The Foolish Man Built His House Upon The Sand
I remember a song from my days at Sunday School about the ‘Foolish Man’ who built his house upon the sand. It went on to say that ‘when the rains came down’ his house didn’t stand firm.
I did wonder about this in 2003 when we started building our house here, on the sand at Ynyslas. I was reassured however by the fact that the other houses along here seemed OK and had been standing for quite some time despite having experienced plenty of Welsh weather. We were also adding a considerable amount to the cost of the build by having raft foundations as stipulated by modern building standards. Surely these people know what they are talking about and 21st century engineering and building techniques now meant that it wasn’t foolish to build houses on the sand?
So far so good, despite more than our fair share of wind and rain, the house has stood firm.
Sand however isn’t just an insecure foundation for buildings. It can be the bane of your life for so many other reasons. I’m not sure when exactly it happens, but as a child you can’t think of anything better than playing in the sand. Sandpits at school, making sandcastles on the beach, getting sand in your hair, your ears, between your toes and in your sandwiches and ice-cream are all part of the perfect day. But somewhere along the road to adulthood all that changes and sand becomes something best avoided.
I hate the stuff when windsurfing in the estuary as it cakes everything. All my kit ends up covered in the sand as it blows down the valley. Masts get jammed, sails get abraded and my car gradually fills up with it. Windscreen wipers stop working, locks get clogged and it gets into places you can’t even imagine. I’m sure it doesn’t do our plumbing any good either as some always washes down the plug whilst I’m in the shower. I do hose myself down outside before getting into the shower but somehow, somewhere, some sand still lurks.
I do still enjoy sinking my toes into it and even running my hands through it when its dry, but generally its a nuisance and it gets absolutely everywhere. This is definitely the case when it’s properly windy here.
Yesterday was a day with some wind! 30-40 knots all day long and gusting close to 50 knots at times. When the wind blows here it blows incessantly, and we love it. Ynyslas come alive in the wind. People struggle to get about, inanimate objects that aren’t lashed down take on a life of their own and those that are fixed appear to be trying to break free. The sea boils into a frenzy and the dunes burst into exuberant vigour. The Marram grass tries to tear itself free as it thrashes about on the sand hills, and great plumes of sand are constantly thrusting skyward as the wind whips through them.
You can’t fail to be impressed by the display, but all of that sand blown from the dunes has to go somewhere. And where does it go? Yes, you’ve guessed it, straight into the house of the ‘foolish man’ who built his house upon the sand.
You’d think that a modern, well insulated house would be relatively impervious to the sand, but not so. Somehow, it manages to force its way in through the walls and windows. I cleaned and vacuumed the whole house yesterday and washed all of the sand off the inside of the window-sills, but in a within couple of hours the sand had once again penetrated. In no time at all the window-sills inside the house were again covered in a layer of sand particles. These are double glazed windows with extra insulation that we’re talking about, but still they don’t stop the sand.
It’s as though it’s fighting back. Unable to undermine the house due to the raft foundations it’s going to gradually fill it up from the inside instead. Maybe, just maybe, we were pretty foolish after all.