On the Crofters Trail

On the reading pile this weekend (between flooring catalogues and kitchen cabinet fittings) is this poignant read.

Written by David Craig and originally published in 1990, this is now out of print and was a purchase from a second-hand bookseller.

It contains interviews with the descendants of those cleared from the Highlands and Islands who settled in Novia Scotia.

Some have letters from the period describing the atrocities in faded but visceral detail. Some have tales passed down through three generations from their great, great grandparents and recount them in detail.

There’s is something incredibly real and intimate about a book that contains a reference directly to the croft or township that you live in. For me it creates a tangible link back through time.

I look over the ancient but still visible lazy beds on the moor above the croft and feel a real link to the lives of those who wrestled them from the soil.

Definitely wall hung.. as the actress said to the bishop

Only those of you of a certain age and a certain lack of delicacy will get that….I am not going to explain for those of you who don’t.

Apparently, the latest thing in bathroom chic is to have your bathroom appliances (eg. toilet and washbasin) suspended from the wall. Nothing between them and the ground except fresh air and a tremulous fear of suspension.

Why? I asked the bathroom consultant. What’s wrong with them being floor mounted? Have they not been that way since time immemorial?

Difficult to clean, he said, delicately. You have men in your home?

I sort of get that swishing a mop under a wall mounted toilet is easy, but seriously? How difficult is swishing it around the base of a floor mounted toilet?

Perhaps it requires manoeuvres that the current generation haven’t evolved or mastered. Maybe I get that. But I also get that the process of house specification has a lot to do with trends, and I had seriously missed that even a basic croft house would be subject to that.

I am finding the process of specifying flooring, sanitary ware, tiles, kitchen units and worktops much more tiring than I expected.

It’s such a privilege to be able to do this in some ways, and so important to get right, but the endless choice is so wearying. Some days I just want to curl up and have someone present me with my perfect kitchen/bathroom and say…

Yes! It can be yours, and it’s within budget….

I’m focusing on the fun.

Planning Permission Approved!

We’ve just heard from the architects that planning permission for the longhouse on our croft has been approved. It’s a major milestone for us on this journey, and I’m so happy! Our home has just moved one step closer to becoming a reality.

Next it’s starting work on the building warrants and the more detailed specification for the build, which we are lined up to do in the coming weeks.

In preparation for this we’re travelling up to Fife soon to meet with the kitchen and bathroom planners to discuss what these rooms will be composed of, what we like, and what we can afford.

It’s been a bit of a revelation to me that people can (and do) spend many thousands of pounds on a bath… I keep repeating the mantra “keep it simple, keep it simple” so that I don’t get sucked in by the sales pitch on the latest and shiniest new version of anything.

We are not shiny people. Stone, wood, plaster, paint, wool and linen fabrics. Natural finishes, and as little plastic or gloss as possible, that’s our philosophy. We want to have a home that’s comfortable and functional to live in rather than a showhome.

It goes without saying that whatever we don’t spend on the house leaves us more money to spend on trees.

A glass of fizz this weekend may be in order.. 😋

Urban Life Pruning

Husband and I have what I think of as a typical, complicated, overloaded modern existence, made worse by the coalition of our previous lives into one when we married three years ago.

With the relationship came lots and lots of stuff accumulated over many years from previous houses, studios and flats. Far too much stuff, to be honest.

We have multiples of everything and many thousands of books. It became clear when we started planning the move to our croft that we had to start pruning our possessions before we moved. Because what we’re building is a small house on Skye which hasn’t got a hope in hell of holding it all.

So it began this week.

To be honest, after a long, hard day at work the last thing that either of us want to do is carry boxes up from the garage and sort through them, but we’ve set ourselves the goal of five boxes a week.

Every week for the rest of this year.

We’re already looking at bulk loads of bin bags and the local charity shops are going to love us 😂…..

It’s like a penance….

If this doesn’t cure us of a tendency to buy too much or hang onto things that we don’t need, I don’t know what will!

Kitchen conundrums

Kitchen – Image: The Indigo House

I think of the kitchen as my space in a home. It’s where I spend most of my time, where I create, and more often than not in recent years, where we eat. So I want to get it right.

Despite being ancient and having lived with more kitchens than most people have had hot dinners (which you would think would have filled me with the wisdom of Oracles) I’m finding myself struggling with the design of my perfect kitchen.

There’s simply too much choice.

I’m trying to keep it simple, basic, streamlined and uncluttered, but with the important elements being the best quality that we can afford. We hope that we will have this kitchen for a very long time. What doesn’t help is that we have a lot of stuff…

In support of this, and as well as a mammoth clear-out planned, we’ve designed in a separate pantry and utility room for all the cleaning stuff, laundry, home bottling, dog things, preserves, bags of flour and all the less glamorous yet essential bits of everyday living that drive me crazy if I have to battle my way through them in order to cook.

I’m sure about a couple of things, though, born of many years of kitchen frustration.

1. Worktops – I want my kitchen worktops to have heat-proof surfaces, because I’m tired of trying to wrestle things out of the oven and having to balance them on trivets or onto the hob in order to get to their contents.

2. Cupboards – I want accessible cupboards, or preferably, drawers. Being only 5″4′ I find that most overhead kitchen cupboards are just too high to be usable for me, and badly planned low-level cupboards require the arms of an octopus to get to the areas at the back.

You have no idea the number of times I’ve cleared out a cupboard after many years of use only to find something pushed to the back which has developed a new life form..

3. Lighting – lastly, well planned lighting. Most kitchens that I’ve used have badly thought through, non-directional, inadequate lighting. There’s nothing worse (or dangerous) than trying to chop things standing in your own shadow.

We will need to plan this well 🤔

Neo-traditional Scottish longhouse….

According to the design statement from the architects, we’re building a “subtle neo-traditional Scottish dwelling that alludes strongly to the longhouse design whilst incorporating a modern, energy efficient interior”.

The phrase neo-traditional had us both hooting with laughter. Honestly, the marketing speak that gets rolled out in the interest of persuading planning departments!

It will be a very simple, slate roofed, larch clad house.

It should sit low and silver slowly and quietly into the landscape amongst the trees. It will be well insulated, snug and energy efficient.

We’re running final checks on the planning permission pack this weekend, then off it will go into the laps of the planning department of the Highland Council to seek it’s fortune.

We have everything crossed that it is accepted. Another milestone reached on our journey…

Comments, costings and compromise

We inch forward slowly.

House designs are being drawn up by the architects and are shuttling through the ether between us with comments and costings.

We are in a continual state of debate at this stage around how best to design the space we need, based on our individual lifestyles and our lifetime experience of previous homes. All within the uncomfortably constraining straitjacket of affordability.

It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. The architects are concerned with flow, space and light, and we are concerned with mud, storage and costs. It’s all on paper, and so it’s difficult to visualise the space with any degree of accuracy.

We do what we can, pace out room sizes at home and try and imagine our furniture in situ in the new space. I dream of colour schemes, boot rooms and utility rooms at the moment…

Somehow, we promise ourselves, this will all eventually come together in a wonderfully graceful ballet, but we’re still to be convinced of that!