I went to view a house today, something I am considering buying. It’s a lovely little cottage, in a semi-rural village, but it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. It’s down a lane, surrounded by trees, in a small terrace of other cottages, some of which I know house people I will have things in common with (the rainbows and peace signs sort of give it away). Why am I considering buying this house? Not to live in, not yet. I want it as a retreat, a place to shut away the rest of the world, and write. It’s a lovely space, but very small. However, it is big enough for an escape on weekends, and to let out as a writer’s retreat to other writers.
But now I am questioning, is it worth the risk? In order to buy it, I would have to scrabble around for the deposit. It’s within my budget (well within) and it has a lovely garden and lovely views. I can imagine that other people would also enjoy using it for their artistic endeavours. Still, I am scared to take the plunge. My writing takes place all over the place, and some of my best work has been done sitting in cafes, rather than holed away in some garret. It is a lovely place to be, but is it a good investment of time and money?
Certainly, having this retreat would take some time away from writing, as much as it might facilitate the odd weekend locked away from other distractions (there will be no television there, for example). It would require furnishing, but I have most of what I need already. It would require maintenance, which means time and money. Is it worth it?
On my desk, opposite me as I now sit and write this blog, is an aerial photograph mounted on a wooden frame (the photo is on canvas) of the house I lived in for a couple of years as a teenager. It is the home of my heart, my dream home, the place where so much happened. It is the source of my inspiration, and many of my books have been and continue to be written with this house in mind. I know from this that houses matter to me. Space matters. Where I live is more than just four walls, it is a place for my spirit to inhabit, a place that must provide some kind of key to my imagination. The house in the photograph sits squarely in its plot on the hillside, holding its own secrets, its past written in the walls, in the stones. It is the place I return to in my dreams. Of course, the house of my memories is gone now, bought up and fully modernised by someone who probably feels none of the love and longing that I do when I look at this picture. But ever since living there, I have hoped for a place of my own, that would be the home of my heart in a similar way. A place where I could belong, walls that my imagination could inhabit, a space to inspire. It doesn’t have to be isolated – in fact, I need a certain degree of humanity in the background – but it has to feel like it could be beyond the borders of normal space, a liminal place, where faeries might live at the bottom of the garden. The place I was looking at today could be just such a place, but the timing is off, and I would have to take a big risk to raise the deposit. So my heart and my imagination yell yes, yes, buy the house, but my head and my bruised ego (my last attempt at being a homeowner did not end well) are advising me to hold back.
I will wait, sleep on it, and see what transpires. But even writing about it now makes me want it more.