In fact, these storms lasted for the entire 8 weeks it took to build it, from start to finish, the builders having to work in horrendous conditions outside, before the structure was weather-tight. Not a complaint, tho’ – Ross-shire men are made of stern stuff. (And of course, now that we’ve finished, the weather has just about turned calm and settled again…)
The ancient and rotten back kitchen door, boarded up until now, was re-opened and put into service as my only usable entrance for several weeks. The only problem was that when the gales turned to the north, as they were bound to, both the wind and rain found their way, without much of a fight, straight into my kitchen. A flooded floor and curtains blowing horizontally became the norm as I sloshed about, making pots of soup, pizzas and endless cafetières of Italian coffee for the guys. Replacing this entrance as well, suddenly became a matter of urgency!
Soon, my hunch was that I was jinxed – either that, or the old house was taking its growing pains out on me.
The day that the structure finally arrived on the back of a trailer, having been meticulously constructed in our joiner’s workshop, its very heavy(!) gable (front) wall fell onto me as I stood a couple of metres away, about to take a photo of my new porch finally taking shape. A moment’s bad judgement on the part of one of the workmen, who had walked away before the walls had been fixed together…
But I was incredibly lucky – it’s astonishing that both my legs weren’t broken, or my knee-caps shattered, according to my doctor and I do still bear the scars and discomfort. To say that I was shaken would be an understatement, but I kept reminding myself – “stiff upper lip, girl – this is a test!”
By now, I wasn’t only squelching around, but hobbling, too and more than convinced about that jinx.
But we persevered. And the storms raged… soon spreading to the rest of Britain and continuing to ravage our beach and the dunes, with the odd late afternoon respite, allowing a quick dash to the shore to take stock of the latest damage.
Hard work, getting up there between the ties, but I was determined. Friends as well as our builder were surprised that I’d want this small space to be open to the rafters. It hadn’t occurred to me to do anything other than this – I grew up in a modern house in Canada, which had a cedar ‘cathedral’ ceiling and have always craved a return to a soaring space overhead. My studio up here has this idea reinterpreted in Scottish larch, as is this.
Still one or two things to finish, like painting the outside, but there’s now a more generous, welcoming feel at the entrance to our ‘highand hoose’ and a great space where we can enjoy sundowners with friends as the day dims over the dunes and the Minch.
I have some wonderful friends nearby who came to my rescue with not only pints of milk for the men’s coffee, but with great moral and practical support, when I felt a bit overwhelmed after my injury. Unselfish and caring, they healed in ways that can’t be seen.
The magic and measure of a place is not just the beauty of its breath-taking landscape, but the warmth and kindness of the people who inhabit it.