A lifting of the spirits

Thursday June 1, 2006

To Bridgwater in sparkling sunshine, mostly for provisions but also so I could take my first solo drive past the new house.

A house and its location will often feel different when you see it on your own, and always when you see it in sunshine rather than rain. I pulled in to the kerb for a moment, the better to build an impression, and was delighted to find that I still like the house and, even more, the idea of living in it. Mind you, I can’t wait to get to grips with the front garden.

A typical town house patch, perhaps twenty feet square, fenced with iron railings, it just cries out for a little bit of landscaping and a lot of planting. Currently, it’s a sterile waste of builder’s gravel with a straight path from the gate to the door and a few small pots of sad little plants on the verge of extinction. If we manage to secure the house I shall remove much if not all of the gravel, establish beds, and get cracking on planting it up so as to establish a nice little green haven. Virginia creeper [I don’t think a wisteria would do well there] for the front of the house, I think, to soften the stern brick outlines. With a bit of luck, a lot of muck, and an average amount of Autumn and Winter rainfall, it’ll look so different this time next year that it’ll be hard to recognize it as the same house.

Cost? About £500, I reckon. Impact on house equity? An increase in the region of £5,000. Impact on happiness? Impossible to measure; in that kind of situation the front garden is what you encounter first when you return from an outing and if it’s a pleasure to the eye you’re home and happy even before you open the door.

My vision for the front is pretty well established but I’ll need to live with the back garden for a while before coming to the same degree of certainty. My memory of it is of a dog-ruined patch of grass between timber fences, with a featureless paved patio close by the house. There isn’t even a path to the back gate. We’ve decided firmly that the grass will have to go and that a winding path will be needed; the likelihood is that we’ll decide to fill the remainder with small trees, shrubs and perennials, with a rose arbour three-quarters up the garden, and a vine-clad loggia over the left-hand side of the patio to shelter the french doors from the kitchen/diner. We can’t work out at this stage whether or not it’ll be a sunny garden and that’ll determine the kind of planting. If it’s really shady then roses might not be a good solution for the arbour. Exciting, huh?

It seems, from a letter today from the council up in Lincolnshire, that by moving out a few days before completion, leaving the little house by the fens empty and unoccupied, there will be a small exemption from Council Tax when the final bill is prepared, reducing our final account by £16.79. I was perhaps overly delighted at this; let’s face it, a reduction in a tax bill is always welcome. Graham didn’t see it that way.

“What a massive fortune!” he said, untypically filled with sarcasm. “What will you do with it?”

“Shift it into the garden fund of course. What would you expect me to do with it?”

“Yes. You’re right of course. Sorry.”

“Quite right, too.”

From the house I motored on to Sainsbury’s to pick up two day’s provisions and from thence straight back home, passing the end of the street leading to the new house. No distance at all, and this time I navigated the route without error.

A few yards from the house there’s an entrance to a maze of combined footpath and cycle-ways that’s going to be great fun. I suspect that there’s a connection to the town centre, which’ll be great, but I do know that there’s a direct connection to the Sustrans cycle network and in particular to the cycle-way that runs alongside the Bridgwater to Taunton canal. It’s rumoured to be some twenty miles in length, which I think might be an exaggeration but, certainly, a flat, easy-going, cycle-way of anything like that length, away from all motor traffic, is something to be treasured. I put my bike into storage, of course, but am determined to replace it with either a slightly less tall machine so that I can get on and off more safely, or with a trike. Graham has claimed the old one already for town and shopping trips, saying that it’s better for the purpose than his racing bike as well as being a great deal cheaper to replace should it be stolen.

So, filled with happy thoughts for the future, I returned home to the caravan in good time for our lunch and siesta. I confess that, after a full month, I’m beginning to find caravan life to be constrained and restrictive. With the cheap wisdom of hindsight, we could have done more to equip ourselves for the stay here. It’s a small caravan by residential trailer standards but it’s perfectly capable of being arranged much more effectively, to enable a comfortable life.

If we ever have to do this again I shall bring the nucleus of my reference and poetry library, and work harder to establish a proper Internet connection. There is a move in the mobile phone industry towards more affordable data charges which is likely to make a practical connection financially viable; hopefully that will work towards bringing the cost of mobile computing closer to the common man’s budget.

Meantime I’m making the most of the sea air and sunshine. The one encourages healthy, restful sleep, and the other lifts the spirits regardless of external concerns. Certainly, the national and international news is of a kind that is made more bearable by a lifting of the spirits.


Sea and sunshine
Taken from the cliffs by the caravan


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