Gradually people began to turn up at the house to introduce themselves – and, of course, to check us out. To be fair the first visitor couldn’t fail to come up the drive: standing on the edge of the ha-ha I mistook her for the first ex-wife of the Vendor whom we had come to know, and waved expansively at her as she rode along the lane on an enormous horse. With a very small baby in my arms, a three year old hanging on to my leg and an eight year old practicing wheelies at my feet she didn’t realise that I was more drowning than waving and probably to this day rues her kindness at coming and introducing herself – boy, did I throw myself on her friendliness. Imagine my delight when it transpired that not only was she pretty much my nearest neighbour, but that she had four little girls of her own, the youngest of whom was the same age as No2. Joy! Poor woman: she took the bad news that we were completely unhorsey on the chin, and was instantly crowned by New Best Friend. Whether or not she wanted to be.
More surprising were the people with connections to the house, who would simply knock on the door. Sue was one: her uncle had lived in the place umpteen years ago and she was able to show us the original site of the summer house. Once we knew, of course, we could easily discern the bumps in the grass where the rails had been. The next time she came she brought a wedding photo from the 1920s showing the happy couple on our front steps. Then there was the man who arrived with aerial photos of the old parkland with the big trees lining a much longer, grander drive, from the days when the front door was in daily use. We loved the fact that we were building a picture of the house over the years and that we were making contact, however tenuous, with others who had chosen to make their lives here too.