Friday, 6 July 2007

A new beginning

What a difference a week makes. This time last week all hell had broken loose. Adrian was sitting in the estate agents while the removal men were sitting in the pub. Anguished calls were whizzing between agents and solicitors. All our worldly goods and chattels were in two removal trucks blocking the main road into town. Our buyer had, true to form and my darkest suspicions, b*******d up again. Somehow, between him and his inept solicitor, they hadn’t got his mortgage sorted properly and the money hadn’t come in on time. Adrian was, to put it mildly, stressed.

I, meanwhile, was sitting in a marquee several miles away, blissfully unaware of the ensuing drama. It was James’ speech day and I realised, for the first time, just where all our money was going. Forget any idea of smarter schools, better equipment, better teaching. Nope, send your child to an independent school and by heck you’re paying for posh tents, veritable gardens of flower arrangements and Terry Waite as the speaker.
‘How much d’you reckon they’re paying him?’ whispered my friend R (the mad but lovely Irishwoman who is not known for her tact).
‘Enough.’ I muttered.

I have to say though, however much it was, it was worth it for he was fabulous. The children of course had no real idea of who he was but the parents were riveted by his speech. I hadn’t heard the tale of how, after several years in prison, he had finally met a friendly guard who agreed to smuggle in an English book. Unfortunately neither he nor his accomplice spoke any English. Terry was overcome with excitement when the book was placed in his hands and could barely wait to rip off his blindfold (he had to put one on whenever anyone came into his cell). The door closed, he pulled it off and turned over the book: ‘A Manual of Breastfeeding.’ Can you imagine the disappointment?

The next one was Dr Spock’s Baby and Childcare and he realised, with horror, that the kindly soul getting the books was firmly stuck on the childcare shelf. Eventually he hit on a way to get over what he wanted. He drew a picture of a penguin. Now, he could have been REALLY unlucky and got the sex life of penguins but no – his ruse worked and the next book was Laurie Lee’s When I Walked out one Midsummer Morning (published, of course, by Penguin Books). The irony of the title wasn’t lost on him.

Most of the prizes were for older children and I was beginning to fidget a bit, desperate to get outside to switch on my mobile and find out if I had a home or not. But then, to my total delight, James’ name was read out – he had won the governor’s award for effort. Up he went, face like a poker, not a trace of emotion as he shook Terry Waite’s hand and took his prize. Then, as he walked back from the stage, he caught my eye and broke out into a huge beam and gave a double thumbs-up!

Outside, a superior cream tea was being served but I swerved off and called Adrian.
‘Er, it’s a bit sticky,’ he said, his voice sounding thin and taut. ‘The money hasn’t gone through on time. We’re waiting to hear if we can get in tonight. Oh, and our buyer is still fifteen hundred quid astray of the price.’
What???
I barely heard what people were saying to me. I ate an entire cream tea without even tasting it. No wonder I can't lose weight - and what a total waste to boot. Then the phone rang again and Adrian sounded like a different person.
‘It’s OK. We’re in! Come on home!’

It was mayhem of course. The removal men were clearly desperate to get out (well, it was a Friday evening) and we were desperate to get them out and so stuff was pretty much dumped wherever a space could be found for it. James discovered the fish pond and promptly named the fish Cheetah and Tiger. Jack bounded enthusiastically (he had bonded fast with the removal men who bizarrely didn’t seem to mind a small terrier hurtling round their ankles).

Then, suddenly, they were gone. We walked round our house in a daze. It felt wonderful. Never mind that you could barely see any of it for boxes. Never mind that the smell of damp rose up like a miasmic bog and that the downstairs loo was a botanist’s dream. Never mind that the floors listed wildly and that you could see daylight through the window frames. It might be a restoration nightmare but it was our restoration nightmare and we all loved it to bits. Funny thing but it felt ours immediately. It felt as if it simply shrugged off the old owners almost in an instant and opened its arms to us. It has the loveliest warmest feeling; a nurturing generous house. Not a single backwards glance, not one (Milla, you were so right – but then you usually are!).

We got the beds made up and decided that – as it was nearly 8pm – it was time to go to Woods in search of supper. We had a right royal welcome – the locals cheered when we went in and one of the old lushes nearly broke into tears he was so chuffed. ‘Well done, well done, well done,’ he kept repeating (I think he’ll go on saying it every time he sees us for the next few years actually). We tucked into steak rolls with onion marmalade and a huge bowl of home-made chips. I sank a few glasses of Beaujolais; Adrian a fair few pints of HSD and James overdosed on Fentiman's ginger beer. When we went to pay the bill, we were waved away…. ‘Oh, away with you!'

That night, as I tucked James up in bed, in his new room, I suddenly thought back to speech day (which already seemed months in the past) and said: ‘So, what was Terry Waite like?’
James thought about it a bit. ‘He was quite nice,’ he said, then wrinkled his nose a bit and waved his hand in front of it... ‘but he was a bit whiffy.’
I must have looked startled because he shook his head firmly.
‘But, Mum, it wasn’t his fault. He’s been in jail for five years, you know, and they didn’t have any baths. He couldn't help it.’

43 comments:

annakarenin said...

Great finish to a really wonderful blog. I am so glad it has all finally worked out for you and what a day to remember with James getting a prize. You must have been so chuffed. Home at last then.

ChrisH said...

Wonderful to have you back and on such good form. Lovely to hear all the news and very well done to James.

Pondside said...

New home. new community, new blog name! Welcome home!
Your welcome in the pub reminded me of a similar experience we had in a small German village on moving-in day. The people in the Gasthause were definitly waiting for us to appear and gave us the most wondeful welcome. We had a tiny baby and really wanted to take dinner home with us, so the owner packed everything, including his wife's best china and a bottle of his best, into a basket for us to take away.
I wish you and your fellows years of happiness in your new place!

countrymousie said...

What a wonderful blog - I feel the creative juices are flowing again and you are back on form.
Have a speech day tomorrow for God daughter - she has to make a speech herself being Head Girl!
James is right - Terry is Wiffy - he used to live near here for a while when he was released. I think its his beard and everything -just smells a bit unkempt and old manish!!
Good luck and every happiness in your new home. love mousie

toady said...

yO yO yO , Jane is back and right on form. I'm breathing deep sighs of relief for you. Hope you'll all be very hapy. Toady

elizabethm said...

great to know you are in and flourishing. so glad it all came out right in the end. now about that damp...
(our house is also damp but doesn't seem too much of a problem if you keep it warm and resist the urge to cover all the floors with fitted carpet.)

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I'm so pleased for you! A new home, a new start, new challenges etc. That's wonderful news about James, a great achievement for him to talk about for years to come and definitely something to put on his CV!

Wishing you lots and lots of luck, happiness and good wishes in your lovely new home.

Crystal xx

P.S. hope you get rid of the boxes soon!

FunkyMunky said...

Well done James. I hope you will all be very happy in your new home.

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Phew what a relief, may you have years of happines ahead in what is obviously already become your home...

Blossomcottage said...

You sound very relaxed and happy and well done James.
Wishing you all every happiness in your new home.
Blossom

Elizabethd said...

Wonderful! hope you will soon be sorted out, unopacked and settled in.

Faith said...

Oh Jane that's such a wonderful comforting blog, so glad you are in your new home and feel it IS home!

I remember reading something that Terry Waite wrote about Christmas when he was in prison. How he made a Host out of bread and waited until he felt it was time, and said prayers. It was so sad. It must have been wonderful hearing him speak. Breastfeeding book - brilliant. I bet he read it though, just to see words in English.

@themill said...

Classic Jane and wonderful comment from James. I bet you went to bed with a smile on your face.
Well done to James - speech day reminds me of a classic comment from a friend as we sat and applauded the procession of prize winners - out of the corner of her mouth, through gritted teeth, she muttered, 'Don't you just get sick of applauding other people's f*****g children.' I nearly choked trying not to laugh.
Happy home to you all.

MILLY said...

Best Wishes and Good Luck in your new home. It has actually happened.
Hope you will be very happy in Dulverton , the house sounds lovely and so do the people at the pub.
Milly x

Hopping Moon said...

So pleased to hear that you feel right at home - many blessings to you

mountainear said...

A lovely blog Jane, could feel the tension and see the chaos. Glad you've got there at last - can't wait to hear the next installment.

Wishing you well to live in it.

CAMILLA said...

Dear Jane,
I say, I love your new title, it has a certain "ring" about it, not that I did not like your other one.
Soooo pleased for you that you love your new home, just wonderful Jane, I wish you all lots of happiness there. Look forward to hearing all about it when you have managed to catch your breath from moving all the boxes. Will go and leave a message on Jame's page.
Camilla.xxx

Frances said...

Hello Jane,
A great weekend in your new spot awaits you. And all those lucky seven's will wrap themselves around you and yours!
xo

Grouse said...

Wonderful! You sound so happy! You will remember that day all your life.

We have a bit of a family tradition here to have some little snippet to amuse at dinner...my thanks to James - Terry and the books and jame's brilliant summary of the Great Man will be mine, tonight. Thank you, James!

bodran... said...

hoo jane i'm so pleased for you all it sounds lovely "damp un all" and what's that? a pub in walking distance...wow
Best of luck in your home i won't say new, as it's been yours since you saw it...xxxxoooooooooo. is it near devon???

Iota said...

Congratulations! You must be so relieved. And how interesting to hear Terry Waite speak.

rivergirlie said...

i've just worked out exactly how i found you. it was your comment on urban chick's post about tom's of maine products. you'de been drinking croze - at least that was your excuse for a couple of typos. i though - that's my kinda woman. and there you were !
glad you're in - what a cliff hanger though!

Terry said...

Somehow Jane your blog found its way to my spam folder and I have just read it and had a good laugh. Yes, I was a 'bit wiffy' as I was sweating in what was a rather hot tent. Also, just for the record, I didn't ask for payment and didn't receive payment for the event. I came down as I was invited by friends who had children at the school and I don't mind doing such things once or twice a year. Hope all is well with you and all best wishes.
Terry Waite

Preseli Mags said...

I was going to leave a comment along the lines of "wow" and "well done" and "congratulations" etc, but just read the comment above and now I'm speechless!

Exmoorjane said...

Well I'm mortified! Bright red face in Dulverton this morning.

Terry said...

Jane,
Absolutely no need for a red face! In my last remarks I forgot to send best wishes to James which I now do. Hope you all settle well in your new home. I am now off email for a week or so.
Terry Waite

@themill said...

Brilliant oh red faced one!!!!!!

Grouse said...

He really is charming isnt he? Well thanks again, Jane, James AND Terry.........for my second dinner snippet of the week!

countrymousie said...

He he he - that'll larn you to put a link!! as they say in Suffolk.

Cait O'Connor said...

Good Luck in your New Home Jane
Loved the Terry Waite story!
Caitx

sally's chateau said...

Mind boggling isn't it the internet !! Don't feel too bad he obviously took it with good humour,luckily. Oh yes, speech days it all came flooding back. x

The Country Craft Angel said...

Brillian blog, as ever!

So good to hear you so happy. Hey, whats a bit of damp. And well done James. Lovely stuff

warm wishes
xx

Pipany said...

Oh how wonderful Jane. I feel quite green with envy! A fabulous new start in your beautiful (well, it will be!) home and a fab blog to boot. Well done and enjoy xxx

Pondside said...

Oh dear. I don't think I'll be putting tags on my blogs.
Poor you - oh well, you seem to be taking it in stride, as did TW! You've given us all something to laugh about!

bodran... said...

What a Gent !xx

Eden said...

Oh lovely. That was just a joy to read. Soo glad about your move, could feel the tangible pleasure in your having finally arrived at your new home. Can't wait to hear more. and just loved James' take on Terry Waite. Priceless!

Suffolkmum said...

Just got back from holiday (fab) and so pleased to hear you're htere, and it all sounds so great and happy - and Terry Waite is my neighbour, by the way!!!! Small world!

DevonLife said...

Oh lordy Jane. Marvellous blog, lovely story. Was feeling fair teary eyed at James' pride. And then to see a comment from Terry Waite was a joy!

BTW have given you some space before I sent that thing I mentioned. Look out for a large tube coming in the post. Like a massive toilet roll tube, James will have some crafting fun with that am sure (but the insides are for you!)

PS am buying some willow hurdles from Dulverton! oh my interesting life

patsy said...

Jane you are brilliant! Loved this about school prize day. Many parallels with my own experience this year. my son came away with the "Rising Star of Drama" prize. I was thrilled as he'd been adamant he wouldn't participate in any school play this year but his performance was, to his parents at least, a comic masterpiece!
At my boys' school, I didn't think that along with 2 pairs of trainers, a boiler suit and wellies that a picnic basket would be an essential part of school kit.
But it gets well used every year at the picnic before the end of term Summer Concert. Picture Dads walking the perimeter of the cricket pitch,still mumbling into Blackberries, Mums decanting the Waitrose salads, Granpas passing round the rosé, siblings chasing the thieving school spaniel away from the sandwiches.
Then the after show fireworks,
"Was that your fees or mine that just went up in smoke!"

ska said...

Jane, so glad you're in at alst! You do sound happy. Can that really be Terry Waite who replied to you? Surely not?
And our move date here was similar - the banks' electronic transfer system went down at 12 and didn't come back on. Our solicitor spent hours persuading everyone to let us in. I was heavily pregnant and threatening labour at any moment!!!ah sweet memories.....

LittleBrownDog said...

So pleased to hear it all went well in the end, and your new house sounds FAB!

Looking very much forward to hearing more of the Dulverton Diaries.

Big Woof! to Asbo Jack.

LBD (dog with a blog) x

KittyB said...

Ho ho ho - funny blog - so funny to get a comment from the man himself! Lovely firelplace / sitting room, very Country Life. Glad to hear you've settled in, apart from spooky ghost. I'd go for exorcism quick, but then I don't like children so it's easy for me to say.

Calico Kate said...

Clicked the link to have a read and have to leave a belated comment! Loved it! And nice to read about beginnings when I came in so late.
Why Cheetah and Tiger?? Are they still with you or has AsboJ had them?
CKx