Tuesday, 31 July 2012


We are finally living in our new home. Although it isn't truly functioning like a home quite yet. Every time we need to shower we take a taxi to the other side of town to the home of a relative. The driver invariably asks, 'So what have you planned for tonight then?'. 

 My mother wonders why she can't phone us on the land-line yet. Here is the socket, in a sealed room, waiting for a paint-sprayer to be fixed. 

 Under the sheets are boxes that contain my clothes - those that weren't packed some months ago for what we thought was going to be an eight day camping trip; some food, which I imagine will now be inedible; our calendar with all birthdays noted; a large modular bookcase and many small boxes of paperbacks. Every so often something is missed and we hopelessly note that it must be somewhere within the labyrinth.

 Slowly our shower room is taking shape. We spent so much time visualising how we wanted it to be. We shared so many pictures of bathrooms we loved down to the tiniest details such as the way the curtains had been hung; it seems like an old friend even before it has been completed. The room originally was a kitchen and in a truly horrifying state.

 Be glad you cannot smell this picture! One of the labourers who came in to help clear away the old kitchen units had to be excused, the room made him feel so ill. It isn't just the dirt, it is the sadness of the room that it needs to purified of. With clean walls, ceiling and floor, the two large windows will let the sunshine do the rest we hope.

Monday, 23 July 2012


I have been reading about inclusive Utopias, ones that are open to all and provide a welcome to those damaged by or lost in modern society, in 'Utopian Dreams' by Tobias Jones; an account of his journey to discover another, better way, of living. Simultaneously, we found ourselves beaten by the wind and rain in the unprecedented storm clouds that have hit the UK of late and camping was no longer a solution. So we choose to spend some time in Centre Parcs in Cumbria.

 This Utopia costs money and perhaps even causes more social ills than it solves, but it was a solution to our personal immediate needs. But I found a lot to admire here and learned a little about how our lives could look if only things were organised a little differently.

 When we arrived at Whinfell we thought we would certainly want to escape the village and had planned trips to Penrith and the beautiful surrounding countryside; however in reality we drove up to the wooden house, unpacked our bags, parked the hire car back at the edge of the park and didn't see it again for five days.

 We marvelled, of course, at the clean and organised kitchen and the en-suite bathrooms after having only a share of showers and an outdoor sink for the past weeks. We then visited the huge glass dome with a swimming pool, flumes, slides and river rapids set within a tropical garden. The place was buzzing with people: children, couples and groups of all ages and many with disabilities. There was so much to do and see. In this paradise alone our son spent nearly five hours a day. He was determined to make the most of every moment.

After all the noise and chaos of the 'village' we retreated to the truly impressive stillness of our temporary home. Centre Parcs has been established long enough for the woodland to dominate again. There are hares bounding past and red squirrels knocking pine cones from the great height of the cosseting green canopy above. Families of ducks play in the most unpromising little puddles. We were situated in a closely built cul-de-sac but it was actually tricky to make out any neighbours from the windows. Cars must be parked away from the houses except on moving day and even the bikes cycle only on the main thoroughfares.

 In the silence and stillness of the house, with the aid of a giant blackboard we planned all our activities.

 There was so much to try. We choose zip-lining (plummeting down a line between trees), ceramic painting, badminton, windsurfing, perhaps the most wonderful was the horse-riding. The stables are set overlooking the surrounding fells.

 As with the most sci-fi of Utopias however, even the tress were not quite as they seemed!

 My souvenirs will be fresh ideas: the possibility that a community can hold many people and offer much to occupy them in a small area, yet offer them stillness and a retreat from noise. My other will be this - a huge canvas printed with a large photograph of a tranquil forest. Huge enough to lose oneself in.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Moving Day

So, our new home isn't quite ready (well, at all) but our landlord decided he needed his house back, so we have packed our bags and moved to the countryside.

Many places can be called home. If they are warm and dry and are near cooking washing facilities, life can go on.

  Unfortunately for us, there is a huge gloomy black cloud over the UK right now. It is midsummer but the nights are cold, windy and very wet. Home is now our beautiful twenty-year-old bell tent.

 Even in a gale our tent barely flaps. The torrential rain sounds like a Samba band at night but we are dry. One night a rodent chewed its way right through the zip of our suitcase. We wonder what the attraction could be, there is no food in there. Luckily they must have been disappointed because they didn't return.

Our beloved tent is a simple haven giving us the freedom to be wherever we need or wish to be.