Part two of the Shorts story, if you remember I was just about to go into the cottage.
I walked up to the front door, hesitating for a moment before turning the knob to breath in the leathery sweetness of cow dung that hung in the air…
It opened into a typical Devonian slate floor and wainscoted cross passage – dark, cool, mould-green, damp-wool musty – leading to a small, whitewashed, slate-shelved dairy with an unglazed barred window. Half way down the passage a door took me into the main living area where the air changed into a warm thick soup of boiled flannels, wood smoke and acrid, sulphurous coal. Cluster flies buzzed clumsily around the room, bomping into my head and hair with furious, accelerated bizzing. Waving my arms frantically to dislodge them, they flew, kamikaze-style, into the closed cobwebbed windows. Cracked, nicotine-yellow linoleum covered uneven quarry tiles; beams, wainscot and window seat had been decorated many years ago in dark brown wood-grain paint. A large, low, tarry open fire place and bread oven housed a battered solid-fuel range extruding decapitated bits of copper piping, though one intact length disappeared through the blocked off chimney space only to reappear in intestinal loops ending with a large farmyard tap over a chipped enamel sink: the hot water system.
A tongue and groove partition had been built along the length of the living area and a narrow opening led into a tiny front parlour containing an absurd, but perfectly tiled, thirties fireplace. From the corner of this room the cupboard stairs led to the single open sleeping area above.
I wandered round in a semi daze taking in the primitive cottage, my mind full of doubts and fears – could I really live, survive and bring up a family here?
An impatient bleating from outside brought me back to the present. I ran down the stairs and out into the dusty, heat-shimmering farmyard, where our battered yellow landrover (ex electricity board) sat attached to a long homemade trailer piled high with a tottering, teetering mountain of what looked like detritus. At one end of the trailer we’d built a small wooden contraption to transport my two goats and hens down to Devon. I pulled opened the latched gate whereupon Pixie and Cherry exploded into the yard, looking about them with intense curiosity. Quickly catching hold of them, I went to look for a safe, suitable place for them to graze before returning to unpack the hens and the rest of our worldly goods.