Sunday, April 10, 2005

A project to change your life

by Suw on April 10, 2005

For as long as I can remember I’ve held the dream that one day I would be able to build my own house. As a kid, I would go on holiday with my family down to Cornwall, to The Lizard, (the most southerly point on the British mainland), where we would stay each time on the same caravan site, Gwendreath Farm Caravan Park. We went almost every year.

It was there that I acquired my obsession with Celtic languages, in part at least from the amazing placenames – Porthleven, Perranuthnoe, Mawgan, Tregidden, Goonhilly, Praze-an-Beeble. I would read as much as I could find about the local legends and try to learn phrases in Cornish so I could figure out what the placenames meant.

I think it was there that I acquired my dream of building my own house. I loved staying in caravans. I loved how compact they were, how they utilised every last scrap of space: the way there were secret cupboards tucked away under seats; the way that tables turned into beds; the tiny compact gas stove. I used to sit for hours with a notepad and pencil and design my own caravans.

Now I think less about caravan design and more about houses. This isn’t a function of my current nomadic situation, although maybe it does explain a little why not knowing where I am going to be living this time next year (or even this time next month) sometimes bothers me so. It’s an inbuilt thing, something that’s skulked about in the back of my head since I was a wee bairn.

One of my favourite TV programmes is Grand Designs, a Channel Four production that follows people following their house-building dreams. Tonight, the programme followed a couple who had bought a derelict church in County Mayo, Ireland, and were restoring and converting it to a house. Amongst a slew of really crap house design shows, Grand Designs stands out as the one with serious taste and standards. No MDF. No lurid colours. No shock-value interiors. Just people trying their hardest to realise their dreams.

Watching tonight, I found myself filled with wonder at how beautiful the building was, how picture-perfect the scenery, and how fantastic it would be to wake up every day in a building with such soul. The photos can only give a glimpse of how beautiful it must actually be.

But if I’ve learnt one thing from years of watching other people convert a derelict house or build their dream home from scratch, it’s that such an undertaking is huge. For the couple in Ireland, things went pretty smoothly, but for many there is delay after delay, trouble after trouble, disappointment after disappointment, and you wonder how they keep going.

How do you get up each day, for months on end, and force yourself to go to work on a project which could turn out to be your albatross? How do you keep a job going, and run a building project, and not destroy your marriage or relationship at the same time? How do you know that, at the end of it all, it will be worth it? Will you still be as in love with your dream when it is realised as you were when it was but a vision?

The answer is, I suspect, that you just do. You get up. You get through another day. You keep your eye on the future, and you trust that it will all come good in the end.

I don’t know if I will ever be in a position to build my own house. But I am getting a lot of practice at getting up, getting through another day, and trusting that it will all come good in the end.

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Which is worse?

by Suw on April 10, 2005

I can never figure figure out which is worse for a blonde of advancing years – finding a grey hair or finding a black one.

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