What is the special magic that turns an ordinary house into a home? Is it simply the stones or the bricks and mortar, the wood or the tiles which, together, make up the foundations and walls and roof? Is it the contents of the house, accumulated over the lifetime of its occupants? Is it the particular location of the house, be it in a town, a city or a village? Is it something to do with the people who live, or have lived, in the house? Is it to do with the garden they tend or tended there? Could it be the family pets who bring their own magic to the house?
Most probably, it’s a combination of these things. It is often said that a garden makes all the difference to the appearance of a house, and that one can tell a lot about the owners simply by looking at their garden. I have to confess that I tend to subscribe to that view. Most of my friends have gardens and when I think of them it’s hard to separate their gardens from their homes, and, strangely enough, their gardens do seem to reflect certain aspects of them.
To our younger son, aged ten at the time, the following poem, written in school on a cold day in January, was how he described his feelings about living at Barleycorn.
Outside, the wind howls
Swirling through the trees.
The rain beating rhythmically off the window pane.
I am inside, warm and comfortable.
My cat is lying luxuriously beside the fire
An owl shrieks outside
Sending a shiver down my spine
I peer through a gap in the curtains
Hoping to catch a glimpse of the eerie, ghostlike bird.