John Trevillian is an English novelist, poet, shaman and award-winning author of three novels (The A-Men, The A-Men Return and Forever A-Men), plus writer of many other short stories, poetry collections and travel journals. He is also creator of “Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home” [The Times]: Talliston House & Gardens, where he now lives.
Talliston House is an amazing project. John has transformed a very ordinary ex-council house and its gardens into something magical and extraordinary. I have been following the progress of John’s twenty-five year labour of love and am delighted to be joining him on the 3rd of October to celebrate the official completion of the project. An incredible moment for John and all those involved!
After completion, for one weekend only, the house and gardens will be open to the public.
Dates:16th/17th/18th October 2015
Daily tours from 10:30-16:00 with historical occupants in the rooms.
Candlelit evening private views: 19:30-23:00
Accommodation packages available at local B&B
Here is John in his own words explaining what this project has meant to him:
ONCE upon a time (actually, at midday on 6th October 1990), I stepped into a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex and started a personal journey that has grown into a twenty-five year project: To take a standard English dwelling and transform it into a sacred space, with each room set in a different time and place and representing the last magical places on earth.
The process to deconstruct each room back to the brickwork and rebuild from scratch, so that upon completion not one square centimetre of the original house remains (that’s inside and out) has taken every penny I have earned, over 35,000 hours (a conservative estimate) and brought 1,821 items from 27 different countries (all personally visited) into this little house. Using only those tradesmen essential to compliance with building regulations (structural, electric and gas), the rest of the skills (from carpentry, bricklaying and garden landscaping to the more esoteric like basket weaving, gold leafing and treehouse construction) have been learned during its lifecycle. During the project, we’ve also welcomed over 138 other craftspeople, artists, architects and volunteers who have become immersed into what is now a veritable community.
It was quite a brave undertaking, but made more so because the person who started this quarter-century journey – ie. me – could at the start not even wire a household plug. It has been an oft-repeated supposition that the only reason I began this endeavour was because this lack of knowledge meant I had not the faintest of ides how impossible the task ahead actually was!
Escaping the ordinary
If there is one inquiry that crops up amongst the endless rounds of ‘what do the neighbours think?’ and ‘who does all the dusting?’ and that is the question of: ‘Why?’ This is a difficult one, as it seems to assume that there’s a reason to art. I mean, why did Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa? But art does have a message, and here I can help a little. If the project says anything it is that the extraordinary lies within the ordinary – that we can achieve anything our mind’s imagine.
But I wasn’t sure that this was a completely satisfactory answer. And then I was on a plane to New York and found myself watching Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in The Painted Veil (a story of a doctor swapping aspidistras and velvet drapes for the cholera-infested backwaters in 1920s China). And in the opening, while Naomi was explaining how she dislikes being given cut flowers as why would anyone give her dead things), there was the same question: Why place so much effort into something that is going to die? Why put so much effort into something I am going to lose? Why spend so much time? So much money? And for what purpose? It is the question that I have asked myself many times, and know what I’m really asking is: “What is life?”
Everyone should ask themselves this question, and know that there are no wrong answers, that everyone will respond differently. What matters is not what the answer is but that the question is asked. For me, Talliston asks: “Why cannot the whole world be like this?” What’s so strange about trying to create a life that is wonderful, that is magnificent and excellent, before the time comes when I must say my farewells. Why place so much effort? Why cut flowers, why scent each area, why travel hundreds of thousands of miles to fetch objects for the house… Why? Why? WHY!
Here is the why. The what and the how. Because that, to me, is life. And here only a few days from finishing Talliston, life has never felt more rich, more wonderful – or for me, so alive. ~ John Trevillian