The young man stood on the moss which covered the path to his new home. It felt supportive and warm. This whole experience felt warm and safe. After months of negotiating and double checking and signing and organising people, now he felt truly safe. Maybe the house was in dire need of upgrading but it was HIS and that felt good. He walked towards the front door – once green – now a greenish grey – and located the lock. Shivers went down his spine. He had never been this independent before. He had never been this alone before. The house was his, the garden was his, but there was so much to be done, and it had to be done well. The house, like a delinquent, needed to be put back on the straight and narrow. The man was safely home however, and all the time ahead was there for him to draw out the qualities of this, his castle.
Inside, the house oozed a welcome, the smell of old cottages from his childhood. Fancy gave up images of Mrs. Burgess, Mrs. Kitson and Mr. Needham – all recipients of the church magazine when he was a lad and stayed with his grandparents, going along with his granny to deliver them. The houses all had the same odour. It was not unpleasant, it was simply the friendly smell of an old person’s cottage. Old fashioned sweets such as mint humbugs lived there too – in cupboards with wobbly handles. Note to self – have a glass jar of favourite bonbons installed in the first bespoke cupboard. The young man wandered through the house. It didn’t take long. It was a small property. He pictured each room as he hoped it would be when he had finished dreaming, plastering, sawing, painting, plumbing and all the other labours of love. Yes he loved this place. Maybe he had not been lucky in love in other ways but here was the apple of his eye. This was something which couldn’t sear through his heart, leaving him adrift and wishing for physical pain rather than that emotional torture which comes with rejection. Here was something in his life into which he was able to pour himself without fear. Perhaps, he wondered, that is why I want to bring this place back to its true beginnings – to allow a secure development of all its characteristics. A relationship which would be sympathetic and mutually rewarding.
All of this thinking led him out once more into the garden. Wasn’t this the very thing which drew him here in the first place? Remembering the day he had driven past to pay homage to those wonderful acquaintances from his childhood, not the friends at school or the neighbours he knew so well, but the people who lived hereabouts close to his grandparents, he felt a sense of relief that he had put himself in the same frame. This house was not one of their homes – it belonged to someone he did not know – someone with whom his grandparents were only on nodding terms – but it was a part of the hamlet he had loved so much. He himself was in the frame now. The garden had cried out an anguished cry when he had driven by ten months ago. He wanted to weep at the dereliction – felt the same way himself. But something could be done for both of them. He would install himself and make amends for all the neglect of previous owners.
An outgrown rose struggled to garnish the coal shed. Growing up through it was a cotoneaster with no discipline at all. Along the front of the house foxgloves had shaken their seeds amongst mildewed lupins and marguerites. All of these provoked memories of childhood – how long it had been since he had spoken their names – and wonderful afternoons in the garden of his grandparents, sipping lemon barley water as if it were the best thing on God’s earth – put there just for thirsty children with grubby knees and sweaty hair.
A holly grew in one corner of the garden. It was one of those variegated hollies which light up a corner. Alongside it was a hawthorn, quite small and new, not in a hurry to get anywhere. The man considered this a moment and decided that it would grow with him through the days and years to come. It would stay, in fact much of what is here now will stay, he thought. Tweaking is what is needed, the house and I, we don’t need changing, we just need tweaking. We have much to offer, the both of us. As he went to the car for his starter box – something which had given him great pleasure in preparing – he felt again the cushion of moss. Then his foot caught against something. Bending down to see what it was, he felt a strange humility. It was as if he had been given membership of an exclusive group. Picking up the object, he noticed, warmed by the glass, a cluster of fumitory, giving a dusty pink glow to its foliage. This took him back to those summers when his grandfather would tell him that you never turf out a plant until you know what it is and that to leave it in place would be a bad thing for the others around it. Fumitory was one such plant used as an example. See its delicate beauty. It might be the forest of the fairyfolk. Then the young man looked at the glass in his hand. A smile crept over his face, even though there was no one there to share it, for in his hand was the lid to an old sweetie jar, complete with glass knob and ground rim.
“We can do this,” he said to the house as he carried in his box.