Journeys Without a Map

Projects and Expeditions… Any Which Way

There’s no real need for me to put a barrel vault roof over our main reception room.  It’s in the original plan however and I think it’ll add WOW factor to the finished building.  It’s also fun to have a go at building a vault, so why not?


I wouldn’t be allowed to do this in Europe.  Some beige little man in a beige suit from a local authority would come and tell me it didn’t conform to some farcical regulations invented merely to give beige men positions of authority.  Yes, yes, yes, and to save lives as well, I suppose.  Whatever the case, I would need to employ a structural engineer to tell me how to conform to these regulations, he would tell me my walls shouldn’t be made of rocks and mud and suddenly the cost of it all would become untenable.  Here, in fact, if a little beige man turned up with the same deal his interference would have far more justification; Agadir was completely leveled by an earthquake in the 1960s and it’s only 200kms to the south.  I should take that seriously, but beige men can’t get their low-slung cars to within 3kms of this place so I choose take my chances instead. These two little steel bars should do the trick!


There’s another reason I wouldn’t be able to do this in Europe.  My fisherman neighbour, Hafed, patiently handing me bricks as I mess it up again and again, or mixing up more lime for me to waste, would be on the same rate per hour in Europe as I pay him here for a day.  It’s outrageous really, the daily wage here, and we pay 20% more than anyone else I know of for the same work!  He even enjoys it; it’s good money and from the rooftop he can see what all his friends are up to.  I pay the same to his younger brother, Abdullah, who has shown some flair for this kind of caper and has built two domes on his own.  He’s learnt skills that are surprisingly rare here and frequently I catch him admiring his own work with unrestrained delight.  In Europe I’d probably have a sullen youth perpetually reaching for his iPhone and at the end of each week a third of the total cost of this roof would go into his pocket for having done little but irritate me.

So, I get to play around a little here and it started way back when I asked a friend to design this building.  I don’t remember stipulating vaults, domes, towers, spiral staircases, cloisters and a stage but that’s what she came back with.  Perhaps I did.

Screen shot 2014-06-06 at 19.19.09

I fell in love with her design immediately and we have stuck fairly closely to it even though the job earmarked to pay for it all disappeared shortly afterwards, to be replaced only by a hand to mouth existence of seasonal frolics.  A few changes have been made along the way, the most dramatic of which followed our discovery that the design didn’t actually fit within the perimeters of the land.  No doubt this was my oversight, not the architect’s. In haste, for the stone masons were about to arrive, we lopped a metre off every side of every room.   And thank God we did.  It’s big enough as it is and from some viewpoints looks so vast against the surrounding farmhouses that I shudder with embarrassment and hurry home, hoping not to have to talk to anyone with it rearing up monstrously behind me like Disneyland.

The other major change has been in the time I envisaged for it’s completion…enough said on that.


It’s never been easy to think of it merely as a house; we don’t need a house as big as this. It’s always been an Eco-lodge, a ‘centre’, for art, drama, permaculture, music; creativity in all its guises.  I’m looking forward to building the stage for them all.  With no beige men in sight it will be spectacular and won’t cost me so much I have to charge future visitors a fortune.  The intention is to have interesting, colourful people staying here, not just wealthy.  Interesting and wealthy will be ideal, obviously.  And that’s another reason to build a such a vault. Nobody is going to even imagine that I was fool enough to build this thing myself.  They’ll say “Wow!”, obediently, and then ponder the cost of such a marvel, imagining a figure so reassuringly great that they’ll feel sufficiently privileged to stay here, despite the frogs’ spawn in the ‘swimming pool’.



9 Responses to “Extravagant structures in one’s spare time”

  1. Geoff Dobbin

    I remain very impressed with what you have done, Mark.

    • markanstice

      Thanks Geoff. Small man, huge house…there’s probably, in fact, some deeply unimpressive ego thing going on.

  2. Selina Gough

    Amazing! Stumbled across your project when browsing WWOOF Africa. I’m awed and intrigued in equal measure. I’ll be watching how your ambitious and wonderful plans develop. Keep dreaming!

  3. Wo

    One of our lads said ‘is that where they shot Bin Laden?’ Also showed it to a client for whom we’re building a cotswold stone farmhouse in Oxon – and as I knew she would be, she was extremely envious of the total lack of building compliance hoops you have to jump through – and er, the labour rates you’re paying! Other than these trifling things, our worlds are quite simllar! Nice ceiling bro!

  4. Nina

    Wow, amazing what a project! I remember seeing the plans on my pregnant visit 6 years ago! Its making our dreams come to life that is the difficult part. We are getting the doors and windows for our house in France tomorrow which is very exciting. Bon continuation!

  5. Bruno Aveline

    Waouh, quelle évolution depuis mon passage en janvier 2013 !
    Bravo, magnifique, great.
    Portez vous bien

  6. Peter Shuttleworth

    Ha….just came across this video a propos building the vaulted roof…..i spent a little time chez vous mark 2 winters ago.
    Great to see and understand now it all came together and lovely that u can do things like that little by little…
    On the job …learning by trial and error and no interference from bureaucrats.
    Keep it up….yoyll finish someday and then what will you Do?! Peter Shuttleworth
    Ps live to isaac….from my isaac …born at the same time…..born at the right time (Paul simon)


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