Home » Carradale, house refurbishment, Kintyre, Scotland » Clearing the dust

Clearing the dust

In a single moment and a yellow steel skip, five months worth of bits torn from our Yeovil house are carted away, The skip makes its exitcaptured (just) by Kate’s camera. As each item was pulled from the rubbish pile in our back yard and placed delicately inside the skip there was a new memory triggered of where it came from, what it looked like before and what we had replaced it with. Each rusted nail had its own story, each broken tile held a dust-filled memory of how it had been chiselled free of the wall, every strip of flooring held the imprint of where it had fitted before my crowbar had pried it loose. The whole event is strangely therapeutic, a cleansing, a separation with the past. We feel we have achieved a lot in doing such a substantial house renovation and learnt a lot too, about houses, what they are made of and what goes on behind the skirting boards. There has also been much we have learnt about ourselves and what we are capable of taking on. So would we do it again? I think the answer is yes, we would, but maybe we’d go about things differently, putting ourselves under less pressure by setting a longer timescale.

One good thing is that I now have some amazing new tools to amuse myself with, very powerful and mostly red in colour, strangely. There is the random orbital sander (RAS to its friends) which vibrates at 13,000 cycles a minute whilst whining loud enough to wake the dead. Don’t think for a minute of using this little fellow to sand off an offending corn or bunion for it will have half your leg off before you can get to the power switch. I also persuaded Kate I needed a hefty circular saw for ‘cutting things’, preparing the ground for when we saw a nice orange and black one on offer in the store. This little babe will eat fingers, toes, arms, just about anything if you let it get away from you, all at great speed, projecting all the little pieces out through a nozzle in a glistening arc. I always do a detailed limb and digit count both before and after this one comes out of its case. Just because it hasn’t got me yet doesn’t mean I’m not on the menu.

One thing is for sure though. Taking on any house renovation work in the Highlands of Scotland will present a whole new set of logistical challenges. There will be no B&Q store close by and open seven days a week. I will not be able to stroll down the road and take my pick between five different plumbing suppliers nor will I have Screwfix at my beck and call. It is not an island we are relocating to but the location will present communication difficulties of similar complexity. We have already in the past come across the ‘Highlands surcharge’ on deliveries to this part of the world but we have now also witnessed an Argos van struggling around the hairpin bends just near Carradale’s long bay, which tells us that they do at least try.

What we can predict is that our car-free life is about to come to an end. Twice in our married life we have sold a car, our only car, without buying a replacement and we both have rather fond memories of the first time this happened and the car being driven away from our house in Faversham. No longer would it stand on the street soaking up our pennies and interfering with our green intentions. We both noted an immediate and distinct sense of relief and pleasure to give it away; the fact that someone was actually paying us money to take it off us even felt rather magical. Five years later and we had completely mastered the art of meticulous journey pre-planning which is the required skill for all those following this path. No journey is undertaken without studying bus and train timetables or fixing bike punctures and getting the family dressed up for the weather outside. No stepping from the house lightly clad and staggering into the shelter of the car for us. But we thought nothing of it, were proud of living this way – out of step with the rest of British life. When we needed a car again though, after our move to Devon in the late 1990s, we went straight out and bought one, only selling the thing after our move into London made ownership unnecessary again. Transport links in and around London are better than most places in the world and driving there today is one of the worst experiences you’ll get on four wheels. The decision was a no-brainer.

So here we are again, with yet another house move weeks away, reviewing our transport needs and saying yes, car it is again. How many other households today go through this process, I wonder.

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