Tuesday, 30 March 2010

'Jesus' the carpenter

I promised to say more about my eclectic carpenter so here he is. He comes and goes as he pleases - or shall I say he appears - randomly, sometimes at 10.30 in the night suddenly one hears a sound of saw downstairs... then nothing for a month... but that's the way with him, one can't insist on any 'normality' because this is a man who lives somewhere between heaven and earth, and real life somehow doesn't fit in with his own existence. He doesn't speak, but when approached with an attempt at conversation, he stands still for an interminable time, then draws a deep, deep breath between his teeth. No words. And then at other times he offers out of the blue some totally unrelated stream of consciousness, such as his view on the immortality of souls. But if one accepts his strange ways, he delivers - not necessarily what one commissioned him to make, but certainly something original (such as the Neptune on this picture, a bathroom shelf with a difference). And you either like it or you don't. No-one would have made stairs like his - each with an individual character (see pic above). But one has to have the courage to let him get on with it in his own weird way. I happen to cherish his weird way because it adds to the house's soul. The house being so old and higgledy piggledy, for my mind (not necessarily always to my expectations) it grows into its fabric and I am not just agreed to what I have, but actually more pleased than I can say.
Now: why 'Jesus'? Well, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Frantisek the carpenter played, for many years, the part of Jesus in the Passion plays at nearby Horice townlet. He really looked the part: tall, bearded, with a flowing mane, and really with his heart in it. Maybe it rubbed off on him, or maybe he was always the way he is, and that's why he was so convincing in the part? Out-of-this-worldly kind of guy. Whatever the reason, even now that he is retired from it, he stylises himself into the role, or else is still in the role, who knows.
All I know is that I love the quirky stuff he makes and I forgive him all his tresspasses :-)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Riverside house - work in progress

I realize that I haven't really been showing any progress on the house since Christmas time. Well, the 1st floor where we live has not changed much but now we are coming to the last phase on the downstairs - so here are some pics, as i took them this evening without bothering to put away any untidiness. It's work in progress after all.
I've spent an inordinate amount of time sourcing old materials, so the house can feel nice and lived in - even though of course I am not trying to live in a museum :-) so I'm perhaps a little eclectic in some respects. But I am particularly pleased with the floor in the main two rooms downstairs - the brick flooring came from an old attic and so no tile is the same; some bear soot marks, some are scratched, each an individual in its own right, but together they form such a lovely whole that I shall be sorry to put furniture down once it's finished. You can see that it is still not entirely laid down, Stephan the builder is still working on it. But we did put the same floor on the study and dining room floor upstairs and they look and feel great - and with underfloor heating they are heaven to live with. Not the easiest of surfaces to clean, but who cares, it's all part of the ageing process (we age together nicely...)
Another challenge is always the higgledy-piggledyness of the curved and nooky spaces that the house is offering: how do you fit a bathroom in that, for example? Well, it can be done. Upstairs I put an old (1880's) stained-glass window in the shower room (with some trepidation lest the conservation authorities make me take it out, but they loved it, thank god) - the window is one of a pair, the other is in the bedroom/hall wall. It makes the rather cramped space feel lighter and more generous, and most of all, fun.
And then I love finding old doors - the whole of the upstairs has 'new' old doors; sheer pleasure to touch every time. You kind of wonder how many hands touched them since they are over 200years old, and just look at those hinges and fittings :-)
The staircase has been completely renovated but in the style it would have been originally (we took the 'modern' 70's lavatory-style tiles it was covered in off, mended what needed be and the carpenter (more on him in a separate blog!, a wonderful person) made these treads out of an old sycamore I bought from someone who had it drying for 8 years in their garage but whose daughter was getting married so they needed the money and since I needed well seasoned wood.... I love these kind of mutually beneficial exchanges.
Anyway, more of the same to follow. I am in a great mood, seeing it all come together. The attic space will have to wait for a long time yet, but it is fantastic to think that when our family come to visit in a week's time, they'll be staying in a place that is finished and functioning.