Monday, March 29, 2010

Grateful #36

Today I am grateful for this house. We weren't looking to buy when we found it, just to see what the market was like. We had an apartment in Auckland to sell and six months still to run on a fixed term lease in Brooklyn. However from the moment we walked through the door (the second house on the first day of looking) we knew it was ours This house ticked all the boxes. It had two bedrooms, a large study, and a large bathroom with a bath and separate shower. It was quiet and private and on a dead end street so safe for the cats. It had beautiful views and the kitchen had been modernised. However, more than anything else, it just felt 'right'. It spoke to the both of us.

This house faces East, sitting high on the ridge in Mornington. Below us we can see Macallister Park, Berhampore, Newtown and all the way across to Eastbourne. We can't see a lot of harbour - just little slivers here and there, and if you crane your neck it's possible to see a little of the Cook Strait.

The Southerlies blow in off the Strait. They whip through Island Bay and Berhampore, then gather speed as they climb the hill. They hit the side of our house, slip underneath it and lift it on its foundations. A huge storm hit the night we moved here and we sat in the draughty bay window listening to the howling outside and wondered what we'd done.

The Northerlies hit our lounge. They blow against the line of trees on that side of the house and rattle the window frames. Most days it is too windy to open any of the windows very wide, expect for those in the kitchen, which opens onto the sheltered courtyard. If doors are left open at either end of the long hallway leaves will inevitably blow in and linger down its length.

A few times a year the wind stills. On those nights we roll the dining table out onto the veranda, light candles and sip on wine while surveying our domain. On still weekends I throw up nearly all windows, with the exception of a cracked window in the kitchen, a painted shut window in the lounge, and the bathroom window which is too high to reach. The big old sash windows let the outdoors inside, and the walls seem to fade away.

From this house the world can seem a million miles away. We can hear the planes here, but they are off in the distance and below us. We can hear them firing up at 6.30 in the morning, except for the foggy mornings that shut down the airport and envelop us in their thick stillness. A flight from Sydney arrives at around 11.30 most nights.

A neighbour's dog occasionally barks. The odd car winds along the road below us. The three teenage boys living next door hold parties a few times a year which always end early because their parents' bedroom is right above. In summer they and their sister swim in their pool outside our lounge and she fills the air with her shrieks. Most often, however, the only sounds to be heard are the calls of Tui and Kaka.

This house is nearly 100 now. Its foundations are questionable and the retaining wall below is on a definite slant. The floorboards are thin from borer and the lack of insulation in the walls means it gets freezing here in winter. It's dusty and untidy and ramshackle. Cat hair lingers in the bedroom and outside Ivy, Wandering Dew and Blackberry are competing for space with native trees in the garden.

We said when we'd move in that we'd repaint the pink feature wall in the lounge and the overly vibrant blue bathroom. However seven years on we're only just starting to bring home test pots. Most of what we have done has been the necessary - replacing a leaky roof and an equally leaky hot water cylinder. We've taken on the character of this house as much as it has taken on ours.

This isn't a home for extravagant entertaining. It's a place to retreat to. It's a place to watch clouds gathering over the Orongarongas, and to curl up with a book and a few cats. It's a place where two people can rattle around and indulge in their own individual obsessions.

I am grateful for this house. For all its faults it has been good here. I sit comfortably within its walls.

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