February 6, 2012
For the last 6 months or so, even longer if you count the thinking that went into it before pen touched paper, Will has been working on designing a new house to replace the shack at North Stradbroke Island that his mum has owned for the last 30 years or so. It's a gem of a place, that ramshackle type of beach house where everything is blue or yellow and nearly everything has a picture of a fish on it. The bedrooms are small and there's hardly any space inside but it's a great little house, just about 2 minutes walk from Cylinder Beach, with a deck looking out over the ocean, just about enough space for everyone in the family and somewhere you can forget about housework and sand in the beds because that's what Straddie is about. Relaxing.
We've spent many a blissful (and sometimes stressful) weekend there since I moved out here almost 9 years ago, Wills' father's ashes are in the ocean at Home Beach, Will's brother married there, and I will never, ever forget the perfect 8 weeks shortly after Ollie was born that we moved over to the island, breast pump and maternity pads in tow, making short shrift of what could have been a stressful first couple of months as we got to grips with parenthood (we're still doing that, by the way). I have no doubt that the sound of the ocean when we dozed off and woke up every morning, the hour long beach walks at 4pm and the evenings on the deck watching the stars and playing Trivial Pursuit made those months feel easy, rather than the slog they could have been. This photograph was taken on Boxing Day (my UK friends can hardly believe it), and it's one I love. My sons, happily playing, enamoured with the beach and island life.
But that house is now on its last legs and any attempt to renovate it would probably only last a short while before the bulldozers would need to be called in, so that's what Will's mum is doing now. This will probably be the last summer that the house is used, before it's replaced with the house that Will is designing - The Fish House. He's working with an old uni graduate friend of his, who's very talented but somewhat challenging to work with (deadlines? what deadlines? when did you say you needed that by?) and the disorganisation drives me crazy, but it's Will that he's working with, and his usual laid back self is coping just fine with his shambolic partner. Me, on the other hand...
It's not a project that has been completely smooth sailing so far, there are the opinions of 6 somewhat loud and opinionated kids and their mum (who's more unassuming), and then the mix of the engineer's point of view, the interior designer, the beach bums, the completely unassuming matriarch and the architect lends its own level of complication. But it's something Will seems to be enjoying and fantastic experience, and on balance, it's going reasonably well, these challenges are probably no different to those faced by any other aspiring architect. In fact the family has already agreed on one design (out of a possible four - and it was one of Will's) and now it's at the nitty gritty stage of working out what goes where and getting consensus on that. I hope to share some of its progress soon and along the way.
It's going to be some time before this house is built and it's a long way from Council approval but it's going to be one of those achievements for the family and Will that will mark change. A huge change for the family, but also for Will who will have seen through his first residential project from start to finish, dealing with conflicting view points, working in a partnership, council and building regulations, builders, engineers and lack of experience in nearly all those things. I hope it all works out. I want nothing but for him to feel proud of what he's doing, because he ought to. After all, he's taken it upon himself to start this project and it's going to be some achievement to see it through to the end, when we'll be sipping cocktails on the deck and thinking about what it's taken to get there. Although right now, that seems very, very long way away.