We first stepped inside Nab End as its new owners on a cold, dark, February evening. The house was empty, bare, a little unloved, but ours.
In the months that followed we visited the house as often possible, learning its ways and discovering its lingering inhabitants. Teams of harlequin ladybirds did circuits round the paint-flaked sash windows, their shiny bodies like new minis from the Cowley BMW plant.
Then came the bees. Gentle, docile mining bees would appear in the upstairs rooms as I made my way around, cloths in hand, wiping down the paintwork and cleaning the curtain tracks.
Taking breaks outside in the weak spring sunshine we watched the rooks in the swaying ash trees – listening to the call of a country life – and wondered if we could make friends with the neighbouring jackdaws.
In the garden snowdrops, aconites and scillas preceeded daffodils, tulips and snowflakes. We worked tirelessly to move soil away from the base of the house where it had been banked up, layer upon layer over time. Bumblebees made their way clumsily in and out of an air brick, too busy with their own chores to notice ours.
Windows flung open we allowed the old house to breathe.
By July we were in and friends and family came to visit. The hedge at the bottom of the garden glowed with wild plums and cherry plums, darkened by damsons and bullaces. A bumper year – we found these fairy fruit everywhere on our walks around the village.
Light floods into the house at Nab End: spirits are lifted, hope is restored. From the upstairs windows I see the woods and I see the trees; and it seems entirely possible that balance may once again be achieved.