Never in a hundred years - no, make that a millenium - did I think I'd ever say "Ooh, do let's go and live in really modern house! Please, please!"
You are more likely to hear me say - "Thank you, I'll take the castle. The one with crumbling crenellations. Is the portcullis operational? Never mind. The Husband will set to it with a hammer and some WD40. It will be super!"
Which is pretty much what I said a year ago. When the Bish evicted us, we had a job finding a big enough house to rent in which to fit the children and all my books and shoes. Against my better judgement, we ended up transferring the kids to another school and moving away from our village, taking a house five miles away which had oodles of space but also lots of holes in the roof. "It will be super!" I said, trying to look on the bright side. "Husband, set to with the Gripfill!"
The sad, neglected house seemed as if it had been waiting for us. A typical listed Cotswold stone farmhouse, parts of it had once been the residence of the King's Forester in the days when Henry V111's ancient forest of Wychwood covered most of Oxfordshire. It obviously hadn't been redecorated since. The Husband needed no encouragement. He was in heaven with lots of things to mend and a range of outbuildings in which to do so. We sploshed a lot of white paint around to cheer things up. We smiled fondly at the house's idiosyncracies - the dearth of hot water in the bathroom, the temperamental electricity supply, the leaking roof, the insidious damp, the disinterested and disinclined landlord...
We tended to the wild gardens, cut back rambling hedges, cut down dead trees, cut out rampant ivy. We cleared areas of wasteland, dug beds for vegetables, marked out pens for sheep and chickens. No longer throttled by years of undergrowth, the gardens came to life. Snowdrops, primroses, daffodils lifted coy heads in succession. Roses encircled the house and bloomed in unrepentant scarlet against the golden limestone. Gradually the house emerged into the sunshine, blinking after its long deep sleep.
The children spent the summer outdoors. The Husband built a tree house. Friends and relations came - we lit bonfires, had barbeques, parties, dinners beneath the apple trees. We harvested the abundant fruit trees in the orchard, made jam, chutney and gallons of cider. We imagined our children's childhoods playing out before us here across the years.
But not everything was so rosy. The new village felt like the most inhospitable place on earth. The villagers were cold and haughty. With no local amenities, apart from the most expensive village shop in the country, and with no public transport links back to civilization, we felt very isolated. Unable to drive, I spent weeks at a time trapped in the house, behind high hedges at the end of a rough track.
The house had always had more than a whiff of sadness about it and was not restful. I couldn't settle and nor could the children. There was an ominous brooding about the place. It felt as if the house wanted to spit us out. Things started to move about or go missing, there were strange noises, voices, cadences, consequences. I no longer slept. We called a priest who came and ceremoniously did his holy stuff and the atmosphere shifted a little. It was no longer quite so aggressively hostile. The house, grudgingly, seemed persuaded to let us stay for a while.
However, the damage was done. The sadness seemed to have leached into my soul. I couldn't write any more. I slept only fitfully. And then the winter came. The flagstones, ingrained with the dirt of centuries, could never warm up thanks to the (medieval) central heating system, which made so much noise - clanking and groaning - that we could only bear to have it on for an hour or so at the end of the day. We relied upon the woodburner in the sitting room for warmth, becoming immune to the smoke that billowed from a hole in the chimney and filled the bedrooms with haze. The wind whistled between the gaps in the bare floorboards. Fruit froze in the fruitbowl. We chipped ice off the inside of windows. One memorable morning, the temperature gauge hit minus 12. And in every room, thick black mould climbed the walls.
It could have been bearable. If we had been surrounded by friends, we might have put up with it. It could have been an adventure.
So after a year in the wilderness, we have learnt a valuable lesson. Today we move the five miles back to our village to a little modern box with underfloor heating and wall-to-wall carpets. It has an ornamental gas fire and a power shower. It has brown plastic windows, but do you know what? Surrounded by friends, one will put up with anything. Even double-glazing.