I found, in my email spam folder, a comment about my post about the Riviera hotel. I thought it was on the post itself so I deleted it and came here, but I can’t find it. Sorry Vagabonde. To reply, yes, my parents had a flat in the hotel. I’m told there was a roof terrace but I remember nothing about that. Apparently, I used to ride my trike round and my grandfather pretended to be a policeman and hauled me over for infringements (hitting flowerpots) and demanded that I give him my name and address. Which is a good way of getting a small Z to learn her name and address. And yes, it’s had a lot of money spent on it and it looks very smart, but I don’t get the impression that it’s very upmarket and, with its location, it really should be.
Anyway, back to the Avenue and the Old Rectory. As I said, I liked the house we lived in and we’d thought we’d live there a while longer, though we didn’t feel it was quite big enough as the children grew up. But then we went to view the house coming up for auction.
It was love at first sight. I’ve never had my knees buckle at first sight of anything before or since. But I walked in the front door and I went weak at the knees, quite literally. “Can we buy it?” All I’d seen was the hall and a glimpse of the drawing room.
It was a big, solid Edwardian house with high ceilings and generous lines. The hall floor was parquet and the broad staircase was to the right. Four steps to the half landing, then six, another turn, six more. Five doors led off the hall. To the left was the drawing room, which had a wonderful octagonal bay window, itself about eight feet in diameter – there was another one in the room above, then a turret above that. Then was a big study, about 20 feet by 12, then a fireplace, then the dining room. Behind the stairs was another room which had a window angled to face the drive, which had been the Rector’s study.
Through the fifth door was another small hall leading to the downstairs toilet and separate washbasin – these were by the second door to the study, for the convenience of any of his visitors. The back stairs used to be here too, but they’d been removed for some reason and boarded over. If you turned left instead of going straight into the back hall, the kitchen was on the right and the second door to the dining room on the left. The kitchen was huge. I can’t remember the dimensions, but at least 25 feet long and 15 feet wide. There was a walk-in larder at one end and, at the other, yet another small hall which led to a storage room and a laundry room as well as the back door.
On the first floor there were six bedrooms and then there were attic rooms on the floor above that. All the rooms had big sash windows and picture rails and downstairs the skirting boards were the deepest I’ve seen in any house. I fell in love.
There was a wall between the house and the roadway, which led to the Rectory, the village hall and the church. There was a grassed and pathed area there with shrubs and a tree or two, and a big semicircular rose bed by the gravel drive. It used to be a circle until they took a bit of the garden to build the new Rectory next door. The main garden had a lawn the width of the house plus the drive, with a slope up to the house itself. There was a huge horse chestnut and, next to it, an equally big beech tree. At the bottom of the garden was a small orchard.
This was in 1976, which big, draughty old houses were deeply unfashionable. We bought it for £21,000, which was more than we could afford. So we promptly sold the orchard for £12,000, just keeping a driveway down at the bottom of the garden. Three houses were built there in due course. We found a buyer for our house quite quickly – useful being an estate agent as you know who’s looking. The couple were in their second marriage and they each had two teenager from their first marriages. It struck us that we thought the house was a bit small for us and two babies, whereas they reckoned it was perfect for the six of them.
They asked us round for a drink after they’d moved in. Obviously, the reason it was amply big enough was because they didn’t eat together – the dining table seated four – but then, the children were not all siblings and I suppose they spent a fair bit of their time with their other parents. I exclaimed how pretty the dining room was – with all our furniture in there, it didn’t do the lovely wallpaper justice. They needed the fourth bedroom so removed my bathroom and they dug up my chamomile lawn and replaced it with grass.
Before we could move, though, we needed to have some work done at the Old Rectory. We had it rewired and the roof retiled. We also put in a second bathroom, with a sunken bath. I’d mentioned that the back stairs had been removed, but they had left a few stairs off the rear landing which led nowhere. So that’s where we put the bath and it was lovely. We didn’t need a toilet as there was a separate one from the main bathroom, which also had a washbasin. We also had a new kitchen. The room was far too big to be efficient so I created a room within a room. The sink was under the window, the cooker to the right, and two peninsulas to make up the rectangle. To the left, there was another small sink for hand washing and vegetable preparation. As in the last house, people could stand or sit the other side of the peninsula to help or just chat, and not get in the way of the cook. The only thing I got wrong was not putting in a dishwasher. The washing machine was in one of the back sculleries and the big chest freezer was in the other.
I wish I had photos, but I never took them. It was just home. I loved that house.