The Close connection part 1 – farmworkers’ cottages

Russell’s parents bought this house the year after they were married, in 1928.  At the time, it was three cottages, let to farmworkers.  It’s very hard to know the original layout of the house because it had been changed a good deal over the centuries.  There are those who think it was the original Rectory and it seems likely there was a church connection at least.  However, at this time it was a part of the estate belonging to the local landowner and he sold some of his property.

Russell’s parents’ friends thought they were mad, apparently, to buy a very old house, split up into a lot of small rooms, with a great deal of work needing to be done, when there were plenty of lovely Georgian and Victorian houses available in the town, but Pa was an admirer of the Arts and Crafts movement and he saw the house’s potential.  There was no need for any sort of planning permission for internal remodelling – Listed Building status came along decades later – and they wanted to remodel the house for modern living, whilst keeping the character of a Tudor building.  It was skilfully done and (though some of the changes wouldn’t be allowed now), I’m not sure that it could be improved upon, for the time.

There were eight, I think, spiral ‘cupboard’ staircases in the house.  Three of them are still there; one from the kitchen, one from the drawing room and one from the bedroom above to the attic.  Russell’s mother, Ma, told me that they were so draughty and took up a lot of space that they got rid of the rest and, instead, installed a new staircase in what’s now the hall, and also moved the front door from what’s now a dining room into the new hall.   The rooms are large but then they were each divided in two, so the divisions were removed.  The main beam in the kitchen had dropped badly and there wasn’t even standing room at one end, so that had to be jacked up.  All the original main beams are still there, but most of the stud work was put in by Pa.  The downstairs floors were mostly earth, so they put in suspended wooden floors and air bricks to the outside.  The big square block of Tudor chimneys is original, but the other chimneys over the drawing room and bedroom aren’t.  A couple of other chimneys were taken down altogether, being unsafe.  Pa designed the banisters for the new staircase and he bought old oak floorboards and had them made into fine doors to each room – you’d not guess that was their origin.

They tried using the big inglenook fire in the dining room but found it was impractical as they needed a huge fire and to leave the doors open so that it didn’t smoke.  So, though it was left intact, it wasn’t used.  The drawing room inglenook was covered over by a modern grate and a rather unattractive brick fireplace was built – it’s still there but I’ve never liked it.  Actively hideous was the fireplace they put in what was then a bedroom and is now the bathroom – Russell hid it with a built-in cupboard years ago.

They had been living in a flat above the family business, which is the solicitor that is still in Yagnub – Pa and his elder brother were in partnership.  They moved in as soon as the house was more or less habitable.  Russell’s brother Austin was born here in 1930.

30 years on…

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of my moving to this house.  It was the day before Ro’s second birthday, which is the reason it’s easy to remember – I’m not big on anniversaries, usually.

I want to reminisce about the events leading up to us coming here to live, but I should have started a week ago, to finish with the anniversary itself.  But maybe I’ll do that, go back a couple of years, in the next few days.  I’ll just remember the first evening.

We had had a lot of work done to the house, including complete rewiring, and we had bought new beds, sofa and chairs and we’d told everyone concerned that this was the moving day.  And our builders didn’t believe us.  They thought we could postpone by a few days.  When we finally convinced them, they started to work really hard but they couldn’t catch up.  Nor could we get the beds delivered until the next day.  So an electric extension lead was run through from the annexe and we had a lamp on the end of it.  The Aga was on, so we could cook and have hot water.  We had candles, otherwise – but it was summer, so it was light for much of the evening.

I wish I could remember what I cooked for dinner.  Surely it wouldn’t have been a complicated meal, but I do remember standing there at the Aga, learning to use it.  I had sickle-shaped scars on my arms for years from the Aga-burns – the oven goes back a long way and it took ages not to catch my arm at the door.  When I’d arrived in the late afternoon, because I’d supervised the final packing up at our old house while Russell organised things here as the van arrived, I discovered that the house was almost empty.  He’d had much of the furniture put in the garages.  I was bewildered.  “I didn’t want anything put in the wrong room,” he explained.  Um, like the dining table and chairs in the dining room, for instance?  I had no idea.  We had to haul in furniture before we could do anything at all.

What we had discussed was the sleeping arrangements.  We’d kept Ro in his cot until then, as we were getting him a new bed and there didn’t seem much point in moving it.  Weeza already had a quite new bed, and we were giving our old double bed to Al.  As the new ones for us and Ro were arriving the next day, it was agreed – I’m pretty sure I just said, actually – that Ro had better have Weeza’s bed rather than sleep on the floor, we’d have the double bed and the two older children could have camp beds.  So at least they were in the right places.

I had always lived near the water, all my life.  First on a clifftop in Weymouth, then by Oulton Broad, then near the sea in Lowestoft.  Although there’s a stream running through the garden here and the river isn’t far away, it’s not the same at all and I thought I’d really miss the seaside. But I felt so much at home here straight away that I never did.  I do now though, or rather the riverside, which is the reason I planned to buy a riverside house when I sold this house.  But plans have changed as you know, and we’re not moving for the time being, anyway.  Two years ago, I didn’t think I’d see out thirty years here.  But I’m glad I have.

When it’s not all about me. Comfort in, dump out.

A friend linked to this on Facebook and it’s so good that, having shared it there, I’m linking to it here too.  It’s simply what not to say to whom, around someone who’s having a difficult time.

Click here.

I’m quite sure that everyone has stories about the well-meaning, or possibly not, person, who’s put their foot in it.  I had plenty of people, after Russell died, who felt compelled to tell me their story of bereavement, or else who were so upset that they expected me to comfort them.  I took it patiently, certainly there’s been no thought of upsetting me – I took it that it was good, at least, that they came to speak to me and didn’t avoid me.  There was one bloke who was awful and a few others who were out of order, but mostly I received warmth and love, occasional clumsiness but it was kindly meant.

The advice in the link is good, not prescriptive and worth taking on board.  Comfort in, dump out.

Fixing things

Wince was very pleased with the new trimmer.  We’d left it in its box so that he could have the excitement of unpacking it and he was soon off, cutting grass that had outgrown the mower.  It’s far better than a strimmer that you have to carry, if there’s an appreciable area to cut as it’s so easy to use.

He asked what we were going to do about the sinkhole and I had to say that my friend Jamie hadn’t got around to calling in, after ten days or so, and I’d have to phone and remind him.  I had said there was no immediate hurry, so he’d probably not quite gathered there was a sizeable hole outside the house.  I went out for lunch and, when I came back, Wince and LT were looking pleased with themselves.  It turned out that the hole didn’t extend as far under the drive as we’d feared, Wince had been putting aside enough rubble to fill it, they’d done so (LT nobly said that Wince had done most of the work) and they’d tamped it down and covered it with gravel, and now there’s no trace of a problem.

Today was the last day of term and, though I’ll carry on as a member of the academy trust for the time being, this will be for a limited period until I’m replaced and I don’t see that I’ll have more than two or three more meetings to go to.  Twenty-eight years as a school governor, eighteen at each school, it’s been a career in a sense.  It has certainly taken over my life and all my thoughts on a number of occasions.  And overall, I’ve done a good job.  I’ve always acted with integrity, I’m sure of that.  I’m not sorry to relinquish the responsibilities but I’ll miss being part of it.

Yet I look forward, not back.  And I keep blundering on.  It works out, mostly.

Z feels edgy

I’ve been let down by a few people recently, which has been disappointing.  None of you, obvs.  I don’t want to go into details, I’m only disappointed rather than angry and I trust I’ll be able to put things right tactfully in time.

Roses – in another thread entirely, but they will be linked – had a bird fall down her chimney and die.  Because there’s a sort of baffle plate, it’s not easy to get the poor thing out – I’ve done it before and it was unpleasant.  But I know what to do, so I armed myself with a face mask, latex gloves and a bin bag; and it wasn’t as bad as expected because the bird was not as big as we thought it would be.  It was a young rook, or maybe a crow, rather than a fat pigeon.  Anyway, the point is and the link to the first paragraph will come, that I noted that there’s a lot of soot and the chimney needs sweeping.  I have brushes of course, so I said I’ll sweep her chimney when I sweep ours.  There was a certain amount of surprise that I don’t get A Man In but, do you know, I’m fed up with depending on other people and I’ve decided, in the past few years, that I don’t want to do it again.

To clarify, I love and rely on LT and he’s totally dependable and I trust him.  But if someone else lets me down, I just get on and do it myself.

For various reasons, I feel a bit stroppy this evening.  I’ll get over it.  Just sayin’

Just going to sit next to LT and feel soothed by his calm.  And his general loveliness.  I’ll try to be, anyway.

Z and LT go shopping

Last year, I bought a second-hand “wheeled trimmer,” which is effectively a cross between a lawnmower and a strimmer and was brilliant.  You push it along and it cuts through long grass or brambles or whatever – sadly, it was very old and eventually the part that holds the cutting cord fell apart.  My friend Mike welded it for me but, after a few more weeks, it fell apart again.  So I returned it to the chap I bought it from and asked him if he could get it repaired.  I’ve heard nothing back and I’ve lost patience.  Large parts of the garden have gone out of control and I’ve just bit the bullet and bought a new one.  Wince will be thrilled when he arrives on Thursday to find it here.  It’ll be delivered tomorrow and all I have to do is buy petrol. I daresay that eventually I’ll get my old one returned and I’ll sell that on again.  They are marvellous machines and I didn’t know they even existed.

The local Cyder Club is having a get-together with hog roast on Saturday and we’ve been invited to a 40th wedding anniversary party on Sunday.  LT and I seem to be thoroughly partied up at present, which is all to the good.  We are both the sociable type and are enjoying introducing each other to our friends.

Z relaxes with LT

We took today off.  It was hot and sunny and we just relaxed.  There’s rather a large pile of crockery to go in the dishwasher, as well as tablecloths and napkins that must be washed.  And ironed.

This evening, we picked broad beans, three sorts of peppers (the cayenne was HOT), swiss chard, courgette and lots of raspberries – oh, and coriander.  So dinner was mostly home grown.  This gives me considerable satisfaction and LT feels just the same about it.  Which is splendid.

Tomorrow, we are going to buy more garden machinery.

Lovely bloggy guests

Thank you for coming and being so absolutely lovely.  As Blue Witch says a blog without comments is just a website, so a blog party is nothing without warmly friendly guests.  The food and everything else is not what matters, the company is.

Today, I woke ludicrously early, as I have been doing for the past few weeks, so got up when it was clear I wasn’t sleeping again any time soon, and had finished the washing up and clearing away by 7.30.  Zoe and Mike, with Scout the border collie, had stayed overnight and I had to leave for church before they were downstairs, but got back in time for coffee.  Zoe has a tortoise, so had been to visit Edweena and the Tots and we went out again and actually managed to find all three of them and feed them rose petals.

Eloise cat hasn’t forgiven us for bringing a dog into the house for the second time in a week.  Scout is impeccably behaved and lives with a cat already, but Eloise doesn’t take chances and didn’t come into the house.  I went to fetch her from Roses this morning, but she didn’t stay long.  It’s dusk now, but she hasn’t been in for any food all day.  She’s a home loving cat, she won’t be out all evening I’m sure.

Thank you again, dear friends.  It was so good to see you, to meet Mike and Suzie, to welcome Zoe here for the first time, for Lisa to come to her first blog party, I think, and to the others for coming again and being such great company, and for being so warmly welcoming to me and LT as a couple.  Those of you who couldn’t make it this time – well, if you’d like another party next year, we’ll be happy to host it.

Looking around the garden

It is starting to look good.  Give me another year and it will be lovely.  Indeed, a couple of months and it’ll be pretty darned attractive.  At the least, it’s starting to look tidy, though that’s not necessarily a recommendation in my book.  When something is *too* tidy, I wonder what its owners do with their time.

The gravel is nearly all spread, though there are a couple of piles waiting to be raked into their final places.  One of those is a sinkhole.  It was a bit startling because the gravel truck driver nearly lost his lorry into it and no one had any idea that the drive, in that place, was unstable.  It’s where the parking area by the house was widened four or five years ago, when we had the drive re-tarred and gritted, and also took the opportunity to turn a narrowish turning circle into a wide one.  There’s between 450 and 500 square metres outside the house and outbuildings, to our surprise, when LT and I measured it and that doesn’t count the drive itself.  It doesn’t look that big.  Anyway, it’s all clear, except for a single pile of sand that is there for a purpose, and the sinkhole itself – which is where an electric cable was put, I’m perfectly sure.  I’m the only person who knows, I suppose.  We think we know the best way of dealing with it, but I’m hoping my friend Jamie will come and advise, because he has more sense than anyone I know and, if there are any potential problems, he will spot them so that we don’t land ourselves in the soup.

In just over a week, I’ll have lived here 30 years, which is longer than I could live anywhere in the future as well as have done in the past.  I’m so glad that LT likes living here.  I’d willingly move, and we may yet, but regaining a sense of stability is very comforting to me.

Anyway.  There we go.  It’s the blog party tomorrow and we’ve found again that LT and I are a great team.  The cooking is done and most of the food preparation.  The party, having at one time looked like being the biggest ever, is now the smallest, but there are still many of the regulars and four newcomers.  I’m so pleased that long-standing blog friends are willing to come all this way to – well, to be friendly.  It’s lovely.  Many of my very dear friends have been met through the internet.  Including Tim, of course, who is in a category of his own.


I’m possibly the best payer in town.  I called in at the gravel pit to say we didn’t need the fourth delivery and said I might as well pay at once.  So he added up the invoices and I gave him a cheque.   Then I went home to check I’d got enough in my current account to cover it…

Very hot sunshine and torrential rain alternated today.  Fortunately, LT and I did our stint of gravel shovelling first thing this morning.  Still more to do, Roses and family don’t quite dare bring their cars in yet.  Two more goes will get it done, though, I should think.  At least it looks as if someone cares about the place now.

The outside cats weren’t about yesterday – Zain, the tabby, came to be fed in the morning but none of them in the evening.  Mother cat hasn’t been about for the last couple of weeks.  The four kittens (they’re grown out of kittenhood now but it’s a convenient description) are all very close and affectionate with each other, but mother doesn’t like them much.  She cuffs Zain and also Betty, the only female.  Sometimes she goes off for a few weeks and I wonder if she’s found a family – she would have loved to be an indoor cat here, at least on her terms, but Eloise cat wouldn’t stand for it.  I’m fond of her and miss her when she’s away, but if she were to find a family to feed her and care for her, it would be lovely.  Anyway, today they were all there, and hungry.  Zain and Freddie come to be stroked and Betty can be stroked if she’s not watching, but Barney is still too wary.  They do all trust me but they’re essentially feral.  I have picked Zain up, if necessary (and Mother cat, who is fine) and he doesn’t protest but gets down as soon as he can.  None of them has ever shown teeth or claws to me, at any rate.

Tomorrow, we’re going to have Rupert Spaniel for the day.  Eloise will not be pleased, I’m sure.