Friday, 26 March
On Tuesday evening, we walked through the newly opened passage and our hearts fell into our dusty shoes. The long-awaited move into the renovated barn was taking place the next day. Cleared and ready, the space was not.
Amidst a myriad of unfinished jobs were some rather serious gaps: our bathroom-to-be had no loo, no fixtures, and upstairs, in what will be the kitchen and dining room while the original house is being overhauled, there was no electricity, no running water.
The barn has been undergoing its transformation into a human habitat for almost nine months now. I have chronicled its gestation often.
How the masons created new windows and enlarged doors, knocked through the 450-year old wall separating house and barn in three places, then plugged the holes back up again to stop at least some of the dust from travelling into our living space.
Beams were sanded, pipes and wires installed and a screed laid. Waiting for the cement base to dry demanded Beckettian patience; its sluggishness was blamed for other delays, including this move, which should have happened six weeks ago, before we left for London and the birth of our grand-child.
By now veteran renovators, we were not overly surprised at the laggard cement or the incomplete state of our new quarters. Tardiness seems wired into the DNA of all building projects, and we have learned to be flexible, to adjust our plans at the last minute.
So when the movers arrived at eight the next morning, we had already decided that not everything would be moved, that we would continue to eat, wash, work and sleep, albeit in minimalist fashion, right where we were until the finitions were sorted out.
We got the movers started upstairs while the carpenters removed their stuff from our new bedroom and sitting room downstairs. We located the super-long extension cord for the refrigerator and asked the plumber to turn on the water.
By the time the movers were ready to attack the ground floor, the protective plastic sheet covering the parquet, which had been laid once the cement finally dried during our London sojourn, had just been stripped away. Frustration at deficiencies and obstacles melted into awe at the sight of the Perche limestone walls meeting the reclaimed elm wooden floor. Here was the reason we were putting ourselves through all this bother.
Now the move felt exciting, hopeful, though I still worried about Carl the piano. Compared to the Berlin-Perche relocation he suffered two years ago, displacement from one salon to another is emigration-lite, but a piano is a delicate behemoth. Also, he had been swathed in plastic for the last four months, and I wasn't at all sure the two hours we spent wrapping him up had been sufficient to keep the perniciously permeating dust out.
As the final act of the move, through the new passage he was rolled. The plastic was removed, and dust-free, he assumed his permanent post, where once the cows got milked. It helped me feel settled too, even without the (also unfinished) bookshelves that should be lining the wall behind him.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a recurrent dream. I am in a place I know. A door I have never noticed opens and I discover a whole other wing of the house or apartment. It's always unusually beautiful, and I wander this magical space in wonderment, wake in disappointment that it was just a dream.
Wednesday evening, after the movers and workers were gone and all was quiet, I had that dream-like feeling, walking from the old house into the former barn, even with the unpacked books and the remaining plastic strips crowding the furniture. Except this time the enchanting space is real. Here's a photo to prove it.