I have always been interested in houses but I am also very interested in how where you live affects who you are. It probably springs from my childhood when our family emigrated to New Zealand when I was eleven. Life was suddenly so utterly different. Some of those differences were hard: my beloved grandparents were twelve thousand miles away, everything was new and strange, I went to a new school and was teased for my strange British accent. Some of the differences were good: the sun shone, the sky was a vivid blue, our new house was twice the size of the one in England, we cycled,swam, walked and as we settled in and the hard differences began to fade it was clear that this new place to live meant opportunities which would never have come our way as an ordinary family in cold and rainy Rochdale.
We came back to England when I was eighteen and I have lived in various places in the UK ever since but I think that glorious dislocation has left me with a sense that moving, changing, is possible. We moved to Wales sixteen years ago and now Wales feels like home. I know a lot of people who feel very rooted in their area, in their house and there are things about that rootedness that are deeply appealing but that is not my life's story. I think for me there is something about changing where you live that calls to something very deep in me. It speaks of potential.
It is an interesting thing to balance: the love of a place, the people you know, a particular house and the excitement of something new. When we decided to build a new house I knew that I did not want to move far away. I love the sense of familiarity and connectedness which has grown from living here for many years. It took a while to find a building plot and even longer to sell our beautiful ancient house up the hill. We have moved about a mile into a rental property while our house is built. So many things remain the same: our family and friends, the way we spend our time with my language classes and Ian's volunteering and yet much feels very different. I thought I would try to think about what that is.
The energy which needs to go into the planning of the new house is very different from the energy of keeping the old house going. That was mainly physical energy, looking after the garden and holiday cottage. This is a mental and emotional energy, keeping an eye on the building work, planning and thinking and choosing and trying to keep up with a wealth of different issues. Ian is tremendously good at this. I don't think I would be trying to do this on my own. He has an eye for detail and a willingness to research and research which I don't have. I hope I bring my own offerings to the table.
I am finding the whole process of watching a new house go up extraordinarily interesting and that has an energy of its own. I think a lifetime of having lived with a practical father and of having married a practical man has shaped a real interest in how things work. I knew I would enjoy being involved in the process but I don't think I realised just how fascinating I would find it.
I am really intrigued by the whole idea of building a house which is for us, which respects its place and its history but reflects us and our interests and our lives, both looking back at where we have come from and what we have done and looking forward, trying to make a house for the next twenty years or more. I am sixty seven. We won't do this again. The process of trying to create a house which works and sparks joy is endlessly fascinating.
To get upstairs in the new house you have to climb a wobbly ladder right now. Through the not yet window and the lines of the scaffolding you can see the hills of what will be our view. I feel like a round peg in a round hole right now.