(Norfolk, by the way, is the top part of the big lump above London on the map of England . We were on the north coast of this lump.)
We were staying with my aunt, which is something we do every two years, sometimes at Easter but more often in the summer. She lives in this beautiful old house with a huge and wonderful garden. The story of why she lives there is a long and complicated one, but basically she retired there 26 years ago with friends, sharing the house, in three separate flats on the upper floor. The downstairs is for communal use and for visitors. My aunt, who’s unmarried, lives in one flat and until very recently another unmarried lady lived in the second (she’s now in her nineties and has moved to a care home. This year we stayed in her flat.)
The third flat is occupied by a married couple. The husband is much younger than the wife, which is very useful since he does all the maintenance of the whole house. Meanwhile my aunt, who is 83, does most of the gardening, which I think is extremely impressive considering the enormous size of the garden. (I spent much of yesterday tending my small town garden and was exhausted.)
The gateway through to the walled garden at the side. These are all views out of our bedroom windows, one of which looks on to the back and one on to the side garden. The snowy picture in the previous post was of their front garden.
Then the sun came out and the snow melted.
They’re all lovely people and I’ve known them since I was a child, and the atmosphere of the house is one of tremendous contentment, faith and generosity. It’s balm to the soul to be there. The village they live in is pretty and quiet and the surrounding countryside isn’t “very flat”, as Noel Coward famously said, but gently hilly.
Because we’ve been going for so many years, we know all the places of interest – stately homes and gardens and pottery workrooms and galleries run by artists and second-hand bookshops and so on – so it’s very restful, since we just keep going back to places we know and like.
It snowed the first day we were there but then it brightened up, apart from Friday, when we went to Sandringham, one of the Queen’s little places. It has a wonderful garden, which on that day we had more or less to ourselves since it was raining fit to drown a duck.
Or Mr Life: here he is with his own personal raincloud. But it was lovely, in a very drenching way.