The Bath Chronicles

I love a good bath. There’s something about the ease that it provides to a chilled and tired body after a day of work that a shower just can’t match.

So, despite the modest proportions of the bathroom in the new build croft house, we have decided that in addition to a free standing shower, that we must have a bath.

Husband is nearly six feet tall. I stand at a diminutive (although magnificent…) five feet and four inches. You can start to see the dilemma when it comes to a comfortable soak.

For husband to be able to stretch out luxuriously, I would have to learn to float like a jelly fish, my feet not able to reach the end of the bath. For me to wedge comfortably in for a long soak, husband would be left folded up with knees protruding from the water like an origami grasshopper.

We have found a solution, Dear Reader. It is a slipper bath. Supremely comfortable, the bather assumes a supported, semi-seated position, not requiring any wedging on my part to avoid drowning, and yet long enough for grasshopper legs to be comfortable.

The other wonderful thing about this bath is that it is excellent for reading. For those of you who know me this is an equally important consideration. There is nothing like a soggy page and neck ache to ruin an otherwise sublime bathing experience.

We are feeling rather smug about all of this, and I am going to try a number of them next week in order to find The One.

Wish me luck.

The frustration of over-engineering

When you’re eager to be somewhere, time passes slowly. This is a picture of the rocky shore down from the Church on the Sleat Peninsula, close to where the croft is. This image helps me with the passage of time.

Every now and then when we’re knee-deep in roof light specifications, or looking for the fiftieth time at how best to configure the bathroom, I pull up all the photos that I can find of the township, the croft or its views, and remind myself why we’re doing this. And I breathe more slowly…

It’s difficult to describe what we want so that architects and kitchen or bathroom planners understand clearly. We are realising that anything that deviates from the perception of the norm causes problems. Because we are clearly not normal.

For example, it appears to be inconceivable to certain kitchen designers, who have a preconceived idea of what needs to go into our space, that I do not want a steam oven. Or why a single small kitchen sink with no draining board area would not be perfectly adequate. Or why I could not live without individually programmable humidity-controlled salad drawers in the fridge….

Trying to keep things simple these days is clearly out of fashion.

Believe me, I know that this sounds strange coming from the lips of someone who has spent a lifetime working with technology, but I don’t want to have to programme my appliances. Even the induction hob that we were shown had reconfigurable cooking zones….

I’m feeling a bit like a frustrated Luddite.

I’m happy to listen to experts and take on what works for our lifestyle, but over-engineered appliances just seem to me an exercise in unnecessary expense.

I am looking at my calming picture of the shore. I am breathing.

We are making progress…

The Sound of Sleat

I managed to procure a copy of The Sound of Sleat by Jon Schueler, an American contemporary artist and a man who fell in love with Mallaig and it’s skies.

This was an inspired recommendation from a fellow blogger Linda (thank you Linda http://lindasgoluppi.wordpress.com/) after reading my last book list for the weekend.

The book is sadly no longer in print but I eventually tracked down a copy held by a bookseller from the US, so it took a few weeks to arrive.

It was worth the wait.

It’s a bleak but passionate read of the life of a great painter whose work was inspired by Scotland. Brutally honest, and with a spare beauty in it’s prose, it’s compiled from a series of letters to lovers, wives, agents and artists.

What shines through the pages, and what resonates so strongly with me, is Jon Schueler’s attraction to the ever changing light and mood of the sky in this part of the world.

It’s something that draws me to the island too: the weather, the light and the colours that are constantly changing. Increasingly this inspired Schueler’s work and the colours of his “nature abstracts”. His work is very powerful and his use of colour is wonderfully subtle.

Definitely worth a read if you manage to get your hands on a copy.

The Sound of Sleat, Jon Scheuler, 1975

Reading Lists for the Weekend

It’s a blustery, wet February evening here in London. We’re tucked up and relaxing after a heavy week, winding down and recalibrating for the weekend.

A weekend isn’t down time without something in the form of a book in my world, and on my reading list this weekend are three things that I’m looking forward to:

    The winter issue of Permaculture magazine
    Skye the Island by James Hunter
    A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson

Permaculture magazine is just there to top up the dream-pot with pictures of wildflower strewn farms, woodlands and hobbit homes built of driftwood and reclaimed windows. It keeps me inspired by what others have achieved in their desire to live sustainably. I doubt that we’ll ever live like some of the people featured in it, but it’s an inspiration!

Skye the Island is a wonderfully interesting book written by a historian who lives there. It is written without the usual romanticism and sentimentality about the island, and is a moving, evocative and hopeful text on the bitterness of the island clearances and the possibilities for the future. James Hunter is a lecturer at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

A Sting in the Tale is a book about bumblebees. Written by one of the UK’s most respected conservationists, whose passion for these fascinating insects shines through every page, it’s also a warning about the destruction of their populations and the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

All this material nurtures my desire to revitalise the land that we’ve bought and create an environment that is as rich, biologically diverse and as wild as we can keep it.

I can’t wait to get started.

A sense of home

As I sit here at the kitchen table in London on the last few days before Christmas, tapping away on my laptop and watching the clouds scud past the window, my thoughts turn to what we mean by the term home.

For me, home is where love is. And my love is my husband of two years. His presence and his companionship immediately make anywhere that we live home. Having said that, there are places to be in that feel more comfortable and more aligned with our core values and way of life than others. London would never be that place for us. It’s just where we have to be for work. It’s too fast and impersonal, too urban. Too concrete. Too polluted.

I’m sure we’ve all seen dogs slowly and endlessly circling around, trying to find that indefinably perfect spot to settle in. I seem to have been that way for most of my life, living in Germany, France, Holland, England and America, yet never fully settling or feeling that deep sense of belonging in any of them.

The closest I’ve ever got to that is the island.  For me, cold, wet, bleak, and as wild as it is, it speaks to me at some deep level that makes me feel that this could be home. When I’m on the island I feel a sense of something deep within me unclenching, and some of the anxiety that is ever present in urban life starting to relax it’s grip on me.

Some people count the nights until Christmas in the anticipation of the day. I’m counting the months and years until we are on the island in our own little home.

Kilted warriors striding the land

In the deeds to the Croft we found a clause that allows the warriors of Clan MacDonald right of access over the land to the distant Castle Dunscaith.

This is a ruined castle of unknown age, linked by legend in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology as the place where Scathach, a woman warrior and teacher of the art of war, trained the hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat. The Irish name for the fort, Dun Scathiag, was named after her.

There’s not much of it left these days. The castle itself sits on an off-shore rock which rises 40 feet above sea level and there is a gap of 20 feet between the rock and the mainland. The gap was once spanned by a walled, arched bridge with a drawbridge, the pivot holes for which are still visible on the far side. Once on the other side of the drawbridge a door opened to a flight of stairs which led up to the castle.

I’m amused by the idea of medieval kilted warriors striding through our vegetable patch. Hell yeah.

The formal offers

D4698007-4AA0-4D9A-A62E-833130248661.jpegOur Scottish solicitors have drafted formal offers of purchase on the Croft and the decrofted building plot, and after review with the estate agents this morning will be submitted to the sellers solicitors.

This process is very different to the English way of buying, with solicitors here involved from the very outset. The sellers have verbally accepted our offer but nothing is real under this system until solicitors have formally submitted and accepted written particulars.

This part is a little nail-biting, but I can only hope that if it’s meant to be that it will happen, and that we’ll get over each obstacle as it comes up…

For now it’s a waiting game. Sitting here at the kitchen table with a mug of tea, poring endlessly over the plot plans and the few photos that we have of the land…