Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Treasure in the attic

Continuing from:
Second Home Adventure
More on Forest House

Had a great time clearing out the attic at the Forest house - the roofers and the builders will start arriving soon.
First the partition walls had to come down: it was a bit alarming to realise the partitions were made of unfired bricks so one good knock and the partition came down. The bricks are so soft that if you squeeze one, it crumbles to dust in your hand. Apparently these sort of bricks were being used all through the area for centuries, and I suppose they served well - if one didn't go knocking at them too hard :-) My builder tells me that the old local brickworks were squeezed out by the big boys and cement/concrete makers after 1930s, and ever since then houses can't breathe properly. Obviously my builder is one of those Czech locals who believe in using old and local materials whenever possible. But he needn't worry, I won't be putting concrete in the attic - the partitions had to go as I am planning to open the space up as much as possible. Luckily the roof beams seem 90% sound so I can keep the old structure, just clean it up a little.
Which brings me to tell you about the treasures I found when clearing up. It seems that the previous owners, who were there since the 1970s but only used the house as their occasional weekend retreat, didn't ever bother to look behind the partition walls into the dark spaces of the actual attic nooks. I found four ancient tin baths, old leather suitcases, loads of dusty bee-keeping equipment and bee-keepers' magazines from 1920s and 30s, old clothes and several wooden trunks, most of them too damaged to be reparable. But one of the chests was in good condition, and when I dusted it off and looked inside, I found a real treasure: hundreds of fine pencil drawings and watercolours, again dated between 1920s and 1930s.

Whoever lived in the house then was not only a good artist, but someone who obviously loved the countryside here and kept returning to the same trees and cottages to draw and paint them in all seasons and weathers. I wonder how many of these cottages still stand - because many were bulldozed by the communist authorities during the 'Fifties as this area was close to the border with Austria, and many villages fell simply because the authorities feared that people who might be thinking of escaping to the West might find it too easy to hide here. Or so I was told. In any case, I look forward to walking the local places and looking for any building that might be familiar from my gentle ghostly predecessor.

And when the house is restored and finished, I look forward to having his artworks framed, so they can adorn my walls and live again.

1 comment:

McCabeandco said...

Beautiful, what a treasure!!