Tuesday is dusting day, when Lily gets out the lavender polish and shines up the mahogany banisters and the book case. The whole house is filled with the tangy aroma of the polish when I come home from my afternoon walk around the grounds and the week’s layer of dust has been banished until the following week.
Not that Lily ever lets the dust roam free in the house.She does well to keep it from ever being dirty or even a little lacking in cleanliness, but nothing is better than returning home to a polished house.
It could be attributed to my old age but I must have order, My week is to be planned out, each day a certain task to be completed. Monday is washing, not unlike everyone else in the country. Tuesday, as aforementioned is the dusting and also ironing. Wednesday the hoovering, although I tend to escape the house on that day, as the hoover makes a dreadful din and I simply can’t tolerate it. Thursday is general cleaning, changing the beds, cleaning the floors, airing the cupboards etc. Friday is whatever is left over and gardening for myself.
Of course it is not I who undertakes these tasks. Lily is my housekeeper and she takes great care of me. She doesn’t live here, she only comes in on the weekdays, partly as I can’t afford her for all that time, partly because she has her own family to look after and partly as I must have time to myself. One must have solitude.
But I digress. Today is Tuesday and I am walking through the grounds, passing the rose garden as I go.
Being as old as I, my gait is slow, my arthritic knees clicking every so often but I persevere. Walking is good for the bones and for clearing the mind of cobwebs which gather as we lie awake at night and try not to remember the past.
Today my walk took me past the lake, through the kissing gate and into Lady Anne’s garden. I walked along the path and reached the the rose garden, its high stone walls covered in a slowly creeping ivy. I may touch the wall, feel its rough, jagged edge under my fingers, cool to the touch but I don’t enter through the wrought iron gate. Through its spokes I can see the rose bushes, bare and gnarly stalks, its leaves a dull brown green. Roses in winter reveal their true selves I find. I feel I may be the only person I know who doesn’t like roses and I have none in my garden. All three of my sisters loved them. Willow thought they were the best of flowers, whether because they were glamourous or expensive or a bit of both. Libba always agreed with Willow back then but I do think she had a preference for them deep in her heart. They are the most traditional of flowers.
But it was May who loved them most of all.
Through those detestable bushes I can see the black iron bench. You’d think after all these years it would have had peeling paint adorning its legs but Grandmama had it inlaid with a some sort of black metal from the east, to keep it in perfect condition. I wish she hadn't. I'd love to see it rot.
I am procrastinating disgracefully today. I apologise, I am usually very punctual but today is not an ordinary day and I am reluctant to begin it. I am meant to be at the Big House by now, to meet a man. A Mr Harvey Granger, a business dealer from the National Trust. He has come because, finally, after all these years, I have decided it's time to sell.
Mr Harvey seems a most enthusiastic man. He has written that his mother worked in Crambledon as a girl and that he came upon the house on a seaside holiday. He says he has no end of plans for what we may build together, him and I. I just want to see the house go.
I was going to reiterate the above in a return letter and that would be the end of it but Lily suggested otherwise. She said it would do no harm to see the man, that maybe this could be an interesting proposal. Besides, she did make the point that the house is my childhood home, the home of all my family. The cost of the upkeep is dreadful and I couldn't keep it up forever, but there was no reason to lose it completely in her eyes.
As much as I detest the place, I am the last Trentworth standing at Crambledon and that house has been in my family since George III. I have a strong sense of duty and I must be able to look after Crambledon to its highest ability. It is the only thing that depends on me now. That’s why I’m still here. Lily is right. I must not be childish. My behavior is simply ridiculous.
I read the newspaper every morning, with my tea. It stops me from becoming wrapped up in my own little world. Lord knows that has happened before and if I have to read some awful columns to prevent it I will. I once read a whole article on country houses and their significance in British culture. People wrote in, explaining why they loved the houses, the elegance, the grace, the beauty.
What these people don’t realise is that it's people that make these places come to life. Houses, made of bricks, stone and mortar, are empty shells, bare stages where actors take their place. They may be large and spacious but they can still be cages. Think of Mary, Queen of Scots, held at Chatsworth for 15 years. I doubt the beautiful surroundings made her feel less of a captive queen.
But on I go. Back up to the house, to the strange Mr.Granger who finds my ancestral home so strangely affecting.