The house on the hill, that overlooks tea and forest and into which we will move, was built by a Nazi (the mantle of one of its six fireplaces still bears the shield that bore a swastika, until the British removed it). It’s endured years of neglect and is my job to oversee its rehabilitation: the fireplaces have been stripped of thick oil paint and restored to original brick, the verandah sloughed of ugly grey plaster so that pretty old marbled stone is excavated.
The garden hides secrets of a past too, but is unkempt and wild. I need to tame as I rescue: so I carefully unearth agapanthus and azaleas and sweet tangerine headed lilies to transplant. I attack my task with vigour; Atinas, the ancient and long standing retainer of this place trails in my determined secateur wielding wake.
Yesterday the enthusiasm overcame and I sliced the top of a finger so deeply that blood spurted all over me and my wellies as I sat hunched in mud, clipping cuttings.
‘Did you mean to do that?’ asked Ant when he spied finger swathed in bandage that evening.
Yes. I wanted to see what would happen.
‘Of course I didn’t you idiot!’
I pulled off a boot, ripped off a sock and used it as a tourniquet to staunch the flow. Then I raised my arm above my head and continued to stride around the garden issuing instructions to Atinas: what needed to come up, which bulbs needed splitting and where the roses ought to go.
It only occurred to me later what a startling image I must have provided: one arm in the arm, as if waiting to be selected during question time, a crimson stained sock about my finger and blood flecked secateurs in my hand …