Monday, February 28, 2011

Lazy Sunday, wet Monday

Monday morning, wet drizzle, grey sky. I usually play tennis on a Monday morning, weather permitting, but obviously today is yet another disappointment. The forecast is for the rain to clear up by midday, so we are going to try to play early afternoon.

I need the exercise, yesterday my putative dog walk to find the "fox in the tree" fell flat. The weather turned absolutely vile, the heavy rain lashing at the windows, the sky glowering dark and menacing. We did manage a short foray outside, but soon ran for home. I managed to fill the log basket a couple of times, dashing to the shed with the rain soaking me each time. Then - joy, oh joy, I threw a fur throw onto the sofa, banked up the fire, the dogs and Iggy the cat aprang up and settled down around me, and I worked my way through the Sunday papers, glass of chilled white wine, and a gorgonzola and pear bruschetta to hand. You know, there are a few pleasures, indeed simple pleasures, still to be savoured.

I won't embarrass myself by admitting just how long I hunkered down in this blissful state, suffice it to say, I felt rested and so much calmer.

Unfortunately, by bedtime, the rest of the house was so cold, I toyed with the idea of settling down for the night on the sofa It was the end of day 3 without heat, due to the boiler breakdown, and the thought of crawling up to bed in a freezing cold bedroom did not seem such a brilliant thing to do.

However, I quickly let the dogs out, made myself a cup of hot chocolate, Charbonnel & Walker, no less, amazingly purchased in T K Maxx, and the dogs and I scuttled upstairs. I heaped two fur throws on the bed, a hot water bottle in the bed, donned a thick granny nightdress, a cashmere shawl round my shoulders, and cashmere bedsocks, and hopped into bed. Up popped Maud, not so agile any more so she has to hop on to the bedside stool and then on to the bed, quickly followed by Bill. Each dog wolfed down a handful of dog gravy bone biscuits, and then down the bed they tunnelled.

Such bliss - I lay propped up on a big pile of pillows, angled my reading lamp, and settled down to my book, a biography The Life of Irene Nemirovsky. Bill lay down one side, Maud the other, and I felt so loved and cosy.

When I put the light out, and snuggled down with the dogs under the two fur throws, the bedroom so cold I imagined I could see my breath, I felt like Lara in Doctor Zhivago, and fell asleep dreaming that one day my Yuri would appear on a troika to whisk me away, bells tinkling, the runners of the troika swishing across the snow.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

I feel a little like Alice in Wonderland - my life has a surreal quality, it has become so cirumscribed that I feel as if I am looking down a rabbit hole and in the far distance, is my old life slowly slipping away.

Originally, I loved sitting down to write, the words spilling out about my life, what I had been doing, and my thoughts from day to day. Unfortunately my life is no longer interesting, as the financial noose tightens and I am no longer able to do most of the things that I love. My days seem filled with preparing the house for yet more viewings, which never produce a buyer, and long spells sitting at the table in my kitchen, working out how to stretch my budget in order to pay the bills on this enormous house.

This weekend I have had the house full of B & B guests which has kept me busy and the wolf from the door. In a way, it has made me feel as if this house is a family house again. As usual, the guests have been delightful and it has made the house come alive. Unfortunately, the boiler broke down, again, on Friday so I was worried about the house being cold and the prospect of yet another large bill. However, the weather has suddenly warmed up, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I slipped into the three bedrooms whilst the guests were out, drew the curtains and put hot water bottles into the beds hoping that they would be so merry when they returned, that they would not notice the lack of heating.

The guests wanted me to order them a taxi to take them to and fro, but it would have been impossible, we are too isolated, and the journey too short as the wedding was barely 10 minutes away. So - I offered to drive them and collect them. I sat by the fire, reading with the dogs curled up by my side, until they called me at 11.30 When we all returned, the dogs thought they were in heaven, four more dog lovers, who sat with a drink by the fire, making a huge fuss of them.

It is quite amazing, but every single booking I take for B & B produces such interesting people, all very different, all delightful, and luckily, all besotted with Maud and Billy.
Which is just as well, because Bill hovers, unseen by me, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting guests enjoying their full English breakfast in the dining room. I have to be very firm with him indeed. Maud just lies in her bed and eyes everyone balefully. Nose twitching, tail occasionally flicking, as if to say, "Time to go - I need my mid-morning nap"

I feel huge regret that I was unable to stay in this house, I could have expanded and run a very successful B & B business from here. The configuration of the house lends itself to it beautifully, and I really enjoy meeting such a diverse mix of people. I shall continue until a buyer materialises - it is a lifeline for me financially.

Sunday morning, only 10 am, and I have already done the breakfasts, tidied up, and now, have the whole day ahead of me. The sun is out, the wretched sheep are baaing for their breakfast and a dog walk beckons. Bill wants to go and find the fox that sleeps halfway up a fallen tree - more of that another time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Striking a chord

How funny it is when, writing a post in a choleric mood, it strikes a chord. When I let fly about the weird behaviour of prospective buyers of my house, I felt a little ashamed and assumed that I would create a backlash.

Well, dear readers, you have surpassed yourselves with your comments. How very gratifying.

However, I am still in a state of limbo with regard to the sale of my home - we are approaching the year mark since the house went on to the market, and as yet no serious offers.

Pursuing the cup half full rather than half empty theory, at least I have had the chance to live in my beloved house in the ordered way denied to me whilst I was married. It is a fact that for years I functioned well below par, surviving my toxic marriage cruising just below the surface of reality. Numbing down rather than dumbing down, if you will excuse the excruciating pun.

In the first year of my blessed release, I felt energised, free, able to breathe the fresh air of normality. I did not miss my husband at all, I did not miss the mess and disorganisation, the empty cereal packets thrown on the larder floor, the empty milk bottles abandoned on the larder window sill, the sink full of washing up after I had been on a day out or a trip away, the clothes on the bedroom floor even though he had his own dressing room, the long absences on 'business' trips, the odd phone calls, the suspicions, the sourness, the disinterest in me as a human being, the rank smell of a rotting relationship. To be fair, he did sometimes buy flowers for me on my return home. I will never fathom what went on in his mind.

He paid my maintenance, and for the first time, I could maintain and run the home in the ordered way previously denied to me. Then, he stopped the maintenance, destroyed me in Court, and my troubles began.

However, recently, after months of private misery, which did indeed spill out into the open on occasion, I have come to realise that my wise friends are right, and it is time to move on, and wash that man right out of my hair.

I hsve begun to make some new friends locally, I feel I can hold my head up, I am beginning to make this new life that is continually recommended to me. I know that the disintegration of any relationship is rarely the fault of one person, but I will never forgive my ex-husband for his crusade to ruin me.

I really do have some wonderful loyal and loving friends, and for this I am grateful.

Today - I walked round the bruised battered garden, which was just beginning to lift its head after the harshest winter in years. There were bright white clumps of snowdrops, bright yellow aconites, forsythia sprays just beginning to break bud, fresh green shoots of some of the perennials pushing through the spent and dry earth, how glorious it looked.

Later when I took Maud and Billy on their daily walk, I picked a large bunch of pussy willow, powdery catkins and glossy ivy with fat black berries. I remembered that last year I had written about the fat powdery catkins - here we are again, another year, a new Spring, and another year down the road to recovery. Please forgive me if I repeat myself.

Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A sense of entitlement

What is it with the upwardly mobile young looking for a property in the country? I personally feel like thumping them, and pushing them up against the wall and giving them chapter and verse of a reality check.

They prance along for a property viewing, love the house, but at the same time pull it to pieces, then put in offers, sometimes nearly half the asking price, and then express surprise that the offer is unacceptable. Or - they come out two, three, four, five, six times over a period of about 8 months, and then disappear. Just what is their problem? Basically, their aspirations are way beyond their pockets, or they fancy themselves as entrepreneurs out to shaft me over the price. Are you listening out there, grow up, and bugger off.

The one really unpleasant attribute to have surfaced over the last 10 - 15 years with regard to the young in the property market is 'entitlement'. 'I aspire to something I simply cannot afford because I am entitled'. Achieving this entitlement in one's thirties means that there is not much else to aspire to for the rest of one's life. Thus perpetuating this sense of entitlement. What a pathetic state of affairs.

It is such bad manners to discuss completely destroying the owner's much loved home, when presumably, it is the current status quo that has attracted them in the first place. In the words of my estate agent, these people are aspiring to a life style, often one that many of them cannot afford. In and out drives, imposing porticos and uninterrupted vistas come with a price tag £500,000 over the price of my home. They need to compromise. A harsh assessment, but true.

I am weary of the whole business - this assumption that I am going to allow myself a) to be stitched up so they may acquire my much loved home at a bargain price or b) find it rejected because it does not deliver features unavailable at the price Heigh Ho.

More and more I long for my youthful early working life, where one understood that the good things in life came through hard work, and thus, were appreciated, and were not the product of that dreadful sense of entitlement. After all, courtesy of Animal Farm, 'All pigs are equal but some pigs ARE more equal than others" Very apposite.

Yes,I am a grumpy old woman, and quite right too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Two daughters, three dogs, one elderly Maine Coon cat, two ancient sheep .

Writer's block, hmm .. Yes, that is definitely the doctor's diagnosis. I used to find it so easy to sit down and let the words flow - I feel now as if I need to go to a Creative Writing Class.

I suspect that I have become anaesthetised by the sheer inescapable fact that I still cannot move on in my life - the house is stagnating on the market, the first estate agents were worse than awful, full of their own importance, bone idle and lacking in drive and imagination. Now, I have appointed new agents, who are immeasurably better, but suffering from the down turn in the housing market.

I, of course, love my house, which has been my home for many years, and is it possible that I give off negative vibes Surely not. Actually, I sort of believe in Kharma, and at the back of my mind, believe that what will be will be - thus in the end all will be well.

Enough people are telling me that people who behave really badly will ultimately meet their Waterloo. However, I think that spite and cunning often win the day.

This weekend is good - the junior daughter, who has been very unwell lately, has come home clutching the Baddog, to be met at the station by myself, in a high state of excitement Today, the senior daughter has arrived, driving a van, to collect various possessions with which to furnish the flat into which she is moving tomorrow. So - one mother, two daughters, three dogs, one elderly Maine Coon cat, two ancient sheep, and unalloyed joy.

I have cooked a supper dish suitable for the senior daughter's vegetarian tastes, a roasted butternut squash and spinach lasagne from Food from Plenty, the inestimable Diana Henry's latest cookbook (a Christmas present from senior daughter) eaten on our laps by the fire, with for me, a couple of glasses of Chateau Rolland Haut Medoc. I have made many economies this last two and a half years, but good wine has still not been one of them

So - a chill wind is blowing a gale, inside is cosy, comfortable, and perhaps all is almost all right with the world.

Thank you for the welcome back, dear readers, what would I do with you?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

another year, another life

After a long absence, I feel able to tentatively stretch out and restart writing A Life Reclaimed.

For months, I loved my blog posts, I felt energised and the words spilt off the ends of my fingers, flowing inexorably, tumbling forth as a form of catharthis. Unfortunately, I suddenly dried up, and came to a halt, like a stubborn carthorse, not a step further, heels dug in, inspiration dried up.

After my writer's block set in, I realised I was depressed, and although I was busy, the days blurred and before I knew it, the year was drawing to a close still with no resolution to the problems in my life.

However, as we start a new year, I realise that the future for many people will be difficult, and my problems are no more important than those of any man on the street, struggling to survive against some pretty long odds. We are all in this together.

Autumn and winter last year were very dramatic in this village, extreme cold, mountains of snow, icy roads, and frozen and then burst pipes. The senior daughter painted a lovely picture of Christmas here, snow, roaring log fires, carol singing, and long walks, culminating in a wonderful candlelit Christmas dinner. It was truly wonderful, a complete Dickensian Christmas, a Christmas I shall remember with joy and sadness as my last one in this house. However, the reality was a little different for those of us who struggled for some 4 weeks beforehand with the extreme conditions.

Early in December I began suffering frozen pipes - I managed to avoid disaster for several weeks, and then disaster struck. Down came my kitchen ceiling, and chaos reigned. However, true to the television adverts, my insurance company pulled out all the stops, and just before Christmas Eve, we were restored to a position where we could enjoy ourselves. Most people in the village were stuck because of the atrocious state of the roads, and what fun we all had, walking between houses in the deep snow for drinks and suppers, an enchanting Christmas morning communion service in Church, candlelight, holly, ivy, and a warm glow. A Christmas experienced perhaps only once in a lifetime.

The senior daughter struggled to get home from New York, and finally arrived almost at home, having caught the airport bus from Heathrow to Banbury on Christmas Eve morning. There she came to a halt. I could not get my car up the lane to collect her, no taxis were available but luckily a kind friend managed to get into town to fetch her. It all seemed so exciting, but in reality it was nothing of the sort. She was exhausted, and very relieved to be home.

Now - a new year, the third on my own, and I have faced up to the fact that soon I shall be packing up my possessions and 25 years of memories, and hitting the road.