At first I was struck by the poem, Home is the place.. by Aisha Patterson, transcribed onto a rock on the strand near my house. Whoever transcribed it was making a gift to passers-by. It is a list of aspects of home life which we can all relate to in different ways. It is worth taking the time to read it. You may think of aspects that you would add, if you could come up with the rhymes. If you can’t make it out from my photograph, you can google the poet and find the printed text.
Secondly I was impressed by the building nearby, constructed in Late Stone-Age style. It is somewhat similar to Newgrange but technologically more advanced, in its clever use of naturally occurring metal and concrete blocks. While the ‘light box’ at Newgrange captures the rays of the midwinter rising sun, this building admits light from all directions. The entrance is a major advance on the buildings of the Early Stone Age, where primitive people sat outside in all weathers, because they had not yet mastered the concept of ‘inside’. Not surprisingly, they are all dead now.
The builders of this structure exhibit a high degree of cooperation. They laboured together cheerfully, piling stone upon stone, creating a place of warmth and safety. It is likely that they have mastered the use of fire. It appears that the building is associated with the ancient, midsummer exam-results rite of passage.
I remember the hut where I learned to smoke. It was created in the middle of Bob Duff’s rick of straw bales. Straw houses are quite fashionable nowadays. We were trend-setters. Access was by means of narrow ventilation gaps between the bales. Claustrophobia was not allowed in our gang. It was a warm and safe place. At least we thought so until the roof was suddenly torn away and Bob towered above us in high rage. I can still see him silhouetted against the sky. I gave up smoking at that precise moment and haven’t touched a cigarette for over sixty years.
I got to wondering about the ‘boom years’ when a hut such as this or the straw hut in Bob Duff’s rick, given the right address, could well have fetched a handsome price. ‘Bijou home; Oodles of potential; Compact townhouse; In need of some TLC.’ You remember the jargon.
I wondered too about the equity release/shared home merchants and the property journalists who cheered them on. They bore the same relationship to homeowners as the hyena does to the herd of wildebeeste, (Have I got gnus for you!) or the circling vulture to the desert traveller crawling towards a shimmering mirage. They promised a Nirvana of endlessly rising property values, a win for everyone.
Where have they all gone, these disciples of the great Barnum? Is there not still ‘one born every minute?’ South-Sea Bubble anyone? Would you be interested in buying the Eiffel Tower, by any chance? I have some genuine gold bricks. Perhaps we could talk business.
The hut will fall victim to the winter storms. The poem will be washed away by sea spray and rain, but the true meaning of ‘home’ will endure. Thank you, lads for continuing a long tradition. Thank you Aisha Patterson and the scribe who wrote her poem on the rock. And thank you also Bob Duff for a salutary and timely lesson in preserving one’s health.