Monday, 23 July 2012

How We Came to be in Wales (8) - "Well . . . it's got Potential . . ."

 That's what people used to say when they visited - looking back, they must have had SUCH a shock.  We were living in a complete and utter DUMP.  There were no two ways about it, the house had seen better days and it would be a good few years before we could do more than just do the minimum to put it right.  For the first few years we didn't even dare to apply for a Council Grant to improve it for fear they would condemn the place!

The top photo shows my dear husband (Hah! when he still had black hair!) showing you just how damp our sitting room was - and how excruciating the wallpaper!  You can see the awful fireplace too - that was one of the first things to go.  As you can see, wallpaper stripping was extremely easy . . .

Here he is reading little T a bedtime story (a Puddle Lane one, judging by the cover).  Look at the concentration on her face : )  As you can see this was before there was a fireplace revealed, so the grotty old Stanley (?) stove sat out in the room.

As you can see the decor of the kitchen left something to be desired . . .  Looking back, I honestly can't remember it being quite so truly awful . . .  As you can see, some foodstuffs had to be hung from the beam so that the mice didn't get them . . .

Here's a close-up.  My ma-in-law had a fit of the vapours when she came to visit and for years said we would never get our money back on the house!  She also insisted I put curtains up at her bedroom window because she knew for a fact that UFOs had been spotted in Wales, and "they took you up into the spacecraft and carried out very painful experiments on you."   !  And she was an intelligent woman . . . supposedly . . .

It was just as well really, that she wasn't here when the workmen came to excavate the old fireplace so the Hergom stove could go in.  We reinstated the beam, as it was missing, and I can remember driving around the Welsh lanes and seeing a falling-down barn and then trying to find out who it belonged to so we could negotiate to buy the beams in it to do up our house . . .

This was the rather grandly-named "Morning Room" which overlooked the paddock.  The wall to your left had quite a damp problem (down the chimney) and eventually we had to have the plaster hacked off and replaced, and it was only about 3 years ago that my husband and grown-up son (not even a twinkle in his daddy's eye in this photo!) also replaced the beautiful dentil coving - hand-made by my husband.  Then, and only then, did the roll of carpet we had bought at auction some 15 years earlier, finally get laid . . .

Outside was still pretty grim too, as the limewash soon got washed off by the blasts of winter wind and rain.  About all that has happened in this photo is a brick path has been laid across the yard and we appear to have painted over the chocolate brown paint around the windows.

However, it wasn't all doom and gloom, as here you can see T's first pony, Jo-Jo, a little section A Welsh mare who we bought aged 11 from a showing family near Sennybridge.  Unfortunately she'd had Laminitis very badly and had dropped soles but she was 100% reliable in every way, and although we always had to watch her weight, she taught all the children to ride, and we had her for many years.  You can see from this photo that the "garden" was a tad . . . basic too!

Here is T, aged nearly 2 1/2 with two of Blackberry's kittens who we kept - Sooty and Bumble.  Gosh, that takes me back.

So, do you think we were completely and utterly bonkers?  I think most sane people would have thought twice before taking THIS house on!


  1. Jennie once again, I can't begin to say how each word you've written and pictures you've shared of the house/garden early on are like a mirror held to my memories of the fam early on, lol

    I remember still peoples (uneasy) reaction to the farm in the beginning. Even the realtor was apologetic. Oh my.....

    But were you mad? I say nay. It seems to me thus: much like ghosts or fairies some people can see what others can not. By choice or gift I'm not sure :-) but it takes a certain turn of mind or skill or stuborness to see thru the wretchedness towards the outcome. (and a bit of periodic madness or a few pints can be helpful, lol).

    Damp walls, falling plaster, ceilings that give way, mice that are so at home they have names and leave laundry, lol I remember, I remember...

    Our garden had only 4 flowers in the whole, really I counted! Railings missing, barns caving. Dismal. Yet like a ghosts* whisper, I could hear the hope of what she could 'become'.

    Or Perhaps it's a thread of the archeologist and or historian in each of us that sees such 'bones' for possible transformation?

    Agree I must tho looking back at early pics of the farm it's amazing to see what we both started with eh? :-)

    *(No UFO's, - too funny - lol)

    PS the photos of T and T with Daddy are sooooo endearing.
    PSS when you have a moment I'd love to know the author of the book you mentioned (Magic) TX!

  2. Issy - here's a link to the website for the book (and author). A good friend recommended it. I am open-minded. I have to say, being thankful for the small (and bigger) things in each day do make life seem good.

    We do seem to have both come from the same starting point! We both just had a "feeling" when we saw the photo of the house for the first time, and then when we looked round it, it just felt "right."

    And yes, I know what you mean about some people noticing ghosts whilst others do not (and think you are the mad one!) Such things come unbidden to you (well, actually ME if I am honest). Despite being naturally sceptical, I have had experiences (both in this house and many in other places) which make me aware that there is perhaps another dimension or a time-slip or something of that nature . . . Strange. I will have to do a seperate post about "our" ghost won't I?

  3. When you are young and starting out, you only have so much money in which to work with, and then you see the potential of a home.
    I don't care what it looks like, it is beautiful, its yours and you have made it a home...
    Yes, please tell us about your ghosty. I have had a few experiences with entities in our local cemetary from long gone relatives when I have placed florals on the stones during Memorial Day some years ago. It is somewhat un-nerving.
    Have a wonderful week.

  4. So many of your experiences in restoring a house and farming mirror mine. My mother cried, too, when she saw how far away we were from a town and closed all the curtains tightly at night (no ufo's) just accustomed to city living.

    Lots of other similarities--horses , ponies, gardens, veggies, baking, preserving--enjoying your tales!

  5. Oh we have shared so many experiences! Except our house still has rooms not yet finished - and we are now 50 and energy is wearing rather thin. And our gardens still look a tip ( albeit a rather pretty one.)

    I hate the smell of damp - living in damp houses as a child, teenager and young adult in first house I bought -then has 15 years of bliss in 1960's doulble glazed, cavity walled, all mod cons house but STILL went back to an old damp house with lots of land as soon as we could afford to - we must be nuts!

    You should write a book Jennie - I would buy it.

  6. Wonderful photos of your early days at the farm and lovely to see your DH with black hair, and little T enjoying a Puddle Lane story! I still have the Puddle Lane books that my two loved and now my little grand daughter thinks they are magical. I always think that the main village street in Cerne Abbas is a dead ringer for Puddle Lane.......

    Whoever takes on your beautiful old house will hardly recognise it from those photos. You have done a fantastic job!

    Lucky little T to have that dear pony at such a young age.

  7. It is a good thing that we tackle some of these projects with the enthusiasm and energy of youth--to say nothing of a necessary dose of optomism.
    Hard works, months--maybe years?--of inconvenience-- but how different the house and gardnes now!

  8. Marvellous photos Jennie, having been round your house a couple of times, the transformation is amazing. Like you all those years ago I went house hunting in Wales, widowed with a young child, I looked at exactly the same houses as you. Multi wallpapers in one room, hiding damp and falling plaster, roofs that needed fixing, etc. I eventually bought a house at Calne near Avebury, wasn't as brave as you two;)But that magnificent stove in the kitchen reminds me I have a photo which I will send.....

  9. You probably were a bit bonkers and we were no doubt a bit the same with our house here. However if you can see the potential and it is the way to live your dream then so be it. Keep on living it.x