Friday, 8 September
The restless, migrating spirit of the swallows that once lived here must still have been with us: no sooner had I pushed send on my last blog in July than we were once again moving furniture, reappointing rooms.
They say you should live in a place for a year before changing anything. We did that. Then, during our three-year renovation, to skirt the works, we changed everything constantly. As such, there was ample opportunity to experience multiple configurations of our living space. But neither stasis nor perpetual motion helped us stick to the plan; we kept changing our minds about what room should serve which function. Put another way: something in our feng shui was awry.
The first adjustment was triggered by our bed being overrun with ants in summer 2022. While waiting for them to depart...
...we moved upstairs to what had been our first bedroom, pre-renovation…
It had subsequently served as our temporary kitchen-dining room (the previous owners had set it up as an Airbnb rental, so it was equipped) while the real one was being overhauled…
By the time the ants besieged us, it had been repainted and given two new windows and was the temporary main guest room.
“Hmm,” I thought after the first night. “It’s nice up here.” But I didn’t say anything. Surely David would tell me that I was crazy, that we had a beautiful master bedroom downstairs (without a kitchenette in the corner) and what was I thinking. But on day three, he said: “It’s really nice up here.”
The decision to change bedrooms got us mulling over my office, which had ended up in the darkest room of the house and required artificial lighting even on a sunny day. I really couldn't settle there. So why not move it to our former bedroom?
With the help of son William and his partner Margaux, on the hottest day of a hot summer, we reshuffled the three rooms, moved beds, chests, bookcases and my enormous Berlin desk.
My new office was light, with lovely views and lots of space. But I never warmed to it, always felt over-exposed and as restless as the swallows who had occupied it when it was still a barn. And because it still had a bed, I had to decamp whenever the house had an overflow of guests.
On one such occasion in late June this year, it occurred to me that I'd be much happier out of the flow of things, in the actual main guest room upstairs (right next door to that first dark office!). But surely David would tell me that I was crazy, that there was no way we were going to lug that furniture up and down the stairs and all across the house yet again, that we needed the space for guests. When I did finally run the notion by him, however, he said (bless him): "Great idea."
So there we were a year later, on another hot July day, moving beds, chests, bookcases and my enormous Berlin desk, this time on our own. I don’t know how the two of us managed, but undoubtedly our previous experience helped.
And it was worth every strained muscle. Tucked away upstairs, with my desk and chaise longue against one wall...
...a selection of soothing paintings to look at on the other...
...I finally have the Room of My Own, the space where my mind feels both settled and free, and I cannot over-emphasise the difference this has made to my general sense of well-being.
According to Dr Wikipedia, the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui "claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment." Think what you will of it - that it's cosmic gospel or a pseudoscience that New Agey Western gurus promote to make a fortune - the concept is based on an essential truth: our physical environment affects our inner state. Even David, who runs a mile when he hears talk of 'energy forces', sensed that our 'perfect spots' had not yet been found.
I do think we've finally got it now; may the spirit of the swallows rest in peace.