October in Scotland - season of rain, more rain, armpit deep mud and hurricane force winds. Also, by happy coincidence, the month we began our house build.
It’s been two years since we moved to the country from Glasgow. It was a decision that surprised us – we’d talked about it for years, but a combination of great work and better friends had kept us far longer in the city that we’d intended.
I was writing and making documentaries, Nichol had a thriving business in fine art, and we had close friends who were like extended family – we ate together, socialised together and our kids had grown up like siblings. It was hard work and it was fun, and our dream of building a house in the country seemed certain to stay just a pipe one.
Then came a double whammy. Art is rarely an area to make money, and when the recession hit, it hit us hard. We spent as long as we could keeping the business afloat, paying our staff out of our savings and not taking wages ourselves, but it was soon clear that this was going to cost us all we had.
Then, worse news. Our best friends had got jobs in Ireland and were leaving within months. We had a choice, we could stay and struggle or sell everything we owned, find a plot of land and create our dream home.
We both knew what we’d always wanted. My dream had been a hobbit hole, underground, with curved walls and windows and filled with quirks based on my favourite children’s books. Nichol fancied a castle, or perhaps a stately home. Then we looked at our budget; we could afford a box. So the task began, to find a plot, agree with each other about anything, and fill our box with as much interesting stuff as we could manage.
The plot part was relatively easy. We found a piece of land in central Scotland, and started to think about what to make. We definitely wanted an eco-house, something that we could run at the lowest cost possible, and which would sit naturally in the land. It also had to be something the kids loved, so we enlarged the site plans to table top size, filled it with toy trees from a train set, and let the children ‘play’ in the garden.
As they played, we moved our ‘house’ round behind them, keeping well out of the way of the ‘bike trail’, the ‘treehouses’, the ‘rope swing’ and the ‘unicorn paddock.’ Avoiding the ‘crocodile swamp’ was far trickier.
It worked though. We quickly found a location for our wonderful new home. All we needed now was an architect…