Friday 18 February 2011

The Fool on the Hill

I've sold my house and am buying, in effect, a field. And a bit of wood and a share in a common, but basically a field. This is foolish. There is no planning permission on the field, and I'm unlikely to get any. Also, it's still possible that the deal to buy the field will fall through, but my house is sold. This is even more foolish. The field is five hundred feet above sea level, at the top of a very windy ridge. This is getting idiotic. Because I thought I would have more money than I've ended up with, I'm buying more land than I strictly need; and the consequence of that is that even if I get planning permission, I don't have much money left to build with. This is mad. Oh, and speaking of madness, I'm recovering from a bout of mental illness. At least, I think I'm recovering. So, this really is insane... Oh, and I don't have any income. At all. I could claim benefit - my doctor would certify I'm not fit to work (and he's more or less right) - but I've chosen not to. This is crazy.

But. But not that insane, I'd like to argue. Not wholly irrational. There are reasons. I'm not certain that they're good reasons, but...

I will have enough land to be self sufficient, which if I'd been more prudent I wouldn't have. The land, despite its altitude, is actually good; it's well drained, faces south west, and grew a barley crop last year. It's even soil-association certified as organic. I could live on what it can produce. I probably have enough wood to be sustainably self-sufficient in firewood.

Also, my breakdown over the last two years - which got quite bad - was at least partly because of the stresses of a failed relationship, and of working eighty-five miles from home. I couldn't sustain either of those things. I certainly couldn't sustain both together. I've no income because I lost my job, and I lost it because I could no longer do it. I'd planned to keep working until I could afford to buy my ex-partner out of my house, but I clearly can't do that. So I've sold my house in order to separate from my ex-partner. I couldn't have bought any house in my home valley on the money I thought I would realise from doing that, let alone for the money I actually did realise.

So the field is not necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, if I can't get planning permission I can't legally build a house on it. But there are workarounds. A couple of weeks ago - on two of the wildest nights of the winter - I slept in a yurt. It was a good, comfortable, pleasant, warm space. I could live in one (although I'd have to give away a lot of stuff). As it's a tent, it doesn't need planning permission. Of course, you're not supposed to live in a tent, but, on my own land and hidden by my own wood, who is actually going to stop me? And, importantly, I can actually afford a yurt - even a good one.

Of course that isn't the plan. The plan is to get planning permission to build something comfortable and interesting. But it is a fallback if that should prove impossible. And, in the meantime, I have to be living in my field in ten weeks from now - because I've borrowed a bothy for ten weeks, which keeps me warm through the rag-end of winter. But in ten weeks time it has other tennants, and I must be gone.

So this essay introduces a series of other essays which I'll post from time to time as the project develops, using as title my new persona:

The Fool on the Hill.

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