There’s No Place Like Home…

So after a five week trip we were home. I’d looked forward to returning. I always do. I am always eager to see how the garden has junglified, what’s in the post, how everything looks.

After a concentrated and manic unpacking of the van, a small assault on the laundry mountain and a cup of tea we set upon the post. A bundle of foot-stool height letters yielded precisely 4 items as follows:

  • One communication from the bank regarding my granddaughter’s savings account
  • One communication from the bank regarding ‘changes to regulations’
  • One communication from the health service regarding national bowel cancer screening [largely irrelevant for reasons followers of this blog already know]
  • Several, scruffy, hand-delivered communications from ‘Keith-yer-tenant’

The bubble of anticipation that accompanied our return began to ebb. ‘Keith-yer-tenant’ [not his real name any more than Grace Lessageing is mine, although this rendering of it does contain elements of how he announces himself every telephone call he makes to advise us of a problem] and his partner are occupants of a small flat we rent out and have been our tenants for a number of years. During those years their tenancy has weathered some initial teething troubles, such as breeching the tenancy agreement, deciding he would prefer to pay rent weekly rather than monthly and ringing up to request changes of light bulb, help to solve the problem of the bathroom floor being wet after bathing, to express astonishment at learning that soaking in vinegar will clean a shower head and to claim forty nine pence for a tin of soup whose label got wet inside a cupboard.

This time Keith-yer-tenant has opted to punish us for having the audacity to be away by presenting us with receipts for items he has had to replace and inform us that he has deducted the cost of said items from his rent. We were just a little confused by the price of £2.50-which seems somewhat steep for a 13 amp fuse, but then remembered that he must have supplemented the price with some compensation for the shoe leather involved in going to purchase the fuse plus the trauma of having to a] suffer the inconvenience of the malfunction caused by a fuse blowing and b] having to actually replace it.

Still it should be acknowledged that Keith-yer-tenant has made a real effort to solve a problem all by himself, rather than seek assistance from Steve, the handy plumber neighbour we have asked to be on call while we are away. That K-y-t is not over fond of Steve is not something we can address. Steve is charming and accommodating and has changed K-y-t’s light bulbs on several occasions.

K-y-t is by no means the most problematic of renters I’ve encountered. I began by letting rooms in a previous life, when a newly single mum in my forties with a mortgage and a decrepit hovel to renovate. The antics of one or two lodgers are immortalised in my debut novel, ‘The Year of Familiar Strangers’ [available from Amazon].

Not Just a Machine, Monsieur Corbusier!

                After a tortured, traffic ridden crawl of ten hours from bonny Scotland, where we’d disembarked from the Larne-Stranraer ferry, we arrived back at home-that is to say-the place where we live when we don’t live in our miniature, wheeled home.

                I’d be lying if I said homecomings are no different from the time when I was a proper working person. I no longer get that plummeting sensation as the first working Monday looms; that attempt to cling to every last moment; those delaying tactics at bed time. The return journey from any trip these days provides me with an opportunity to speculate on what may have happened in my absence and what may need to be done in order to mitigate these happenings, and also to appreciate the comforts and conveniences that a house offers.

                We near our street. I experience a frisson of surprise like the Narnia children’s experience of coming back through the wardrobe when I see that nothing has changed. Opening the front door and stepping into the hall feels new. There is a pile of [mostly junk] mail teetering on the hall chair, clamouring for the recycling bin. Of the mail that remains, one is a reminder to renew my car tax, one is a bank statement, one is yet another publishing agent’s rejection of my novel. Lovely.

                Even if it is dark I am always compelled to go first to the garden, where there tends to be good news- and bad. A lot of things have survived or even thrived in my absence [=good]. A lot of things that have thrived are weeds [=bad] and snails [=bad]. The lawn is not waist high [=good]. The lawn consists of weeds, moss, brown patches and ants’ nests [=bad].

                During the three weeks we’ve not been here the doorbell has made use of the time to take one of its intermittent sabbaticals, the carpets have acquired a layer of particles, the windows have taken on a smoked glass look, the fridge is empty of all but a tube of tomato puree, a few wrinkly cloves of garlic and half a jar of marmalade. Next day, after a stuffy and restless night in the luxury [post camper] that is bed, as I launch into laundering the sixteen tons of dirty washing we’ve created, the garden washing line decides, during the pegging of the last load, to make a statement by collapsing.

                But it’s not all bad. The sun is out. I spend my first sockless day for three weeks-[and not just because there are no clean socks in the drawer]. A passable duo at the local pub makes a refreshing, timely change from Irish folk ditties. And there is something to watch on the box…Glastonbury!

                So, as in the immortal lines of Frank Sinatra’s ‘It’s Nice to go Traveling’-it is quite nice to be home. Now, where shall we go next?