It is Thursday evening, around half past six and, after a good couple of hours of cleaning, scrubbing, wiping and spraying, my house is beginning to look like a house again. In fact, probably for the first time it is beginning to feel like a home, and, coming up to my tenth year here, that is no bad thing. We are down to the final day or two of work on the new garden, needing only the one builder from here on. The planting plan arrived this afternoon and I am steeling myself for the final payments but, really, all is pretty much done. I sat on the decking outside the kitchen yesterday afternoon soaking in the atmosphere, doing nothing much, but it is much better for the soul to be doing nothing outside.
Make no mistake, this has been a large project, and long time readers of this blog will have realised by now that I have gone through this experience more than once, but, my word, the end result is fantastic. Our builders managed to dispose of forty (4-0!) tonnes of concrete and then bring ten tonnes of soil back in the opposite direction, and the result is simply wonderful. As I sit downstairs, surfaces newly and more or less completely free of dirt and grime, it feels as though I am reclaiming my house, but that said house has extended all the way to the end of the garden, an area which previously was simply depressing.
About fifteen years ago, on my summer holidays in Sardinia, I went through a phase of getting up early, sitting outside with manuscript and breakfast and getting some writing done before the day began, and it is very much a habit I would like to resurrect this year. My garret is superb, no doubt, but, as of tomorrow, it may well become my second favourite place for work, my winter quarters.
It is a reflective couple of days as well, for I played for a memorial service today whose subject died relatively young, and tomorrow I intend to go to the funeral of a former colleague who should really have had another thirty years or so ahead of him. He was a lovely chap as well, enormously enthusiastic about music and life, open and supportive, and his death has come as a complete surprise to all who knew him.
I had always known that when I turned forty I would pull back on the throttle and live my life more the way I wanted to – writing more, working slightly less, and emphasising quality over quantity. The garden, despite having run significantly over time and massively over budget, represents an investment in my future happiness and also, of course, that of my partner. This afternoon, as I wiped down the surfaces downstairs and vacuumed into all those forgotten nooks and crannies and she watered our nascent lawn I allowed myself a little internal moment of satisfaction. Yes, I thought, I could write happily here.