Nomadic Home Improvement with a BBC Flavor

It’s approaching 9:20 a.m. I’ve been up for close to five hours. My time hasn’t been spent productively. Instead, I’ve fiddled with my new smart phone (a Samsung Galaxy S10) and allowed my mind to wander. I’m no longer particularly enamored of the capabilities of smart phones. They are, to me, simply tools to accomplish tasks I want to accomplish. They’re expensive tools. I’d really rather spend my money on tools that enable me to create things. Tools like a table saw or planer or jointer or drill press.

My mind hasn’t wandered far, though, as I’ve kept it on a relatively short leash. Had I allowed it to run free, it might have scampered out the back door and stumbled off the back deck, smashing against the rocks twenty feet below. That would have made for an unattractive sight.

But let’s move on to other, more pleasant, things. Shall we? We shall. Maybe.

I drift between wanting to remodel significant parts of our house and wanting to sell everything we own in order to accommodate a transient lifestyle. During my remodeling moods, the bathrooms and kitchen figure high on my list of projects. Neither the bathrooms nor the kitchen are terrible as they are, but having lived in this house for just over five years, I recognize the flaws. And the flaws magnify with every passing month. When I’m in a particularly foul mood, I’m of the opinion that the architect who conceived the house should be jailed and possibly subjected to torture for design crimes. Wait, did I say let’s move on to more pleasant things? I believe I did. Let’s not torture the architect. Let’s just jail him. Solitary confinement for the rest of his natural life will suffice.

No, really, the house isn’t bad at all. I’d just like to see some significant changes that would appeal to my senses. The creation of a three hundred acre private lake behind the house would be a good start.

When I bounce off remodeling and embrace transience, I have an entirely different attitude. I envision a wardrobe consisting of a very small number of shirts, pants, and shoes. All perfectly suitable for either casual or more formal affairs. All of my clothes would fit easily into a small suitcase, leaving plenty of room for my shaving kit, etc. Our suitcases would fit quite nicely, with room to spare, in the trunk of our hybrid Toyota Avalon (which we would purchase so our ongoing road trip would be comfortable).  Aside from the expense of a car, though, the cost of hotel or motel rooms (or even AirBnB accommodations) might strain our budget. So we would have to appeal to the generosity of friends and strangers for places to stay on our travels. The sticky subject of “how long is too long” would have to be addressed before arrival, though, so as to avoid uncomfortable or awkward situations. “As long as you like” would be probed until we reached specificity so that, going in, we would know how long is too long. As nice as it would be to spend time with friends, though, there comes a time relatively early on when privacy and, indeed, isolation becomes a valued experience. So, a self-imposed time limit, even if it is less than our hosts’ limits of generosity, would be established from the start.

It occurs to me that my interest in remodeling kitchen and bathroom spaces could fit nicely with my desire for nomadic transience. Yes, we could remodel friends’ homes while we visit! What a surprise for a working couple to come home from a long, stressful day on the job to find that their guests have ripped out vanities and demolished kitchen countertops! Oh, I’m just kidding. They would have to know in advance because I’m not in a position to pay for the materials for a kitchen makeover. Plus, I’d have to have spent my money on shop tools instead of the phones. And, instead of the Avalon, I would have required a panel truck to haul my tools. It’s madness. Absolute madness.

Not that I have a garden where I live now (there’s no place to put it and no soil, to boot), but transience effectively eliminates the possibility of a vegetable garden. I could offer to plant vegetables for the generous friends who host us, but I seriously doubt they would be willing to let us stay for the entire growing season. And I seriously doubt we would want to. Yet the conflict between a desire for a nomadic lifestyle and a desire to have a vegetable garden must be acknowledged when deciding what to do with one’s life. No one ever told me that.  I had to learn it on my own.

What is tedium? Is it anger at feeling confined by unexpected and unappreciated obligations? What gives rise to the desire to either to tear out bathrooms and kitchens or, after  extracting from them their full worth, flee toward the absence of obligation? It’s possible there exists no relationship whatsoever between a wish to remodel and a desire for a nomadic life. In fact, I suspect there’s a non sequitur in there someplace. Something like “I enjoy the company of dogs just as much as the sun comes up in the east.” That’s a non sequitur, right?


On a completely unrelated subject, I learned this morning from the BBC website that “the right to roam is called allemansrätten in Swedish, which means ‘everyone’s right.'” Continuing with that fascinating bit of information, here’s more directly from the site:

The law dates to medieval times but was formally enshrined in the Swedish constitution in 1994, and allows Swedes and foreign visitors alike to hike, cycle, ride, skate or ski on almost any land in Sweden; very few trails or beaches are private. You can also camp anywhere, as long as you stay at least 70m away from the nearest home.

The BBC website often tells absolutely fascinating stories. Another one from this morning is a short video about the soon-to-be available documentary, Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project. Marion Stokes recorded 70,000 VHS tapes of television news between 1979 and her death in 2012. The short video features her son explaining what she did and why she did it. I look forward to seeing the documentary when it’s available. Based on the video I saw this morning, I expect it to be riveting. Ms. Stokes was an extraordinarily intelligent person who was, I think, ahead of her time in terms of understanding the impact of television news.

I think I’ve done quite enough for this morning. I’ve had breakfast. I’ve visited with my sister-in-law, who brought herbs and shoes to the house. I won’t explain that. I’ve engaged in conversations with my wife. I’ve taken out the trash. And I’ve written this post. That’s enough for now, as I said. It’s quite enough.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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