Recently I read Heidi by Johanna Spyri to my daughter at bedtime and was struck by the beauty of Alm-Uncle’s hut. The effort of moving home was still fresh in my mind and the sense of being overwhelmed by the possessions we’d amassed – such a feeling of excess and encumberment.
In contrast, Alm-Uncle’s living arrangements seemed refreshingly simple, so good and serene, surely the right way to live!
“…she found herself in a good-sized room, which covered the whole ground floor of the hut. A table and a chair were the only furniture; in one corner stood the grandfather’s bed, in another was the hearth with a large kettle hanging above it; and on the further side was a large door in the wall — this was the cupboard. The grandfather opened it; inside were his clothes, some hanging up, others, a couple of shirts, and some socks and handkerchiefs, lying on a shelf; on a second shelf were some plates and cups and glasses, and on a higher one still, a round loaf, smoked meat, and cheese, for everything that Alm-Uncle needed for his food and clothing was kept in this cupboard…. In the corner near her grandfather’s bed she saw a short ladder against the wall; up she climbed and found herself in the hayloft. There lay a large heap of fresh sweet-smelling hay, while through a round window in the wall she could see right down the valley.”
In the true spirit of Story Hug (i.e. story-sharing and both Mummy AND daughter having fun…) we brought our own version of Alm-Uncle’s hut to life!
I searched all over for images of a more real hut. And found a converted stone hut in the Auvergene, in France: Le Buron de Niercombe. Wow.
There’s a video about it here.
I’m sure Alm-Uncle would approve of this place!
I’ve been working on Story Hug. Writing up a bedtime story inspired by three cards picked from our homemade pack of Main Characters, Objects and Other People. This time it was: Three Children, a Book, and the Blue Fairy.
The story I came up with was the Fairy Ball. You can read it here.
It was rather longer than I expected, and took a while to draw!
I’ve always lived in cities. Even after weeks of living in a village that we’ve been visiting for years, there is the dislocation, the welcome strangeness of being on holiday. There is a sense of unreality as we drive around familiar lanes. As always, the place feels just out of reach, and not ours. But we are here to look closer this time, to try and embrace it; to find out if the deep sense of peace we feel is real, a part of an actual life here.
“The fear which prevents us from being ourselves… from coming to life… may mean nothing greater than the fear of giving up the image of a certain job, an image of a certain kind of family life.”
Christopher Alexander, ‘The Timeless Way of Building’
But there are so many images, so many versions of Life lived in the mind; which to choose? Which one of these imagined, dreamed-for lives will be right and true?
The beach at Coverack. I grew up by a very different sea, a beach where the sun came up warm in the early mornings then burned down fiercely after just a few hours, driving us away, back to the shelter of home.
The wintery Cornish sea is gentle, at ease under clouds, and a miraculous tropical turquoise blue when seen from above. Among the rocks are hidden colours.
I am as happy by this sea as my first sea. I used to walk on the beach in Colombo with my grandmother on school-holiday mornings, wading through waves, talking together, planning our day. She would draw in the sand with a stick, elephants mostly, once a tiger, and houses just as at home she drew the embroidery patterns she designed. We would stand in the shade of the coconut trees as my grandfather jogged to the far end of the beach, turning back where rocks spilled across, blocking his way. He’d be greeting his old buddies from the Kinross Swimming Club jogging past, or stretching stiffly, or did headstands in the sand.
That old beach is altered now, eroded where we used to walk, the people long gone, as has the innocence of those times. But as I walk with my chattering daughter in these different waves, and gulls – not crows – shriek at us, I am as happy by this new sea, as familiar with its sighs and restlessness, drawn to the newness of each ripple and wave.
The car is packed with books, wellies, fleeces, toys, watercolours, kitchen knives, notebooks, Muji pens, laptops, candles, the manuscript of a novel. We’re going to Cornwall. We’re looking for time: for ourselves, for each other, to work and be inspired. To find the life we imagined for ourselves and our daughter.
Why do places have to grow so much more beautiful when you’re leaving them behind?
A last Christmas in our flat. For us and the Doll’s House Family.
Goodbye to our park, Queens Park, NW6:
And goodbye (for now) to the wonderful Puppet Barge, Little Venice after one last performance: