I've been thinking about my dream home a lot recently, building it as a retreat from the world, if you like. Being a writer, I decided to set it down and share it.
Climb the lane, the one that's barely used and is bounded by dry stone walls. Keep going for about twenty minutes and you'll find our place; a little cottage set back from the road. You'll know it when you see it, there's a little wooden gate, stained almost black, set in the wall. It's got a little American style post box next to it; one of the ones that has a flag to raise when there's post inside. Don't worry about cars, they're rare as hen's teeth around here. The last one came by weeks ago.
Pause by the gate for a moment. Take in the garden; tightly packed flower beds full of roses, red and white, hellebore and poppies. An apple tree sits over to one side, just big enough to bear blossom. In a few years it will have branches heavy with fruit.
Open the gate, and step through; wander the path. It winds a little to make it more interesting, you can't see the front door from the street anymore, because the plants are too tall. You might spot one of the cats out here, sunning themselves among the roses. Shadow usually spends the afternoons like this, showing her belly to the sky, paws folded over into soft paddles. If you're lucky she'll greet you, escort you to the door; she sees herself as our security detail, and she is fearless. I've seen her chase off foxes, and a stray dog once. Sometimes I think she must be half panther, just from the way she walks.
The front door is dark stained oak with a gargoyle knocker, a metal head with the ring through its mouth. Give it a thump and hear how it resonates against the wood. Push the door open, we didn't lock it today and let Shadow dart past you, heading towards the back of the house, her tail held high.
Step inside and cross the busy hallway, peek into the front room, though it's more like a library. Book shelves sag under the weight of books, everything from novels and graphic novels to art books and academic studies. Chairs and a settee cluster about the log stacked fireplace, and lamps sit close by to light our reading time.
Behind it there's a small dining room, nothing fancy and barely used. A table, some chairs and a dresser, that's all. About the most interesting thing is my dice bag, a guilty pleasure from a previous life, one that only rarely gets indulged. The end of the room opens out into a small conservatory, looking out over the kitchen garden; rows of vegetables and flowers; a cherry tree wrapped up in meshing to keep the birds off it. If you peer, you'll just make out the beehive with its inhabitants buzzing about, busily making honey.
The kitchen is small, spare. It has the triangle between cooker, sink and fridge, and a preponderance of fridge magnets, many of them rude. Nothing clutters the surfaces apart from a kettle, a toaster and a box of tea. A small cafetiere hides in a corner, in case a coffee drinker calls. A row of mugs hangs from hooks, decorated with Goth band logos from the Eighties. A door to the cellar lurks in the corner, locked. The key, a heavy iron thing that might have escaped from Castle Dracula, hangs on a hook nearby.
Let's head upstairs, it's airier up there. The guest room sits right at the front of the house, dominated by a big bed and bathed in sunshine. Dita and Hobbes sleep close to each other, letting the rays spill over them. As you enter Hobbes twists, viewing you with friendly eyes. He may be old but he's fast and he likes to play. This is his favourite spot, so if you're staying over you'd better get used to him. The view out of the window is amazing, you can see for miles across the village and countryside. It lays out like in a panorama that beckons; as if you could just reach out and pick it up.
Our room is different, a lot simpler; more spacious. Almost bare but for a tatami mat on the floor, a dressing table and a couple of wardrobes. Its neutral, apart from the ceiling, midnight blue with constellations of stars that glow when the lights go out. The back room is a contrast, brightly coloured, filled with beads and other crafting supplies. Strings of jewellery dangle from the ceiling, from hooks on the wall. A PC lurks in the corner, an order book for Eve's business sits there, ready to be filled. The door is kept shut, in case of cats stealing in and making a mess.
They do that in the bathroom instead, pulling the toilet paper to the ground and knocking down anything else they can reach. Hobbes likes to get in the shower and sniff about after anyone's used it and don't even think about going to the loo without an audience.
Lastly there's the attic, where I work. Climb up the spiral stair and take a look around. Sorry it's a state, things get messy up here. There's a computer and lots of notebooks, one wall is covered in a spider graph of plot, all radiating out from a central point. The only other thing up here is the TV with the PS3 and a couple of gaming chairs, for the evenings when we want nothing more than to curl up and play something. When we do that, all of us end up here, clustered together at the top of the house; cats on laps or by feet and humans sitting close, being silly.