It is strange how a chain of thought can trigger events. Life in Suffolk these last few years has been punctuated by regular trips along the A14 to visit my partner's father in Staffordshire, and we have always meant to stop off one day and visit the Manor House at Hemingford Grey, the setting for Lucy Boston's Green Knowe children's stories and one of the most romantic place names I have ever come across, but time pressures have always intervened. I recently came across a reference to the Manor and the Green Knowe books when reading Elizabeth's blog post recently about the delights of her wood burning stove and comfort reading at Welsh Hills Again which struck a chord. So it was that yesterday afternoon, a beautiful, cold, sunny early Spring day this particular wish was granted. Our trips cross-country have ended this week as the family gathered on Monday to say goodbye to John, who celebrated his 98th birthday only three short weeks ago. A local legend, he was still driving, swimming and taking regular walks until last September and will be much missed. The end of an era for his family. But after the tears and the laughter, the reunions and reminiscences and so very many cups of tea, we set out once more to our Suffolk home and, this time, we had time and I am so glad we did. We parked the car in the pretty village street and walked a short distance along the banks of the River Ouse, opened the gate into the Manor garden and walked down the path between the clipped yew hedges towards this beautiful house, Green Knowe the oldest continuously occupied house in England and every bit as enchanting as I had hoped. The house is only open by prior arrangement or for special events, but the garden was open and, having been greeted by the owner, we had it all to ourselves and spent a happy hour exploring, admiring the intense vivid blue carpet of chionodoxa intermingled with late snowdrops, winter aconites, primroses and hellebores. Lovely even at this time of the year, it will be stunning in the summer when the roses are out and we must visit again, many more times I hope. And what a wonderful place to come and remember John as now this place will always be associated with him in our hearts. Rest in Peace.
I can always count on the dog to be on her worst behaviour when the stakes are high! And the stakes are high right now. We have exhausted ourselves this past week, bringing the house and garden to near perfection in time for the photographer and I was so pleased with my matching pots of carefully nurtured tulip bulbs by the French doors in the courtyard garden, and looking forward to seeing them burst into glorious flower. They have been growing in the courtyard for weeks and the dog has totally ignored them up to now, but yesterday, sensing change and tension in the air, she totally vandalised one of the pots, ate the tulip heads and some of the bulbs, discarding the leaves: debris and compost strewn everywhere. She was very apologetic and chastened after a serious ticking off and confinement to the kitchen for a couple of hours, where she can do no harm.
We are putting our lovely house on the market after 5 years and much indecision. This is a beautiful house and we love the village, the surrounding countryside and coast, but it's not my home. I have no roots here, no real reason for being in this place, especially now the boat is in the Baltic for the foreseeable future and the sailing was a big reason for moving up here.
We have been debating this issue for quite some time and failed to find a resolution, but things have crystallised now, following the sudden death of an old friend in Kent and the subsequent fallout, and I realised that most of the people who really mean something to me, who are part of my history and my family's history live in Kent and that I need to let go of what we have here and go where my heart is, where I have some good friends, people I can really share with. Meeting new people, making new friends is healthy, but I need my old friends too, the ones I spent so many years forging bonds with, sharing dramas, school runs and stroppy teenagers. People whose children I have known since they were tiny and who know mine.
So the house goes on the market next week and my remaining tulip pot has been moved to a more secure spot to be jealously guarded from the attentions of my naughty Labrador!