A six-carriage train, like a long yellow caterpillar, glides through the distant gorse, appears briefly, then disappears into the trees.
We’re sitting on top of a big dune here, hence the stands of golden gorse and pine trees. So the golf course wrapped around us rests on sand, albeit covered (except for the bunkers) in well kempt grass.
It’s not yet nine o’clock in the morning. I’m in the kitchen, upstairs, doing last night’s dishes (tsk, I know). And I’m surveying the world through an open window.
You have no idea how wild that is for me – an open window.
We Brits have a reputation for open windows that’s always worried me a bit – can I really be of solid English stock if I hate opening windows when it’s cold and wet and windy?
Am I a changeling?
Did some ‘night tripping fairy’ (just showing off, Shakespeare, Henry IV part 1) swap me for a namby-pamby Mediterranean type when I lay in my cradle?
Looking back on it, we’ve always had elderly windows, because we’ve always had elderly houses.
And agèd windows leak.
The most agèd place we lived was a teeny-weeny cottage in Dorset that one friend called our ‘doll’s house’. Two up, two down, built when people were smaller, Tex couldn’t even stand upright downstairs.
Upstairs, the bedroom window that looked out over the road at the front was a tiny, ancient, metal and lead affair with broken latches that we couldn’t replace.
At the back, slightly larger wooden windows opened onto a rural view – spiked with romance.
Behind the cottages – we were one in a row – ran a stream and a watercress bed. A tumbledown ruin of a house at the back of the bed was, we were told (and utterly believed) the home of a mistress of Thomas Hardy.
I’m a sucker for Thomas Hardy.
The Return of the Native, my favourite.
Eustacia Vye. Egdon Heath – and the reddle man.
Letters written in black ink, on paper turned pink with the reddle man’s ochre, like bare hawthorn branches, black against a winter sunset.
All those ‘passing strange destinies’.
But back to the windows.
Today, in this house with its plastic (I’m sorry, they just are) windows I’m beginning to understand. Because they keep the place warm.
I’m wearing a heavy jumper. With hands in very hot water I begin to feel positively steamy – in a domestic kind of way, you understand.
And then it comes to me, like a revelation.
Open the window.
What’s more, I can, because the bees have gone.
Three days with a swarm – unable to open the windows as the sun poured in. That’s one noise I really don’t want to hear again – a couple of thousand bees.
I open the window. Hear a distant, gentle, clickety-click (not clack – they’re small commuter trains).
The caterpillar, carrying workers to work, pupils to school, travellers to bigger trains.
The benign buzz of the groundsman tending the greens, the squawk of the pheasant wandering free.
And when the last pan’s rinsed and stacked, the counters wiped, I stand in front of that open window, watching a light rain fall gently on the verdant world outside.
The clickety-click’s back. Three cars this time, heading the other way.
Rush hour over. Time to start work.
And I have company – well, other people are in the house.
One man laying flooring in the utility room. Another fixing woodwork in the dining room.
The window’s shut now, because the men at work have many doors open.
But I could become addicted.
I’m English, after all.