This is the house that Ben built

That’s it!  I’ve written I title; I have stared a blog.  I’ve thought about started one several times, but it is a personal failing of mine that I will always allocated some future date for some alleged or arbitrary significance:

” I’ll start going to the gym on the first day of next month.”

“I’ll give up chocolate during lent”

These days are all fine days for starting something, but there always exists a time between the starting date and me, during which I can always forget about my pledge.  As the songs says, tomorrow is always a day away.  So away with needless preparation time or waiting time or whatever it may be.  I’ve already had this account for nearly six months; today is as good a day as any other.

However, in spite of that rant on the importance of days, today is Good Friday.  And it was a good Friday, I helped build a house.

The word “helped” is probably a bit strong, it would be more truthful to say that my presence was tolerated, as I don’t think the work was completed any quicker because of me (and I can only hope it wasn’t completed any slower).

I’m currently in Kitzbühel, the town in which I was born, staying with Robert and Waltraud, and old couple who lodged my parents for three years after I was born and who have allowed me to stay several times since.  They are incredibly hospitible and make sure that I want for nothing.  Unless, of course, I want to help.

Waltraud is determined that I enjoy my time here, so I can barely carry plates to the tabel because “you should not do that on holiday”.  I am somewhat resigned to it by now, but I can’t help but feel guilty when they’re doing so much for me and won’t take any help or payment in return.  So it was that when Robert asked if I wanted to help with the construction of his son, Paul’s, house, I lept.  I threw on some clothes to get dirty in and (being an eternal tourist) grabbed my camera.

Within minutes of getting there I realised that the camera was unneccessary.  Paul’s house is an ongoing project which father and son have been working on – between Paul’s job as a chef – for about 10 years, and Paul has been living there most of that time.  That’s not to say his living quarters are unpleasant; many of the rooms are alrady finished.  But the top floor is still under semei-constant construction.  Paul saves his money, then buys all the necessary materials to fit out another part of the house, after which he needs to save up again before moving on.  He was working for some of those savings that evening, so we had to work fast.

That afternoon we had to fix some skirting boards in a loft space and it was during this time that I saw a different side to Robert and Paul.  The process involved a lot of shouting orders, both at each other and at me, broken occasionally when Robert would disagree with something Paul was suggesting, after which there would be a brief, loud argument, with Paul usually winning.

An expertly fitted skirting board

An expertly fitted skirting board

... and a less expertly fitted skirting board

... a less expertly fitted skirting board

After finishing the skirting boards, covered with saw dust and me suitably proficient with a circular saw, we moved on to attatch some plant trestles to the balcony.  This let me see a fantastic view of Kitzbühel.  True, most parts of Kitzbühel have a fantastic view, such is the appeal of the town, but as I held the trestles in place while Paul screwed them into place, I looked at the town and reflected on why I like it so much.

Paul's house, now with room for window boxes

Paul's house, now with room for window boxes

True, I was born here, but I left for England when I was three and have only been back a handfull of times in the intervening 18 years.  But it’s a beautiful place, in stark contract to the town I grew up in and I feel a spiritual connection to it.  I feel more refreshed and energised for having been here.

I think right now, though, Kitzbühel is special to me because it has a timeless quality.  Nothing seems to change here, Paul was building his house when I was last here, he may still be building it even if I don’t come back for another six years.  People will come here to ski in the winter and golf in the summer.  Those mountains aren’t going anywhere and neither is the town nestled between them.

In the past year, I’ve had a lot of major changes in my life suddenly forced upon me, both at home and as a result of my year abroad.  Somewhere in there, I need a rock.  I need something that will always be there and always be beautiful.  That’s what Kitzbühel is to me and even if I don’t visit it often, knowing that it’s there is a comfort.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophising, Resolutions, Travel

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