This was my husband’s house, which he and his first wife bought in 1967 when he got a job in California, and she wanted a place in England for when their children were on holiday from their boarding schools and universities. She died a few years later, and when Noel and I married, it welcomed me with one of the few paranormal experiences I’ve had, a friendly nocturnal visitation from three ladies who had died there in its 100+ year history. We never lived in the house for more than a few months at a time, but in the early 1980s, I made the house my own by painting it, top to bottom. There’s nothing like painting woodwork and replacing wallpaper to lay claim to a building.
It is a terrace house just south of the river in Oxford, three stories of yellow brick held upright by the neighbors on either side, opening onto a narrow garden with an old lilac at the back. The basement floods when the river rises, the ceilings occasionally shed great hunks of heavy plaster on unwary sleepers, and the fixtures of the gas lights it had in 1967 still protrude from the walls. (Replaced by electrical fixtures, as the outdoor toilet facilities it also had at the time were replaced by something a bit more modern.)
For a long time, it was rented to students, who cared for it with less attention than one might have wished, but for the last few years it has sheltered Kings, family who came out of Kenya needing a house and intending to move on after a bit, but who stayed, and found a community in Oxford, and now, today, have made the house their own.
So I am happy to have handed over the house that was mine for a short time, knowing that its new owners love it and are at home there. But I am also sad, for I can no longer say that I own a house in England.
They do, however, promise that I can visit any time I like.