The fact that we can get together in the garden, have a cup of coffee on the picnic table when we want to discuss something, that’s very good actually, very useful. You are in neutral territory, not in someone’s house.

23rd November 2023
Thanks for speaking with us Nina. Your home is beautiful. It’s lovely having windows on both sides and the light comes all the way through.

My daughter and I came to look at the house and, as we were leaving, we both said simultaneously it’s so calm and peaceful. I used to work at home, my office was in the middle floor, and I used to come up here to the top floor and it was like moving somewhere else, it was lovely.

Are you retired now?

Yes. I was an accountant.

When did you move in? And how did you find the place?

I think it’s 17 years ago. I was on the Parish Council at High Ham and for some reason or other we got the plans through and I thought I would love one of those. My father was still alive then and he said, ‘You are mad, they haven’t got any doors.’ That seemed to upset him! It was quite an adventure.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you like about the design here, your father said you won’t have any internal doors to close. Do you like the upside-down configuration?

I do because I can see all round me, that’s the beauty and the view from the back is as good. I like the openness.

Have you adapted the space very much?

No not really, I put shutters on the windows behind you. And I have had lots of furniture made. The big problem was a lack of storage.

Do you have a favourite time of day here when you are in here?

I like to be at that end in the morning where my jigsaw is, at my table when the sun comes up, and then when it comes over here in the lounge, but I quite often have to close my shutters because it does get very hot.

Do you have a kind of favourite memory of being here, is there a specific moment that kind of stands out?

I think the first summer when we had a nice summer and I sat out reading on the balcony, I had just retired, I bought myself an umbrella and sat out there for the whole summer nearly and that was lovely. It hasn’t happened much since because we have had a lot of wind, and excessive heat!

Do you sit out and read in the shared garden?

No, I don’t, mainly because when I am reading I don’t want to be disturbed. Since COVID, like a lot of other people I have, become a bit reclusive. I lost my confidence completely, I couldn’t face people it was dreadful and that’s not like me.

Well, we were forced to weren’t we, we were forced to batten down the hatches and we were scared of other people.

I am a singer and I have joined an online choir, in fact I am recording with them at 5.30 today. It’s fantastic, that got me through, that and the garden out there where we used to go and have coffee. It’s been lovely living here, it really has. I love it, I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Do you have family who come and visit?

Yes, I had them here this weekend and I had to do a quick run round [laughs]. My son was singing in Wells and the whole family came to go and hear him because it was the first solo he had ever done, went to support him. Wells is a great place for music, about ¾ hour away

Down in the garden you mentioned about bills and things like that and insurance, how are your energy bills? They have gone up.

This year, in fact I am going to have to review the whole management charge because of things like this. Not looking forward to doing it as I hate budgeting. It’s gone up, we used to be about two hundred and something a year, now it’s four hundred and something a year and I think it’s probably going to be even higher at the end of this year.

Is that the management charge or the energy?

Both! Electricity, for just the outside lights and the communal areas in the flats and the car park.

That’s interesting, how about your personal energy bills?

They went down two-thirds compared to my previous home, which was an old cottage. However, like everywhere else they are climbing now

Do you think on a more kind of general note, living here has affected your health and well-being?

Yes, I don’t think I would still be standing really, seriously if I hadn’t got these stairs, I would sit and watch TV all day. The whole atmosphere of having decent neighbours makes such a difference, it really does and it’s handy for the shops, doctor etc. , I don’t always have to get the car out.

Did you expect this kind of community when you first moved in?

No, I was dreading it! I had lived isolated up on the hill and it was a bit tough when I found there were rules but the rules and regulations sort of protect us all really, so you accept them.

Has there been quite a lot of negotiation over the rules and regulations over time?

Yes, at the beginning it was very different, the make-up of the people was totally different to the people you saw today more or less and we had a resident who lived in the top flat down at the end and she was an ex-project manager for BP who tried to sort of organise us all. At a meeting they actually drew up by-laws, they have gone now, so that was that! It’s quite interesting living within a community, different personalities.

In terms of that social management, what do you think has made it work here?

Interesting one that isn’t it, what’s made it work? Well, personalities obviously helps and the fact that we can get together in the garden, have a cup of coffee on the picnic table when we want to discuss something, that’s very good actually, very useful. You are in neutral territory, not in someone’s house. I find when we have meetings in people’s houses, there isn’t quite the same flow.

We are territorial aren’t we.

I am not though, I am not a territorial person. He has gone now, but a chap down at the end in one of the flats was paranoid about security, absolutely totally paranoid, wanting us all to fit gates and have cameras everywhere… Not the ethos of our community!

How do you approach that, do you vote on things?

Yes, we have a meeting, used to have them quite regularly, but now it’s about once every three or six months or so, the AGM and then if anything else comes up, but we have rules, like if we have to spend over £100 you have to submit it, tell everybody so we can vote on where to get estimates from tradesman and things, have to get three estimates if it’s a big bill.

Do you have a shared account that you use?

No, I run it. It’s not very big. We have got our current account which is the general expense account and every year we put £1000 over into what we call the road fund, which I think was part of the original Articles of the Company. We are meant to have £20,000 in it, we are up at 14 now I think, so another six years to go before it’s full, that’s what they reckon it would cost to repave outside.

There was one other question that I wanted to ask if that’s alright, which is do you feel that the development has contributed to the surrounding area in any way?

Yes, I suppose along with the restored warehouse where the café is and there are some offices there, I suppose the whole estate has, I mean our houses. We have brought trade into the town and the town has definitely improved. The recession is not helping now but it used to be a very scruffy town indeed. But Tesco’s came, and then they came across at the café and it more or less revived the town.

It’s such a privilege to come into your homes and see how different they are.

The same space, yes. But Beth’s is totally different to mine.

And yet you get the real character coming through them.

I suppose you do, yes.