Saturday, April 10, 2010


Two summers ago, I was about a week from closing on a little house in Lode, which is a village about six miles NNE of Cambridge. The eponymous lode runs around the back of Anglesey Abbey, which has a mill on it. You can buy flour. Two autumns before that my mother stood on the lodebank watching the glossy burnt sedge grasses earmuffing the meanders. She cocked her head to one side and told me, you should live in a place like this.

That was a big deal for her, she who dreams that I will come home.

The little house was made of the muddy grey fenland bricks on which Cambridgeshire had long imprinted me, herringbone bricks on the floor in the front room, charry untouched Victorian fireplace, a worker's cottage one, no mantel. A pocketful of garden outside with two apple trees and a snarly snarl of ivy over the back fences, a big bedroom and a little one, a mad galley study needling into the garden with french doors to the crookedly paved terrace, and in the middle the kitchen, the kitchen for my hearth's desire, wood and steel and black slate, gas burners and a double oven and a pantry, oh my god a pantry with the Victorian door still on it and the owner's kid's heights marked on the jamb.

The little house wrapped itself around the throats of my hydra-heads and choked them to death. Aspire, mean something, be someone, go somewhere. No, for I am the woman who lives in this house. Who are you? I was completely transported on the ecstasy of future endurance, there couldn't be too many years to live there, too many years to paint it different colours, change the shelves, one thing one weekend, twenty weekends, fifty, bring out the Christmas things for the places they were last year, watch the winter bare-twig, bake and roast and jam and pickle until the kitchen walls breathed, folded up into the corner of the sofa with too-hot cheeks listening to spit-snap in the fireplace. That was it. That was all. Repair to the arm-span study and look out onto my apple trees and write whatever came to me, because it would, because the house had found me, picked me up into itself and given the bouncer's implacable eye to the drunken instability of my history of places, planted its needs-some-work drainage right under my feet and slammed the door to the tune of I've Got You Babe.

I never got to live there. But remember, you things, you acrid, vicious things, that I can kill you with a house.

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