Friday, 18 May 2007

Beginnings - the house

I wasn't looking to buy a house. I was looking for a cottage or hut in the woods - a chata as the Czechs call them. I wasn't planning to do any work on it either. But I wasn't reckoning on the way a building can get its hooks into you in an instant or the way something deep inside of you responds to its call. So instead of a small undemanding hut I bought a large farmhouse in need of restoration.

The house is of a type common in the area around Horice na Sumave. It is the house bit of an old courtyard farm. We also own a derelict, two-storey, balconied barn that runs off at right angles to the house. Both had belonged to an old lady, who had not had the money to make any major changes or improvements to them. When she died the farm was left to her children who used it as a holiday home and again had not the money (or inclination) to do anything with it. It was therefore in need of work, but had not been spoiled by do-it-yourself zealousness.

So what attracted me? The sun pours in at dawn and the light at evening is equally stunning. The granite walls are over 2 feet thick and built onto granite bedrock - it is almost as if the house has grown out of the hillside on which it sits. Everywhere there is granite - huge granite slabs laid as a path, granite cobbles, granite walls. The barn has its original brick vaulted ceiling downstairs and upstairs a large open space with large exposed beams. The proportions and layout of the house are large and perfect. It is set in an ideal position overlooking a small village, which has not been spoiled (as so many have been) by concrete monstrosities built by the communists.

This is a village we remember fondly from our childhoods, one in which children play in the street - outside my house my neighbours' kids have chalked a hopscotch grid. And that I think was a large part of it. When I was a girl I had a friend called Paul with whom I explored the fields and woods around my Cotswold home town. We made dens and dammed streams. And on some weekends and holidays Paul's mum would borrow a cottage that nestled under Humblebee Wood overlooking the valley and I would go too. I've wanted one ever since.

That evening I rang my husband in England "Hello lovely, you know I said I was buying a hut. Well I've bought an old farmhouse." There was a pause at the other end of the line.


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