Do you ever get an idea that you can’t seem to get out of your head? It might be that you really want a certain meal, or that you have a desire to visit somewhere, the kind of idea that pops up again and again no matter how many other things you seem to think about. Lately for me that idea has been building.
When I was a kid I had a fascination with making spaces the way that I wanted them. I became fixated on repurposing old things and making them fit my purpose. I wanted to make secret dens and build hidden rooms into almost every space I could think of. In the garden I would collect up old tables from our garage and curtains that had been left to the elements and stank of damp and stack them all up and build something. I would pray for rain to see if my structures would hold up, and most of the time damp smelling curtains served as prime time roofing.
Every place I went I wanted to find out some sort of secret about it, whether there was a hidden passage or a cupboard that went deep underground. Of course, most places are designed logically so they lack this kind of absurd intricacy that I was craving. Nonetheless, when I used to sit in my parent’s car I’d pretend the handbrake button would release the shutter on a hidden camera (Mum told me to stop it after she caught me clicking away when we were parked on a hill). When I was sat in our dining room I plugged screws with blue tac so that I could plug the gaps with matchsticks and make Lego pieces cling to them. I would even build forts out of soft toys in bed, and sometimes I’d even stash food away inside. I guess I loved to snack even back then.
The point is, building has been in my system for as long as I can remember. When it came to needing a work space a few years ago I looked at my parent’s garden and realised our dilapidated summer house was sat on the perfect concrete slab. I tore the summer house down in a day, and drew up the plans for a new office made of bricks and mortar. That taste of construction may have scratched the itch, but it never really went away.
I would hardly say that I am a skilled builder in the slightest, but I’ll tell you something, it really is fun. I long for a wall of power tools and endless supplies so I can build amazing things. Every project I watch online of people building tiny houses or log cabins makes me lust after a life where I have made something that is practical and precious. For my sins, I am even a closet Grand Designs addict. But maybe there is more to this building fixation than meets the eye.
I wonder if maybe when we are children we want to make treehouses and hidden dens so that we can lay claim to a space. We want to demarcate our lives from our parents, and while we need to return inside eventually for a hot meal and a real bed, the draw of these structures is independence. The sad thing is that not much changes when you get older, especially when you are part of a generation that has far lower prospects of owning a home and claiming a space in the traditional way.
When I went to Copenhagen a couple of years back I marvelled at the houseboats, and wondered how sustainable that life would be for me. When I drove the north east coast of Australia in a campervan while I was 19 I revelled in the freedom and the flexibility of a bed on wheels. But once again, I have to wonder whether my love of these movable structures actually stems from other desires that I cannot fully admit to myself. I know that it is not commitment to a location or a structure that scares me, I think that the real fear is the idea of never being able to truly call somewhere my home.
Home is more than just walls or rooms, and that is probably why it is so hard to obtain. It isn’t even the people who you share a space with that make a home. It is a place where you feel secure and free at the same time. I have lived in some wonderful locations, and I have travelled to many more, but maybe what I want the most is the opportunity to start building something that is truly a home to me, and on my terms.