It had to be done.
Nearly thirty years’ worth of old furniture, boxes of books and clothes, tea chests full of glasses and crockery I hadn’t seen since we moved from London, rugs, building materials, ladders, scaffolding, gates, seven pairs of French windows (don’t ask), off-cuts, left-overs, might-come-in-handies, ancient stuff left by the previous owners that might have “historic” (certainly not material!) value, even other people’s larger, cumbersome belongings we offered to store for them ….. we’ve had to dust off, sort through and steel ourselves to part with as much as possible.
Of course it should have been done years ago, but, as you all know; unless you’re an iron-willed minimalist, “stuff” tends to aggregate according to the space available for storage.
And we are lucky enough to have a lovely, big barn with space for the horses’ loose boxes, firewood storage, and workshop downstairs. Upstairs is one vast beautiful space, with stunning timber work, where we keep the horses’ hay, the tractor … and just about everything else.
(Space finally cleared at the far end.)
To back-track through the ages – and forgive me if you’ve read about this before – in the mid 1980s we bought a dilapidated house to restore and with it were outbuildings, ruins and land that came as an unexpected plus. The big barn, which had been rebuilt at the turn of the twentieth century was in the best shape of all, so we were able to pretty much ignore it and keep filling it up with our worldly goods, whilst we got on with restoring everything else.
At the beginning, people used to visit us and say, “Lovely barn … shame about the house”.
The barn was full of hay which must have been more than twenty years old and still smelled sweet. Nutrient value nil. But we knew the hayloft was well aerated (it had a network of overhead wires that meant tobacco must have been dried in there) the structure and roof were sound. And we abused it by filling it full of our junk.
And it’s true what they say. You never quite finish restoring an old house. So you hang on to everything; Just In Case.
The tipping point was the dust.
We used to get a winter’s hay delivery from our neighbouring farm and sweep out the dust and leavings as the horses transferred to grass. Now they come in every night of the year and we collect the hay, bale by bale, from the farm up the lane, so the loft is never empty of an open bale.
And the dust has drifted, thick as Christmas snow, on everything stored up in the hayloft and it dribbles through the gaps in the old floorboards, down into the horses’ boxes and everything we’re trying to keep clean down below.
(The residents are looking forward to a dust-up …)
After much debate, we found the cheapest solution is to lay down a new, chipboard floor over the old, sound-but-gappy planks. It’s chosen, paid for, and awaiting delivery from a friend’s sawmill, before France goes on holiday for the whole of August.
And what is great is that, since I last posted, we have a helper, one afternoon a week, who’s a hard worker and a joy to have around and who is making a great difference to whittling the “to do” list down to manageable. So, instead of forever chasing my tail to catch up with myself, I’ve been able to keep up a regular riding programme with Pom. Getting down to the school before the sun scrapes over the trees, before the heat and horseflies kick in, and making up for all the time we’ve lost for one reason or another. We’ve had such fun.
And we’ve learned a lot about each other and where we are after four frustrating, hit-and-miss years together.
So, as we wait for the new flooring to be delivered, Eric and Rob have been ferrying old bits of pool liner, extinct bikes, decrepit garden furniture, bits of plasterboard, dead tools (and plenty of other things they probably judged it better not to tell me about) to the recycling plant. Whilst my back was turned an abstract installation of crappy old caned chairs whose bottoms had fallen through appeared in the courtyard, to wind me up. Back in the day I’d restored and re-caned a dozen; these had been kept for “spare parts”!
And I’ve made a start on deconstructing the cardboard boxes and packing cases. It could take a while.
First up was the box containing some of my childhood books and mementos. I didn’t realise quite how early the horse obsession had set in, but pony books were among my very first reading aids. Here’s a little spread of what I found.
I’ve already admitted to reaching a ripe old age in a recent post but looking at the books I’ve saved – possibly verging on antiquity – I got all overtaken by nostalgia.
“Watch the Pony Grow” (top left) just about finished me off. I was probably too small to turn the pages myself when I acquired this. Most of the books have birthday inscriptions, so friends and relatives had me down as horsey from the get-go. And what a gift to present-givers to know the recipient has an obsession they can readily cater to.
I’m going to luxuriate in delving back into those pages and reliving a well-spent youth.
Does anyone else remember Princess Pony Annuals, Thelwell and the Jill Books? What did you read that inspired your riding? I’d love to hear …..