My response to Irishman’s ‘I could live here’ was played very carefully. Inside I was bursting with excitement. What had it taken to change his mind so quickly? He’s not one to bow to pressure so easily. I was expecting it to take at least a month to wear him down, to get him to agree to my new plan. By my reckoning it had taken just a nine hour car ride, a good dinner, a scenic car ride and a trip to a beach; already he was putty in my hands. How terribly, terribly, clever I must be I thought smugly to myself. The trouble is ‘I could live here’ and actually finding somewhere affordable and lovely to live are two separate things. I’d one small victory up my sleeve but there was still a mountain to climb in terms of making it actually happen.
My original plan of campaign had been to spend four nights at the Chinese laundry and the last three nights somewhere in Asturias. Asturias was also a possibility re The Change Of Plan. The entire week had been meticulously planned with various meetings with estate agents and viewings. I think we had about ten houses that we were going to see. Now that Irishman seemed genuinely quite keen on the idea of relocating to the north, I started to worry that maybe I’d jumped the gun a bit in terms of looking at houses before we’d even put our own on the market. Still, we were up here now and we were about to visit our first house.
I shall never forget my first impressions of the Red House. We left the country road and turned down a narrow lane surrounded by forests and fields. It was like going back in time. We passed a woman herding her cows wearing a smock and straw hat. Her skirt was held up with baling string. I liked her style A Lot. The cows had bells round their necks. I’m an absolute sucker for things like that and the landscape was dotted with oranges, reds and yellows and gold from the autumn foliage. It was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. We drove on for another five minutes or so and then the tiny narrow lane through the forest diverged in to two, and we, we took the right one. Through the trees I could make out the back of the house. The setting was like something out of a children’s fairytale book.
We hadn’t even got out of the car and I was already, in my mind making an offer. It’s not the first time that this has happened to me. Years ago I had exactly the same feeling going down the bumpy track to Gillbeck Farm. I adored that house and I had exactly the same instinct for this one. The estate agent grappled with a bunch of keys and eventually managed to get the door open. Irishman held the door open for me and I stepped inside. I was smitten. I remember turning round to him and saying ‘Welcome Home’ and that was that, we both instantaneously knew that this was the One.
The house had been empty for over fifty years. It had been on the market for over a decade. Aside from one water tap, and the most basic electrics (one plug socket, two light bulbs) that’s as far as modernisation had gone. I squealed with delight! Upstairs was a little more modern. The walls in the bedroom area had been plastered and there was one large bedroom and two small ones all adjoined to each other. It was like looking back in to the past. We walked round trying to figure out what lead to where, it was mostly animal living quarters and just the kitchen area with the bedrooms above. My mind was in overdrive, I already had an idea of what I’d like to do, where I’d like to put things, what I’d like to grow in the garden. Irishman was a little more sanguine, I knew that as always he’d be thinking about money. He’d had bats flying around him while he went to investigate the barn for studio space. I was fantasising about what I’d do with this room, that room, where I’d put this, where I’d put that. It was utterly ridiculous allowing myself this fantasy but sometimes good sense doesn’t come in to it.
In my excitement, I’d forgotten that there were also fields with the house. Four and half acres, not exactly Southfork but certainly enough to have some livestock and certainly some chickens.
and a fabulous Hórreo, granary.
We must have spent over an hour at the house, both of us lost in our thoughts. I was so happy to have found a house like this I couldn’t bear to think that we might not be able to buy it. I thought that the best thing to do would be to talk to the estate agent and be totally honest with him about our situation. Hearing that we hadn’t even got our own house on the market probably wasn’t going to inspire him with much confidence but if he knew that we were seriously interested then maybe, just maybe he’d bear with us while we worked out what to do. Irishman and I were going to have to do some serious thinking, we also needed a lot of luck on our side.
To be continued very soon…