I started writing a story here yesterday which had been in my mind for some time. I’m not quite sure where it’s going but I think it’s going to be a long short story, not a novel. It started with a couple taking a break from renovating the old house they had bought, and the as yet unnamed woman thinking back to how she and her partner Lol had discovered the old place while out on a bike ride. Through some unexplained good fortune they are able to buy the dilapidated house and have taken time out from their work to rebuild it.
We had worked like over excited maniacs from the moment we moved in, doing what we could before we needed to get in some professional help. The old part of the house, the deeds suggested, went back to the 1500’s but a local history book we had found suggested it was much older. We realised we would never be able to do anything with the stone shell, the floors and roof gone, most of the windows gaping holes, but the more modern front which had been lived in up until recently was within our abilities and our budget. When i say the modern front part, I mean at least three hundred years old. And when i say had been lived in recently,I mean the 1970’s. There were sound floor boards, mostly sound staircases, rotten window frames, some with the panes broken or missing, and an old range in the kitchen at the side – the west wing as we called it, which still worked. It had been rewired since the war, and the lights worked and so did most of the sockets, although we’d had one explosive incident when we plugged in a lamp. Parts of it were uninhabitable really, so we lived in the kitchen and the room next to it which would be the dining room when we finished, and one bedroom upstairs. Another room downstairs and another bedroom upstairs, were full of our stuff, most of our furniture was out in what would one day be a garage, but was more like a derelict barn now.
So we took a break from working on the house. It was going to be a much bigger undertaking than we had realised in our naive enthusiasm and over-excitement. We didn’t just stop for a coffee, we cleared stuff up – at that point we were working in an organised way – and went and sat on the old bench at the front looking over what would be a lawn but was now just a tufted meadow. We reminisced about how we had first found our house on that spring bike ride, and Lol had climbed over the wall and I had followed, and we’d walked up what would be the drive and rounded the small clump of trees and there was the house, settled snuggly in the warm April sun, just waiting for us. The farmhouse part was still roofed and the slates were mantled in golden lichen. At the back, like a big brother, were the broken walls and partly roofed old house, a manor we thought, maybe, perhaps….
Lol had made a small picnic which we would eat somewhere ‘inn the grounds’ as we called the couple of acres belonging to us, walled all around. Most of the wall was broken down, but we were so far from anywhere, and if some stranger clambered over and wandered about, admiring our old place,, well, that was ok, that was cool. To be honest, apart from walking round the inside of the old walls, we hadn’t explored much at all. I think we were over-optimistic of our abilities and interest, but we imagined clearing the scrub, getting rid of the brambles, making lawns and a wild area, maybe a pond, woodland walks, wild flower meadows… There were a few old sheds and shacks, one full of rusting implements, one full of wood which appeared to be rotting, none would ever be of any use, too broken, too damp, too much trouble to restore.
I don’t think we had been to this part before, or maybe if we had I’d been busy going on about something, some wild and improbable idea, and didn’t notice the –
“”Hey, Jess – there’s a building!” Lol exclaimed. I looked around but couldn’t see any building until he pointed at a mountain of brambles, ivy and vines. I looked again, and could see the grey of stone beneath the domed lump.
“Maybe it’s an ice house!” I exclaimed not really knowing what an ice house was and thinking it would be an actual building.”
“More like a folly or summer house! Wow, this would be amazing, we could sit out here and write and paint, we could have dinner by candlelight,”
I followed him round the camouflaged building and could see that there seemed to be a stone veranda, like a skeleton beneath a green mantle of vegetation, thick with brambles, woven through with bell-vine and honeysuckle and old man’s beard . This would take a professional to clear, whatever was beneath was hidden, swamped with matted intertwiningtendrils