Our new place is all right, by the way. Moving out of the old one was always going to be stressful psychologically: we simply did not want to leave. But the new neighbours are genial, and the village is quaint and sweet, if parochial. We have yet to really feel at home here, although it’s happening gradually. No longer do we live largely out of boxes, but we do still live surrounded by the buggers.
And, although the letting agency have skirted around the issue, the landlady is clearly a handful. They stressed we should check the inventory very, very carefully: which was useful, as the brass coal scuttle it claims we should have is nowhere to be seen, for example, although an enormous plaster-crack above the patio doors is very much so. No four light fittings in the house are the same—which makes life hard in a village where when a bulb goes you have a hard time buying a replacement—and in the living room and kitchen we have fake flame-effect lights, with a little flickery piece of material. Well, if it’s classy enough for chav-oriented quasi-comedic pikey-bashing barn-alike Jongleurs, it’s classy enough for us.
In fact, the whole house breaks a cardinal rule of rental properties, in that it imposes the landlady’s rather Tudorbethan tastes on the tenants. All the curtains have some finagling way of closing, and most have pelmets to them: yes, pelmets. The single-glazed windows have leading across them rather than, say, an extra pane to cut down heating bills. Almost all the lights are on wobbly dimmer switches, which don’t work with proper bulbs and feel like they might catch fire at any minute. The bedroom containing our new futon has what I think is called a voile, in deep pink flimsy fabric, suspended from a gold-sprayed wooden capital running the width of a putative bed. Ding-dong! But no furniture besides the bed in the attic, of course, no bed to install below the golden capital: who needs furniture, or fire alarms, or insulation, when you have pelmets and a voile?
Our next-door neighbour has certainly confirmed other suspicions we’d had about her: he said he’d finally won a battle with her over access rights to the back garden (like many workers’ cottages, all the gardens are linked in order to move bins etc. in and out) that she instigated after buying a few years ago and not reading the lease until afterwards. Other suspicions, we’ve yet to decide fully upon—K. is convinced she’s, among other things, really rather tiny, because of all the fixtures in the house that would never support the weight of a grown human being, let alone a 6’2″ thirtysomething man on a twenty-year schedule to reluctantly develop a pot belly—but there’s a lot you can garner from looking round someone’s house, brushing aside the swathe of golden-embroidered cloth above the bed hiding hasty plastering, and turning the light off to reveal a whole galaxy of amateurishly-painted glow-in-the-dark planets. That’s right: our landlady is an alien.