Okay. It’s time for a bit of a rant. Let’s start this with an admission; I am quite an addict for the British series ‘Grand Design’. I like the way the build (or renovation) is revealed as a story. There are characters, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are usually a smattering of mini-catastrophes. There are usually compromises that must be painfully made. I dive into it and lap it up. Sometimes I am inspired, sometimes I am aghast. I am never bored.
Now… What’s this got to do with the tree change and this specific rant? Well, I just watched a 15th century barn conversion episode. I think that the resulting assemblage of buildings is… well… meh. the soul and charm of the place was excised. It sounds as though a combination of council requirements and the owner’s desire for ‘modern elegance and functionality’ were the primary culprits. Sigh.
Which brings me to why I am babbling about this topic. Several friends (some locals) have urged me to tear down my little cottage on a hill and put up something new. In rural tassie, if there is a remnant of a building intact, the council is hard pressed to deny you the right to build a new building. As a consequence, there are many, many old crumbling buildings scattered throughout these valleys and hills. It’s very picturesque.
So… With wizened heads possessed of far more sense than mine suggesting that I tear down and rebuild with new, why am I making life difficult for myself?
Conservation restoration/renovation isn’t (to me) about making the structure exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. It’s not about having the bits and bobs being period authentic and all of the craftsmanship being a ‘feature': it’s about the span of the buildings existence. It’s about strengthening and clarifying the character and spirit of the structure. And – equally important to me, It’s about the lives that played out within its walls being faintly visible – like footprints in a snow storm.
Concerning the character and spirit of the building, I want the age of building to be apparent. Mutton dressed as lamb is rarely a good look, and just as I prefer not to have garnishing trying (and failing) to conceal something (or someone’s) true age in other matters, I don’t want to see a building trying to look like something other than it is.
My cottage is a building hewn and crafted with axes and adzes. From time to time, conveniences were wedged into its identity as the technology and wherewithal permitted. It was originally built almost 120 years ago (or thereabouts). So it has been young and new. It had its period of being solid, sensible, and middle aged. Now it’s starting to be… well… Old. I want it to wear its century old, slightly wonky, worn down by lots of feet, floorboards with pride and gusto. I want the interior doors to be some planks that were nailed together god knows when. I want the simple weatherboard cladding.
But then we get to the other point… The lives that lived within it. People were born there. People had dramas, had laughs, had dreams, wondered what the bloody cats had dragged in now (though that might be more a current theme, rather than a historic one). I want to know who lived and visited the cottage on the hill. I want the footprints in the snow to still be faintly visible.
In some ways, this cottage being restored is a lot like a badger’s tree change. The character and spirit of both are being examined. The good and worthwhile points are being strengthened and clarified. Garnishing – plastic or otherwise – is being ripped out. The lives lived are being considered; remembered.
Mind you, it’s just occurred to me; my next blog is likely to be about the new water tank and the plumbing… So let’s not take this ‘cottage renovation’ and ‘badger’s tree change’ simile too much further, eh?
Rightio. I’ve had my rant. You’ve heard my ethos for the renovation. As i plod along with this, there will be dramas and laughs and dreams. Sigh… And very likely things dragged in by the cats. As it progresses, I expect that at times I will find myself inspired, at other times I will be aghast… But I doubt very much that I will ever be bored. Eventually it will be done. the final reveal will – inevitably – be that the cottage on the hill is magically made into… A cottage on the hill (mind you, one with fewer birds nests in the living room… Oh and plumbing).
Till then, the tree change continues.