It hasn’t been terrifically easy for Lou and I to simultaneously not be with Mao overnight, so this evening – to help soften the blow of his return to his family – we booked an Airbnb. Not one of the ones I tend to book for work, where I have to live in a shoe for 0.20p and my ears are eaten by spiders. There are spiders here, but they’ve got room to roam. The ceiling in this room is too high to reach by jumping. The room itself is vast, and softly covered with plush and comfy cream carpets. The bed… Would you call it a super king? You’re not gonna find a mattress for this in IKEA. It’s gargantuan, all set about with soft feather cushions. We just had a hot bath in a bath with a built in chair, and now we are curling up for a night away from The Chairman.
We will both miss him. He will likely miss the superabundance of soft things that he is allowed to spend all day on in Brighton. We will miss his twitchy face.
But for tonight we will lie in this vast bed and drift away in the knowledge that we won’t be awoken by his hairy bum in our faces.
Fyfield Manor… Lou has an uncanny instinct for places like this. Slowly rebuilt from semi-deriliction starting in the 1970’s, this place is OLD. The dining room where we will take our breakfast dates from the 1100’s. Now it’s comfortable and well appointed, and the keeper of the house is instantly likeable and recognisable to both of us. Residents here can get 20% off a Pilates class from her, or one on Alexander Technique. Her husband is a builder. Her children include an architect and a mathematician. This has been reclaimed slowly over time, but done to a high standard. I feel like the big ticket price I’m paying for the room will go right back into some sort of positive project.
I’m looking forward to my breakfast in that room. Reading the blurb we are drawn to the ethos with which they’ve driven this refurbishment project. When they lost the Elm trees to Dutch Elm Disease in the ’70s, they had the wood sawed and preserved for the renovation. Sure it’s nice to have the barns. But this has been a lot of work, you can tell. And rather than keep the beautiful medieval stonework covered, they’ve found places to expose it without making the place freezing and damp. This building is in the land and of the land, plus it feels still and ancient and wise. The blurb they have was written in about 2004 and yet it touches into so many of the things that we have learnt to really care about now. The place is powered by solar panels. They are actively trying to compost things and I’ll bet they’re using the compost. They are careful about power usage but not in an ostentatious, shouty or virtue signalling way. Plus it’s warm and cosy.
Lou is dozing off next to me. The bed is as big as a football field so I can write without disturbing her. Outside, I can hear the rain coming down again – that comfort of being in the warm when it’s raining.
It’s only fifteen minutes to Oxford Parkway Station from here. I’m imagining how it would have been if I’d stayed here when I was working for Creation. Impossible of course. Four nights here is a weekly wage there. I’ll just have to find my own semi-derelict manor house, do it up and carry it around with me for when I get jobs out of London…