When we viewed the house last summer and fell in love with it, it had been pretty full of stuff. The owner was lovely, with 2 gorgeous kittens who bounded around the garden full of life, as if to show us how perfect it would be for the Calamity Cat and the Princess. The house itself was absolutely full of beautiful old furniture and hundreds of books – it was no wonder we felt instantly at home. We explored for over an hour, knowing we weren’t going to get back down for a second viewing and that we had to make this first one count. We went straight to the estate agent and put in the offer, which was accepted quickly. Only then did we realise what a huge decision we had made.
We told our employers and started packing, booking a removal van with barely a week to spare before we were due to pick up the keys. A removal company came all the way up from Harrogate when a more local firm let us down. They did a fabulous job and nothing of ours was broken during the 350 mile trip, although unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for one of the removal men, who broke his ankle when he slipped and fell out of the cab.
Before they arrived, we picked up the keys and drove excitedly to our new home. Have you ever noticed how different a house looks when it is empty? Suddenly, you can see how tired the magnolia walls are looking, how generations of cats and dogs have scratched the wooden floors and just how ancient the kitchen really is. D, in his unique combination of practicality and romance, took it all in his stride. The important thing was that it was ours now – we could bring it back to life together. I spent a couple of hours wandering around a little shell-shocked, but the house soon exerted the same pull on me that it had before. The scratches were part of the history of the house, a sign of how many happy animals had lived there and anyway, our two would undoubtedly make their own mark very soon. A cup of tea from a kind neighbour who introduced herself with a cheery wave and a ‘Cooee!’, followed by the arrival of the furniture reassured me that we had done the right thing.
Once we were settled, though, we started on the decorating, as well as planning the garden. I say ‘we’ – I picked colours, and D did all the actual work, closely supervised by the Calamity Cat, who was particularly curious about the painting. ‘Ooh’ what’s this stuff? Let me stick my nose into it … ‘ The Princess was more put out that her new home was changing daily. I was (and am) still working for the council, splitting my time between working from home and Aberdeen so, when away, I was getting daily progress reports, along with photos (occasionally of a painted Calamity). One lunchtime, D rang me:
“I have had a crap day – literally”, he told me. “I wanted to work on the veg patch, so off I went to B&Q to get some manure”. I remember the days when he sent me romantic texts when I was working – when did we start talking about manure??? Anyway, he had popped 4 bags of the stuff into his trolley and then gone to have some wood cut for the frames. “I kept running into this couple in the aisles – I’m sure they were giving me funny looks. I only realised why when I got back to my car and realised the bags of manure were full of holes and wouldn’t fit in the boot – that was not a fun journey home, I can tell you …” Oh dear – his car might never be the same again. I’m just very glad he didn’t take mine!
I soon stopped laughing though at the thought of him reeking of manure all the way around B&Q. When he got home, water was pouring down the dining room wall from the water tank above. Our beautiful yellow and green scheme was ruined and would need to be done again. The plumber (who we had found by chance but has turned out to be an absolute star time and time again) couldn’t come until the next day. What we had dismissed as a bulge in the alcove and then forgotten about turned out to be evidence that this had happened before and we needed to put it right so it didn’t happen again.
This was the first setback in our own little slice of Paradise – we could ony hope that there wouldn’t be more.