Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Tuesday 9th December

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to be hosted by Carl at the pantomime on Sunday – and then to his annual, lovely Christmas party. (It’s not what you know… 😉 )

The panto is Peter Pan this year and so the familiar strains of “I do believe in fairies” rang through the theatre.

Well, me, I know enough to know that we don’t know. I also would love to believe in fairies. I do, firmly, though believe in things beyond what we can comprehend.

Yesterday was the day to finally hand over 55 to the new owner. All during the clearing out of the house, we have been preparing for this moment. It was also one of those things that was so completely not-real that I don’t think any of us really processed it. I know that I didn’t. In fact, I think I still haven’t.

We’d heard a bit about the new owner from the agent, but had yet to meet him. I can’t say I had any bad feelings towards him. He wasn’t the reason for us losing the house. I just always hoped that he would be nice and wished him many, many happy years there.

Then yesterday actually came. I went to the house in the morning. It is completely empty, which, in itself, is nothing short of a miracle, considering the 54 years of accumulation.

I walked through each room, assailed simultaneously by memories and images of us over the years and by strains of Abba singing “Walking through these empty halls, tears in my eyes / This is where the story ends, this is goodbye.”

There were plenty of tears involved, trust me. Strangely, though, it is not the house that upset me the most, but the garden. The house really is a shell. The memories are all so completely wound up in the furniture and ‘things’ from there that we all have and I am constantly reminded of so many things when I see something from 55.

The kids, in fact, got it right. They have this wonderful memory of Dad lying on the floor of the lounge with his feet in his chair, moaning, “Oh, woe is me” because there were no pancakes on offer. (If you knew Dad, you will appreciate this image.) We were talking about this when we went back to the house later in the day. Dani said, “That’s where the chair was. Oh, we have that chair”, which we do. So the memory is not over, it has merely shifted location.

Sarah, Dani, Mike and I ended up having an impromptu picnic with Carl at Mum’s pool. We also swam, although it is really green. Somehow it was right, being there, chatting, swimming – just quietly saying our own goodbye.

Then the agent and the owner arrived.

Carl was in the house and the girls came rushing down to the playroom to tell me, “They’re here!”

As I was walking up to the house I realised that, despite being told how brave and strong I have been about the cancer thing (and chemo etc) by so many people, it was this one moment that would prove my mettle: if I managed not to burst into tears when we handed over, then I truly am brave.

Then we met him.

And this is where I am sure Mum has had a hand.

The new owner is lovely. He loves the house and garden and we have an open invitation to go and visit to see what he has done there. He assures us that anything that is done will be done with the utmost sensitivity and care. He truly values the idea of the memories and the depth of feeling embedded in the bricks and mortar – and all the wood in the house.

We didn’t just ‘hand over’, it felt as though we welcomed someone new to share in the memories and to take 55 to a new place.

As Carl said, we arrived as homeowners and left as guests. It doesn’t feel so bad.

Literally as we finally said our goodbyes to our new friend, notification of the transfer came through.

Mum, again. I’m sure.

She knew this would work out. After all, I can’t imagine her sommer handing her lovely house and garden to just anyone.

Thanks, Mum. Our own personal fairy, or angel.

I do believe in fairies, I do. I do!




  1. Carl says:

    … With tears in my eyes… So beautifully written, Jane. What a day.

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