Thursday, 19 July 2007

Before we go.....

Just thought I'd show you our lovely housewarming case I fail dismally in figuring out how to do them in the common room! First up, Bodran's wonderful wind-chime....

It's a rotten picture - I'm no photographer - but hopefully you can see the idea.....

We had a huge thunderstorm a little while ago - incredibly dramatic and a brief power cut to go with it. But, from the sound of things, it's been even more insane up north...

And, to the right we have Frances' divine painting....which is now sitting on the mantelpiece in my study......

And, while I have your attention, can anyone tell me what the heck this plant is? it is all over our vegetable garden and I'm assuming it's a weed of some pernicious nature - as nothing benign is that prolific.......awful picture, sorry, if not clear enough will attempt another one on our return - by which time it will probably have taken over the entire garden.....

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

A ghost of our own

We have a ghost. About five years old with long fair hair and wearing a long white dress. Now personally I would have said the latter is a mistake in this house, neck-deep in dust and madness. But there you go.
We found out about her through my cousin, Catherine, who is over from Australia on a visit. Catherine has inherited the spooky genes of the family (we have all manner of spiritualists and odd religious fundamentalists in our history – most of us more or less came out the womb reading tarot cards).
Anyhow, she came over along with size-zero Mother and her own (not size-zero) mother, Aunty Wendy, to have a nose around the new place. We had a rather nice Thai takeaway (oh the heaven that is a takeaway, after nine years without) and a few glasses of the good stuff and I was saying how warm and embracing the house felt.

‘Funny really,’ I said. ‘I thought it would be a spooky house but really it isn’t at all.’
Catherine was wandering around the Oak Room (or as Adrian calls it ‘the Baronial Hall) at this point. Then suddenly she went ‘on point’ – truly, if she’d been a gun dog she’d have had one paw up and her tail stiff as a brush.
‘There’s a little girl here,’ she said.
Oh no.
‘Are you sure?’ I asked, giving off big vibes of ‘please don’t tell me anything seriously weird.’
‘Absolutely.’ She went on about the long blonde hair and all. I was, let’s be honest, sceptical. After all, it’s a pretty archetypal image, even down to the long white (possibly grubby along the hem-line) frock.
‘Have you got a cellar?’
Yup, two actually.
‘One with a door with a window above. Some kind of heating thing there.’
Oh stop it. Yes we have a cellar exactly like that with the remains of a huge old under-floor heating system.
‘Er, why?’
‘She was locked in there as punishment.’
Now this we don’t need to hear.
‘She’s very benign though. She’s not angry or vindictive or anything.’
Well that’s fine then.
I love the idea of ghosts but not in my house. It’s like mice and bats and other forms of wildlife – they’re great as long as I don’t have to share living space with them.
So, anyhow, they all headed off back to the safety of size-zero Mum’s nice friendly ghost-free house and we were left – with a ghost.
‘I wish she hadn’t said that,’ said Adrian.
‘Yup, so do I,’ said I.
‘I’m going to be looking for her now. Out of the corner of my eye and all.’
‘Yup. Me too.’

So now my people-to-find list has an extra item on it. It now reads:
- find architect
- find builder
- find someone to help with garden
- find someone to fix Rayburn
- find someone to fix hot water
- find ghostbuster

Mind you, I’m already getting advice on the latter.
‘You want Father X. He’s terribly good at that sort of thing,’ opined someone at a party we went to over the weekend.
‘What, even though I’m not Catholic?’
‘Oh no, he won’t remotely mind. He really is very good.’

By heck, a bonda fide exorcist in the town? How utterly thrilling.

But I’m not sure I should exorcise my poor little ghost. It seems a bit extreme (and tantamount to child abuse) to throw bell, book and candle at a five-year old (even if she has been dead for God knows how long). So I shall see how we go, my ghost and I. Maybe she will want to be released at some point and then I'll see if I can find a way to help her. Until then, well, it's live and let live (so to speak).

PS - for Un's the bonkers wallpaper!

Friday, 6 July 2007

A new beginning

What a difference a week makes. This time last week all hell had broken loose. Adrian was sitting in the estate agents while the removal men were sitting in the pub. Anguished calls were whizzing between agents and solicitors. All our worldly goods and chattels were in two removal trucks blocking the main road into town. Our buyer had, true to form and my darkest suspicions, b*******d up again. Somehow, between him and his inept solicitor, they hadn’t got his mortgage sorted properly and the money hadn’t come in on time. Adrian was, to put it mildly, stressed.

I, meanwhile, was sitting in a marquee several miles away, blissfully unaware of the ensuing drama. It was James’ speech day and I realised, for the first time, just where all our money was going. Forget any idea of smarter schools, better equipment, better teaching. Nope, send your child to an independent school and by heck you’re paying for posh tents, veritable gardens of flower arrangements and Terry Waite as the speaker.
‘How much d’you reckon they’re paying him?’ whispered my friend R (the mad but lovely Irishwoman who is not known for her tact).
‘Enough.’ I muttered.

I have to say though, however much it was, it was worth it for he was fabulous. The children of course had no real idea of who he was but the parents were riveted by his speech. I hadn’t heard the tale of how, after several years in prison, he had finally met a friendly guard who agreed to smuggle in an English book. Unfortunately neither he nor his accomplice spoke any English. Terry was overcome with excitement when the book was placed in his hands and could barely wait to rip off his blindfold (he had to put one on whenever anyone came into his cell). The door closed, he pulled it off and turned over the book: ‘A Manual of Breastfeeding.’ Can you imagine the disappointment?

The next one was Dr Spock’s Baby and Childcare and he realised, with horror, that the kindly soul getting the books was firmly stuck on the childcare shelf. Eventually he hit on a way to get over what he wanted. He drew a picture of a penguin. Now, he could have been REALLY unlucky and got the sex life of penguins but no – his ruse worked and the next book was Laurie Lee’s When I Walked out one Midsummer Morning (published, of course, by Penguin Books). The irony of the title wasn’t lost on him.

Most of the prizes were for older children and I was beginning to fidget a bit, desperate to get outside to switch on my mobile and find out if I had a home or not. But then, to my total delight, James’ name was read out – he had won the governor’s award for effort. Up he went, face like a poker, not a trace of emotion as he shook Terry Waite’s hand and took his prize. Then, as he walked back from the stage, he caught my eye and broke out into a huge beam and gave a double thumbs-up!

Outside, a superior cream tea was being served but I swerved off and called Adrian.
‘Er, it’s a bit sticky,’ he said, his voice sounding thin and taut. ‘The money hasn’t gone through on time. We’re waiting to hear if we can get in tonight. Oh, and our buyer is still fifteen hundred quid astray of the price.’
I barely heard what people were saying to me. I ate an entire cream tea without even tasting it. No wonder I can't lose weight - and what a total waste to boot. Then the phone rang again and Adrian sounded like a different person.
‘It’s OK. We’re in! Come on home!’

It was mayhem of course. The removal men were clearly desperate to get out (well, it was a Friday evening) and we were desperate to get them out and so stuff was pretty much dumped wherever a space could be found for it. James discovered the fish pond and promptly named the fish Cheetah and Tiger. Jack bounded enthusiastically (he had bonded fast with the removal men who bizarrely didn’t seem to mind a small terrier hurtling round their ankles).

Then, suddenly, they were gone. We walked round our house in a daze. It felt wonderful. Never mind that you could barely see any of it for boxes. Never mind that the smell of damp rose up like a miasmic bog and that the downstairs loo was a botanist’s dream. Never mind that the floors listed wildly and that you could see daylight through the window frames. It might be a restoration nightmare but it was our restoration nightmare and we all loved it to bits. Funny thing but it felt ours immediately. It felt as if it simply shrugged off the old owners almost in an instant and opened its arms to us. It has the loveliest warmest feeling; a nurturing generous house. Not a single backwards glance, not one (Milla, you were so right – but then you usually are!).

We got the beds made up and decided that – as it was nearly 8pm – it was time to go to Woods in search of supper. We had a right royal welcome – the locals cheered when we went in and one of the old lushes nearly broke into tears he was so chuffed. ‘Well done, well done, well done,’ he kept repeating (I think he’ll go on saying it every time he sees us for the next few years actually). We tucked into steak rolls with onion marmalade and a huge bowl of home-made chips. I sank a few glasses of Beaujolais; Adrian a fair few pints of HSD and James overdosed on Fentiman's ginger beer. When we went to pay the bill, we were waved away…. ‘Oh, away with you!'

That night, as I tucked James up in bed, in his new room, I suddenly thought back to speech day (which already seemed months in the past) and said: ‘So, what was Terry Waite like?’
James thought about it a bit. ‘He was quite nice,’ he said, then wrinkled his nose a bit and waved his hand in front of it... ‘but he was a bit whiffy.’
I must have looked startled because he shook his head firmly.
‘But, Mum, it wasn’t his fault. He’s been in jail for five years, you know, and they didn’t have any baths. He couldn't help it.’