September in London. Life has resumed that frantic “Who’s coming to dinner tonight?”, “When did I say we were going to that play?” and “Did I mention I won’t be home until 5 tomorrow because of drama?” and “Can you help me carry the banquet table to the kitchen for 30 volunteer ladies to come to lunch tomorrow?” quality. Every morning my email inbox is filled with suggestions of meeting times for Lost Property, for the school Christmas Fair, the church Christmas Fair, for visits to my Home-Start social work family, for special bellringing practices and ringing for extra services, for weddings.
Sometimes we have to put away the computers, set aside the homework, switch the phones to “silent” and gather around the table for a bowl of restorative comfort. I promise you will never make or eat anything more sustaining, more inspiring, more savoury, than this soup, the recipe for which has made its way to my lovely foodwriting site, HandPicked Nation. Chicken meatballs in a magical herby broth!
Everything interesting and busy in our lives pales, however, in comparison with our big news: we are the proud owners of a… plot of dirt. Well, a plot of nettles. A plot of dirty nettles in a place where Shakespeare walked from home to his office at the Globe Theatre. A plot of land 300 yards from the Thames where in 43 AD the Romans landed and built a port city. I am not making this up.
After three years’ work looking for a place to renovate, John has succeeded in going one step farther. We’re starting literally on the ground. With an ancient wall and ancient gravestones to respect, as we build our house.
Of course the road will be long. Believe it or not, we’ve bought this dirty plot with absolutely no permission to build anything on it. That will be the first hurdle. There will be many, many people breathing down our necks to say “No way! We want to keep this piece of dirt empty!” And then if and when we get permission to build something, there will be a lot of intrusive interest in WHAT we build. Should it fit into the landscape, or stand out? Actually that’s an odd question because London is the kind of city where you can find one of just about everything just by looking around you. Within shouting distance of our new possession are a huge glass office building, a Victorian school, a marvel of 1960s municipal architecture and a giant hole in the ground about to be filled with an enormous apartment building.
And, because it’s fuzzy, enrivonmentally sensitive London, our backyard will be a huge, eternally protected herb garden.
Avery is incensed, in a completely sweet way, because she’s being forced to live out her teenage years in our West London bucolic village. Boo! “How is it that JUST when I get ready to go to university, you guys will be moving into this totally cool East London heaven?” is her refrain. Oh, well, she can visit.
Nico, the security guard whose job for the last 23 years (he was hired the year we were married!) has been to go over to the plot with his flashlight at dawn and dusk, is over the moon. “May I ask what you plan to… DO with it?” he asked delicately. “Live in it!” He’s very excited for us.
We brought home the key to our padlock, feeling like children who’ve been given a treehouse. John is beside himself with joy, overflowing with ideas about materials, light, making sure we have enough blank walls for the art installations we had to leave in storage in New Jersey when we moved here. All I want is a porcelain sink! And room for my books.
So John’s life now has gone from obsessing over finding a place, obsessing over the strategy necessary to buy the place, into overdrive on what the place will eventually BE. To this exciting end, he is meeting all the time with architects to explain his vision for our eventual house. Meanwhile we’ll be applying for permits, begging the indulgence of various public officials, getting to know the neighborhood. I have already staked out the beautiful market nearby, and the enormous church with TWELVE BELLS where I will be ringing, eventually. We anticipate moving date in 2016.
Because I am at heart a dark Scandinavian just waiting for the sky to fall, I really don’t believe any of it. I imagine the city will make us give it back, or never let us put down a brick. Or I’ll be hit by a bus before we get to move in. But luckily my better half is happy Italian and Irish, and he might just pull me along, as a partner on an amazing journey.
Watch this space! Literally.
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