Hairy House

Hairy House

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Is This the Real Life? Or Just a Fantasy?

The thing about living in the English countryside, is that, most of the time, it can feel as though you are living in the pages of a book or some such fantasy. At least, that's what it feels like to me, anyway.
In the mornings, when I take the dog for a walk, it is pitch black, the lane out of the village often shrouded with mist, the hedgerows a looming dark mass on either side. The birds are just starting to stir, their anxious twitterings blown through the air by the wind, rattling and sushing the branches; if there is a moon, it is enveloped by shredded silver clouds. If a Woman in White were to step out into my path, or a Baskervillian hound were to start baying from the undergrowth, I don't think I'd bat an eyelid. (Then I come home, walk through the back door and am hit by a barrage of “Mum, where's my tie? Mum, did you put a wash on, I need my sports kit for today! Mum, someone's used up all the hot water and I haven't had my shower yet! Mum, there's no muesli left.” And I wonder if Arthur Conan Doyle or Wilkie Collins ever had mornings like that.)
Then there are the mornings when the frost is thick as snow on every twig and branch, when the fields are cloaked in a thick white mist and you know that the Snow Queen is out there somewhere, casting an icy and cynical eye over the landscape. (and you threaten to ground any child who even thinks of giving a rendition of the world's worst fart song.) When (and if) the sun comes out, firing the frost into a rosy, golden sparkling, you feel like Cinderella at the end of the ball, realising that dreams may come true after all!
When the fields are covered with snow, each branch of every tree painted with a line of white, you are back in the land of Narnia, looking out for lampposts and wardrobe doors; walking through the village, seeing the thick white icing on the roofs of thatched cottages, on the gravestones of the churchyard, along the old stone walls, you have to blink, and stare again to remind yourself that yes, this is where you live, you haven't just been eaten by a Christmas card.
The other afternoon, as I was walking back down the lane, the sun was slanting over the fields from a pink, rain-washed sky, making Bonnie's purple hedgehog ball ($3 from Pets at Home) shine with a golden, translucent splendour, turning the asphalt into a shining lavender ribbon winding down towards the village and I found myself watching for the Highwayman to come riding, riding, riding....
During the Spring, walking around amongst the cottage gardens, bursting with daffodils and spring roses and buttercups and tulips, I am back in the world of Hilda Boswell, amongst her Little Bo Peeps and her catkins, the Contrary Marys, the fairies and little folk (if you don't know what I'm talking about then GOOGLE)
Come summer, it's all Cider and Rosy, and, if I squint as I walk over the fields, I can see Oswald of the WouldbeGoods setting out on some disastrous mission, gingerbeer and fruit cake on board. Walking in the grounds of Stowe, I am in constant expectation of bumping into Mr Darcy or Mr Bingley, or of maybe overhearing Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Elliot comparing notes as they stroll through the grounds.
And you know, it's all so FAMILIAR. To this person who spent most of her childhood amongst the hot blue skies and red earth, the emerald bush and golden, singing grasses of Africa, or the dry silent grandeur of the desert, I feel more at home here than I had ever expected. Yes, I know I spent some time in England before, but mostly in deepest suburbia. This familiarity comes mainly from the pages of books, from stories written mostly in the 19th and 20th century – and, whatever people might say and in spite of all we humans are doing to destroy it all - it's still all there! 
Unbelievably and beautifully, still there.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

If I was Prime Minister

The main trouble with this country - with the world, actually, is the fact that nobody asks me when they make the big decisions.

For instance, we have now hit January and all my friends in Australia, are currently frolicking in their swimming pools, lying on the beach, having barbeques and generally enjoying their extended summer holidays. (As I said in my last post, I am not at all jealous).

Everybody knows that January and February are the worst possible months in England. However mild it may have been in December, one can bet one's last pound that the temperture will drop several degrees came January. Everybody gets sick, so that the whole of life is lived to a backdrop of sneezing and coughing and snorting and wheezing, like some sort of Lutoslawski symphony and people walk around with drooping, glaze-eyed stares. It is still pitch dark in the mornings and the roads are filmed with a thin coating of treacherous ice. It's not much fun, but of course, being British, we have to torture ourselves further. We rush back to work as soon as the New Year is over, rush back to the gyms, there are calls put out for "dry January" and everybody becomes obsessed with their diets.

Now here is my solution to the problem. Henceforth, I suggest that we all stockpile sticky toffee pudding and red wine - and yes, maybe the occasional lettuce leaf - and turn January into Hibernation Month. This is how it would work. We would all stay at home, sleep, read, eat. On nice crisp days like this morning, we would take our dogs for walks to keep fittish, (because of course we would all have dogs in a world governed by me) and then we would marvel at the glint and sparkle of the frost on the grass, wonder at the bare branches of the trees, washed clean and golden in the low winter sunlight. Then we would go home and drink red wine and eat hot sticky pudding.

In Spring we would all emerge, with the blossom, fresh and rested, raring to bloom anew. Productivity would surely go up as a nation, we would all be filled with generosity and kindness of spirit towards our fellow man. "Bomb Syria? No, let's invite them to tea instead." 

I'm sure the world would be a better place.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Happy New Year!

The start of this year has been a pretty horrible one for reasons that I don't want to go into. Suffice to say that we are all healthy in the grand scheme of things, for which I am very grateful, but I suspect that, for my extended family, 2016 it is not all going to be fun and games.
I am now sitting here with a head stuffed full of snot and other gunk, it is cold and grey and rainy outside and I am thinking, with no trace of jealousy, honest guv, of all my friends in Oz - frolicking in their pools or at the beach, or camping in the bush, 'neath brilliant blue skies, serenaded by the screeching of cockatoos, the cackling of crows, the chirruping of lorikeets, the whistling of butcher birds. I can't remember the last time I put any sun screen on, let's put it that way...

However. Because, there is always a however, as you know. There is a programme on British television, which I sometimes catch in the gym, (I would hate you to think that I watch daytime TV otherwise!) about people who emigrate to Australia, which I watch with a mixture of frustration and interest. I will never regret going to Oz and will always consider myself an Ozian - I lived there for longer than I have ever lived anywhere else, after all. I have eaten vegemite and know how to pronounce yoghurt properly. I get teary when listening to the Quantas ad and Waltzing Matilda. But when I see people who go there for a week, are seduced by the beach, the big houses and swimming pools, I want to scream at them! There are a lot of wonderful things about Australia, not least Moreton Bay Bugs, but if you are thinking of going just for the above mentioned seductions, as so many of these people seem to be, then for heaven's sake think again! Because after a few years, when you find that you are either working all the hours to pay for a cleaner to clean that lovely big house, or you are working all hours to keep that lovely big house clean yourself; when you find that actually you have only had the time to go to the beach once in a whole year (because of time spent working and cleaning big house); when you realise that you either cut yourself off from your family back home, or spend all your holidays and all your money (that isn't spent on keeping big house and pool in working order!) on traumatic family trips back to the UK; when you realise that, actually, you miss walking down cobble stone streets, the sight of tiny crooked houses, sagging under the history of several centuries, the scent of old stone and moss covered corners; when you realise that the knowledge of all these things are hanging heavy on your shoulders - then surfing and a "Lifestyle"existence are not going to seem so important, any more.

But here's another but and however - and one of the main reasons that we came back here to England. I realise that I have an over active guilt gland and that coming back did not change anything, but still...why is it, that, if you fancy a bit of the surf lifestyle, if you think that you will be able to get a better paid job, or give your kids a slightly better chance in life, all you have to do is fill in a few forms and buy a plane ticket and you will be welcomed into Australia with open arms - whilst, if you are fleeing from persecution, you are desperate to protect your children from rape and pillage, you will be incarcerated and treated worse than a common criminal?

Happy New Year! 

PS I know that we in England are hardly better at treating refugees, but it was more than we could cope with to carry the weight of guilt for two countries. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016


Hi All,

Just had a piece published by Litro Magazine, head over that way if you'd like to read it!

And feel free to let me know what you thought, just so long as it's nice things!