Monday, 16 November 2009

typical day

Everything seems to collapse into place. Can't get in touch with pool man, run into him in the village. Looking for our building into him while on our way for a spontaneous visit to the Botanical Gardens. Can't find a tree just happens to be recommended. Thinking of into him at Cafe des Arts. Maybe it's because all the other stuff doesn't get in the way and the path from you to someone else is unhindered.

Don't fret and it will work out. It's the Nevis way.

dem Bats

Bats are our friends. No, really. It is inevitable that a bat will find its way into a house here. When we first bought Butler's, we slept and wee'd with the bats. They did check in before we did so rather than try and kick them out of the bedroom, we moved the rickety homemade beds into the living room. Last night we had a first close encounter ourselves. It was just sitting on the floor near our bedroom door. "Di," i was an agitated Tim announcing its arrival ."Get something." Gave him a a rug. Where is it? "I don't know, I don't know...stuck." Here's a spatula.
Tim glided the spatula under the rug to hook the bat. Didn't work. The bat started doing its thing and batted its wings. Using a wastepaper basket, we captured the bat, moving it outside for release. it was scared still, unable to move from the bottom of the basket. By next morning it had rejoined its family.

Bats consume hundreds of thousands of insects nightly. They are our friends. I think we'll get a net for future capture and release moments.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Ahhhh. We're Back

Sitting here on the front terrace...the crickets are serving as backup to Bruce--move over E Street Band...we're enjoying our first cavalier rum and cokes and getting ready to whip up a little something for dinner. So good to be back. The gardens are flourishing. Cactus have reached skyscraper heights. Lost a beautiful tree in last week's freak storm but other than that the gardens have been left unscathed.

Last night we sat at the front of the boat coming over from St Kitts. Nothing like it. Stars were twinkling in the Caribbean sky. Gentle warm breeze. And, in the distance calling us from Nevis...the rhythms of Charlestown on Saturday night. What a welcome.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Next Stop: Nevis

(Written on Friday)...It's a typical autumn day in England...overcast, dark skies with nighttime falling at 430PM. Off to Nevis tomorrow for 3 weeks. Just cannot wait to step off the boat into Charlestown. Tazel will have the Jeep waiting. We'll pop into Bestbuy for some groceries and then to Bernice's for our keys. It'll be dark but Bernice always leaves the lights on for us.

We have a list of jobs to do: install some additional lights, enclose the kitchen garden, clear and tidy the cellar and carriage house in preparation for their conversion into bedrooms and bathroom, create a two track road up our drive (with Mr Lescott).

There's so much exploring to do. Must make time to do more...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Search For Butler's

In 1978, former Butler's owners Herb and Florence Taylor caught their first glimpse of the house:

"Butlers -- Fell in love immediately--Great entry drive under old established trees-House needs heavy repair, floors & inner walls--Great property- Fruit and nut trees. House & 5 or 6 acres for sale. Took pictures. Visited by elderly farmer. Distant view of Sea. Right under Nevis Peak. Hard to leave. "

31 years, 1 earthquake and 1 fire later...and we found ourselves at the same place Herb and Florence had...but for us it was an overwhelming sight. We saw great potential but it needed a lot of work and that was only on the outside. It was looking for someone with great resources. We weren't that someone. At least we thought we weren't...

November brings rain. Lots of rain. On the day we began our search in November 2004, Nevis was overflowing with it. We found ourselves trudging through muddy lawns and sidestepping leaking roofs looking at several lovely, appealing homes that real estate agent Suzanne Gordon showed us. Then she drove us to Butler’s. Actually, it was the outside of Butler’s. Stone and shingled gables, nestled into the woods and foothills of Butler’s Mountain with a spectacular sea view. It was not love at first sight but something felt familiar…and although the storm shutters were closed you could see the potential. Priced well beyond our budget and obviously requiring very deep pockets, the building would continue to stand alone looking lost amongst the overgrown 6 acres of land it occupied. We fell for another "ready to move in" home called Fig Tree Cottage and later made an offer.

Our offer was declined. It was now 2005. Undeterred, Tim kept searching and saw Butler’s House (aka Butler’s Yard, Butler’s Mansion) on EBay for a much more realistic price. We decided to go back for another look—this time a thorough one with a structural engineer and a reputable builder. The photo above was taken the day we decided to buy Butler's.

Bats and frogs had made Butler’s their home. I disturbed a white frog hidden inside one of our shutters. I don’t know who was more scared by the surprise!

While some thought the building should be raised, the considered structural expert concluded it was a structure solid. It had some cracks but Butler's was sound. The list of jobs had originally included: re-wiring, new roof, new bathrooms, hot water heater, storm shutters…the list went on. The initial estimate was doable…until it wasn’t and more than quadrupled in price. It was about being liveable vs living in comfortably. We wanted to live comfortably.

We hired the well-respected building contractor Noral Lescott and about 6-10 months later the restoration began. Simultaneously, Tim found award-winning landscape designer Julie Toll who had designed now deceased Englishman Sir Bourne's home on Nevis. Julie, together with her partner Landscape Architect Ian Kitson, transformed our landscape of what had been euphemistically called lush into a sympathetic restoration, uncovering the original drive that sweeps up through the property and transforming the monkey vine-covered Victorian Gardens into what we now call the Pool Terrace.

Three years later and Butler's was ready for guests. It's still a work in progress but so far our guests have really enjoyed Butler's. You never really know if what you've done is enough, if it works. Yipee is all I can say...the extra mortgage, the worry, the sweat & tears...all worth it.

A Dream Now Shared

Everyone has a dream. Some more than one. A dream job, a dream home, a dream spouse. This blog will follow how a dream not shared became an unimaginable dream come true and led my husband Tim and I onto a path of discovery into the life of a unique and historic home.

Owning a house in the Caribbean was my husband's dream. A Brit, Tim’s parents had lived on Antigua. As children and young adults, Tim, his brother and sister spent many a Christmas holiday there. When Tim speaks of the
Caribbean, his voice mellows and moves to the singsong melody of the West Indies. Unlike Tim, I had no affinity with the islands. My memories of the Caribbean? Sun, sunburn, potent drinks and hangovers. Tim knew it was a dream we didn't share but I wholeheartedly moved forward with an open mind as we started our search for a home.

Tim did the research. Nevis--an island I had never heard of--was the destination. So, off we went from Barbados on an overcast day and headed straight into a tropical storm that was hitting Nevis and sister island St. Kitts.

Following two failed attempts, we landed safely on St. Kitts. Was mother nature telling us something? Undeterred, we caught the ferry to Nevis. Great swells rushed up and over the boat, with passengers sheltered only by a tarpaulin-like roof. None of the passengers seemed the least bit worried, so we just followed their lead.

An adventure unlike any other: A young school girl travelling with her father, middle-aged women with umbrellas shielding them from the lashings of water and, a hotly contested dominoes competition. I never felt threatened by the storm. Instead, I had this overwhelming feeling of safety.

I’m not exactly sure why I fell for Nevis. Was it the innocent smile from that sparkling schoolgirl or the way her father gently shielded her from the rain? Was it the men whose obviously regular game of dominoes continued undisturbed during a 90-minute journey that usually takes half the time? Maybe it was just the genuine appreciation for life’s simple abundances. What I do know is that the moment I caught sight of the Nevis port, it had me.

At that moment I began to share my husband’s dream, a dream that would bring us great happiness.