|07/10/2011||Filled under Carradale, house refurbishment, Kintyre, Scotland, weather|
Spring and summer have both come and gone and the season I have really been looking forward to has finally made it to Carradale. Along with some wild weather, Autumn brings us a profusion of colours which transform the hillsides, dripping reds and browns from every tree bough and changing the character of the Highlands. Then in a quieter way new growth emerges from the ground in the form of mushrooms and toadstools in all shapes and sizes. Fungus thrives in the damp places along our forest paths, feeding on fallen logs, invading the peat moss and even sprouting amongst the grass in our back garden. There is a full spectrum of colours but these growths are fleeting objects which can dissolve to nothing in the course of one day once they have released their spores into the world. Whenever the weather allows we rush outside to try to capture their brief lives in photographs, to preserve forever what nature chooses not to. This page shows off just a tiny part of the Carradale fungus compendium, delicate things that I must leave others to give names to.
Against our wishes we are driven indoors when the gale arrives and torrential rain thunders down, an exciting but all too frequent event over the last few weeks. I reluctantly turn to my second choice pastime – exploring the mysteries of the house we live in, going through a process, familiar to many, of uncovering the work of previous house owners, learning about the changes they have made, what has been covered up by successive layers of decor and what lies still hidden beneath floors and behind the fitted cupboards. It seems inevitable that years of history will manifest itself in the fabric of a building in such a way as to subvert any refurbishment project or at least to undermine the timetable yet somehow this is something that is never given due prominence on TV property improvement programmes. It is not a question of uncovering poor workmanship, more an issue of the time it takes to discover how the elements of a house have been put together so that they can be unpicked without causing too much damage.
One of our domestic objectives is to provide electrical power to a garden shed which will be delivered and erected next week, my workshop space in the garden. So, having nothing better to do, I begin crawling around our roof spaces where I uncover a rather stout but unconnected length of electrical cable which meanders about the place and which disappears from sight beneath our bedroom floor heading in a purposeful way towards the front of the house. It no longer carries any electrical current – it must be a relic of a time when our domestic water was heated by electrical immersion – but I can perhaps make use of the cable if I can locate the other end which is hidden somewhere in the structure of our property.
Inevitably in this type of exploratory operation, the time comes when one just has to get destructive; there is nothing else for it, no other way to get to the inaccessible space I need to peer into. Perhaps I could rip up the bedroom floor to see what lies beneath but with laminate laid over our solid tongue and grooved floorboards this is not a happy option. In any case there is an alternative, to approach this space from below by making holes in a ceiling on the ground floor. It is at about this point that I discover what used to be a corridor or passage leading from the front of the house into what used to be a small back kitchen. This route was sealed off many years ago so that the kitchen could be redesigned and enlarged and the only evidence now is in the walls of our small broom cupboard beside the stairs in the centre of the house, It is hard to imagine, in a small house such as ours, a different layout of rooms from what we see today, but clearly this was once the case, I cannot argue with the evidence of my eyes.
I am covered from head to toe in plaster dust by the time I have successfully located the missing end to my cable but am satisfied that we can make use of it and do not have to thread another cable through the house.
As the sun pops out, once more we grab our waterproofs and don our walking shoes for another blast of exercise and fresh air, of which there is still plenty flying about. Does it matter that the rain showers come and go regularly as we ascend to the top of Deer Hill? Do we care that lying water quickly penetrates our shoes and soaks through to our toes? Do we meet any other walkers out braving the weather? No, no and well yes, surprisingly, we do meet one young couple, Londoners, who are staying in a cottage previously inhabited by their grandparents but since retained by the family as a holiday home. Shifting mentally between the landscapes of Southwark and Carradale takes some doing, we know, and they did have an air of puzzlement about them as if Kintyre was still sinking through into the deeper parts of the brain. It does take a little time.