Make Do And Mend


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 .. .

LOIBA the best ‘bank’ in the world.

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.

24 thoughts on “Make Do And Mend

  1. Isn’t that always the way? Silver linings and thorns being what they are (ha! I love mixing metaphors!), we can never seem to have one without the other. Good times or not-so-good, it’s ultimately all about learning and progressing, isn’t it? I reckon you’ve learned a lot and you’re willing to pass that on to others, which is generous of you. Not everyone is willing to share the not-so-happy news. Maybe that is all part of being a trailblazer like yourself. xoxo

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    1. Someone called us pioneers the other day. I was quite tickled by that but now Trailblazer! Wow!! That’s incredibly snazzy, I love it, thank you 🙏Sister, I’ve certainly learnt a lot but there’s a whole lot more to learn. The Spanish have a lovely saying ‘ poco a poco’ I need to remind myself of that xoxo

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  2. The story of a way of life that has gone, although perhaps less in rural areas. It looks like a beautiful place, but yes, bad people can put a spanner in the works. I also admire your determination and your positive attitude, and I’m sure it will be worth.

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    1. Thank you, Olga. From what I’ve seen and invitations in to neighbours homes and farms, this way of life is still going strong though for how much longer, is anyone’s guess.

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    1. Thank you, Martha. I’d love you to come and stay 💖🧡💙 and yes, you’re right, there is much more to this story but the dastardly trio have had enough air time now. Time to move on to topics closer to my ❤️xxx

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  3. I have a feeling the story is in what you left unsaid…! But you’re so right. If we didn’t have the setbacks and disappointments to rise above, those of us who thrive on challenges would shrivel into disillusioned old age and die with regrets. No regrets for you and Irishman, Lottie! Onward and upward!!!!

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    1. Onwards and upwards indeed! I realised a long time ago that I ‘thrive on challenges’, I sometimes wish that I didn’t, life would be sooo much easier and straightforward but oh so dull. We need to jump through these hoops!

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  4. Oh boy ! You both really have your work cut out, don’t you Lottie ? I see that your future kitchen is already cut out and air condtioned. Well, that’s a start ! 😉 ❤

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  5. Lottie,it was so nice to read another chapter of your adventure in Galicia. I so enjoy the marvelous photos that you have included in each excerpt of The Red House Diaries. The old photos that are hanging on the wall are quite eye catching and I wondered if those are of both your families. Honestly, you have my admiration on all that you and Pete have accomplished with the house and the barn. It surely took an inordinate amount of determination and “intestinal fortitude” to tackle such a dauting task and yes you do what you do- a little bit at a time. From the looks of things, I think your home has a true rural quaintness, warmth, and charm. I hope you’ll post something about -your garden and the animals. As an aside, I am sorry to be so late commenting but I was without a computer for about two months. I have been using my cell to view your FB posts but I could not access WP with my cell. xoxo

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    1. Hello Yvonne, Im SO happy to hear from and thank you for your lovely comment 🙏 I’m glad you’ve got your computer fixed, I know it’s been giving you problems for ages. Never, ever apologise for not leaving a comment, you have so much on your plate and very little time for yourself. I’ll write again soon, battling bracken and brambles at the moment and trying to keep on top of the veg garden. Always so much to do! Take care Yvonne and sending much love to you xxxxx

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