Sunday 24 November 2013

Cold Night in Plouer

It must have been a cold night last night. I came downstairs at 8:30 (well it was Sunday) and I was greeted by warm and toasty floor tiles. The underfloor heating had kicked in during the night and as a result I was more comfortable in bare feet than shoes. 

'Well, OK', you might say 'is that such a big deal?' And I would reply 'Oh yes. You should have seen the state of this place at this time last year'.

Susan and I bought this place almost seven years ago. Our plan was to use it as a holiday home and then as soon as possible afterwards we would renovate and move in permanently - trading a degree of affluence for a better quality of life. The process is described in the Home Page of this site.

Personally, I blame a guy called Maslow. He came up with a Hierarchy of Need, arguing that everyone is seeking a similar goal - but it can only be achieved when more urgent and pressing needs are met. On a simple level, he would argue that everyone needs to eat and drink but if you are drowning at the bottom of a swimming pool, a burger and a glass of beer would be the last thing on your mind! There is a hierarchy you see. Now when we bought this house we believed we were close to the top of the list - we could breath, eat, drink etc, had a comfortable amount of money and the final goal - self-fulfillment (the Americans call it self-actualization) was just around the corner - if only we could have more time for us and if only we had to devote less of this precious resource to the job.

Well, maybe there was a trade-off -- I could break with traditional employment and have more time - but of course there would be less money - so frugality would be the keyword.

We came here full-time at the end of August 2012 and began renovating. By November, this time last year,
we had the shell of an extension built - but there were no doors or windows. The ground floor of the house had been ripped up. Drainage channels and wires chris-crossed the concrete screed. The dry lining had been removed an it sat in a wet pile in the courtyard. There was only one electric socket that worked in the entire house. We had a one burner camping gas stove I had brought from the boat and we had water - but it was from an outside tap and it was cold. Every surface even in the attic was covered in plaster dust. In a period of only three months, eyes open, we had both voluntarily thrown ourselves right back down Maslow's hierarchy - not gasping for breath at the bottom of a swimming pool - but certainly we were cold, wet, miserable and living in a hovel. We did manage to eat but whatever we cooked tasted of concrete dust and old stuff, you know the sort of material that drops from old stone walls. Bathing and washing up required use of the bath, which had to be filled from an old kettle and the garden - well it had ceased to exist - more like a bomb site really. No green, just brown rocks, holes, trenches and piles of rubble.

I can't say the experience left no scars, still shudder when I see a pile of rocks - but I can say that this morning, toasting my toes with a good coffee in my hand, I at last feel able to tell the tale and maybe share a few ideas with people undertaking or planning similar attempts at self-fulfillment through a similar frugal route.

As this is my first post I should also mention that while all this has been going on, I have been attempting to renovate an old sailing boat on the estuary here. That story is called

Simple Sailing Low Cost Cruising


No comments:

Post a Comment