Monday, October 12, 2009
I was drawn to the house we rent now because it looked lovely in the tiny, little thumbnail pictures I squinted at on the realtor’s website; that and the fact that they used the word stunning six times in the advert. It is a brick barn conversion that was built in 1742. It’s got bags of character (the kind that Americans lust after but many British are bemused by); fat beams overhead, wide, oak planks to trod on and exposed brick as far as my neat sweater set can snare.
But, I fell in love with it before I even crossed the threshold. As we drove up to the property, I told the relocation agent that I wanted this house no matter what the inside looked like. I was overjoyed to find, not only all the aforementioned character, but also (get this), an enormous kitchen. I was the first person to view the property and took it on the spot, not even giving my husband time to get to England and see his future home for himself.
The house is stunningly beautiful. We discovered, however during our first summer in England, that it is also stunningly cold. It occurred to me, back in July of 2008, when I called Jeff at work to ask him how to turn on the heat, that maybe a drafty, old barn had some downsides, but I pushed that thought out of my mind and put a coat on over my sweatshirt.
This past weekend, Jeff commented to me that he knew winter was coming because the butter that we keep on the counter overnight to soften, was still hard.
And did I mention that the house has a resident ghost? She’s truly lovely. Granny Cook is her name. I found out all about her after we moved in, from our neighbour Judy, who is also the village historian, and owns the farm house that is connected with our barn. Granny Cook is very helpful, finding stuffed toys that one of the twins has lost or a roll of duct tape I had been searching for, and she loves children (both mine and Judy’s, when her boys were young). She is no bother, rather comforting in fact, if you can get past the idea that she’s been dead for a couple of hundred years.
Two questions that are perfectly reasonable to ask when looking at property in England: 1) Should I expect to keep my down parka handy in the summer months, and 2) Are there other, less tangible tenants lingering about.
Saturday night, as I jumped into bed and hid under the covers (from the cold, not a ghost), Jeff said to me, ‘If you slip off even just one of those sweatshirts, you and I could heat up the bed ourselves...’ My teeth were chattering too rigorously to respond and I dozed off to sleep, the way people do when they die, trapped in an avalanche.
This morning, as I was scalding my body with the hottest water our shower could blast at me, I touched my nose and it was actually cold, as was any side of my body that was exposed to the frigid air, not being splashed with hot water. It was like taking an outdoor shower in the winter, except that I was in my carpeted bathroom in early October.
But no matter, I still love our house. Ghosts, iced windows, indoors breezes and all. I’ve got to go put on mittens now, my fingers are numb from typing.