Welcome to your Tuesday afternoon post, readers, with me at the helm. I, who now resides in a different postcode and in an address Rach M told me was “straight out of a storybook”.
Mr K and I moved in to our new home last week. It’s testament to how beautiful the house is that I have sailed through the last (significantly stressful) week mostly unaffected by the floorers and the painters and the movers and the locksmiths and the things that don’t work and the lack of hot water and the never-ending sawdust.
Every morning I am the first one downstairs and I walk into our kitchen and raise the blinds and open the patio doors and step out into the sunshine and think how much I love being on holiday and then I realise that no, this is my life now.
I know the sunny weather has helped tremendously. It’s hard to feel stressed when foreman Dave is getting discernibly annoyed at your indecisiveness over where to put the wardrobe when you can go and sit on the decking and drink tea and let your mind wander and hear birds. Not people screaming at each other, or cars backfiring, or kids using bolt cutters, but actual wildlife.
A couple of times I’ve fallen asleep on the grass in the sun, with my arm across my face and woken up and the house is still there, solid, inviting, waiting for me to go in and unpack some more, to bring it bit by bit back to life.
On the day we moved in, a card fell through our letterbox. It was in a red envelope and on the front, in beautiful, looping handwriting, it said “Welcome to Highams Park”. Inside was a card wishing us many years of happiness in our new home, and it was from Dorothy from no. 27 around the corner. My heart melted. Other neighbours have dropped by, with greetings and well wishes and welcomes, offers of milk and power tools and help. I know this is probably business as usual for many of you, but in nearly eight years of living in London, I’ve never had this. No-one has cared when I’ve moved anywhere. I’ve never known my neighbours, their names, their stories. I didn’t even know I wanted it, until it happened here.
I have got to know floorer Dave and painter Del pretty well, from having spent days together. We get on; they both make me laugh and are good at what they do, and enjoy explaining their work to me and answer my many questions. We have tea outside when they’re on a break. I get them sandwiches from down the road and we talk about their lives.
“It’s impossible to have a bad thought in this garden” said Del.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, you sit here, and it’s so peaceful, and your mind wanders, and you forget that your dad’s hitting your mum downstairs, and your brother’s off selling drugs and you’re failing at school”
I didn’t say anything. Anything I had said would have sounded trite. So we drank some more tea.
“You’d better love this house. It deserves to be loved”, said Dave.
“I do. We’re lucky. I know it”.
I know I could have made this prettier with Instagram. But I don’t care. This is cheesecake at its most unapologetic.
It was Mr K’s birthday last week. We agreed that our priority at the moment is moving, so no presents, but you can’t let a birthday go without some love. As Esme so wisely said, food is love. So I made Mr K the mother of all birthday cakes, from Tea With Bea. German chocolate cheesecake, chosen by Mr K one night prior to the move when he was particularly stressed (I did the only thing I know how to do in such situations, which is put a cookbook in front of him and distract him with pictures of cake). This cheesecake has a topping of dulce de leche, toasted coconut and pecans and fudge icing. It is made in no less than THREE STAGES. You know you love someone when you have to unpack five boxes to find the sodding balloon whisk because if you don’t find it in time, their fudge icing will go dull and grainy.
I had a low moment on his birthday. I had made Mahj’s steak and stilton salad (she wrote about it on Florence Finds) and the steak was cooked and the salad was tossed and the wine glasses were out and the wine was chilled and the terrace was ready, and the night was balmy and I called to everyone that food was ready, let’s go. I had been looking forward to this moment, our first cooked meal in the house, for weeks and weeks. I’d wanted to toast what we’d achieved, all those months of hard saving and worrying and all the stresses and strains of moving, balancing it with full-time jobs and the blog and everything else. I was hot, I was sweaty, I was so, so dusty. And I looked around for the corkscrew.
There was no corkscrew.
I hunted for the corkscrew. I had seen it. In a box. I had. Or had I? Had I only dreamt the corkscrew? Was the corkscrew a mirage? All I could see was this chilled bottle of wine, condensation on the outside of the bottle, the light hitting the liquid and making it glow a pale yellow, and the wine on the INSIDE of the bottle.
Mr K recognises the look I get in my eyes when I’m on the edge. “There’s a screw top bottle over there, at the back of that cupboard” he said.
Red goes better with steak, anyway.
The meal was perfect. We finished with cheesecake. Micol, Mr K’s best woman, led our toast. “May not finding the corkscrew be the worst thing that ever happens to you in this house”, she said.
I hope she’s right.