I’m having a short break in a barn near Abergavenny that has recently been converted into a holiday let. I really like being surrounded by the variety of construction materials that have been intelligently employed by the architect, from stone to steel to chipboard.
My father was an architect and as a child I was accustomed to living in the middle of works in progress. The first one was our home in Karori, a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand.
My parents, both graduates from university in London, where they had met, emigrated to New Zealand in the early 60s. My father got work at a firm of architects and my mother was at home with my brother - and then I was born.
I have no memories of New Zealand because when I was very little we returned to the UK.
My mother describes how she discovered that I was more than happy to lie on my back in the garden (which was quite probably a bit of a building site) under the tree fern because the filtered sunlight gave me so much pleasure. (There was no TV for us in New Zealand! I recollect that my parents bought their first black and white portable in order to watch the 1969 moon landings by which time we were settled in Cornwall.)
Early memories seem such a mixture of the mundane:
Tea chests would turn up at our cottage in Cornwall all the way from New Zealand: broken crockery: my mother’s sadness colouring the excitement of half-forgotten domestic treasures arriving from the other side of the planet: ancient crumbly plaster walls painted white and cork tiles with a mind of their own; the sofa (Habitat) in a pleasing purple flecked weave to which chewing gum would stick rather ferociously: trying to match the stuck gum to the colour of the sofa using my felt tip pens to avoid trouble; my mother’s sigh on discovering the misdemeanour…
Colour mixing experiments began at a young age…