With the help of Alex and Nicole we have cleared a lot of trees and bushes from the boundary of the property.
When I say “we” I really mean Alex and Nicole, with Nick acting as labourer and taking advantage of their expertise and advice. My gardening activities involved staying out the way and providing tea and cake!
Too many trees had been planted too close together which meant that many of them were not growing properly as they had no room to breathe and develop as they should. We also like the idea of a more open appearance – we can see more of the view, and passers by can see more of us – the property no longer looks unloved but looks very much loved and lived in.
The result of all this garden work produced several large piles of twigs and branches – too many to either pile up on the compost heap or to take to the tip. The perfect opportunity for a bonfire.
Nick piled the wood on top of an old, worm eaten sideboard that had been left behind in the barn. Neither of us have had a bonfire for decades. We both had fond memories of family bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night as children, but lately any bonfires we encountered were at large, organised events. We waited for the right kind of weather – no wind, no rain – and hoped we could get it right.
It’s funny how something so simple can conjure up unexpected memories from the depths of our experience and as I looked at our bonfire I was reminded of a picture in one of my childhood story books. I remembered very clearly the scene of a bonfire in the garden of a large house. One of those very solid middle class houses with bay windows, stone paths and pretty gates. Two adults and three children of various sizes were wrapped up against the autumn chill and were helping the gardener to collect leaves and wood for the bonfire, which was large and burning strongly. You could tell he was the gardener by the way he was dressed in cloth cap, boots and trousers held up with braces, hurling branches into the fire – in contrast to the figure who was obviously the father of the family, dressed smartly in overcoat and scarf, casually leaning on a wall with a pipe in his hand. I can remember feeling envious of the family in the story, having such a lovely big house and garden, compared to the small semi detached council house that we lived in ourselves.
Our bonfire was soon fully alight and burned steadily while we fed it with cuttings for the next hour or so. I was amazed that we managed to burn so much damp wood. It all disappeared and the next morning there was just a small pile of ash, still smouldering gently in the frosty air.
Another job we tackled this weekend was to empty the middle room upstairs in preparation for the creation of a new floor. We haven’t yet come up with a name for this room. In many longères it would be a bedroom, even though you have to walk through it to the next room which really is a bedroom.
It was the upstairs space in the house that helped to sell it to us. At one end of the house is a huge master bedroom. At the other end is a bathroom, this room and a decent sized bedroom. The previous owners called this end the “guest suite” and this middle room was furnished with a sofa, bookcases and a large dresser – which we bought from them. We intend to use it as a study/workroom/craft room and we use a variety of terms for it. Sometimes we call it the study, other times the middle room or library. Some would think of it as a dressing room, being joined on to the small bedroom by just an opening without a door.
In any case, whatever you might call it, the floor has a ridiculous slope. There is a height difference of about 10cm over the length of the room and it also slopes about half as much front to back.
At first we thought it was just one of the quirky features of an old house and that we could live with it, but when we got fed up with trying to level bookcases and found it difficult to sit up straight on a chair, we decided to do something about it. We are going to have a new floor built on top of the old one. It will sit on top of the existing floor at one end and on batons at the other end to get the level right. We will end up with a step down in the doorway onto the landing but this will match the step at the other end of the landing into the big bedroom, so that’s fine.
Ever helpful and incredibly nosey, Daisy was on hand to help with the clearing of the room at every stage!