You can see what I meant about the big windows. It was the smaller ones at the sides that we used to open to let the dogs in and out – on the right as you look at the dining room and the left as you look at the drawing room, which is the room on the right-hand side of the house. In between was the study, one wall lined with the bookshelves that are now on my own study walls, filled with the same books, mostly, that I have not been able to dispose of as yet. The yellow door was never used and the passageway leading through it to the hall was used as a junk room.
The room above the drawing room was my parents’ bedroom, with en suite bathroom and dressing room above the study. There was another bathroom but only guests used that, we all used our parents’ bathroom. You see the window sticking out on the first floor on the right? It’s not an open window, there was a triangular window seat and two windows at 60º angles. This was ideal for the dogs to keep an eye on things and it was normal for one of them to be there on guard duty when we were out and at night. My mother used to say that sometimes, awake at night, she could hear the watch change.
My parents had a four poster bed and we all – well, that is, the dogs and I – got on to it by taking a running jump. I also used to swing on the end posts. My mother would try to stop me, telling me how old the bed was but Z-logic thought that was quite silly. Obviously, if it had lasted all these years being swung on it must be quite strong enough to carry on doing so. Underneath the bed was the Club. I’m not sure if the girls ever went in there, but it was mainly a gentlemen’s club and Simon and Huck hung out there. I joined them sometimes, of course, and was made welcome.
When we were children, the room above was our bedroom, mine and Wink’s. There were three bedrooms, a landing and a big attic on that floor. Much of the attic, quite half of it, was occupied by four big water tanks. We were not on mains water, there was a deep artesian well in the kitchen garden and water was pumped up twice a day into the tanks. I’ve a feeling they each held 250 gallons – er, can anyone work that out? How much room does 250 gallons take up? Times 4, that is. It was lovely water, completely pure without chlorination and the well never ran dry and the pipes never froze. In the incredibly long, cold winter of 1963 the mains supply failed and people had to fetch water from a standpipe in the village. Or they could come to us, we had plenty.
There was a dog bed in the house. It was kept in the gun room. I’ve no idea how keen my grandfather was on shooting, all I ever heard about is his Purdey shotgun, inherited by my father who never used it, nor did my mother or the Sage who now owns it. It would have to be adapted if the Sage did use it (Granddad was right-handed and left-eyed) but, although a crack shot, he prefers rifle shooting at targets. He doesn’t kill for sport. My father was a rotten shot anyway and wasn’t allowed to be a soldier in the war. He was sent to join the medical corps. Anyway, the gun room was lined with cupboards and shelves, mostly filled with books, and at the end was a desk with the telephone on and in front of that was the dog bed. So when you used the phone you stood in the dog bed. And because of the way my mother always picked up the receiver and turned it when she put it down again, the lead became kinked tighter and tighter until it could hardly be put down, so once in a while someone would go and pick it up and hold the lead while the receiver spun round and round to unravel.
The dogs slept in the bedrooms of course. As I said, one of them was normally in the window keeping an eye on things, one or two might be in the Club or they might be on the bed. Wink and I didn’t have dogs sleep in our room when we were children but later, when she went off to college, I had my own smaller room and then at least one dog slept with me. I moved into a different room, still on the top floor, in my mid-teens and then had a double bed and then three dogs slept on it with me, Jess, Susie and Cleo. Although it was a double bed, I never had a lot of room to myself because the dogs liked to snuggle up and one of them usually stretched out across the bed so that I couldn’t stretch out myself and slept with knees bent.
I said I couldn’t describe it without pictures and so I can’t. But you’ve got over a thousand words-worth all the same. I haven’t touched the surface, of course. I wish I had pictures.