Housesit Nr.2, Hungerford, UK
This is my kind of house! During the last months of traveling I had to admit that I was feeling slightly rootless. I longed for contact with like minded people to have good talks about art, or whatever topic might come up and share laughter.
Arriving in Hungerford we are picked up by a tall grey haired gentleman. Bevil and his wife Jane live since 14 years in Hungerford. They also have a house on Mallorca which they plan to visit. And that is where we come in, to housesit their home and lovely 7 months old spaniel, Tarka.
The moment I enter the house I fall in love. It is from the 15th century, the main part has gone through several additions in the meantime. It´s like walking through a maze. Open a door and you enter another corridor with more rooms and a garden in the end. The kitchen has a wooden ceiling, painted white, with the original wooden bars showing through. The cooking place is an aga which occasionally is used to dry the laundry.
In our sleeping room is a basin to wash and brush teeth, the bathroom itself is in the hallway. Every room has a number of “build in” cupboards to store blankets, towels and other stuff. Such an amazing house! The colors are warm and light, with lots of windows everywhere. When walking through the aisle I feel the uneveness of the floor. Because of the way the house moved itself during the many years of its existence one can literally take up speed going from the western part to the eastern wing.
Hungerford itself has about 5000 inhabitants. It is a lively place with a weekly grocery market, where pastries and fresh fish are offered to the Hungerfordians. Hungerford is famous for its antique shops. We visit a wholeseller, a friend of Bevil, who is in business since 35 years. He knows the history of every piece he sells in detail. He even ships doorknobs to Australia. Surprisingly and to my delight there is an art fair going on involving 35 artists whose work is exposed in various shops. On the last day of the festival I participate in a potrait workshop and get invited to come along on tuesday to the art club in the library.
All together it creates a feeling of warmth and being welcome. I enquire about the price of a random cottage, just in case I might want to move to England (I have to say I tend to play around with these kind of thoughts whenever I like a place). The price though puts me directly out of the game. Think of 300.000 upwards…Good bye England. Maybe better more housesits then. Or move a tiny house over here, or live in a caravan.
Meanwhile I am pleased to hear that Bevil paints. He follows regular classes in a village nearby and offers to take me with him. We have a nice chat about art and the need for inspiration as well as the unpredictable situation of being without it. Bevil shows me his garden office and, with obvious modesty, the work he has done with Frankie, the teacher I will soon meet. I am impressed and already get the feeling that I underestimated the strength of watercolours. Until these days I linked aquarell painting with esoteric and a flighty personality. Both I don´t like too much.
Then there comes monday and I drive with Bevil to the art class. Frankie is in her seventies. A resolut woman who, as Bevil puts it, doesn´t cringe to use „appauling language“. I get a very clear impression of it when one of her „pupils“ arrives ten minutes past the beginning. A loud „Fuck“ quivers through the air, but everybody keeps their eye on the picture and works on. Coffee and cookies are on the table, the atmosphere is light and filled with british humor. The picture we takle is a photo of a church in the countryside. It turns out that the grandfather of one of the painters used to live in the small cottage that can be seen in a corner of the picture. I sit next to Frankie and follow her instructions while watching her paint. She has a detailed style I can´t cope with. Instantly I hope that I am not looking like a complete amateur. I feel pressure to succeed as Bevil told everyone that I studied art. In two hours I manage to put an image on the paper that looks better than expected. I decide to come back the following week. This meeting involves a study in green which I enjoy to copy. As a result I start to paint at home in Hungerford with my limited palette of watercolours. My paper has not nearly the same quality as the one Frankie gave me which makes the result look less flattering. Nevertheless I am hooked.
We feel at home in Hungerford, meaning it is easy to establish a sort of daily routine. I take Tarka for a walk along the canal at least every second day. After lunch I head off for another walk through the „landscape of exceptional beauty“ (according to a sign the traveller is welcomed by at the train station). Due to the english habit of allowing people to walk almost everywhere I walk over cow paddies and criss cross fields to unknown villages. The weather, important to mention when you visit the UK, is at it´s best. When it rains it is never too long. A slight drizzle is pleasant and generally people keep walking outside in their wellies. No fuss about the water. I love the Brits. Too bad that they left the EU. Everyone I talk with about that topic so far though really laments about this unexpected step.
I spent four days in Southwick with another family as a part of a Workaway. I teach them massage and paint their doors and windows. Trevor and Ali travelled a lot. They lived with their children for years in Africa and Papua New Guinea. I find them a huge inspiration due to their positive view on oppurtunities. Ali encourages me to trust that all will fall into place as I worry about the future. Living without a home and having no constant job can be tiring, but when I listen to them I get the spirit of „let´s hit the road“ again. After my chores I walk around Bradford upon Avon and through the countryside. Back in Hungerford the Food Festival is on, followed by the Literature Festival. The main topic of that last one is…“Journeys“. What a coincidence. Hungerford is alive and kickin.