Thinking about T E Lawrence, buried in Moreton, Dorset, about the great European carve-up of the Middle East that he and Gertrude Bell were part of in the 1920s, and his cottage, near Bovington Camp, that he renovated while serving out his last few years in the RAF in the early-1930s. He had finally got it right, installing a porthole from HMS Tiger in what he called a slip of a roomlet, not having a bedroom, when he was killed, in 1935, in a hit and run motorcycle accident.
Interiors did a photo-essay of Cloud's Hill years ago – it is a National Trust Property and open to visitors. I remember that the cottage did not have a kitchen, just a wood counter with three beautiful glass cheese bells in a row. In 1933 he wrote to a friend, 'I have lavished money these last . . . 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.'
This seems about right I think.
It was quite small, this cottage: two rooms up and two down, upstairs was opened into one room, the book room, lined with bookshelves. The downstairs was the music room. He was delighted by its austerity and self -sufficiency: '...books and gramophone records and tools for ever and ever. No food, no bed, no kitchen, no drains, no light or power. Just a two-roomed cottage and five acres of rhododendron scrub. Perfection, I fancy, of its sort.'
Perfection, but also a kind of punishment, but perhaps he had lived too much and needed something elemental out of life and house. It is curious, one's house should not be one's life, yet it inevitably is.