How to look for a house

Lumber house with a grass roof

In 1984, shortly before he died, James Hopewell, an American pastor and theologian completed the third draft of his first and only book called simply Congregation. In it he observed that people when chosing to which church and congregation to belong approach the task in a similar way “to the way that a family examines a house … in which [they] might [live]” (Hopewell, Congregation, p. 19).

Typically, he says, when househunters are looking for a new home they look at properties with a mixture of four broad perspectives:

  1. househunters look not only at the house in which they are interested but also the surrounding ENVIRONMENT. They ask questions such as is this house and neighbourhood both suitable and secure? Could we see ourselves living in this area?
  2. houses are also viewed from a FUNCTIONAL (or mechanical) perspective – that is, does this house (or congregation) offer shelter and protection from unexpected external forces? How well does this place do its job?
  3. the third factor is what Hopewell calls the ORGANIC perspective—the househunter tries to tie their family’s story to the property, envisioning how they might use this dwelling. “Will this be a happy home for us?” “Does the story of this place resonate with my story?”
  4. the SYMBOLIC perspective—househunters look at the capacity for a potential house to reflect their character. “What does this place suggest about who we are?”

I suspect that Jane and I are going to be looking for a house in which we might live in much the same way that people look for a congregation.

Armour of God pyjamas

Screenshot of Armor of God website

What in the name of all that is good and wholesome is going on with this website: Armor of God (sic)?! Not only does the site look as though it’s on fire, it’s just … well, awful! I spotted this on Web Pages That Suck today, while doing some … erm, online research at lunchtime.

I’m all for people learning passages of Scripture. I’m all for young people learning passages of Scripture. But I’m not sure about dressing your kids up like a Bible-themed fancy dress party and sending them to bed in what looks like a pair of bry nylon pyjamas.

* CRACKLE, CRACKLE … BANG! *
“Arrrggghhhh!!”
“What’s that dear? Have you had a religious experience?
“No! I’ve just got a nasty static electric shock from my pyjamas!”

The full set comes complete with the following, for $49.99 (about £26.50):

  • Pajama top with breastplate of righteousness and belt of truth hem.
  • Pajama pants with wings of peace to cover feet.
  • Helmet of salvation.
  • Shield of faith pillow.
  • Sword of the Spirit (New Testament).
  • Activity coloring book.

ACTIVITY COLORING BOOK?! (I’m going to ignore the American spelling) Why would anyone need an activity colouring book with their pyjamas?! They are meant to be SLEEPING!

And don’t even get me started about the “belt of truth hem

We’re house hunting … again!

Mock-up designs of a house extension.

The image above — if you can make it out — represents one of the draft ideas that we had for our wee holiday cottage Kadesh had we been able to extend it. This morning, however, we discovered fairly conclusively that extending it will be nigh on impossible for us. Not because of a lack of vision, or enthusiasm for a building project, but simply because it will be too expensive.

Our wee cottage is in a beautiful location. The cottage has such character, and an enormous garden from the top of which you can see out towards the Forth and over to the Isle of May. However, there is no way that any building firm could easily gain access to the building to do the kind of work that we were hoping for. Which, while not being elaborate, is just too much for that wee spot of land.

We’ve had two estimates of the total cost of extending. The first one was a couple of weeks ago from Rosemary McAllister, who specializes in building warrant and planning applications. She estimated around £100,000. The second, this morning, was from a local architect in St Andrews, who stood with Jane in the garden, in the rain, and tried to look at the project from every conceivable angle to find the most cost-effective way to realise our dream. In the end he said it would be impossible to do for less than £150,000, while £200,000 might be more realistic. And that’s before adding the 12%-14% fees that the architect commands. Or decorating!

So it looks like we’ll be moving again. We’ll get Kadesh smartened up, replace the dead boiler, tidy the garden, sell it, and buy something larger nearby. And move. Again.

At the moment I’m torn between being gutted and being practical. Half of me wants to mourn the loss of an unrealised dream, while the other half just wants to get on and find somewhere else to live.

The house hunting has begun already…

Owen’s baptism & Soo and Martin’s anniversary

Family and friends in the garden after the baptism of Owen.

Our visits to Edinburgh at the weekends are not getting any fewer. Yesterday we travelled down to South Queensferry to celebrate Susan and Martin’s first wedding anniversary; Susan is Jane’s younger sister. Only we forgot to take any photographs, or indeed — as Soo may remind us again — a present!

The weekend before we were in Edinburgh on Sunday morning to attend Owen’s baptism at St Thomas’s Episcopal Church (where Jane and I were married); Owen is my nephew, the son of my brother Eddie. The weather was glorious and it was lovely to be with so many members of the family again.

In the photograph above we have, from left to right: Rebecca Saunders (Eddie’s wife), Eddie Saunders holding Owen Saunders (the star of the show), Jane Saunders (my wife), Jenni Saunders (my sister) with her son Benjamin Saunders (light blue top), Robin Brydon (my cousin), Nancy Mitchison (friend of my Mum and Eddie’s godmother), Zoë Brydon (my cousin), Jasmine Simpson (my Mum’s cousin), Rosalie Saunders (my Mum), Gareth Saunders (me), Lewis Brydon (my uncle, Mum’s brother), Dougie Mitchison (wife of Nancy), Christine Brydon (my auntie, Lewis’s wife).

Dinner party

Balloon dog

Jane and I have just returned home, having been all the way next door for the evening. We held a dinner party to which we invited a couple of our neighbour couples to celebrate the repossession (by us) of our cottage, Kadesh.

Because this afternoon the last family to have booked Kadesh left, and left us Kadesh. It’s ours again. Our holiday cottage is now no longer a holiday cottage, it’s just a cottage. Our cottage. Our cottage that needs extended in order that we can fit all our stuff into it.

And so this evening we celebrated with our new friends, our neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours. With a little understanding you can find the perfect blend. Neighbours should be there for one another. That’s when good neighbours become good friends. Or so I’ve heard.

We ate (lasagne; both vegetarian and minced beef), we drank (cranberry, beer and wine; not all in the same glass), we laughed (at me), we played a board game (a horse-racing one) and scoffed Ferrero Rocher (we were being spoiled) and home-made (almost) tablet.

All too soon the evening was over and we retired to our own homes. Do think of Ian, he’s working in the morning (9.00 am – 5.00 pm) making balloon animals all day. Or something.