Jonathan: It’s two years ago today that I started these blogs, and nearly two years since my journey home to Uist from ‘exile’ – living away from home, in SE England, for the sake of the income from a full-time job. This blog has become a scrapbook of life since then, arbitrary and patchy perhaps, but in the longer term amounting to an accurate and honest record of the hopes and fears, the highs and lows of the life we live. If nothing else, it’s been a period of unrelenting work, much of it bringing little or no reward, yet inescapable other than by giving up and going under. Yet beyond the everyday reports of strain and struggle, the underlying narrative is of faith in the intrinsic value of what we do, and the way we do it, and a tenous belief that our labour and integrity will bear good fruit in time. Some raspberries would be nice!
Jonathan: We’ve now got an extension – until October. That’s the last extension to the building control permit for the repairs, garage conversion that can be given, so we have to complete the work by then or have to re-apply and have the work carried out to date professionally inspected, re-designed if necessary, – and possibly even have to make alterations, to the now current building standards. No thanks! We got the permit for this work back in early 2008, before we even started building Carrick, when the economy was still booming and my income from engineering consultancy was more plentiful and consistent than today. The plan was to properly convert the garage to a weaving studio and utility, extend the upstairs over the garage, and modify the upstairs: if we could afford to we would continue with repair and renovation of the remainder of the house (which with hindsight should have been the priority). We expected to start work on our house as soon as Carrick was finished, but …. A graph with two lines, one going up (difficulties and costs) the other going down (income). I’m thinking Mr Macawber: Income twenty pounds; Expenditure 19 shillings and sixpence: Result – bliss my boy, bliss!. Income twenty pounds; Expenditure, twenty pounds and sixpence: Result – misery my boy, sheer misery! Only it’s been worse than that – much, much worse. Back in the days of plenty, we decided it would be a good thing to make advance purchases on key materials and appliances which would be used at both Carrick and at An Garradh Mor. So instead of buying just the two tonnes of Welsh quarry tiles required for Carrick, we negotiated a great saving on buying four tonnes … and even now the better part of two tonnes is still under covers at the croft store: only about a quarter to a third have been put down (well done Denise!) in the weaving studio and the utility. The Velux solar heating system (again, as we installed at Carrick – three years ago!) has only just in the past few days been completed: at last after ten years here we have proper hot water without putting kettles on the stove!. Two huge triple-glazed Nordan windows – that we obtained along with the Nordan windows for Carrick – choked up the croft store for three years before being installed this winter! Most of what we’ve been working on over recent months has been just that – work: outlay has been kept to a minimum. For example, we now have cabling and plumbing throughout the new/renovated parts of the house (studio, utility, most of upstairs) but no electricity (for want of money to pay an electrician to test and connect up). Now we have to make the final push: earn the money and get the work done and all by October: or rather the work covered by the building warrant by then – the rest must wait! Then there shall be no more tears or wailing; and this shall be a house resounding with joy and laughter. Actually I’d just like to have a moment to sit down and read a book!
Jonathan: This might be too much detail for you, but I really do want to tell you about the shoes I threw out today – very reluctantly. Clarks Nature, dark brown, size 12. Bought in Shrewsbury in 2000. My, but things were different then – seems now like a previous life! Very comfortable shoes – almost to the last. Very me. Worn most days – or the black ones I bought around the same time. Much travelled – all over the England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland. Countless miles just in airports over the past 10 years! But during my recent ‘exile’ in England they were more or less walked to death. Soles on the black pair cracked through during my last week in Welwyn GC, and never made it back home. Walking the dog this morning, wearing the brown shoes I found the foam-type soles pumping water into my socks. So that’s that: end of an era. Our shoes – the longer we wear them – the more they reflect us, become part of the story of us. But no point in being sentimental about it, into the bin they go. New shoes for new times – the pair I’ve had in the wardrobe for at least three years, waiting their turn.