Finding our feet in village life

We are all gradually relaxing into our new home and getting used to the changes. The psychotic cat is transformed and now goes out into the garden all the time, even enduring a huge rainstorm on Sunday afternoon. We realise she has probably never seen grass before. When we took her in, she had been found in a cavity wall in Putney and then came to us with a stone paved garden so the huge expanse of grass, trees and plants is probably a bit of a culture shock for her but she seems to be enjoying it. The matronly cat has been out and about visiting the neighbours. We discover this when Doug, the owner of our house 3 families ago comes to visit and says “Ah! This is where you live” when he sees her. He is now in his 80s and a little frail but is able to tell us how the house was when he lived there and how the stairs have been moved. It sounds as though they were originally a beautiful sweep of Victorian stairs instead of the oak stairs we have now but he also tells us that part of the house has been traced back to 1700 and that it was originally an alehouse. The removal men who went to the local pub the night we moved here came back and told us the same story so there must be some veracity to it. We have realised that the middle of the house, which is now a dining room, is quite old and that where the wood burning stove is a range once stood. Doors have been blocked off and stairs moved but it’s quirky and despite us taking the wrong route through the house at times, we are getting used to the layout.

We are blessed with visitors and friendly passers-by. Having run out with oil during the last blog, the oil company pulls out all the stops and deliver oil the same day. The boiler engineer comes back on Saturday morning and does what needs doing so we have heat and hot water which is wonderful. It’s surprising how quickly a house cools down without central heating so having it back is fabulous. We are gradually building up a list of people we know we can rely on to help us. One of our failed roofing contractors, Seve, also lists himself as a handyman so as the washing machine is not plumbed in, we ask if it’s a job he could tackle. Yes it is and he is with us within the hour, completing the job which costs £10. Brilliant.

Every morning I wake up to a view of the castle. Yes, it’s the one where Henry IV was born, son of John of Gaunt. I remember all this from reading Richard III at school so it’s really quite exciting to be on the same spot. Oh, I suppose you’d quite like to see my view. P1000031 P1000032 P1000022 P1000038 P1000035 P1000036 P1000042

You have views of the castle from the house, a view of the house from the castle, sunset over the castle and sunset over the garden. There will be more shots later as I get more organised but I hope these satisfy for the time being. Mark’s cousin and her husband drop in on their way back from York to be the first family members to see the house. Much to our delight, they love it, commenting on the proportions of the rooms, the size of the garden, the quirkiness of its layout. We can still get Majestic to deliver wine and the delivery man today says “What a beautiful house!” as he drops off the cartons of precious liquid (which I can’t sample these days). People in the village hear we are interested in history and drop off books and a dvd about a re-enactment at the Castle and the history of Old Bolingbroke which used to be one of the chief market towns in Lincolnshire at one time.

Just a small taste of what it’s like living in a small village after the bustle of West London; today as we are preparing to go out we see a neighbour, John, walking along with his dog. He is the neighbour who made a point of letting us know when the bins had to be put out on the day we moved in. He asks us about our oil situation and recommends a piece of kit he has bought for his oil container. Apparently we have an expensive thing attached to ours which sends a reading to a plug in the house telling us how much oil we have but, as you might expect, our vendors have taken the plug with them. We are telling John this who immediately says he thinks he has part of his previous kit and will drop off the plug bit in case it will work with ours. “One thing you don’t want to do” he says, conspiratorially, “is join the Parish Council”. I ask if it is like Midsomer Murders and he confirms it is. He doesn’t mention names but there are obviously people who are best avoided but he says he will let us make our own minds up about who is who. And with a cheery “Dib dib!” he is gone. Mr Mason chats over the garden fence with a man who owns a house behind ours and the following morning we have a card through the door welcoming us to the village.

We have an organic farm on the other side of the village and I decide to give them a try. I make an order online and see they deliver on Wednesdays and Thursdays. As we will be at Charing Cross on Wednesday, I ring them to say they will have to leave the boxes behind the conservatory if they deliver on Wednesday. A very nice lady called Marjorie answers and she asks whether there are any vegetables we don’t like as they will tailor the boxes for us. I can only think of fennel except I can’t think of the word although I can see the vegetable in my mind. I explain I have had chemotherapy and lost a lot of my words and she says she understands perfectly as she has had breast cancer. Luckily I remember the name of fennel but we have a good conversation about services locally and what worked and didn’t work for us both. They supply a huge range of organic fruit, vegetables and salads, most of which they grow themselves and they will provide boxes with produce we actively like which sounds great. They are also very well-priced and it’s interesting to see where they sell in London – Pimlico, Hampstead Heath, London Fields and, especially for Ms Marsden, Salusbury Road Primary School in Queen’s Park, every Sunday from 10 until 2.

Getting alternative treatment here will mean going to a hospice which feels a bit grim. I know they are there to make life feel better but it’s still a step I haven’t taken before and although I could have had treatments in a local hospice in London, I always chose to go elsewhere. Here there is no elsewhere and I have no choice. Again, it is the nurse from the local practice who phones to give me information about Macmillan nurses and hospices without me having to chase them. It feels like there is time to give more personal service here, that people have time to stop and chat rather than them actually being more friendly.

Mr Mason makes his call to Alex, the lime plaster roofer, sans teeth but with smoke bombs, to tell him he has got the work and he says he will be able to start in about 10 days’ time. When I speak to Lee to tell him we will not be using his company to fix the roof, at the end of the call he says “Enjoy your lovely home”. We feel we have made the right choice, not because everyone else seems to love the house but because we are loving it. We are now open for visitors (who don’t mind boxes).