The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Caught in a time warp

spare bedroom windowFor the last three weeks I’ve been working in an empty house that overlooks the back of a little house that I owned and lived in sixteen years ago. I’ve peeked out at it every day and wondered why the curtains in the spare room never moved. Today I had to park in front of my old house and a sign informed me that it had just been let. This evening, when I returned to my car, I spotted that the lights were on in the house.

Jalopy’s locks were frozen, so whilst I heated the key with my lighter, I peeped inside. The glass porch door was closed but the front door was open. There was the little black Victorian fireplace that I installed in the sitting room and the mantelpiece that I made out of bits and bobs from the local architectural salvage merchants in Granta Park, before it became fashionably pricey.

I loved this little house. Just a standard Victorian two up two down with a bathroom extension at the back. But here was the handkerchief garden that initiated the gardening bug for me. I’ve noticed that the clematis that I planted is doing well and flopping over the fence into the garden next door.

I spent hours in the evenings ╦ťimproving’ the house. Initially it had an open cowboy style staircase running up from the kitchen. I boxed this in with tongue and groove and painted this white. Suddenly I had both cured the draughts and created a cupboard under the stairs. I was a toymaker then and the workshop machinery came in handy. The house had seventies style plain doors and I spent ages putting beading on them to make them look like panelled doors.

This was the first house ever that I really enjoyed living in. It was tiny, cosy and manageable. The house was cleaned in well under an hour. I could weed the entire back garden in 30minutes. There was a border at the front that got a bit wild as far as I can remember. I was living alone at the time but never felt lonely there with my dog and two cats.

Tonight, I sat in the car with all power blazing waiting for Jalopy’s windscreen to unfreeze. She tends to freeze inside and out on a bitterly cold night like tonight. From the comfort of her chilly front seat I took another peep. The kitchen door was open and I was so pleased to see that the tongue and groove was still there, and freshly painted to boot.

It was a strange, dreamlike experience. Looking through the window of a house that had meant so much to me. Feeling a pang for the past I let my mind drift back. Suddenly a dark figure loomed inside the house, switched off the lights and locked up. The show was over.


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