THE HOUSE PART ONE
The Residency was such a matter of established fact that we three had long since forgotten how we converged on this desirable property. Perhaps as a conjecture it would lead to disputes, so we took it as read that house and gardens were ours in perpetuity, and given the percolating waters and the acid free soil, we expected, perhaps foolishly, an enhanced shared longevity to be enjoyed by its inhabitants. It may help you to imagine our situation if you conjure up three pious devotees of magic and the absurd, studying the esoteric and in addition the extremely ordinary in an isolated Ecclesiastical Foundation, high in the Pyrenees or Himalayas or adjacent to some tertiary coloured Shangri-La, dancing in the scriptorium and whistling at the passing Caravanserae.
The House’s location was not this isolated but was off a minor road, down an unmade road, turning left at an overgrown track that turned into a path. Once there, the House was across a lawn and under a crystalline rockery. The lawn led down to a gate through which a separation of shrubberies opened into a small clearing at sea level, through which the famous Wading Pool of the Isles could be reached. Although I am describing what may seem a vast arrangement of inaccessible spaces, voices of passing cyclists, quarrelling families and furtive couples could be heard most hours of the day and into the night. Others enjoyed the Pool but kept largely to the abandoned Limekiln on the Public Path. Our occasional appearance through the clearing , usually together, led to much conjecture and pleasant mythmaking. Only the older members of the Community touched their forelock on our presence in the waters, which we insisted on always returning in kind.
“But surely..” I hear you cry,” keeping supplied at such a distance from the High Street, was a pain in the doodah!”
I had once taught at the Royal Holloway College, the first educational institution for single females in London. To ensure privacy and moderated contact with the outer world, the College was supplied with vittles on a toy railway line employing the first women engine drivers.
In our own equivalent track from the Upper Road to the Stables, we had built a Holloway style locomotive track staffed by two ex students, Dev and Rope, celebrated for their sardonic hold on life Their performance as providers might occasionally stray into the Foolish, but the House was always well stocked with food, paper, spare light bulbs, two tone soap, Talcum, and fuel for a fifteen foot generator in the Horace Walpole style , the first of its kind to work on organic principles. Our carbon footprint had been reduced to a negligible paraquat, and rather than attract ecological attention, we kept our achievement completely secret.
We agreed that with Dev and Rope (both of whom had studied Design Graphics that their duties should be discharged within a total gesamtkunstwerk - , the devices and palette selection , the swags and curliques of identity should be applied to rolling stock, overalls, and bunting along the line . Sadly, the absence of official visits meant that their lavish staff uniforms with epaulettes and edged capes were never used.
Rather than give the impression of stockpiling against the collapse of civilisation at least a year’s supplies were housed in what were once called Chill Parlours on stout oak shelves moderated by convector powered heating and cooling units at random. To such determined humanitarians such as ourselves it seemed an anathema that our daily existence was achieved at the humiliation and exploitation of paid staff, no matter how little employment was available in the region. Save it to say that between we three, we managed, and, in fact I had the strong suspicion that Dev and Rope were my two Housemates in disguise. Then, I was to discover later, each had the same suspicion about the others. Certainly when we came to sift the House Records, there was no record of employment and payments towards National Health and Pension contributions. That we can look intently at the others, knowing there was no solution, says much for the depth, resonance and reverberation of our relationship.
In any well established institution, the conduits of communication and delivery are usaully well tested, be it the pneumatic tube for a change in coin, a sleek dumb waiter connecting in vertical mode and sometimes a toy railway track from kitchen to dinner table and back (Buster Keaton). Our delivery system, mail, eggs, cocoa, cartridge paper, was flawless . Our food storage (jams, jellies, beef jerky) was, as some of you may have anticipated, colour coded. The cutlery was uniformly bone handled, the china purely restricted to novelty plates, jugs and soda syphons. I found a Guggle Jug in the Scullery but when activated, it poured only soiled water.
The overarching proposition of our lives together was visual felicity, an avoidance of extravagance and a centrifugal pull to the Centre. And that Centre was the fireplace.
By judiciously placed smouldering tapers we conclusively proved that a cluster of chairs, magazine racks, occasional table silently gravitated to the hearth of its own accord. Sometimes during long Summer evenings spent in the Garden. The furniture would be found crowded around itself along the fireguard. When returned to its original location, it would immediately start its steady trajectory to the Centre. I feel much of our relationships similarly gravitated, making turning in for bed somewhat of a wrench.
When the wind and spray rolled in from the sea, stout oak shutters sealed us into this slow vortex, reducing the howling of the elements into an embarrassed harrumphing. If I had a criticism to make about our living quarters, it was that no obvious feature in the Lounge encouraged the expenditure of energy. This made drawing and reading an experience of some intensity in that sustained output/input became Intensified, coalescing almost immediately.
Any other group of people would have been disconcerted by a regular set of manifestations that clouded the interior even when strongly lit. For many inhabitants these manifestations, the sorrowful ostler in a towel, the fretful snooker champion with the waistcoat that wouldn’t button and an outraged trombonist with crucifix , would have necessitated expensive exorcisms and casting out. For us, the slow unfolding of intriguing ghostly narratives was a great improvement on network television. True, it became monotonous but we found that it always provided a lively background to intercourse between us three.