Sunday, 1 June 2008

Cara and I spent today in persistent drizzle, wandering round a Victorian house.

The drive up through Northumberland countryside was shrouded in fog, but soon we passed over the top of the peaks, heading for the Cheviots, and the fog cleared and all around bright gorse shone yellow against dark green foliage. Horned sheep climbed upon flat ascending beds of rock and watched as a slow trail of cars wound past their border fields.

The Victorian house, replete with cascades, iron bridge, rockery trails and giant conifers, stood inevitably at the end of a long wooded track and up past a small sluiced lake.

Some things are not meant to be told, but the house at Cragside was the first to have hydroelectricity and, built and extended with the Armstrong ship and weapon trade, the house grew to more extravagant heights with a series of ingenious and progressive gadgets to impress royal guests from all over the world. A hydraulic passenger lift, water turbines and new heat systems all used wealth and engineering acumen to amaze visitors and if that did not suffice then the opulent marble fireplaces, stuffed game in cases, Italian portrait collection and William Morris wallpaper did.

Outside, an enormous estate filled with rare trees, rockery flora and abandoned lakes took us by surprise. As we rose higher into the hills, spectrums of flowering rhododendrons were abundant by the roadside and in the constant light rain all took on a healthy late spring sheen.

There is nothing more to be said of the weekend. A few misjudged attempts at socialising, the beautiful naming ceremony of a friend’s one-year-old, a quiet evening of television with Cara. The two of us are ready to move away now, struck with a concoction of administrative anxiety, homespun sadness and excited trepidation. I have the keys to the new flat in my possession, the first manifestation of a departure.