Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Home for Serf & Slave

Following on from last weeks post, I found myself back on the edge of my local woodland gazing upon another wonderfully simple building. With walls built from straw bales finished with a breathable render. The roof was adorned with timber shingles which moved with the irregular forms made by working with what is naturally near by. The little cabin was unfinished and still very much in a raw state, but it took little imagination to see the qualities it would hold as a finished gem set against the backdrop of the woodland.

I have built from straw bales myself and found them to be easy to work with, it was not long before I had a shelter working on my own with only occasional help from a willing friend or two. Yet again I draw the parallels to the modern world, it has become a strangely accepted norm to become a financial slave to buy a house built by developers and their army of semi skilled tradesmen. From planners, regulatory bodies through to insurers, rules and regularity all take their cut. The building process follows its path of least regulatory resistance with finances being stripped away like a stealth tax. In the end we are left with an expensive house Noddy would be most proud of.
I suspect many who have these homes are not entirely happy with them, a shelter with warmth is a welcome thing, but the costs in the modern world are a terrible price to pay.

Regulatory bodies seem to have the tables rigged in their favour. To deviate from the worn path of building a home becomes difficult. Construction groups have the taxation laws as they would wish and they lobby politicians to keep them in place with discussion of construction sector jobs and profit. A glance sideways would reveal a million empty homes which could be brought back into life by a skilled builder or tradesman, but the cost is rigged to be against the renovator.
For those seeking a life closer to nature they can find the planners and building inspectors are not always so accommodating. Last week I read of the difficulties an eco-village in Wales had with their council controlled building inspector who struggled to understand the concept of reed bed drainage due to limited experience and seemed to be trying to steer the group to a design which was against their concept and principles.

If we accept a degree of modesty it should not be difficult to build a home, a little understanding and empathy would allow us to work these homes into the natural environment. Perhaps then we can truly build in a way which would help both us, our surroundings and the creatures around us. Perhaps then we can take a place within the cycles of life where we are of benefit and where our responsibility is deserved and justified, or perhaps I expect too much of people and financial slavery is all most deserve.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Simple Symbol

Some structures have a beautiful simplicity to them, an arrangement of poles harvested from the surroundings and fabric stretched across them is almost as simple as it can get. I came across this tipi a while ago while taking my first walk through Hill Holt Wood, I finally managed to get around to sketching it last week. A traditional gypsy traveller who has a camp a mile or two away from my hovel also makes good use of a very similar structure when he has friends staying with him.

The prospect of a safe shelter from the wind and rain together with the provision for a warming fire to sit around seems a primitive way to be, but equally it holds a wonderful allure together with an ancient whispered reminder of the nomadic life. To travel, to walk the paths and read the land. To understand the seasons together with the flow of sunlight, wind and water.

While it is obvious the millions who cram into the isles cannot all live in the humble tipi, perhaps it can be a symbol showing we should live lighter, travel slowly and experience a little more. Perhaps the paths to the homes of our friends have become a little overgrown while the way to the office is paved and clear. Some of the finest evenings I have ever spent have been with good company while sharing a bottle by the fireside.

I think it is time I sought many more of these evenings and took a few more walks to give the fireside tale a depth earned only through long miles.