It would be all too easy to gloss over the hard, shitty parts and just write about what’s good, but life’s not like that, is it? And if I am to write an honest account about our life here and our projects, I need to address not just the positives, of which there are, i hasten to add, many, but the negatives need to get an airing as well. For sure, this life that we are trying to forge for ourselves is at times something of an uphill struggle. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. We’ve chosen to live a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle but simplicity, so we’ve found out, isn’t plain sailing. Make no mistake, neither Irishman nor myself were under any illusions when we bought the Red House that it was going to be a picnic. We knew that there was a ton of work to do and we knew that it would take all our energy and stamina to just keep a float. I suppose what we hadn’t reckoned on, was being so right royally shat on by a trio of lying, bastard tricksters. That’s what’s really thrown a spanner in the works. It’s hard to bounce back from an experience like this and let go of the anger, but we must. Crying and feeling sorry for myself is not going to make things any better. Grim grit and determination is what’s called for and when I’m feeling particularly feeble, I have to remind myself that if we’d taken an easier path, we’d probably both be bored stiff. Real adventures are not easy and certainly never straightforward, they are about challenging oneself, finding our way through uncharted territory, navigating the rocks, weathering storms. Watching out for pirates .. .
But, if you were to ask me, ‘where would you rather be?’ The answer would still be (aside from living nearer to my children) here. I honestly don’t think I’d rather be anywhere else. The rustic charm of the house, the extraordinary beauty of its surroundings, still capture my imagination, still make me feel so fortunate to be here, despite everything.
Before we moved here, I’d done a certain amount of thinking about what was going to go where, how we were going to use the space. The actual living space was quite modest. Just one large room downstairs and a large room split in to three upstairs. I’ve mentioned before that aside from a cold water tap downstairs, there was no plumbing and no kitchen. The majority of the building was barn, dairy and hay store. Somehow we had to turn this mucky space in to something domestically cohesive. I’m not sure that is even the right way to describe it but in my mind, for it to work, the agricultural and human parts had to come together. It was only when we actually moved here and were camping in the house that I could really start to envisage it properly. From the off, I knew that what had been the dairy would make a good kitchen space. The store room next to it would become the laundry room and the large cow byre would make a decent sized studio. Above that was the hay loft with its beautiful roof beams and old chestnut floor. Attached to that was another storage area which could be turned in to guest accommodation and an en suite bathroom.
In the early days, before the renovation work had started and I was planning the rooms, I spent an inordinate amount of time just staring at the bare stone walls. This was especially true of the parts of the house that had been used for the cows. I’d imagine how, over the years the sweet breath of the animals must have permeated these walls , the uneven earth floors, soiled by many a bucket of spilt milk, the steamy pats of shit trodden in to the dirt. I imagined how it was built, stone by stone, slate by slate. These walls harbour the secrets of the men that built them. Their joys and their pains. They are woven in to the fabric of the house just as in time, our joys and pains will be too. This house is the story of rural life in Galicia and now, after almost fifty years of lying empty, it has become our story too.