House whisperings

It’s the end of the year and I planned a quick post to wish my readers and fellow bloggers a very happy time and perhaps add a few photos from the past year. But then I started thinking about that past year and I’ve decided to share a few more thoughts (although I really do want to thank you for following this blog – it continues to thrill me when I see readers checking in from around the globe).


It’s been a hectic end to a busy year as renovations to my house grind to a close. I know through experience that changing your living space, even if it’s only re-arranging the furniture, is a symbol of re-making other parts of your life. As Jung said: what goes on inside us will always be visible in our surroundings. I’ve known this from working in both interior design and feng shui. I would notice how people who were experiencing stress in their lives would have issues in their home with water or electricity – with flow, in other words. Ask anyone going through tough times and you’ll invariably find that the washing machine stopped working, the tap started dripping or something electrical shorted. I have a tendency to blow light bulbs when I’m feeling stressed. In the mad months before I moved to Australia in 1996, I was blowing up the toaster and the kettle, too. My kitchen was like a war-zone.

I think the idea of a symbolic home is wonderfully reassuring. Sometimes we don’t know where we’re at but our home will always tell us, even if it’s just the moment we realise we’re living in chaos. Now when a tap starts dripping I fix it quickly, but I also ask myself why it’s started dripping (and yes, the cynics among you will say it’s because the bloody washer is worn).

My home speaks to me. So the idea of people coming in and bashing it all up sounded like hell, and yet I was surprisingly calm when building work started at the beginning of September. I kept thinking about it rationally – that this was something I’d instigated, that I was going to be left with a space that was going to be much better, and for God’s sake stop whingeing.

But in recent weeks the cracks have begun to show, and I don’t mean just in the building work (they call it ‘settling’). As the work reaches the final stages, I lie awake in the middle of the night, my heart racing and my mind whirring through what needs to be done and what’s just been done. A little voice inside my head wails: why did I start all this?

Everything around us is a symbol and when people have been doing good things to my house I feel I have made the right decision, that everything is going as it should. There is flow, in other words. (I’ve wavered around slapdash workmanship and hanging about for trades that don’t turn up.)

I wonder how often Le Corbusier's taps leaked?

I wonder how often Le Corbusier’s taps leaked?

Writing is the same. This year I have been working on a novel featuring the architect Le Corbusier. Along with reading everything about him that I could lay my hands on, I travelled to France to breath the air of his own flat in Boulogne-Billancourt and to interview LC experts. I also stayed in Vézelay, where LC’s wife Yvonne found herself stranded during the war. From the beginning of my research I kept wondering if I was up to writing this novel, that maybe I’d bitten off more than I can chew. The more I researched, the more I realised I had to do. I wanted to make sure that I was being as accurate as I could so that I would really capture the spirit of the times. There were many lovely signs along the way and I couldn’t help feeling that I was doing the right thing. When I was offered the bedroom where Yvonne slept in Vézelay it was hard not to feel on-track.

I’ve virtually finished the final draft and it’s been a huge experience, especially as it’s such a different novel from my previous one. My understanding of the craft of writing has changed, too, or deepened at any rate. And I’ve learned that I can write anywhere, even if there are builders hammering all around me.

I’m not surprised that the house is coming to completion at the same time as the novel (although the tap in the laundry has started to drip so I know I’m not out of the woods yet). There’s some kind of synchronicity in that. And I’m feeling very positive about 2015, especially as the rebuilding has brought in more light and space which reflects the greater sense of clarity, order and purpose that I have in my writing life. I will at last have my own dedicated space in which to write so that’s pretty empowering.

I’m a lucky fellow. The house told me so.

And so on that note, I wish you a lucky 2015 too, and thank you again for stopping by.

the dining table in the  Le Corbusier apartment, Paris

the dining table in the Le Corbusier apartment, Paris

Categories: Architecture, Other, Travel, WritingTags: , , , , ,


  1. Colin, what an inspiring post! Now I know that my urges to move furniture around are part of something bigger. 😉 Your novel-writing experience is also intriguing, and I’m looking forward to reading the Le Corbusier inspired tale soon. Happy Christmas!

  2. I think you’ve nailed it. (Pardon the pun). To a constantly dripping tap and light bulb issues I’ve recently added breakages: crockery, jewellery and sundry other things. I’m not usually a ‘breaky’ person, so what’s going on? Is my life about to implode. Hopefully not. Anyways, all the best to you Colin for the festive season. Enjoy your new house.

    • Life and living rooms have a habit of giving out messages loud and clear. Time to sit down and grasp what’s going on, perhaps? Oh Lord, I’ve come over all Mystic Meg! Hope you have a break-free break and a smooth 2015!

  3. Colin, a thought provoking post indeed…. thank you for your inspiring words… happy holidays!

  4. Hi Colin, What a great blog giving your thoughts on re-designing your home and about writing your latest novel. I am really looking forward to seeing photos of the finished house and to see what you have achieved. I trust you have taken loads of before and after photos. These of course could result in an article for a newspaper or a design magazine. All the very best for Christmas.

  5. Can’t wait to read the book. You write about buildings with such beauty so the subject matter sounds perfect. Hope you have a great Christmas.

  6. Thank you for a lovely post, Colin.
    All artistic processes are fascinating, and for someone with such a love and knowledge of architecture, creating your own space must be a major artistic journey. And upheaval. It sounds like birth. So here’s wishing you a fabulous 2015 enjoying living in your new creation and watching as your literary creation bursts upon the world and shares its knowledge and glory and enthusiasm!

  7. Oh yes, I like the idea of birth! Thank you for your good wishes (and confidence!).

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