Painting of the old house and garden painted by Tom when he was about 14, now hanging in the new house
Quite a bit has happened since I last blogged sporadically, and lots since I blogged regularly.
The biggest change was leaving the house near Windsor where we had lived for nearly twenty years. Apart from our first, small house in Hersham where I grew tomatoes in the porch and parrot tulips in the tiny garden, and the lovely family house we rented in Belgium where I grew vegetables in gro-bags, made enough redcurrant jelly to feed a sweet-toothed army, and swept up glitter and cereal and looked after three very small children, I have never been so attached to a place as I was to this one. It was a real home as opposed to somewhere to live, which is why is was part and parcel of all the books I wrote while we were there.
The house was draughty, difficult to heat, and could have done with a lot of money being spent on it. But it was also architecturally lovely - Arts and Crafts meets 1930s - colourful, comfortable and, above all, a family home. It was full of books, quilts, as many flowers as I could afford/pick, comfortable settees, and all the stuff belonging to five people. It was never wholly tidy, but bread was baked, meals cooked, homework done, books written, and a huge amount of growing up took place there. There was a big, shaggy garden with a long, old-fashioned washing line, masses of tulips and daffodils in spring, and a riot of weeds in summer. Together, the house and garden were an unexpected gem in an unprepossessing area, and it was a lovely place for all of us.
But when the children left, things changed. Not gradually or over time, because they are so close in age, but more quickly than I had anticipated. I knew almost immediately that I wanted - needed - to move to somewhere new, to a different type of house for a different time of life. But the attachment to the old house was so strong that it took nearly five years from the time Tom left to go to university to selling. I look back and think it was nonsense to imagine I'd miss my pink kitchen so badly that it could prevent me from moving, but when a place becomes so embedded in your psyche (all those meals, conversations, bottles of wine, cakes...) it is hard to divest yourself of it.
In the end, the decision to move was made for me. Simon unexpectedly got a new job (after retiring for all of four months) which meant we could move to Cambridge. That was on December 22nd (2016) and by December 27th we'd found our new house and had our offer accepted. The next three months were spent clearing out and throwing away and it felt so good (I discovered that I'm not that attached to many material things). We left with a much pared-down set of belongings, but still too many books. The attachment to the old place was ruptured quite suddenly and brutally, but in the end it was the best way. We moved out, moved on, and I have not had a single moment's regret. Besides, it's been so good to create a new home and a new attachment.