Building My Own Home

‘I must have been almost crazy
to start out alone like my bicycle
pedalling into the tropics carrying
a medicine for which no one had found
the disease and hoping
I would make it in time.’

Richard Shelton, ‘The Tattooed Desert’

Don’t ask me why this wonderful poem with its wry wisdom reminds me of the year-long process of building my own home…but it does. After Sundowners was published in 2004, I decided to return to Accra where I’d grown up, buy land and build my own home – every architect’s dream. Of course, having trained in London, I thought that transferring my skills and (sort of) know-how to West Africa would be easy. Like Shelton, I set out with house plans that no one could read and disaster promptly followed. Without the help and skill of Mr Jones, my seventy-something year-old foreman and the genius (not to mention patience) of the man known as Delta Kilo, my half-Swiss/half-Ghanaian contractor, and the help of Christina (architecte extraordinaire who taught me pretty much everything that seven years worth of training hadn’t)…well, we’d probably still be there, scratching our heads, looking at plans the wrong way up and wondering what to do. Here are a couple of pictures of the (painful) process…and the finished result. Let me know what you think!

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