March 5th – The Festival of the Never Ending House

The house has stood in a little fenced-off section of Votive Park for over a hundred years, a testament to the power of sibling rivalry. It’s frankly an ugly sight to behold, but as it is placed in an old quarry area that’s surrounded by trees, few people seem to mind. Due to various idiosyncratic reasons, the building has never been finished, and it is covered in heavy-duty tarpaulin and ‘temporary’ tin sheeting. A couple of hundred Buentoillitants are expected to travel there today to witness a very public argument.

The land upon which the house was later to be half-constructed was given to Mrs Martha Goodchilde in the summer of 1909 as a reward for her heroic actions at the Battle of Bean Street, a monarchist counter-revolutionary uprising shortly after the revolution. When she died of unrelated causes later that year she left the land to her two estranged sons, Hammer (born ‘Harry’) and Fordhelm Goodchilde, stating her wish that they would build a house there together, and forbidding them, their offspring or their offspring in turn from selling the land. The brothers, who had two years between their births, had never got on in her lifetime, not since the infant Fordhelm tore a clump of three year old Hammer’s hair out.

Under the tarpaulin, those parts of the house that have been constructed are a strange mishmash of two styles: a baroque façade has very clearly been cemented on to a brutalist structure; ornate columns bear up huge chunks of concrete; small translucent blocks of glass pepper the wall surrounding a massive bay window with a lavishly carved frame; random oak beams jut out of a minimalist brick wall. Nowhere is the effect nor jarring and hideous, and each year this crime against architecture grows slightly.

Most of the people at the house today will sit by the gates, eagerly awaiting a punch up or heated argument; it’s a public space after all, and Buentoillitants love to be nosy. Amongst them are a number of uniformed members of the defence brigades, ready to intervene should things get ugly. Small snack carts and itinerant betting shops cater for the crowd, occasionally shouting out the odds of a heated dispute in the next few minutes. There are around thirty people inside the gates today, all descedants of those two original sons, themselves long dead, their legacy of pointless feuding surviving them. Each will run about the ancient building site for the entire day, attempting to add new features in their side of the family’s chosen style, or remove something the other family members added the previous year. Whilst they try to have as little to do with each other as possible, there are inevitably points where access is less easy, where they get in each other’s way, accidentally steal the tools of the other party, or destroy a particularly loved addition from the opposing group, and tempers fray.

The origins of this ridiculous tradition can inevitably be traced back to Fordhelm and Hammer. It became quickly apparent that any kind of cooperation between them was nigh on impossible, when each hired their own separate architect and their fragile peace shattered. Letters between each of their lawyers now have their own exhibition in the Museum of Conflict, and they lay out in exquisite detail the nature of the many grievances each bother had towards his counterpart. One such letter reads:

Dear Mr. Harrison,

Mr F. Goodchilde wishes to make it known to the man he refers to – in a manner he has specifically asked me to stress as “regretfully” – as his brother, that there can be no agreement on the direction and style of building works unless a formal written apology is posted in the Buentoilliçan Star for the offence – which, again I have been asked to stress is considered by Mr. F. Goodchilde to be “grievous” and “outrageous” – of “pulling down [Mr. F. Goodchilde’s] pants in front of Helen Ingarderstell at the midsummer dance in year five” of primary school. He has also asked me to express that he finds Mr. H. Goodchilde’s new first name to be “childish and pretentious.”

Please send my kind regards to Mrs. Harrison and the children.

The brothers went through at least five lawyers each.

Each brother began building parts of the house in their chosen style whenever they could, and both were almost driven bankrupt. Blows were exchanged with such frequency that eventually the argument spilled into the courts, in which a highly enraged jury decreed that neither brother would be allowed to progress building works until they had come to a mutual agreement. This should have been the end of the matter, but a small mistake was made in the wording of the legal decree which meant that the day of the hearing could be construed by a clever lawyer to not be included in the ban from building works. And so, each year the brothers would face off against each other to see who could build and destroy the most pieces of house in a day. At first they hired a number of labourers each to help them out, but after only two years the site was blacklisted by the Union of Plasterers, Builders and Associated Construction Workers.

Obviously the hatred between Hammer and Fordhelm was passed down to their children, and whilst some have escaped the feud (Mary Goodchilde, daughter of Fordhelm’s son, Mastre, is now a celebrated seamstress who disavows any involvement) most will turn up every year, tools and fists at the ready.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Lesser Spotted Bitwitter Spotting
  • The Left Handed League’s Day of Sinister Prayer
  • Driving Card Renewal Day