Sunday, 14 October 2007

Long house

Having given up on buying the croft house, I am pleased to be able to report that there has recently been progress on the house site - the Crofters Commission has agreed to decroft the site and the land-owner's solicitor is drawing up the new title, so I will shortly be handing over the money and becoming the proud owner of a half hectare of paradise. The next step is to get a house design to put in for full planning permission. Every second day I find myself with a new sketch.

It must be small, very small. Partly because that's all I can afford, partly because the smaller it is the less energy it will consume but mostly because I love little spaces. Perhaps it's because as the youngest in the family I always had the smallest room. At college I had a succession of wee rooms and loved them all. I adore the intimacy of a tiny caravan. I am in ecstacy in the womb-like comfort of a tent. I wrote most of my first novel in a tiny bender I made myself, which I used to call my womb-room (sadly, it blew away in the 2005 hurricane). So I am set on what my architect friend calls a 'micro-house'.

But what shape should it be? For the past while I have been getting obsessed with the idea of making it a tiny version of a Viking long house, stove in the middle, throne bed at one end, perhaps five times as long as it is wide, but not much wider than a double bed. This is also the shape of one of my favourite buildings in the whole world, the Fasting Palace in Heaven Park in Beijing, which consists of five square rooms in a row: bedroom, study and three public rooms. The emperor would get up at one end of the building and work his way during the course of the day to the other end, then back again, spending some time in each room. He began and ended each day writing poems in his study. A lifestyle to aspire to, I feel. I fancy a miniature open-plan version of the same thing: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, lounge, all arranged in one long thin space.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007


There are red stags roaring for sex out there. All pumped up with testosterone, trying to gather a harem of hinds and prepared to fight off the competition to get them. Most of the time the stags just stand on the horizon, posturing to each other, but if necessary they'll try to nut each other into submission, if they don't get tangled up in each others antlers first.

It's a queer noise they make, much more of a groan than a roar, not unlike a cow in calf. It's as if when roaring was handed out, dogs and bears got the consonants, so they go 'rr...rr...', and the stags got the vowels, so they can only muster 'oa... oa...' The result sounds more wretched than fierce, but presumably to a hind it's as sexy as Tom Jones.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Wee beasties

The midgie season is over and so those in the know have been visiting. There were 50 people on the croft on Sunday, all a bit of a shock. I'm not used to talking so much. They mostly seemed inspired by what one described as a 'subversive lifestyle', and another as 'proof of what's possible'. The big crowd was followed by a visit from my parents. Despite frantic cleaning of all the sheds, my mother still looks at me as if I'm defective. She wishes I would live a normal life, in a house, with a spare bedroom she could stay in. Shed-dom is just not good enough. It's abnormal. I can see it's embarrassing to her. What I see as freedom, she perceives as insecurity. I just don't know how to demonstrate to her that this 'extremely detached' 10 hectare house feels more like home than any other dwelling I've ever occupied.

Weather-wise all the visitors have had a treat - glorious sunny weather, calm and warm enough to stroll about in short sleeves, and then starry cold nights. The trees are getting a chance to blaze up - some of the rowans are going bright berry red and the aspens are goldening. Every time I step outside I'm brought up short by the colours. It never fails to make me smile. There is only one downside of this season: lots of little furry beasties are looking for somewhere warm, dry and snuggly to spend the winter. Sheds are just perfect. I came into the studio yesterday morning and someone, something, had scoffed all the winter salads growing in pots, chewed on my skype earphones, gnawed off the handle of my laptop bag and even, for goodness sake, excavated the lining of my furry slippers. A loathesome vole, a mischievous mouse or a maybe just a shivering shrew. But whoever the beastie is, it's not timorous enough by half.