operation of the Barony St. John Centre to my Trustees, volunteers and instructors hiring the hall.

And the reason for this operation hand over?

Ironically, I’ve been in to get another operation on my hand.

You may remember I mentioned this time last year in my post Single Handed, I told you about my condition, Dupuytren’s Contracture, and how it causes my fingers to contract into a fist?

Well, this time my thumb had also to get operated on  – the operation involved pulling back the skin of the hand img_2464and exposing the tendons which then need to be scraped clean of the diseased tissue growing on them which causes the hand to contract – so if you’re squeamish you may want to skip reading the rest of this post……and definitely don’t look at the photos.

First of all, I’ve been unfortunate enough to have had two blood clots which have caused a blockage in my lungs. It’s all clear now but it makes me a “high risk” when it comes to operations so I have to be given tension stockings and special inflating boots during the operation to ensure my blood doesn’t clot while I’m under anesthetic.

Very fetching aren’t they? LOLimg_2463

Then the surgeon comes in to mark up what she is going to do – an arrow to ensure she gets the right hand, etc.

And now the fun begins!

Under general anesthetic she cuts open my hand to reveal all the internal working and goes to work freeing up my fingers and thumb.

She very kindly sent me a photo of what the operation will look like because I wasn’t allowed to take my camera into the operating theatre (it’s a sterile environment).

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Two hours later and its all over.

Now I’m out of action for about four weeks while it heals and I eventually get the stitches out and the physio starts the painful road to recovery.

In the meantime, I cannot drive and have to stay with my parents to help with covering my arm up while I shower, etc.

Hopefully, I’ll be back at work reporting some good news (for a change) on the beautiful Victorian buildings that I’ve set my heart on saving.

I’ll leave you with this atmospheric photo of them and a reminder that every cloud must surely have a silver lining. 😀



Until next time.



Money flushed down the drain

Well, it looks like the warning I got (See my last post Is this another Omen – or The Omen?) may really have been an omen. 😦

It started with a blocked toilet in Barony St. John’s img_2433Ladies toilets…….then the Disabled Access toilet was blocked…….then the Gents urinals overflowed.

Originally I thought it was the twenty-odd kids whom come to Muay Thai three times per week. It seemed that they all saved themselves all day to come into the hall and take a dump in my toilets.

I was going through a toilet roll per week in both the male and female toilets. :-/

Now compare that with the previous owners, The Church of Scotland.

I can pretty much guarantee that the members of the congregation went before they left their house and wouldn’t have dreamt of taking a dump in the church hall toilets. Sacrilege.

Also, in the last twenty years or so, the congregation numbers had decreased and, of course, the hall was probably only open once per week so the volume of people using the toilets was obviously far less than the present.

Anyway, ALL the toilets were now blocked and I tried everything to unblock them –

I poured a bucket of water down each one to try to flush away the blockage….No joy!

I rammed a mop down each one to try to act like a plunger…No joy!

I poured a kettle of hot water down each one (my granny’s old trick)…..No joy!

I poured enough drain cleaner down each one to dissolve my mother’s chocolate cake (and that’s no easy task, believe me)…..No joy!

There was nothing else for it, I had to get in a specialist drain cleaning company to identify the problem and hopefully provide a solution. It was time for – The Drain Doctors (I kid you not, that’s the name of the company).

So, first step was finding the drain cover and sticking a camera up it to see what’s blocking the drain.img_2436

There appeared to be a slight blockage but nothing major – well nothing a high powered water hose wouldn’t shift.

So the Drain Doctor inserted the water hose into the drain and turned on the water.

Five minutes passed – nothing!

No sign of water forcing up into the toilets – no sign of the blockages shifting – nothing!

So the Drain Doctor took his hose out and shoved his camera back up. This was quickly followed by an exclamation of “Oh sh*t!”

It appears that this drain pipe was actually disconnected and what he had actually been doing was firing water under the floor of the hall.

“Don’t worry, it will soak away.” he said. Hmmmmm!

I should’ve known then that this was going to get to be a lot worse than I had expected – in fact, things were going to get a lot, lot worse.

img_2434The Drain Doctor decided that if we couldn’t find the way into the toilets from the drains, we had to go from the toilets to the drains. So he opened the connecting pipes in the Ladies and shoved The Worm down it.

Now, The Worm is a mechanical, spiral, flexible rod which twirls and snakes around as its inserted into the pipe system. The theory is that it will loosen up anything down there.

After an initial back splash (I’m going to have nightmares about this), The Worm was switched on and slowly fed down the pipe…..No joy!

After five hours of trying to free this blockage, Drain Doctor One had to give up. His colleague would come and try again tomorrow. img_2437

The next day, Drain Doctor Two arrived and after assessing the problem, called for backup.

Now we had Drain Doctor Two and Three on site and they weren’t leaving until the air was filled with the sweet smell of success – or something a lot less sweeter. 😦

Cameras were inserted up the drain again….No joy!

And then they realised, hang on a minute, there are two drainage pipes side by side. One should be the drainage pipe as it runs into the drains – and one is the storm drain pipes connected from the gutters to the drains with a drainage trap midway.

img_2435The storm pipe is only three inches in diameter whereas the sewage pipe is six inches.

Surely the toilets hadn’t been connected to the storm drain pipe when the toilets were refurbished twenty odd years ago?

It was at this point that the fire alarm company decided to pop in and replace the faulty fire alarm in the corridor – and guess whereabouts in the corridor it was?

Yep, of all the forty plus feet of corridor, the alarm was directly above the hatch with the blocked pipes! Typical.

So, as the Drain Doctors hatched a cunning plan to solve my blockage, the alarm guys went up a ladder to solve my faulty alarm. What could go wrong?

The Drain Doctors reckoned if they cut a hole in the disconnected drain pipe and then drilled a hole in the storm water drain pipe which they thought was actually connected to the toilets, the blockage would simply flow from one drain hole to the other. Brilliant.

Now, if you can imagine an oil drill in Texas striking oil, it will give you an idea of what happened next.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got a photo of that so this is the best I can do….img_2438It’s taken from across the road from the church hall – which was the safest place for me to be at this point. 😀

As you can see, we have the two Drain Doctor vans plus the alarm company van all blocking the pavement and part of the road – while inside the sewage blockage was spraying all over the contractors. Not a pretty sight….and apparently not one which they wanted photographed either. 😦

Anyways, once the initial eruption died down, the Drain Doctors managed to insert a high pressure water hose and got the drain cleared – Hooray 🙂

But my problems were not over yet – Awwww 😦

img_2440You see, the drain trap in the storm pipe (remember the one which was actually connected to the toilet drains) must have been filling with sediment, toilet paper and faeces over the last twenty odd years and was probably now full of crap (literally) making the flow of water and the flushing of the toilets almost impossible.

Now the water is now flowing albeit slowly but this means that if more than one toilet is flushed now, they will overflow into the space between the two pipes. And eventually, the storm drain pipe will block up again.

So, the solution had to be to get someone in to connect a pipe from the storm drain pipe to the disused drain pipe and then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be back in business.

Enter Super Builder, Paul Marchetti.

Paul is the guy who has saved me, and more importantly the charity, a fortune in building works since we bought the church buildings in December 2014.

Paul cleared up our dry rot problem, secured our doors, replaced our toilets, damp proof lined the walls, re-plastered our kitchen, repaired the roof and ceilings in several areas….etc. etc. etc.

He is the master builder of all master builders. He is, quite simply, Super Builder.

His plan was to reconnect the toilet pipes with the original six inch wide drain pipe and block off the storm drain which was actually disconnected anyway (and turimg_0736ned out to be the one which Drain Doctor One had pressure jetted water into).

To do this he had to remove eight bags of rubble from under the floor to fully access the pipework. 😕

And so, just over a week from the point where this all started, we are sorted. The toilets are flushing, the drains are flowing and the air is finally clearing. Phew!

And the reason for naming this post Money flushed down the Drain?

Well, the total hall rental profit for the last FOUR MONTHS (and then some) has been lost paying for this little mishap. Quiet literally, money flushed down the drain. 😦

I’d like to think that this is the last big problem I’ll incur for a while – but with the weather forecast saying we are to expect our worst winter in decades, I have a feeling that my bad luck is not over yet….    keep-calm-the-worst-is-yet-to-come-2







Is this another Omen – or The Omen?

I emptied some of my old books which I’m reluctant to throw away until I find out if we’d be needing them in a book shelf / public reading area.

Do you think someone is trying to tell me something when this book ended up on top? 😀img_2377

Inspirational heroes

The whole point of buying Barony St. John’s church in Ardrossan was to give a home to my charity and make a community connection.

SCPS Logo colour

Since it’s conception in 2013, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety has been lucky enough to have some inspirational people agree to be our Patrons –

karen-darkeKaren Darke is our Patron representing people with disabilities. She is a Paralympic cycling champion having won Silver in the 2012 London Paralympics road time trial H1-2 and Gold in the Rio 2016 Paralympics in the H1-3 time-trial.

Karen is also a two-time World Champion in Para-Triathlon and an avid adventurer having already hand-cycled across the Indian Himalayas, Cuba, Japan and the Tien Shan and Karakoram mountains of Central Asia. She has also sea kayaked the 1200 mile length of the Canada – Alaska coastline, spent a month traversing 600 kilometre Greenland ice cap and climbed the giant rock face of El Capitan in the USA’s Yosemite National Park – all accomplished despite being paralysed from the chest down.

Making reference to our charity, Karen commented; “I think the work which The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is doing in the development of ‘Personal Safety for People with Disabilities’ courses is fantastic and I am delighted to be asked to be their Patron.

halah-al-hamrani-cropHalah Al-Hamrani is our Patron representing people from black and minority ethnic groups. She is Saudi Arabia’s first female kickboxing and boxing trainer, fighting not only the stigma that women are the weaker sex and not suited for such a male dominant sport but also fighting gender inequality as a whole.

Halah trained in karate, boxing, Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai before setting up FLAG (Fight Like a Girl) Boxing on Instagram in 2013 and then opened the first female boxing gym in Saudi Arabia in April 2016.

Halah continues to show the world that women from any background, any culture, any country, can succeed and commented;

I am delighted to support The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety and be a Patron for their ‘Personal Safety for Black and Minority Ethnic’ courses.  I am glad that I am looked at as an inspirational Muslim woman, breaking the mold and proving that gender inequality can be challenged.

stephanie-inglisStephanie Inglis is our Patron representing women. She is also an athlete mentor with Champions in Schools, Game on Scotland and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

As a Judo champion, Stephanie won her first Gold medal at the age of eight and since then has won several more including Gold in the English Open in 2013, Silver in the Samoa World Cup in 2013, Bronze in the Australia World Cup in 2014, and most recently Silver in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Commenting on her connection with the charity, Stephanie said; “I support the work which The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety does in the provision of personal safety, conflict resolution and practical self defence training, particularly their ‘Personal Safety for Women’ courses, and I am pleased to be asked to be their Patron.

It was while taking a break from training earlier this year, just prior to taking part in the Rio Olympics, that Stephanie had a tragic accident which left her with a severe injury.

On the way to teach children English at a Vietnamese school, Stephanie’s skirt got tangled in the back wheel of the motorbike taxi she was on and she was thrown off head first. Her condition was described as “critical” and she was given a 1% chance of survival.

This is where her friend Khalid Gehlan stepped in.

Khalid heard of Stephanie’s critical condition and set up an online fundraising campaign to get Stephanie the medical treatment she needed and arrange for her to be brought back home. In just a few days, he had raised more than £300,000 and Stephanie’s life was saved.

After being brought back to Scotland, Stephanie was brought out of her coma, began talking and miraculously managed to walk again. She has now started back training and hopes to be fit enough to compete for Scotland in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Khalid explained why he felt compelled to help Stephanie; “I couldn’t bear to think of Stephanie dying before she had that chance to fall in love, have children, grow a family, travel the world and do all the things she wanted to do.

khalid-gehlanKhalid’s inspiring act saw him nominated in the category of “Unsung Hero” in the Sunday Mail’s Great Scot 2016 awards.

An overall winner is chosen from the winners of each category and Khalid received a standing ovation as it was announced that he had won and was this year’s “Great Scot”. His saving of Stephanie’s life was described as “truly inspirational” by the judges led by former First Minister Lord McConnell.

But our inspirational connections don’t stop here.

One of our instructors is Colin Hamilton who was nominated and won the “Forces Hero” award in the Daily Record’s Our Hero 2005 awards – awards for ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.colin

Colin served with the Black Watch and lost his right leg and suffered severe burns to his stomach and face while trying to save a colleague who had fallen on a high voltage electric cable whilst in Kosovo in 2001. Colin’s heroic and selfless act resulted in him spending nine months in and out of hospital directly after the incident – and would see him attend hospitals on a regular basis to this day.

Obviously, his injuries meant that Colin could no longer be allowed to go on active duty but when he heard that his regiment was being deployed to Iraq in 2003, Colin refused to let his mates go without him so set about persuading Army chiefs to change their minds.

Colin clocked up the second fastest time ever for an 800 metre run by a military amputee and passed every test the military could throw at him so, reluctantly, they consented for him to go to the front line. Colin explained; “Being back with my mates is the best form of rehabilitation you can get.

Colin’s selfless act in trying to save the life of his colleague followed by his bravery in the field of combat saw him not only win the “Forces Hero” award but also be named the overall winner and crowned 2005’s “Our Hero.”

deirdre1Following on in Colin’s footsteps, the Chair of our charity, Deirdre Oakley won in the “Contribution to the Community” category of WestFM ‘Cream of Ayrshire’ 2015 awards.

As well as being our Chairperson, Deirdre also works full time as a Community Education Worker with North Ayrshire Council and is a volunteer with Ardrossan Coastguard Rescue Team.

She won the award for devoting almost all of her time to charity fundraising, raising over £20,000 in 2014 alone.

I cannot help but be inspired by these truly wonderful people and my charity is honoured to have a connection with them. 😀

From death springs life

In the entrance to the Barony St. John’s church is a marble christening font.

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It stands flush against the wall and I think it came from the original St. John’s church prior to its demolition.


It’s such a shame that it has been positioned so close to the wall as it prohibits you from reading the brass plaque on the rear;

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I managed to get a camera behind to photograph (albeit in two photos) the inscription plate.

It reads –

To the Glory of God: In loving memory of Lt. & Act. Capt. Robert Thorburn Adamson, 13 Royal Scots who fell near Arras, 23 April 1917 aged 23 and Lt. George Addis Adamson, 6 King’s Own Scottish Borderers who fell near Ypres, 12 October 1917 aged 19.

Erected by their Parents

So touching that the parents should think of donating a christening font to the church to remember their sons by.

From their deaths, springs new life.

Lest we forget.


Remembrance Day 2016

img_2347On the internal wall at the entrance to Barony St. John’s is a marble plaque detailing those parishioners who died in the Great War of 1914-1918.

When I took this photo a couple of days ago, I felt it fitting to post it on Remembrance Day.

For those of you who are not familiar with Remembrance Day, this is a special day where those soldiers who have died in the line of duty, from the First World War to the present day, are remembered throughout the Commonwealth nations.

A two minute silence is observed to mark the end of hostilities on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month  (11am on 11th November).

Red poppies are worn and placed at war memorials all around the country.

This poppy emblem of Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday (held on the Sunday directly after the 11th November if the 11th does not fall on a Sunday), poppyhave been worn in the UK since 1921.

Poppies bloomed across many of the battlefields of the First World War and their colour also posed a reminder of the blood spilled from then until now.

This year, there are some wonderful Remembrance tributes – these wood carvings of soldiers, fallen comrades and poppies in the Remembrance Woodland at Rozelle Park in Ayr, Scotland (many thanks to StevieC Photography);

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And this wonderful sculpture of a soldier in Glasgow’s George Square which is encased in glass and filled with poppies which are blown around him.


Lest we forget.

Tai Chi – the yang for my yin

I mentioned in a previous post (Hall’s well that ends well) that as well as our day-to-day charity courses / lessons for victims of violence etc. I have managed to book the hall building out every evening Monday to Friday with various martial arts and exercise classes which relate to the overall theme of my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (

By the end of October 2016, we had Muay Thai, Ladies Boxing Bootcamp and Krav Maga classes to encourage the local community to use our facility.

But I’m a firm believer of having harmony in a project. A Yin and a Yang.


So far, I had managed to get all the physical, ‘rough’ sports and exercise on offer but I felt we needed a softer, non-aggressive element to balance things up. So I set about finding a Tai Chi instructor who could offer weekend classes at the Barony St. John Centre.


If you don’t know what Tai Chi is, here is a brief description;

Tai Chi is recognised by the Chinese Government and many Health Institutes around the world as a form of exercise that offers one of the greatest all-round benefits to health.

Originally created 400 years ago as a martial arts system that incorporated the wisdom of the ancient Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang with specialised breathing techniques and a profound understanding of the internal energy meridians used in traditional Chinese Medicine. Chen style Tai Chi (Taijiquan) is a sequence of dynamic movements that combines soft and hard with fast and slow actions, in a balanced and natural way.


During practice the body remains relaxed with the practitioners’ consciousness, breathing and actions all closely connected. These unique features enhance benefits to health, fitness, and weight-loss and are just a few of the reasons why so many people, regardless of age and level of fitness, regularly practice Chen Style Tai Chi throughout the world today.

Tai Chi exercises are said to regulate all systems within the body, improving digestion, respiration and circulation. As the movements are performed in a relaxed manner this can also lead to a reduction in stress-related disorders. The low-impact nature of the routines improves the condition of bones, joints and muscles without strain whilst encouraging balance, focus, flexibility and coordination to promote health and vitality within the individual.

It’s no wonder that Tai Chi is now being offered in various hospitals and centres throughout NHS Scotland.

We have been very lucky to have gained the services of two Tai Chi instructors from Glasgow based “Scotland Tai Chi”;

Mhairi McGowan is a qualified Level 2 Tai Chi instructor under Grandmaster Liming Yue of the Tai Chi Centre UK and will be running the weekly classes at the Barony St. John.

Michaela Sinclair (seen qigong-2in the purple outfit)  is a Level 4 Tai Chi, 3rd Duan Wei Qigong instructor and an indoor student of Grandmaster Liming Yue of the Tai Chi Centre UK and will be running master classes at various points throughout the year.


I’ve also ordered a banner to advertise the opening of the hall and the evening classes we now offer – what do you think?


Ideally, I’d like to get a Yoga instructor and someone to teach meditation to complete the balance between “exertive” classes and “relaxed” classes.

Watch this space. 🙂





One Year On….

A year ago today, I started this blog with my first post “The Journey Begins…“, now some 111 posts later, we seem to have come a long way – although to me my progress with the Barony St. John’s church and hall has been slow and laboured.

I started with a church building and a church hall. Both in dire need of repair, renovation and saving.

The hall was the easiest to save (if easy is even close to the right word) and so after cutting through all the red tape, legal booby traps and funding minefields, I finally managed to start the mission of opening the hall room, toilet areas and reception area to the public.

toilet5 image DSC01764 DSC01765 IMG_0831image image

Along the way, I’ve found lots of church and Victorian memorabilia –

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IMG_0128 image

And discovered lots of the buildings’ secrets –

thomas scott crop2 DSC01310crop boat

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All of which I’ve detailed in blogs throughout the year including describing some spooky goings on and the many Omens which have spurred me on –

Star of David window crop DSC01671 666766-william_wallace_large image image

Finally, and against all the odds (and some local people who’d rather see the buildings torn down and turned into a carpark), the hall is now up and running both for my charity, including the many disabled groups and victims of violence we help, and as a community asset as we provide martial arts and exercise evening classes plus free training courses for the public.

Lisas class image img_2069

But the journey continues.

And I’m sure I’ll continue to find wonderful discoveries and insights into a time gone by and hopefully mementos from the Victorian age.

I’ll face trials and tribulations galore as winter sets in and the work begins (hopefully) on opening the Training Room.

And my hopes to save this iconic, grand old church building will also continue – hopefully with some backing from the local community.

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So, join me for Year Two – and let the adventures begin. 😀


The Barony St. Joq1hn church has been around a long, long time.

It was built in 1844 when Queen Victoria was only 25yrs old and had only been Queen for 7 years. (This photo was taken in 1882 when she was just 23yrs old).

James Knox Polk had just been elected the 11th President of the United States of America (1845–49).

Napoleon Bonaparte had only died 23 years prior to the Barony being built and the US Civil War wouldn’t start for another 17 years.

It was a different time – a different world….and down through the years the Barony St. John has been captured on film and in paintings, still sitting proudly on the seafront of Ardrossan.


How can anyone not want to save these buildings? They are a living history of Ardrossan, North Ayrshire and Scotland.

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