Monday, June 10, 2013

Izzy's pretty house

Izzy is a little confused about the process of moving house. 

“Please can we take this house with us to Nana’s, but not the sky?” 

This took a little while to sink in. You want us to take the house to America? 

“Yes, because it’s so pretty and all my toys are in it.” 

“But why not the sky?” 

“Because the sky is nicer at Nana’s.”

She’s right of course. Northumberland’s sky may be big, but it’s almost always raining or blowing cold air at you. Meanwhile Nana’s sky lives in Laguna Beach; it is permanently blue and sunny. There’s definitely no contest on the sky front. 

When we were in Los Angeles last month, enjoying barbecues with all our friends and family, we faced a quandary. Over here, we adore the area, we love our neighbours and friends, Izzy loves her school and we love the safe, quiet lifestyle. 

Most of all we cherish our big, old, beautiful house – a glorious six-bedroomed, six-bathroomed farmhouse with 20 acres of beautiful Wansbeck valley. 

I love the seasons, I love my vegetable garden, I love my kitchen with its steam oven that I use for making bread and my ridiculous salamander grill that rises from the work surface like a Wurlitzer cinema organ and which Jo calls the most expensive toasted cheese sandwich maker in the world.
Most of all I like hearing the sound of the birds as I write this in the garden. 

But the majority of my work prospects and almost all our family and closest friends are in Los Angeles, and those snatched fortnights of jetlagged communion have been just too rare. Besides, who wouldn’t miss a Californian lifestyle? 

This single week of rare English summer has only confirmed it. Every morning I get up to watch the dawn rise over the gardens and I sip coffee on the terrace. I spend the day in shorts. It’s precisely the existence we could enjoy every day of the year over there. 

Yesterday Jo said she took Izzy to a birthday party and she and several of the other mothers were nursing sore heads from barbecues the night before: decent weather is so rare, they had all made the most of it. A little more than most, judging by my wife’s headache. 

We made the decision to relocate to Northumberland in the glorious summer of 2006. Remember that one? In my excitement about returning home to the north east, I persuaded myself the weather was normal. 

To Jo, this was the sunny, picture-book England she’d read about, which our Tourist Board advertises to gullible Americans. It’s taken five years of neverending winter for her to realise the error. 

Last month, Fate seemed to offer us a solution: an American television network liked one of our ideas and has offered to pay us to develop it over there for them. So why not take the plunge and buy a second property in the sun? 

For a second it all seemed so logical. Then we woke up to the reality that keeping this beautiful, adored house shuttered for months at a time would be wasteful and unaffordable. We need somewhere smaller. 

So last week a charming estate agent in Morpeth arranged for a man to come and photograph our pad. It made us aware of how much junk we’ve accrued over the years. Most of it had to be moved aside for the pictures: clutter doesn’t sell, apparently. 

Of course there’s a long journey from an advert in the local newspaper to the arrival of the furniture van. But we’ve resigned ourselves to the possibility that this might be our last summer in this glorious garden. 

Meanwhile, the house is fighting back. I am convinced that the only reason we’re having such nice weather is that it is trying, like our neighbours, to dissuade us from selling. 

Ultimately only fickle Fate can decide if we’re moving or not. That, and finding a buyer for Izzy’s pretty house, with its big sky.

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