Spring is in the air, and a chap's thoughts turn to serious nesting.
I've always lived in hand-me-down houses. Finally, I'm ready to bespoke my lifestyle; to design my own home, encompassing all the tips tucked away over decades of living in clunky homes.
Nesting is stupidly expensive in Nelson, and pieces of hill are always falling off, so I picked up a cheap section down south and began sketching the layout of my dream home.
Southland is the new Riveria - if your taste in togs is 7mm body-length neoprene, with hood. My property lies near Nightcaps, in a little hamlet called Nightmare.
I fired off my rough drawings to the local builders for quotes. The first is just in: “Dear Mr Irvine. Thank you for the opportunity to quote on your stunning new home. Here at Nightmare Homes we offer a comprehensive design-build service. Our architect Gareth will consult with you extensively, reaching a thorough understanding of your wishes -- and then promptly ignore them, producing the design that he wants, at $80,000 over your budget.
"Please don't be alarmed. ‘Over-budget' is a concept you will embrace in our journey together. And Gazza hopes to make a name for himself in the House of the Year Awards. Should he win, the value of your property will rise, if you can afford to live in it once completed.
"A year on, you'll wonder how you ever managed without that fifth ensuite. Naturally, the council will require engineering approval for your plans, since although this is a flat site, away from faultlines and flood plains, we can never rule out the prospect of meteor strike.
"The building inspectors are mindful of what happened to the dinosaurs? For want of a few sturdy barns, herds of diplodocus might still be roaming the lush pastures round Winton. Imagine the beef returns in that.
"Extra steel in your walls will push the budget over-budget. Please budget for that. I note that you have indicated a letterbox. This too will need engineering approval to ensure it can withstand incendiary devices around November 5. Council says the whisper out of Wellington is that the Government will reintroduce crackers soon.
"I can promise you that your new home will be ready by Christmas. We cannot definitively say which Christmas, but you don't strike me as one of those present-feelers who ferret around under the tree to spoil their own surprise. Completion date depends on how many other houses I am building at the same time, or how much work the subbies have on, or the snowboarding conditions at Queenstown. As we say in the trade, how long is a piece of string-along?
"Now I know what you are thinking. Didn't you see a German company on Grand Designs that rocked up to the site with a kitset house in a container and had the thing up and weathertight inside a week, with fit-out done in three months?
"Sure, we could all do that if we resort to Teutonic corner-cutting efficiency, and common sense, prefabricating proven designs in factories out of the weather. DOC can also throw together a back-country hut in a blink, and I've noticed a lot of Germanic names working for them too.
"It's not the Kiwi way. We value individuality. We are not off-the-rack people. Our houses are tailored, then built on-site, introduced to the climate gradually, allowed to season at their own pace when it rains or if the surf is good in the Catlins.
"Wheels are made for reinventing, Mr Irvine. They are made round to come around. Like cheese, good things take time. (Those ads were filmed just up the road from here, by-the-by. You will love living in the Riviera of the south.) Once the pad is down, my team will be on the job pronto-ish.
"Of course, the architect will be a prize plonker straight out of university, so we must allow for delays in realising impractical drawings. The finished product may vary from approved design. The levels will probably be shot, too. Bloody framers. And the windows won't quite fit. Bloody fabricators.
"Please be advised that the electrician, plumber etc may not turn up when they say they will, and offer no explanation. Subbies are free-spirited artisans. We must respect that.
"And of course, none of us can control the weather. We get unexpected rain down here, and unexpected sunshine, and hazards like wind. All going well, though, the house will be finished, and you and I will walk through it together to identify any faults.
"Once I have your final payment we will get to those, I promise. Keep chasing me. I'm a hopeful chap. For you, I'll stick my neck out and say completion by next Easter, a mere nine months.
"Yes, they build huge commercial premises in half that time, but if you wish to live with concrete walls, fluorescent lighting and the stench of photocopier chemicals, be my guest.
"Once again, thank you for the opportunity to quote. Here at Nightmare Building Industries, we are passionate that together we can turn your dream home into a Nightmare.”