Old House

This year, our current home, the one I’m sitting in now, has become affectionately referred to in our family as “the old house”.

For the past year, we’ve been planning a move “up the lane”, where we have been extending a little bungalow at my in laws’ place. It’s a small extension, and a small distance away, but it has taken a full year to bring the plans to fruition. We hope to be in just before Christmas.

As the year dragged on, the waiting felt frustrating at times. And yet, it has also felt fitting to take our time saying goodbye to the old house, seeing it through another full four seasons before we leave it for the new one.

The old house is a home in which each season is fully lived. It is here that I have really learnt to watch and wonder at the passing of the year.

Winter: At Christmas time, we collect fir cones and branches and decorate with twinkling lights and reds and golds. Friends come for huge dinners, two long tables down the middle of the kitchen with twenty chairs squeezed around them, paper hats on our heads and mulled wine simmering. On Christmas mornings, the lounge is filled with discarded wrapping paper, which the dog loves to play with. Soon, snowdrops appear in the frost-filled garden, fallen leaves edged in white cover the grass and, when it’s really cold, icicles hang from the guttering on the barn. The children and I hold huge shards of ice in our hands and marvel at the intricate patterns. Once or twice, we’re visited by a goldcrest, his flash of yellow bringing a frisson of colour to a grey day. The robin sings loudly, cheerfully defiant on bleak winter afternoons. We fill the kitchen with the aromas of baking, coffee, soups and fluffy potatoes roasted with rosemary from the garden. We sit around the big kitchen table with friends. We brighten dark evenings with silly dancing after tea. Once, when things were particularly dreary, we set up a big slide in the kitchen, using an old door and the table. It stayed there for a week or more, and the children never tired of it. All winter, the Rayburn warms the kitchen, and keeps the kettle hot for when we come in from the cold. Sometimes at this time of the year, we spend too much time inside and mess piles up and tempers fray. The garden is always the cure, whatever the weather.

Spring: bursts of yellow in the hedgerows, birdsong through open windows and buds on the trees. I watch for the buds almost obsessively. Hares can be spotted on trudges through the fields. Puddles are jumped in. And, as spring progresses, blues, whites and pinks join the yellow in the hedges. We plant things: tomatoes, lettuces, carrots. We watch birds’ nests and spot baby rabbits. We hunt easter eggs in the garden and eat outside again, enjoying the barely-warm-enough air. Life moves outside again: bikes, scooters, watering cans and toys lying haphazardly all ’round the yard and garden.

Summer: We see the return of the swallows. Hay is made. Friends and family gather in the garden for BBQs, filling mismatched chairs and picnic rugs. Butterflies throng the lanes, where the hedges are a riot of growth and colour, hanging heavily over the road. Before the children came, I used to spend time lazing in the hammock with a book, or looking up into the trees and watching the tits and finches go about their days. Since the children arrived, summer has meant following the tractors, hay thrown about in play, the splashes and laughter of the paddling pool, or sitting with toes buried in the sandpit. There are insects to inspect: ladybirds and grasshoppers, ants and moths, butterflies and bees. Jamie the dog lounges in sunny patches. The lavender I planted is the scent of summer, and now that my jasmine has grown a bit, we can smell that on the evening air too. Or in the lanes, there’s the sweetness of honeysuckle, accompanied with the contented hum of bees. Inside, the house is cool, a welcome break from hot days. We make smoothies and ice lollies and ice cream, the children stirring theirs into “milkshake” and drinking from the bowl.

Autumn: The most delicious time of the year. We watch the apples grow and find chestnuts and mushrooms on the floor. The acer turns a glorious red. We spot rainbows, play in mud, kick and collect the leaves. In the hedges, ferns are a red to gold ombre, like fire. The first bright, cold days feel delicious. The rayburn gets turned on again, and at first, there are some days when it’s too hot in the house, but soon it feels just-right-cosy as the weather becomes cooler. In the mornings, I take the dog out to the garden, with a steaming cup of tea in hand. When I’m working, I sit at the big old kitchen table and watch the robin on the wall outside. The blankets on the sofas are welcome in the evenings, and the chimney gets swept. The first fires in the old fireplace mark the new season beautifully.

This house has held us through many seasons. Time has flowed through and around this house just perfectly. Life’s comings and goings, celebrations, disappointments, the mundane and the glorious, the quiet moments and the noisy ones: all have had their place here, in their right times.

“Everything is beautiful in its time”. I truly believe this as I look back on our years here. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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