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On the bright side of the road
Lover of words. Usually found with a book or a pen in my hand.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Living a Life of Luxury

‘I have lavished money these last three months upon the cottage, adding a water-supply, a bath, a boiler, bookshelves, a bathing pool (a tiny one, but splashable into): all the luxuries of the earth.  Also I have thrown out of it the bed, the cooking range: and ignored the lack of drains.  Give me the luxuries and I will do without the essentials.’  T E Lawrence, 21 December 1933

Oftentimes I have bemoaned the fact that everyday life gets in the way of my yearning to write.  First of all, there’s the day job (which, frankly, I need in order to pay the bills) and then there’s all the accoutrements of living family life such as shopping, cooking and cleaning (thankfully I am blessed with Lovely Hubby (LH) who certainly does more than his fair share around the house!).  Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to shrug off the conformity of my life and to truly live as I would like, without compromise and to spend time on the things I really want to do.  But is that really what I want? 

I recently visited Clouds Hill, retreat and home to T E Lawrence during the last years of his life.  Lawrence of Arabia is legendary, in part thanks to Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, yet his home doesn’t match the size of the legend.  It’s basically a two up/two down cottage, not very pretty but with the bonus of hiding in the beautiful Dorset countryside.  Lawrence wanted to escape from everyday life, which he was certainly able to do at Clouds Hill.

Lawrence appeared to have been an eccentric character.  As he didn’t much like cleaning and had no taste for food he chose to have no toilet or kitchen in his house.  I don’t like to think where he carried out his bodily functions but apparently food was eaten straight from the tin and the empty cans buried in the garden.  Sometimes he’d eat at a local cafe but I think guests were treated to the eating-from-the-tin experience.

Lawrence wasn’t encumbered by lots of belongings either, apart from his collection of 2,000 or so books.  Money was tight for him but if he particularly wanted an item he commissioned the best:  he indulged his love of music by buying the best gramophone players of the time and installed a state of the art system for supplying hot water for his bath.  And yet he had no curtains at the windows, no dining table, no electricity (although this was not unusual for rural Dorset at that time), sparse furnishings – not to mention the toilet!

In short, Lawrence pleased himself.  He lived alone and made concessions to no-one.

Now I’ve seen what it can be like, I’m not so sure.  I quite like my toilet and meals around the table.  And I suppose it would be lovely to have a bespoke book room – but at the price of curtains?  Yes, life can appear dull living around the 9-5 routine and trying to squeeze in dreams and aspirations.....but in some strange way I rather like it.  Life is a compromise, no matter what you choose to do.

It was lovely to visit Clouds Hill and to admire T E Lawrence’s eccentricity, but back in my world…..well, it’s back to the washing up for me (or maybe I should just bury it all in the garden?).

A word of warning – there are no toilet facilities here!