The Other Side of Hadrian’s Wall

Monday April 25, 2005

“When we’re settled again I’m going to spend our first year gathering material for a book,” I announced.

“I thought you said you were never going to write a book again.”

“Ah. Yes. But that was then. This will be another then, one we haven’t lived yet.”

“That’s obvious. So obvious it’s hardly worth saying and when you say it, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“True. And that’s something you can say about most books. I don’t suppose mine will be any different.”

“Probably best not to try to be different. Just aim at funny. What’s it going to be called, then?”

“I don’t choose titles until I’ve finished writing the piece. Or got really close to finished.”

“I can see that with poems and short pieces. A book might need one from the start, though, to act as an anchor while you’re slogging away at it.”

“That sounds as if you’ve been reading a ‘How to Write’ book.”

“So?”

“Oh,” I said, giving in, or giving up, if it pleases you better. “How does ‘Two Men and a Cat’ sound?”

“Not bad. You can always change it later.”

I refrained from pointing out that changing it at the end isn’t too much different from my normal approach and we finished our morning coffee over a good, warm feeling of having reached a satisfactory, mutually acceptable resolution to the debate. That is, he thought he’d won, and I knew that I had.

Later in the day, much later in the day, I heard a howl of delight from the second bedroom, where Graham keeps his computer. Bored with website work, I clicked on ‘save’, and wandered in to see what was pleasing him so much.

“What’s up, doc?” I asked, with no originality at all.

“I do believe I’ve found our new house.”

“Really? Show me.”

He gestured me to his screen where was displayed a really rather lovely timber house, plainly North American in design, of the sensible family house kind that was popular in Canada and the States in the mid to late 40s. Set in a beautiful, forested garden of about 3/4 of an acre, it glowed in the sun, just waiting to be loved and restored to full glory.

“Whereabouts is it?”

“Northumberland.”

“Oh. Didn’t know you were looking at Northumberland.”

“I’m sure I mentioned it.”

“Not to worry. Have you looked at the details?”

“No. You have to register to get them and McAfee won’t let their cookie through. How’s about I send the URL to you and you can do it.”

“Fine. It does look rather splendid, though, and the price is right. Shame we can’t go see it and put an offer in.”

“We can’t put an offer in, but there’s nothing to stop us going to see it, is there?”

“Nope. It’s only a day trip. A long day trip, but certainly do-able.”

“There you are, then.”

Soon enough I pulled up the website with the house details on my computer which is protected by Norton and rather more amenable to commercial cookies than Graham’s. It really is a wonderful house and, while dilapidated, would suit us and our purpose nicely. I zapped off an appreciative email to the estate agent, saying we’re interested but can’t offer until our house is properly on the market and nearing a sale. I went on to ask him to keep us in mind for this and similar properties, and to send printed details of this one.

“We’ll never get it,” I said, “but there’s no harm in expressing an interest.”

“Never say never.”

“I know. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s not Scotland, of course.”

“Near enough. It’s the other side of Hadrian’s Wall.”

“There you are, you see. I told you it’s best to leave the choice of title until you’re nearly done.”

“How do you mean?”

“You just gave me the title for today’s piece. ‘The Other Side of Hadrian’s Wall.'”

“Clever clogs.”

“Bad loser…”

 

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