I do not keep it neat and tidy although it's the sort of cottage that should be. There are vagrant clothes on the stairs, in the kitchen and on the back of the sofa.This sofa is battered and stained but covered with a crocheted blanket to protect its modesty. Dust heaps often gather in the corners of the stairs.
In a high wind the windows rattle and the house sprouts draughts from every tiny crack. These same cracks let in our little winter visitors, the mice, looking for crumbs and warmth. An old aerial creaks on the chimney.
There isn't a lot of room, it's a bit of a squash if people come to visit. We eat in our living room at a small pine table covered in scratches, pen marks and tiny divets where Monty has banged the tines of his fork into the table with force. Some say it is an impractical house for a family with two growing boys.
Our view is perhaps the hardest thing to imagine giving up. It's a pastoral cliche - all fields, farmhouses and wooded hills. This house stands on the opposite side of the valley, we look down upon the tops of trees and the flights of birds; we can watch the river rumbling by. There is a big open field which the deer particularly love to visit. Each time I see them, I am moved by their wildness. This year I watched them with their young, springing and sprinting, mad with freedom.
I'm finding it hard to imagine giving up these familiar scenes for somewhere more practical, but I think that the time may have come. We could do with a little more space and I hanker after a garden, a bit of earth to call my own. I had hoped that we might be able to move into another old stone house near some woods with a breathtaking view, but unsurprisingly there aren't many of those about that remain affordable. We have found a house that has been loved, with garden enough for growing and fruit trees in the hedges. In a few days we will hopefully hear from another who seems to love our little cottage, then we'll just need to let go and try and discover the romance in a different sort of house, in a different sort of neighbourhood. And so we wait...
(The woods outside our door)