Making The Grade


Mr. Mc Gaw Sees to the Laying out the Foundation of our New House, Tenderi, in Hillandale, Que Que 1956

Making the Grade

We had a perfectly good architect in town, Vic. Jenkinson, but Dad decided no one knew our house needs and wants better than us.

Making the Grade

Mom wanted a Mediterranean style house with graceful arches, an inner courtyard built around a particularly lovely specimen of mimosa tree, a stucco finish to the walls dropping off a low slung red tiled roof, but most of all arched windows to frame the view.

Dad was averse to ostentation.  “All that’s very fancy,” he said.  “What we need is something practical.  This is Africa not Spain.   There is nothing wrong with corrugated iron, painted red, for the roof. “

“Well I do like the sound of it when we have a thunderstorm,” she conceded.

“Settled!  Arches pose their problems.  We’re going to use unskilled African labor don’t forget.  And as for an inner courtyard, why on earth do we need that?  We’ve paid a premium for the view.  We’re going to look out not in.”

“Let’s make the house of the land, use Pise de terre, (rammed earth) just like the low cost Pise Housing Purchase Scheme you introduced.  Our soil is perfect for it, remember.”

“It’s so labor intensive! We can’t afford the luxury.  We’re paying rent meanwhile.”

“Remember some pise houses were still standing after 150 years, in Lyon, when we did our European tour in 1951.  Building one yourself shows how much you believe in the product.  We’ve even got a few sizeable ant heaps we could excavate to add to the mix.  It’s supposed to be the best thing there is for it.”

“There is no need to prove anything.  The Pise houses sold like hot cakes.  I want to support industry around here and go for concrete from the Limeworks at RISCO.  We can afford it,” he countered.

Many months went by before we were ready to move into the next phase, construction.   Dad employed an African builder, Timothy, to do the job under his supervision.

Sick Parade at the crack of dawn was replaced with House Instruction for Timothy. Dad would hurry home from the surgery at lunchtime to monitor progress.  After hospital rounds and house calls in the evening he would head over to the house before supper and make a list to go over in the morning.

The hill was cut into at the back and another terrace constructed in the front to maximize the rectangular footprint on the main level.  The foundation was dug deep.

We watched it grow from bottom to top, one solid six inch square concrete block at a time.

But something was a miss.  We couldn’t ignore the fact that the master bedroom designed so that Dad could roll out of bed and into the swimming pool for that early morning dip was suspended in mid air.

Throwing out the drawing board, Dad instructed Timothy to add a verandah, enclose it and add however many  steps it took to reach the pool below.

All said and done it was a grand house.  Dad was proud to show it off.  Vic Jenkinson, the town’s architect toured in silence as Dad pointed out all the features.  At the end of the tour Vic stood looking out through that fissure in the range of hills to RISCO ten miles away and said, “Well at least you couldn’t spoil the view.”