Caught by the River

Five Rivers – Blurred Lines

Malcolm Anderson | 23rd December 2015

Words and pictures: Malcolm Anderson

A sycamore rustles in the light breeze and casts dancing shadows on the withered papery hedgerow, thickly veined leaves spiral slowly in ones and twos, building up gradually into drifts on the doorstep of the Old Mill.

The beech woods lining the old Roman Road at the top of Grovely Woods have developed a faint rusty fringe, but in the musty stillness away from the footpath the quiet beating heart of the woodland remains resolutely khaki.

September and October shift imperceptibly into each other, the faded green of the English summer landscape slowly blurring into the dried out browns of early autumn. In weeks to come I know the countryside will for a fleet-footed moment become the colourful riot of autumn proper, a kaleidoscope of reds yellows and oranges, but for now change is subtle and unhurried. Frankly it’s bloody frustrating, one simple step seeming to take forever.

Walking across a claggy field in wellies.

The school clock stuck, seemingly for hours, at one minute to home-time.

A watched Pot. Not quite bubbling.

This year I have a reason to be impatient for November to arrive so I’m sitting drumming my fingers, waiting for the summer to be over.

After years looking, watching the right-move rental pot and waiting for it to boil, my never-ending search for a home to replace Drove Cottage has finally come good. But like all good things, it all fell together while I wasn’t really looking.

I’d been talking to Roz about my dream of finding somewhere that soothes my soul once more and from our respective houses we’d half-heartedly laughed about properties online. We’d looked aghast at overpriced wrecks, goggled about ridiculously small bathrooms and damp kitchens and groaned at the prodigious use of wide-angle lenses by desperate letting agents but we hadn’t seriously discussed the practicalities or logistics of living together.

With no real agenda but idle curiosity and ‘what if’ in mind we popped to see a small estate cottage on Wednesday lunchtime between work meetings and phone calls but it wasn’t quite right – too overlooked, too close to the main road. While there I mentioned my noble quest for that cut off, quiet, non-flooding house and the agent said ‘hmm, I might know somewhere, leave it with me’.

By three o’clock she’d called back to say that she did know of somewhere, it wasn’t on the market, in fact wasn’t really even ready to be let, but would we like to see it. By Seven o’clock she’d emailed some pictures and once I’d opened the first picture I think in my heart I knew that it was going to be the one.

By Thursday lunchtime we were standing outside Savages Cottage in the sunshine waiting for the agent to arrive with the keys but in reality we almost didn’t need to go in; the over-run cottage garden, the location nestled between open fields and woodland belts, the snatched glances through dusty windows of bookshelves parquet flooring and log burners. The very feeling of the place just reinforced the surety that we both felt about being there.

Friday afternoon was a meeting with the estate manager to see if he liked the cut of our jibs, a handshake and it was a done deal. Just like that.

So after all that time searching, all that time inwardly cringing every time the R1 bus thundered past my bedroom window over the last twelve months, a fantastic home landed in our laps. Just like that.

Now all we have to do is sit and wait a month, patiently watch autumn develop into herself and for the first proper storms of the year to blow through. Then it’s a simple matter of physically moving house, working out how the hell to merge two households and to carry on getting along with each other. Oh, and introduce an eight year old cat to a two year old dog.




Malcolm Anderson on Caught by the River