- About the Author
- On Active Service
Sometimes I see myself back in my old house. It’s been over two years since we lived there but it took up such a huge chunk of my life. Thirty years.It’s a long time to stay in one house. As I stand chopping vegetables in the kitchen here I imagine myself standing in the huge kitchen at Tolland (my kitchen here is minuscule), remember the children eating breakfast at the pine kitchen table (no room for a table in this kitchen!)
In many ways I wouldn’t want to go back: the house was too big once the children had left home, glacial in the winter, every room needed re-decorating, the garden was way out of hand….I love our apartment here with its smart modern rooms, the large patio windows leading on to the terrace, the garden that we don’t have to do. I feel like I’m living in a holiday home. It takes me two hours to clean throughout, leaving me so much more free time.
Yet nostalgia is a strange thing. If I can’t sleep at night I imagine myself going back to The Manor House. I put the key in the lock, give the front door the hefty shove it needs to open it. The front hallway has the familiar smell of furniture polish. The picture my parents gave us for it wedding present hangs on the wall to my right, the grandfather clock is opposite me, the old oak monk’s seat at the foot of the stairs. I walk through the book-lined dining room with its large oak table and William Morris wallpaper, through the back corridor. The kitchen is on my right,the sitting room my left. In my mind I smell woodsmoke from the wood-burner. This is the one thing we really miss from the old house, a real fire, even if we don’t miss hauling the wood up from the cellar.
It’s warm and cosy in the sitting room, the red walls filled with paintings, the sofas and chairs grouped around the fire. Conversely my imagination sees the kitchen in summer, both windows open wide, the sound of birdsong and the smell of freshly cut grass, the wide expanse of sweeping green lawn from one window, the patio and garden leading up to the orchard from the other.
Back through the dining room and out to the front corridor and I’m climbing the stairs now. I glance into the children’s rooms, empty for many years by the time we left. I see them, though, stuffed full of toys and heaped with clothes like they were in the old days. Into our own bedroom that looks over the garden and is decorated with blue wallpaper with gold stars on it. I stand by the window for a while, looking over the garden. It’s a warm summer’s evening, almost dusk. I can hear late evening birdsong, the murmur of the brook neat the church, a dog barking somewhere in the distance, a tractor passing in the lane….
In these semi-conscious dreams I forget the defects of the house: the constant creeping cold, the damp curling wallpaper, chipped paintwork, worn carpets; the never-ending dusting and cleaning, the overgrown garden. And when I open my eyes to the new day, draw back the curtains in our beautiful pale blue bedroom and look out onto our terrace and the walled garden beyond, I remember again why we moved here…
The view from the bedroom window where we live now
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.