Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Cottage

I have a running gag with my married in sister in law that we joined the family to get access to the cottage. It certainly couldn’t have been for their personalities (the family has a notorious temper, though with sterling qualities otherwise). Like any good gag there is truth buried deep under the humour.

The place was bought by my wife’s maternal grandfather just after the war for a pittance (if I told you how much you would cry, it really was a pittance). At that time it was a little two up two down cottage with a lean to kitchen. No running water, no electricity, no central heating. For a good long time it remained that way. My wife has childhood memories of going there and huddling around the roaring kitchen fire in summer holidays.

However, when her Grandparents decided to have their second retirement there (a long story in itself), it was “fixed up”. There is an architect in the far flung reaches of the family who specialises in renovating old buildings, so this was no cowboy job. Somehow the Peak District authorities where convinced to allow a long extention, so long as it looked like an aged barn, and the work was done (picture here.

With much argument and compromise the plans where completed and the house done up. It is now a still quaint, but much enlarged building with underfloor heating, double glazing, and a massive hot water tank to service the sometimes massive hoards that descend on the place.

So it’s a bit more comfortable for our children that what my wife remembered. Thankfully she is not at all nostalgic. For her it was the location, not the building, that holds the attraction of memory.

It really is a magic place, on a small plain with a cliff down to the river on one side, and a massive hill on the other. It’s completely remote, the nearest farmhouse is a comfortable five minute walk. Next to that it’s a half hour walk to the local village.

With our kids being the fourth generation going there, my wife’s mother grew up with the old farmer, my wife with the current farmer, and our kids play with the latest batch of farm kids. Every visit we pop by the farm regularly, for a cup of tea or a meal. The kids play football with the sheep dog and this time even helped with mucking out the cattle barn. They are of an age when that is considered “fun”.

The best thing about the cottage? When there you have little choice but to kick back and relax. Oh, there are always chores and maintenance jobs on the place. Keeping the building in good nick is a communal affair. Mostly though all there is to do is go for walks, or reading a book in front of the fire, or have long meals with whoever else is there at the time.

The walks are the best thing. It’s up the hill to the top. A good march that rewards you with stunning views and a ramble around the mounds of an old roman fort (built on top of an old iron age fort or so local legend says). Or down the hill to wander along the banks of the river. Or in to the village which is more than a little picturesque (with one or two rather fine pubs). Princess is finally of an age where she can cope, if slowly, with a good ramble.

So, there is a little truth in my marrying my wife to get access to the cottage. Not much, I would have married her any way, but a little…


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