I think we may have to move. Which is a shame, because I really like living here.
Ok, so our house isn’t as posh as many of the others in this neighbourhood but it’s a warm and friendly place, with a welcoming atmosphere and room enough for us all, with space to spare for whomever wants to visit for a while. Outside, the garden is large and lovely, or rather was until my husband started pruning it, with an axe. It is, however, still large.
And, it suits us. We’ve been happy here.
Which makes it all the more inexplicable why I thought it was such a good idea to write a book about the people in our neighbourhood. Not all the people, mind you, just the ones who own dogs. Or why, having written it, I didn’t realise that using a pen name might not be a wise decision. Still, it’s up on Amazon now (Secrets of a Pet Nanny) so there’s no going back.
It’s also a mystery why we never thought twice about saying ‘yes’ when our daughter asked if she could have her birthday party here, ‘for a few of her friends’, knowing as we do that she has enough friends to populate a small-to-medium sized town.
Still, we warned our nearest neighbours, both front and back, that there might be a bit of noise and took ourselves off to Somerset for enough time to let her get ready for the party, have it and, most importantly of all, clean up afterwards. The friend who took us in spent the weekend marvelling that we would let a party happen in our house while we were gone, and said that we were ‘cool parents’ for having done it. I have to admit, I found that a bit worrying.
And so, considering the situation, we did the only thing possible. We started looking at houses we could move into quickly, if we suddenly needed to move.
We figured out how much our house had been worth that morning when we said ‘have fun’ and closed the door behind us. We subtracted the mortgage, potential damages and the probable costs of future law suits and we told the estate agent how much we had to spend.
And he told us what we could get in return:
A former schoolhouse set in the dominant position in a buzzy little village, adjacent to the picturesque church and across the lovely village green from a nice looking pub. The ceilings were so high that mezzanines, reachable by wrought iron spiral staircases, were begging to be explored, the main room was just waiting for the Christmas festivities to begin, and the kitchen had recently been done up by some designer I obviously should have heard of, but hadn’t. I did notice the marble counter tops, however, and the view over the green from the sink, and the fact that the telescope next to it was trained on the front door of the pub. I briefly thought that I could live there, especially if they left the telescope, but then realised that if I did, I would first have to become an entirely different person. One who dressed better, knew how to cook, and didn’t keep dogs. And, of course, had a much tidier family.
And so we went off to our next appointment, the converted chapel.
I had no idea what denomination this chapel was, before it got converted, but once you stepped inside you quickly realised that it was the kind where they held funerals and exorcisms much more frequently than they did weddings and baptisms.
It didn’t help that a plethora of leylandii, those trees that get noticeably higher and wider as you watch them, were crowding in against one entire side of the building, thus seriously limiting the amount of light that might otherwise have managed to seep in through the narrow, but beautifully preserved, windows. Or that what used to be the nave was now a sitting room so large that even the people currently living there, who were ominously missing by the way, didn’t have enough monumental-sized furniture to put a dent in it. Or that none of the, admittedly many, bathrooms had windows. Not, of course, that that would have helped with the light situation, but at least it would have let you watch the trees grow while you soaked in the bath. There was, however, a hot tub in the garden. Although that had almost certainly been a font or something that had, for sinister reasons, been moved outdoors.
I’m sure a lot of people would love to live in that house. But, they all know where to buy black candles and I don’t. And so, we were on to the thatched cottage.
This was a wonderful house, with a surprisingly large number of rooms, and stairs and outbuildings. But, I can’t tell you much about it, not even to describe the remarkably pretty sitting room with the little secret door. Not because I don’t want to but because I feel so guilty about making that lovely old couple, one of whom was suffering from both arthritis and sciatica, show us up and down all those stairs, and in and out all those buildings, and all around that enormous vegetable garden. Let’s just say that I hope they are both feeling better very soon.
And then on to the medieval cottage.
Seriously. Medieval. Dating back to sometime between 1410 and 1480. It’s hard to pinpoint the time exactly because the records going back that far have been lost but, judging by the decor, condition and overall feel of things, I would firmly put it more towards the earlier date than the later one. While navigating the dangerously uneven floors, and ducking under beams that ended worryingly short of the slightly bulging walls, you couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer number of things that can collect in a house over a mere 700 years, or to wonder at how the family who lived there looked so healthy when everything inside the building was dark, dank and shouting ‘deadly medieval spores’ at you.
Outside, we walked down the overgrown trail that had once been the main road and on which you can still, when night is falling and mists are swirling, hear the sound of the Duke of Monmouth’s troops as they march into rebellion against King James II in 1685. Skirting by the neighbouring house, apparently inhabited by ‘vampires’, we arrived at the medieval barn that was also up for sale.
It, being medieval, looked a lot like the house, in that it was damp, cramped and dire. Except for the one room behind the locked door. That was startlingly clean and modern, with tiled walls, shiny metal tables, an ‘efficient drainage system’ and a cabinet filled with all the equipment needed for butchering those unsuspecting sheep that were happily grazing outside. ‘Processing’ an entire pig, however, would also be possible. That is, of course, if an entire pig happened to walk down the road, either searching for the Duke of Monmouth’s doomed troops or for an apple in the orchard next door.
I simply couldn’t face another property after that and so, after a restorative glass of 21st century wine in a nearby pub, it was time to go home. And, after phoning ahead to make sure the house was ready to be re-entered, that’s exactly what we did.
It would be hard to overstate how happy I was to get there, where everything was remarkably clean and tidy and most things were somewhat close to where I had left them. My things, in my house. I felt like Dorothy did after waking up back in her bedroom in Kansas.
And, I began to think that writing a book where all the main characters lived in the neighbourhood wasn’t so bad. I had, after all, changed one or two of their names. And I reasoned that since the house looked so nice, the party couldn’t have been too uproarious or anything.
Perhaps, I thought, just perhaps, we might be able to stay put after all.
Until, of course, I found out that the party had been a ‘rip-roaring success’, which had ended at 6:30 that morning, a mere two hours after the neighbour had given up pounding on the front door. And that the music, which I had somehow imagined would involve an Ipod in a speaker port, had actually been provided by friends whose last gig had been DJing the closing night of a music festival, in a field, in Croatia. And that they had brought their own amplifiers with them. The waist-high ones. Both of them.
Oh well, those old people really are ready to move into something smaller, with fewer stairs. I wonder when they will feel up to showing us around again.
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)