I heard my first cuckoo a few days ago at a garden near Uisken and now one has appeared on the croft calling and calling, unrequited in his love and longing. I’ve also seen my first bluebell, late this year, and the primroses have been quietly blooming for a few weeks. They are my favourite Spring flower. Subtle and delicate, they nevertheless manage to thrive in the unlikeliest of places, hugging cliff edges, high up on windy hillsides, and carpeting our little hazel woodland. The bracken has also started to emerge, unfurling its soft, edible fronds, a gentle beginning to the rampaging growth it makes every season.
Even the garden beside the caravan is beginning to look like a proper garden with astilbe, hosta, day lilies and geraniums pushing up in clumps that almost outnumber the weeds. And, on the building site, the foundations are, in places, showing above ground level. A couple of weekends ago we finished pouring concrete into the footings and Jim came round, almost immediately, a knight in a shining Peugeot, and built the corners. Now Phil is gradually joining them up to make the walls to which we will attach the timber frame that will be the walls of the house. At this point, probably a year or more before we fit them, we have to decide exactly where to put the toilets so that we can leave gaps in the foundation walls for the waste pipes to fit through. It’s complicated.
Before the walls are quite finished we have to scrape out the turf from the middle and wheelbarrow it out. Then the walls can be finished and we have to put down some hard-core, waste pipes, a layer of sand, a damp-proof membrane, anchor straps for the wood frame, a concrete slab with a reinforcing mesh, primary water pipes, insulation, under-floor heating pipes and a concrete screed, which we are going to polish for the floor. Then the foundations will be done. As I said, it’s complicated. There’s no step-by-step guide. Every house is different. Even with plans and drawings telling us how to do things and what to use, there is no way we could do this without Jim holding our hands.
It’s complicated. It fills our heads. At the moment, our biggest challenge is to find a balance between earning a living, looking after children and all the normal, tangled threads of life, while making time to build the house. Meanwhile, we continue to work through the bureaucratic hurdles, to communicate with architects, engineers and solicitors; to deal with suppliers; to put together a mortgage application, which needs to include an estimate of how much the house will cost to build. It’s hard to think or talk about anything else. We’re not much fun to be around. I have a feeling that when we’re done, in a couple of years, we’ll have a beautiful house and no friends left.