Saturday, May 26, 2007

Future tense

My builder has taken to breaking off large pieces of plaster board and writing messages in pencil on them. They say things like: "2 18" X 16" 4 M L" and "End bathroom right". Little arrows slide up and down and, alongside, numbers carrying fractions on their hips. It is all very Old Testament. I am daily expecting to read a larger chunk along the lines: "Thou shalt honour thy builder and his building mates. Thou shalt pay thy builder on time. Thou shalt hold thy builder above thine architect and shalt not take the name of thy builder in vain. Thou shalt not question thy builder about tea breaks. Thou shalt not covet thy builder's Saturdays and Sundays for in a number of months thy builder shalt make thy kitchen and thy bathroom and any number of other rooms for thee and thine and he hast need of the odd day off to resteth and to watcheth sport on TV. Thou shalt admire thy builder's craftsmanship and speak highly of him to all comers. Thou shalt abjure temples like B&Q and the false gods of DIY. Thou shalt appreciate thy builder is passing on his discount from his trade suppliers."

Even without a holy diktat, I am impressed by the skill I see around me in the cottage. I enjoy seeing the evidence of craftsmanship. There are things I have spent years learning how to do. Listening, for instance. When I talk to someone, I am all attention. I want to hear what they say, how they feel, what they think, what they do not realise they are feeling or thinking. I want to know. Not just for the sake of it but to understand their sorrow or their joy, to know them better. To make a friend. To keep a friend. To be a friend. To know, you have to listen. In the same way, I can appreciate the skill in a plaster perfect wall; the subtle, creamy finish of a painted room; a red clay flattened brick rescued from underneath the kitchen floor, cleaned and proud in a newly opened up hearth; a landing floor, quilt patched with wood rescued from that kitchen floor, each piece eased in and nailed down by a craftsman. It is not just a matter of a job and a bill. I can appreciate the efforts of a man trying to steam, sand, scrape and burn whitewash and distemper, clinging tight to the ceiling beams it has loved for years. I know his arms ache and his breath catches in the dust as he helps to build an idea of a house.

A friend told me that I am in a conversation with the house. True. My house speaks to me of the past, the present and the future. In that corner of what will be my living room, a pantry stood; that windowsill by a greasy wall was where the woman made her cream and butter; the hearth we have uncovered, once held a kitchen range. I have listened and learnt something of the house and those who lived here, in the rewriting of its rooms and passages. The present, of course, is around in all its brick dusted glory, patterns keyed in the render, electric cables hanging from the walls, strangers who have become friends marking the rooms with their skills. But I can see the future better than the present. As I stood on the landing looking down the painted corridor through the house, I saw soft painted walls and light from mended windows. The walls pushed back to open up the route between what were two houses, knitting the divide with space. I thought: "Perhaps this could be my home. Perhaps I could hang pictures along these walls."

53 comments:

wife in the north said...

I won't be blogging for around a week and a half.
Don't forget me.

Emma L-P said...

I completely agree. When we renovated our house in the north our builders were lovely but the whole project was so stressful (and expensive) that I swore I'd never do it again. It took nine months to put the roof back on, get rid of the mould and damp and make the place habitable. We had to camp in a tiny barn we dubbed the scout hut while we waited to move in. But ten years on the horror has faded and I'm embarking on an even more major project in France. Completely mad, but doing up houses gets addictive!
www.emmaleepotter.co.uk

I Beatrice said...

A lovely blog, Wife! Those commandments should be enshrined in every builders' manual and Corgi-registered plumbers' CV.

And you and your house ought to feature on Grand Designs. It would certainly be a relief from the endless repeats!

I too worship at the shrine of the master craftsman though. I personally believe that every competent plasterer should receive a knighthood on the spot, and the name of every honest plumber be enshrined in gold!

Late in the day, by the way (very late!), I have learnt how to make links, and have responded to your own kind early link with me...

Happy holiday.

The thinker said...

We will not forget you. We'll be impatient for your return. Enjoy your break away.

debio said...

Too long has the education system eschewed the craftsman - encouraged by the glib marketing of the DIY industry.
To be able to create - and I don't mean flatpack housing estates - is a skill which we lose at our peril.

james higham said...

How do you knit a divide with space, Wifey? I've never learnt that trick.

Eats Wombats said...

What, no thou shalt not covet thy builder's cleavage?

@themill said...

Don't you also listen so that you can blog about them afterwards?

Wisewebwoman said...

I, too, am renovating a house built by a master craftsman orginally. He used the boards from his old schooner for the floors and I get the sense of being on the high seas as I walk across them. I loved your "knitting the divide", I see it.
Take a good rest. We will not forget you.

sunshine said...

For James Hingham -- you must be a young'un. For us born in 1941, we knit mental divides with space every day of our lives! And Wifey, we'll just talk among ourselves until your return. It will be a very long week and a half!

wife in the north said...

re sunshine: thanks for your previous comment on conversations with houses. this post is dedicated to you.

mountainear said...

I think it's harder for women than men - this building/renovation malarkey. Men, we're told, build houses. Women make homes - part of our nurturing gene.

There's great male satisfaction in structures and load-bearing joists and thermal values. While it's probably a generalistaion, we girlies probably want to cut to the Farrow and Ball swatches, accessories and Happy Christmases....sounds like you're getting there.

Have a good break.

Minx said...

You forgot 'thou shalt supply thy builder with the holy PG Tips - six times a day'.

Norman said...

Have a good break. I'll await your continuing blog with bated breath.
As debio said about the education system, too much acedemia and not enough manual skills. Nowadays if I tell someone I am "time served" they think I've been to jail, not finished an apprenticeship. [That was a long time ago!]
I sounds like your new house will be quite some place, - well worth the wait I hope. Good luck.

jane said...

WITN - as if we could!

Whatever you're doing, hope it's good.

Jane

mutleythedog said...

I am looking forward to your visit Wifey- I hope you are up for the amateur video night which is traditional - we usually release them on the Anal XXX label.

Livvy U. said...

There's nothing like those moments of bonding with a house, when you can see the past, experience the present and imagine the future. There's alot of hope in that, and in your post.
Enjoy your break. Forget you? As if.

sunshine said...

Thanks for the dedication! We will all come for the open house, including Mutley with the entertainment!

I do envy you this segment of the process. The uglies are behind you. Now you get to see the rewards of your artistry (which just looked like mess a few months ago) -- the molding of stone, mortar, slate, plaster and wood into an image from your heart and mind. I truly love my home. I have lived here for some 35 years, with three husbands. You could not pry me out until the crematory is prepared for me. But the newness of your life to come will be so exciting for you all. It is to be envied!

However, the finalizing of this whole picture of yours will be just delicious for you. Enjoy it to the fullest! All too soon it will be just rooms to be cleaned of jelly and Playdoh with time you do not possess.

May the ten days go slowly for you and very fast for us--

mutleythedog said...

I shall be there - but traveling incognito as the Police are searching for me in Yorkshire...

Motheratlarge said...

This is pure poetry and a joy to read - seriously, your writing is magic. Found myself reading your lines over and over to enjoy them one more time. My goodness, you write well.

Sounds to me as if the houses were desperate for a good listener like yourself to hear their story.

So glad as well for your sake that you've fallen in love with the place. There's always that tipping point, isn't there, with houses, which you describe so well.

Enjoy your break.

DogLover said...

Wife in the North. I was about to say what Motheratlarge has just said. You write so beautifully, it's a joy to read. You are clearly an exceptional woman and please keep on giving us pleasure when you come back. I am going to be lonely for a while because my other daily blog-reading is http://www.retiredandcrazy.com/ and she is away in Cyprus at the moment!

I have lived in my own house for almost 75 years! I am about to embark on a major redecoration and I hope I can find someone with your talent to suggest colour schemes, etc. for me !

doglover

rilly super said...

wifey darling, regarding that 'conversation with the house' point, I think anyone who has dealt with builders, or children, or a husband indeed, can understand the concept of talking to a brick wall.

I hope you have a good holiday. Can't wait for your return. I gave you a plug in an interview I did recently, hope you don't mind.

love Rilly XX

jane said...

OK, I'm bored now. What shall we talk about? Surely we can keep the blog warm whilst Wifey is away?

Anyone know where she's gone?

:)

sunshine said...

Jane, I'm bored, too. Where is Mutley when we need him? A good agitater is hard to find!

jane said...

Hi Sunshine,

Maybe WITN and Mutley have gone off together, what do you think? Could this be a bit of scandal we've discovered??

Hmmmmm......

There hasn't been much gossip around our neck of the woods for ages. The news is depressing, the weather awful, my favourite blogger WITN is off the air at the moment - what to do? I've resorted to pizza, chocolate and the odd glass or four of red wine.

Ah well, tomorrow's another day, I can look forward to .. er... more chocolate?

One good thing is that in Wifey's absence I strayed over to Norman's blog - he is such a good artist - have a look at his leaf sketch, and the one of cobblestones. I love that kind of thing.

:)

sunshine said...

Jane -- let's ease our boredom by boring everyone else to death!

Your web page mentions pilates. Do you have the home machine? Got mine (actually this is my second one) from QVC and would not be without it! It is really necessary to do something to counteract the Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips I am addicted to!

My daughter loves the Pilates floor work, but it seems to lack the power of the machine. (although to look at us side-by-side, you would swear the floor work is MUCH more effective!)

Keep the faith till Wifey comes back. Don't think she's off with Mutley unless she has finally cracked under the pressure of it all.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

I am sorry this going to sound really pedantic in a Lynne Truss kind of way (without the funny bits) but as you are studying German I thought you might be interested, as English and German are close relatives linguistically, and get more similar the further back you go. You wrote "he hast" when it should be "he hath". 'Hast' is the 2nd person singular ending like the German "Du hast", 'Thou hast' in archaic English. You add -st or -est to make the 2nd person singular form. 'ye' or 'you' is used in the 2nd person plural form. Also when you say "to resteth and watcheth". You just need an infinitive. "To rest" What you have used is the 3rd person singular ending as in "he watcheth" or "he resteth" like the German -t ending "Er sitzt" "Sie gibt", "Es geht" There are some cool websites which explain it a lot better than I can. Sorry, hope you don't mind. I love linguistics and I am an English teacher. Old habits die hard... I was told about your blog when I started mine about life in an alien culture. I enjoy reading it.

jane said...

Hi Sunshine - I've never heard of a Pilates machine, what fun - in my class we just clench various bits of ourselves, (get into neutral, draw navel to spine), do very small controlled movements which don't seem to work for months then suddenly, shazam, the old buttocks start moving up the back of the legs again, stomach tightens etc., and "bingo wings" reduce! Magic stuff, but hard to get the hang of initially with all the correct breathing etc. Our teacher is late 50's but looks 40, so that's another motivation for me. I am intrigued by the machine idea though, it would be great if I could use a machine and watch TV, for instance, but the sort of Pilates we do means that I can only think of what I'm actually doing at the time - breathing, clenching, keeping a neutral pelvis etc., complicated stuff as you know.

What are Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips like, and why haven't I heard of them either? Are you in the USA? If so, must get husband to bring me a supply of them back to the UK and a Pilates machine, then we can really compare notes!

Best wishes,

:)

sunshine said...

Jane -- I believe QVC has a British component -- check with QVC.com on the Pilates machine. It's so fluid and relaxing that once you get the moves learned, you don't even feel like you're working hard. I often light candles and play soft music and do it just before bedtime.

re: chocolate -- The chips are those you use for cookies. They contain the requisite 60% cocoa in order to be heart-healthy. So I use them for medicinal purposes, only, of course! Tell hubby to check cocoa content, as Ghirardelli makes many types.

Have a great day--

jane said...

Hi Sunshine, glad to hear you are only using the chocolate chips medicinally. I, of course, am taking a regular course of red wine for the same health conscious reasons:)

I think it's all about checks and balances, don't you? Half an hour Pilates here, and bit of chocolate there, a good long walk, a glass or two of red wine.....?

Am in the red however, diet-wise, today having just eaten an al fresco lunch which included pastrami (which is apparently bad, bad, bad for you), pate (the same)lovely French bread still warm with butter (don't even think about the fats in THAT) and chocolate with dates and walnuts. I tried to redress the naughty/good balance with green salad and sun-dried tomatoes but as they were swimming in olive oil (borderline good/bad) I think maybe I haven't succeeded! Altogether lovely,though, a hot Saturday lunchtime in sunny UK.

Back to the weeding!

Enjoy your weekend.

Norman said...

Hiya sunshine, and Jane. With my wife temporarily disabled I have been doing the cooking. (Its all that talk of Pilates, chocolate and red wine, - what a mixture.
Well my poor wife has had to put up with my Mediterranean cooking which I learned having to fend for myself in Cyprus. Good healthy stuff this Mediterranean food, especially if you're a vegetarian. But veggie my other half isn't. So to fend off a mutiny I have had to learn how to cook fish and the odd bit of meat. And that is a strange experience, handling food that was once part of an animal. Life's full of new experiences I guess.

sunshine said...

Jane -- you're doing fine. Any food, including sugar, fats, starches and processed meats loaded with fat and preservatives are healthy when eaten outside, especially if the sun is shining. The vitamin D cancels the bad stuff out!

And Norman -- how "odd" are the bits of meat you're cooking? If they are more than 2 weeks old, greenish and furry, I would be concerned!

Irene said...

Have just found this blog and love it! Can relate and sympathise. Please resume soon.

jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The thinker said...

I'm sorry you lot but if you think this will help us others get over missing the WITN blogyou're wrong. Have you thought she may well come back and decide she doesn't need to write another word. But just leave it to all of you to use as a bulletin board or chat room for QVC, pilates, and healthy eating etc etc..

Silence should be golden ...
Apart from - hope you enjoyed the break and welcome back - what else have you got to say to us??

PS My theory is that WITN has gone away for a few days to a chiropractor to be manipulated and wrenched back into shape to cure her RSI caused by being bent over the keyboard day in day out ...

The Secretary said...

Sometimes you make me glad hubby talked me into a brand new house - bliss!

mutleythedog said...

Quite honestly wifey dear -I am fed up with this post! People- please vote forme here !! CLICK HERE

jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norman said...

Er, Sunshine... By "odd" bits of meat I mean occaisional! But by and large my goodly wife is tolerating my veggie cooking. Actually she's getting stronger. Once her arm is out of plaster she'll be taking over the kitchen again and I'll be only too happy to let her. But that may be a good six weeks away yet.
Now... I'll just take a few potatoes, where did I put that knife..... I think its salad today.

jane said...

To the Thinker,

I'm sorry if we annoyed you with our chat. We weren't trying to make Wifey redundant (who could?) or turn this post into a chat room, it was just a little friendly banter to pass the time until she's back.

No harm done, hopefully:(

sunshine said...

To all who dislike Jane/Norman/Sunshine's trivial patter -- we have a simple object: we presume that Wifey is checking in on her comments occasionally. When she becomes ashamed to have such rot on a blog bearing her name, she will return! Help us be superficial, and she will return sooner!

The thinker said...

Sorry dear jane and sunshine - I see your ploy now. As you see I am very quick on the uptake once it has been explained to me in words of one syllab..., sylabub .... silly bull.

Mutley you old dog, I would have voted for you after I'd clicked on there but I couldn't see what, where or how to place a vote. Silly me - from dozy Devon. If you'd like to advise me I'll have another go! I hope your waterworks are now in proper working order.

The thinker said...

I CAN'T believe it!... How many folk have profiles (some no more than names.. ) but no blogs!?... I've looked at least 2 on this comment section and nothing - one person does have a front page but no postings ... what teasers you are. I wont name names - you'll know who you are. I assume it's so you are able to leave comments if anon comments are not allowed? But I was a bit disppointed .. some of you sound so interesting i was looking forward to reading some of your posts on your own pages...

SAHD said...

Well Mr Thinker if it's more blogs your are after try mine. I am a complete amateur but having a thoroughly smashing time learning how to blog and umm here it is:

www.stayathomedad.typepad.com

I seem inadvertantly to have chosen the same blog name as stay at home dad some of you may know over on blogspot but we are different ok??

On the renovation issue, bajesus, I sympathise, we spent every penny we had on doing up our old cottage (and a few more..) but we love the result and now four years on we are thinking of doing it again. Bit like childbirth really.

I'm enjoying this blogging lark and WITN is wicked.

Daniel said...

I don't like the nick name "Wifey." I dont' think it does a thing for her, whoever she is. I prefer to call her "Mom."

So, Mom said she would be gone about a week and a half. That is about 10 or 11 days. She has already been gone 10 days. So, maybe, if this is a planned absence, and everything has gone to plan, she ought to reappear in a day or two.

I sort of assumed that her sabbatical was home-construction related. Maybe they had to do some major demolition-recontruction, and the family has retreated to safer quarters for a few days. Maybe she could have stood it if it was just her. But you know, with the kids, I'm sure she would feel guilty if one of them got struck on the head by a load of bricks, or fell into some heavy equipment, or some calamity like that. That would all make sense wouldn't it?

I bet she has a bunch of saved-up, pent-up, frustration-filled, excitin' stories to tell us, when she gets back.

jane said...

Personally, I think WITN's gorn orf to a spa retreat to be pampered, pummelled and preened and will return to us a totally refurbished Wifey. The fantasy would be complete if, whilst she was away, the builders did all the really messy stuff and cleaned up before she got back...

Not long now WITN fans ........ is that her key in the lock I can hear??? We've been good, haven't we, not too much naughtiness?

mutleythedog said...

I for one am glad that I never make any silly superficial or pointless remarks. Wifey will be back tommorrow - don't ask me how I know - I just do!

The thinker said...

Mutley-dog is right - he doesn't waste words and he was right about her return - I saw her speeding on the Great North Road out of Bridport just after 11 pm last night. With a quiet road she should be back home today ...

The thinker said...

I'm hoping to have the Last Word On This.

Daniel said...

Oh dear; I'm starting to get a little worried. She's never been out this late before.

Elsie Button said...

i don't think wife in the north is coming back. she's upped sticks and left. had enough. gone.

jane said...

Keep calm everyone,don't panic and lose your nerve now. She's just filling the washing machine and checking the post, getting a bit of shopping in and THEN she'll talk to us.

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