It was remarkable fortune that for the duration of my trip this house was available. The matriarch of one of the most influential families, Miss Thorpe, had recently decided to downsize. The intention that the house was to be let long term, but while they were waiting to sign someone up, they were happy for me to use it for a few weeks. Rebecca enthused about the house as one of her favourites on the island and I soon saw why. Stepping across the lawn, I saw the huge double fronted face of a two storey house, the main door up some steps behind a glass porch. We did not use the main door, but entered through the kitchen at the far end of the house. Beyond the kitchen door was another house – two bedrooms. Rebecca said I could choose which one to live in!
I took my case in and dumped it in the kitchen. Rebecca showed me round briefly, and told me to relax for the rest of the day, but then come over to her place for dinner. She pointed out the location on the map and left me the most humungous pumpkin that had come from her vegetable plot. With that she drove off and I was alone in this isolated little paradise.
I had that mixture of energy and fatigue that often accompanies me after a long trip. And this had been the longest – three days from the last stop. So I tried to explore and unpack but also was quite happy to flop out from time to time to try and rest. This house was amazing though. Let me take you on a tour.
The kitchen extended the full width of the house and while it was large and airy, with a shelf of old porcelain dishes and glasses around the outside, it had been substantially modernised in the 1970s. While a little ugly the units were functional and it served me well once I got the hang of the Calor gas cooker. Round the corner was the washing machine and freezer tucked into a utilitarian corridor. At the back was a door to a long corridor whose floorboards creaked ominously with every step. It was furnished with dark polished wooden cabinets, sideboards, chairs of all shapes and sizes, the odd bookcase. The next room on the left was an exquisite dining room – heavily varnished table set surrounded by showcase cabinets stuffed with collections of china and glassware. After the austerity of Ascension Island and the practical nature of the ship, this simple show of finery was a surprise. It must have been collected over several generations and looked after with intimate care.
A short but wide hallway contained a series of paintings, mainly of St Helena, and a big cuckoo clock. The heavy front door was in front of me and to the right a door into a light airy living room, containing generous sofas, and a slightly chintzy decor. At the north west corner of the house and perched up over the valley to the north, this was the sunniest and most cheerful of rooms in the house and I spent most of my leisure time in here.
A set of stairs wound up to the second floor at this end of the house to another corridor running along the back of the house, containing more chairs and occasional tables, a small TV area and lots and lots of book cases. There were two substantial bedrooms up here and I found it hard to choose which one to remain in. In the end I took the double bedded room. And then at the south end of the house, round a corner, was a remarkable little open air room. It was under the main roof of the house but two sides were open to the weather. I found the air a little fresh at this time of year to stay out very often but it was a delightfully comfy place to lie on the sofas and read the day away.
Looking out from this end room I got a good overview of a carefully tended garden. Immediately outside the house were formal lawns and borders, which led to more hidden gems to the south and on into the wilder wooded areas below me. I put some shoes on and went to explore, past the “granny flat” and along a grassy path lined with rich borders of succulents, shrubs, trees and flowers. Against a whitewashed shed climbing roses were just finishing flowering, and the garden ended at a barbed wire fence which looked up the valley at a verdant pasture land. When I looked back I could just see my home through the trees; it was so secluded and hardly anybody ever came down this secret valley.