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Derek J Taylor

Maggie wants a house with lots of light. I need one with character.

And what we do have in common

doesn’t help either – we’re both stubborn.






How an Old Stable Became our Dream Village Home

A Horse in the Bathroom

A Horse in the Bathroom

'Derek Taylor has written a hugely entertaining book' - Peter Sissons

    When Derek, a former TV journalist, and his partner, Maggie, decide to escape to the country, they don’t opt for the simple life. Instead they set about converting an old Cotswold stables in Stow-on-the-Wold into their dream home.

   Over the next two years, they wage guerrilla war on the Planning Office, are cursed by everything from collapsing walls to poison gas and dozy apprentices, run out of money, and meet some very strange characters – till in its final stages of construction, the place unaccountably floods.

    Along the way, Derek takes a  look at what makes villages work, or not, in the twenty-first century. Haunted by the words of a friend who accused him of suffering from 'Lark Rise to Candleford' syndrome, he investigates a dozen different villages.

    When it’s over, Maggie and Derek survey The Old Stables with its ten metres of shimmering glass and exposed oak beams, and Maggie says, ‘Next time, why don’t we try something bigger?’

    Next time!  What does she mean 'Next time'?

Published by Summersdale


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'A Horse in the Bathroom'    

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'A must-read'

   SelfBuild & Design magazine

– Ross Stokes,

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Founded in 1990, Summersdale is one of the UK's top independent non fiction publishers, shortlisted for the IPG's 2010

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'Hugely entertaining'

– Peter Sissons

'Fascinating characters. Great style.'

                             Radio 4 narrator                                                          


– Martin Jarvis,

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In the following extract, Derek discovers things can go wrong

with a renovation in the most unexpected places...

     Any idea, now Nik the builder and his lads are in full swing, that it’s just a question of head down and get on with it till the job’s done, is as naive as pitching your tent on the side of a volcano and hoping the smoke will be clear by tomorrow. Things start to go wrong straight off. Badly wrong.

   First, there’s the 6-feet-high garden wall, which should have come down in a couple of hours. It’s the one Glibpert the conservation officer thought was an historic monument. It’s got to be demolished so the lorries can get in to cart off what Nik estimates is eighteen to twenty loads of junk which will be left once the plot has been levelled to a bomb site. Getting the wall down is Jason’s job.

     If I say Jason is a skin-head, you’ll think he starts riots at football matches and marches with the BNP. And you’d be wrong. Jason’s got a chubby baby face and an innocent smile, so his hairlessness puts you more in mind of a bald newborn than a rampaging thug. He’s emerging as the constant in the shifting fortunes of the Old Stables.

   The other ‘lads’ come and go as required. Jason’s there at 8.30 every morning, and whatever’s needed that day, he knows how to do it – and to do it with tireless good humour. That is until he meets Glibpert’s historic wall.

    The trouble is that its breeze blocks are stuffed with solid concrete. Pickaxes snap against it. So Nik rents a pneumatic drill, which Jason battles to hold in a horizontal position, his whole body juddering in perfect sync with the hammering chisel end. The result is a pathetic little line of scratches. For the first time, I see a scowl trace its way across Jason’s normally contented visage.

    ‘This is rather a difficult task,’ he says to me between bouts of attempted drilling (His actual words cannot be reported in a respectable book, but you could probably write that bit yourself). He can keep it up only for a minute or two at a time – which is no bad thing from one point of view, because people who live several doors away are complaining about the racket, with undeniable justice.

    Each day when I call in at the site, I find Jason either banging away with the drill like one of those Libyan rebels you see on the news manning an anti-aircraft gun, or taking a pause to massage his wrists and check how many teeth he’s got left. Finally, after almost a week, I arrive to be greeted by his old smile.

   He says, ‘It was difficult, but the task is now complete,’ (time for your authorial skills again), and he plants his boot on the ankle-level rampart which is all that’s left of the cursed wall. It’s just about low enough for a lorry to bounce over.

    The first one turns up three o’clock Friday afternoon. The driver stays in his cab shouting at his girlfriend on his mobile (‘No, I’ve told you… I’ve told you before… What do you mean the dog’s got to go?’) while Jason scoops up assorted loads of rubble with the mini-dozer and clatters them into the back of the lorry.          

     When he’s finished, he walks round to the front to give an ‘All done’ thumbs up to the driver, who clunk-bangs off, still shouting into the phone now trapped against his cheek, without ever having acknowledged our existence.

    So we’re all set for this routine to be repeated a dozen and a half times.

    It is not to be.






'A Horse in the Bathroom'

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Photo Steve Taylor

copyright SelfBuild & Design magazine



'A Horse in the Bathroom'  

was published by Summersdale

in May 2012  



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