Tag Archives: luck

A New Chapter

It’s Midsummer’s Eve and instead of saluting the sun’s last hurrah on the longest day, I’ve finally sat down to pen all my news to you at the kitchen table, dear Reader.  Except the kitchen table isn’t where it used to be.  To be honest, the kitchen isn’t the same kitchen I penned the last post from either.  You’ll have to bear with me, dear Reader.  I realise you haven’t heard from me in a little while.  It isn’t that I’ve dropped off the planet or heaven forbid, moved back to the Big Smoke.  No fear of that, I promise.  It’s just that everything on the writing front has had to take a bit of a back seat in the last few months as life required rather more input from me on the organisational front than I’d hoped for.  Let’s just say that there is a very long winded version of the whole saga that has been selling and buying a house but I thought you might enjoy the tale a whole lot more if I opted for a more succinct retelling. After all, it might take me all year to fill you in on the nitty gritty (really it was quite a rollercoaster ride) and I’m sure you’ve got better things to be doing like finding the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a large gin and a good book.  Trust me, dear Reader, it’s time to turn the page and begin a new chapter.

So you will have gathered by now that we are no longer living in the cottage.  In fact, we bid farewell to our beloved old timbered friend a couple of weeks ago.  Saying goodbye to the village and house we’d come to love was no easy task especially as Poppy can only remember life in the country – memories of London are few and far between for her even when Primrose and I tell tales of Richmond Park and Monty the pup.  It has seen many firsts for her as well as for us and out of all of us, I feel she is the most at home amongst fields rather than bustling streets.  To be honest, we’ve all changed.  I hardly recognise the Margot that left London four years ago these days.  Country life has been the making of us.

With barely any time to reminisce on memories made in our first foray into country living, the cottage was sold and new owners were chomping at the bit to move in.  Cue the first problem dear Reader…..  Nowhere to move to.   We’d already ruled out a fair few houses and buying was fast looking like it wasn’t going to happen.  “Rent”, all our friends exclaimed.  However, the prospect of trying to find somewhere to rent with the more boisterous half of Noah’s ark (yes, you, spaniels) needing a roof over their heads was enough to send me hiding in the under stairs cupboard with a bottle of gin.  Why was finding somewhere to live proving so difficult you might ask, dear Reader?  You see the problem was that we’d already fallen in love, dear Reader.  Hook, line and sinker.

A little house left for years tucked away down a farm track with 3.5 acres of knee high grass surrounding it.  A house which the girls and I passed every day on our drive to school, wondering who lived there and why no one wanted to buy it.  I can’t lie to you dear Reader.  When we finally decided to go and see it, it was love at first viewing.  The house had Jerry and I giggling like school children – the wood panelling, the leadlight windows, the beech trees, the original Edwardian taps.  I could go on.  It was like that magical moment when you know you just click with someone and you are rendered deaf and blind to the world around you.  In our case, it wasn’t someone, it was something.  The problem or should I say problems…?  We couldn’t afford it and it was a wreck……(and I do really mean that – the house had been shut up for nearly 5 years).  Oh and let’s not forget the final fly in the ointment, the vendor wouldn’t accept our meagre offer.  In the end after so much toing and froing with the agent, there was nothing to do but walk away.  So we did, despite some awful soul searching, gut wrenching conversations at 3am over nearly three months to see if somehow we could make it all work and trying everything in a desperate attempt to appeal to the vendor’s better nature.  I can’t tell you how much I cried.

However it seems that Fate had other plans.  Nearly four months after our final offer had been rejected, just at the point when we’d almost given up hope of finding anywhere to live, the house came back to us.  In fact, the timing could not have been better – that day we’d lost out on sealed bids on another wreck nearby (well you wouldn’t expect Jerry and I to be interested in anything habitable, would you?).  Utterly despondent when the agent rang, it took me a little while to realise she wasn’t joking!  The saying ‘When one door closes, another opens’ couldn’t have been more true for us. In this case, the door that opened was rather a pink one.  The rest, as they say, is history, dear Reader.

So that’s where Jerry, the girls and I find ourselves.  Sometimes you stumble upon mad things in life and sometimes there are the mad things that seem to gravitate towards you screaming “Do it, do it, do it”, dear Reader.  Well that certainly seems to have a habit of happening to Jerry and I…  Selling a perfectly lovely home to buy another isn’t particularly mad in itself, that is unless the house you are buying has no working kitchen, wet walls, leaky roof, dry rot, bathrooms unchanged from the Edwardian era, a condemned boiler, oil tank and gas hob. It’s amazing what you can easily gloss over when you fall in love, isn’t it dear Reader?

Jerry and I knew that the house needed a lot of work but we weren’t expecting a lack of running water for the first few days after we moved in.  I lived in fear of needing the loo!  We’re not even on mains water, dear Reader.  There’s a borehole and the water comes from the nearby farm. To add to the long list of things to fix, said water tested positive for E.Coli so it’s bottled only for the time being.  Never mind the fact that we’ve nothing but a camping stove and a gas barbecue to cook on.  Getting to sleep proved rather challenging on the first night too as visitors with hob nailed boots were jigging in the attic. Squirrels I prayed thought.  Only squirrels.  When the plumber arrived to fix the water tank the next morning, it turned out to be more of the other sort of rodents leaping about up there – you know, the ones with long tails, dear Reader.  Still, it seems that Poppy’s dreams of living in a caravan are coming true finally – it’s just that this caravan is not the shiny VW one she was imagining, it’s a large static one with brick and flint walls.

You’re probably thinking that we are entirely mad and you’d be right but bizarrely none of this seems to bother Jerry and I that much.  We have found home.  The girls are blissfully happy.  I watch them building dens in the new garden, making houses for faerie queens, climbing trees, taking turns in the wheelbarrow chariot and I feel so blessed that we have been able to make this happen for them.  It will take more than a lot of our blood (I’ve already been attacked by brambles just trying to free the windows that were stuck fast), sweat and tears to get the house working again and we’ll have to do much of it ourselves but it is all worth it when I see Poppy and Primrose enjoying their new surroundings.  As for the Monty and Dora, the cats and hens?  Well they have died and gone to heaven.  Not literally of course.  It’s all new to them too.  None of them have ever known such space from just outside the back door.

To be honest, I know it sounds awfully twee but we simply couldn’t be happier, dear Reader.  So you’ll have to forgive me for taking so long to pen this post but I’ve been waylaid by my new surroundings.  Each time we uncover something new from under thick layers of dust, peeling wallpaper or overgrown shrubbery, I feel the same way I felt when I walked into our new hallway for the first time and I just can’t stop pinching myself.  Lucky, just doesn’t even cover it.

So it’s time for a new chapter for Margot and Jerry.  Time to really turn our hands to the good life with all this lovely land we’ve now acquired.  I hope you’ll follow us as we attempt to graduate from haphazard bumpkins to full scale smallholders. Well, that’s the plan, at any rate, dear Reader….  Wish us luck!

Old wives and black cats

catkinsWith the cottage having to pose as a show home this week, Poppy, Primrose and I took to hiding out in all sorts of places to avoid hovering outside, watching strangers inspecting our house from top to bottom.  Eating sandwiches in a car park in the middle of Richmond Park, driving round and round nearby streets and numerous trips to cafes and our local library have all featured.  Primrose reached seriously impressive levels of espionage to work out whether things had been moved in her bedroom and I crossed all fingers and toes in the hope that no one would open cupboard doors, causing all piles of ironing and clutter to spill out on to the floor!  It has be said, dear Reader, that crossing one’s fingers and waiting for portents of good luck have been part of our daily rituals as we waited with bated breath for news of a potential buyer for the cottage.

Jerry and I have always been a bit superstitious.  When I say a bit, dear Reader….a lone magpie always seems to spell out doom and we have always touched our collars on seeing a hearse drive by.  In fact, on moving into the cottage, we found a brass shamrock with ‘Ireland’ boldly stamped on it, hanging on a nail on one of the cottage’s exposed brick walls.  Imagining that any quantity of ill luck might strike us, we were far too superstitious to take it down.  It is probably one of the most hideous ornaments I have ever laid eyes on but it belongs to the cottage and the golden trefoil has certainly worked its magic for us over the years.  Somehow, it only seems right that we leave it for the next owner.  Good karma after all.

The luck of the Irish!

The luck of the Irish!

Delving into some country wisdom, I discovered that Jerry and I are not alone in crossing our fingers, tipping a cap to a magpie or indeed, throwing salt over our shoulders.  It would appear that superstitions are a wonderful glimpse into our countryside past and are at the heart of the British psyche, with rhymes and rituals native to almost every county in the land.

Imagine a couple of old farmers' wives leaning over this for a gossip!

Imagine a couple of old farmers’ wives leaning over this for a gossip!

Here are but a few little snippets for you to enjoy, my dear Reader:

Magpies have long been the old country wives’ favourite superstition and the rhyme ‘One for sorrow, two for joy’ allegedly dates back to the mid 18th century.  It is said that those black and white winged omens of misfortune were thought to be the very Devil in disguise!  Saluting to Mr Magpie and wishing him a good morrow is commonplace but some of the other rituals are just too wonderful not to be shared!  Yorkshire folk believed that the sign of the cross could help ward off the evil brought by a magpie and spitting (how vulgar!) is noted as a deterrent against the lone magpie returning in a couple of Shires.  However, one of my absolute favourites has to be the flapping one’s arms (as if a bird) and cawing to imitate the magpie’s errant wife!  I can’t say that this method of warding off bad luck would do anything for you other than make those around you think that you had Tourette’s syndrome but one can never tell!

On Valentine’s Day, to see a robin meant that one would marry a sailor, to see a sparrow brought a happy but poor marriage and a goldfinch, well, marrying into endless riches for the lady so lucky to see one of those!  A very limited chance of seeing a real goldfinch in the Big Smoke, I would have thought.  One might be better off loitering outside one of London’s many banks in the hopes of ‘netting’ another sort of gold-feathered friend!  Although, all birds in the City seem to have fallen on hard times these days…

‘Red sky at night, Shepherd’s delight’ is a well-known ditty but did you know, dear Reader, that ‘If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, then Winter shall have another fight’?  Candlemas Day, marks the middle of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox and this year fell on 2nd February.  If memory serves correctly, then I think that this year, it was a gloriously sunny day.  A forecast of more cold weather if the superstition is to be believed.

‘Two must never pour from the same pot’ – This made me instantly think of my dear friend, Barbara!  She and I have been known to both pour from the same teapot on numerous occasions.  According to Steve Roud’s A pocket guide to Superstitions of the British Isles, this particular superstition was recorded in 1885 and heralds from near Barbara’s neck of the woods in the county of WorcestershireThe fate of those who pour from said same pot…..the birth of ginger-haired twins!  Dear Barbara, you had better watch out!  One never knows what the stork might bring next…..

In the midst of this rather delightful sojourn into countryside superstitions, I had an awful dream about my tooth falling out and woke next morning in a panic.  Dreaming of teeth….the interpretations that go hand in hand with this are unpleasant to say the least!  Jerry put it down to anxiety over our fate and that of the cottage.  Unfortunately for me, it turned out to be more than a little prophetic as the next day whilst eating a piece of toast, one of my teeth crumbled entirely, leaving a somewhat piratey looking stump and a wailing Margot.  Primrose was sympathetic to a point but in the end, suggested I find a set of wind-up chattering teeth instead as there was no way that the tooth fairy was going to replace it!

Superstitions, old wives’ tales, single magpies and falling teeth aside, it turns out that Lady Luck might just be on our side though, dear Reader.  Maybe just maybe….Jerry and I might have some good news about the cottage but superstitious as we are, to write it would be to jinx it!  Perhaps, I should just put it all down to the velvety black beauty that crosses my path every morning?….

My dearest Lily, a little bit of homegrown luck!

Dearest Lily, our little bit of homegrown luck!