There is a tendency, in most of us, to romanticize our home and all that it represents. Even if our "nest" is a grotty hovel, it is still a shelter. Perhaps this partly explains why the English have a penchant for naming their little plot and pile of bricks. Even if you don't own a Manderley or a Brideshead, you might lay claim to a Lark Rise or a Pear Tree Cottage. Pity the postman and the pizza delivery boy, but one of the charming idiosyncracies of English life is the tendency to give one's home a name. Although many names are simply descriptive or functional -- ie, The Cottage or The Old Bakery -- others are whimsical, fanciful and downright strange. Because I have a habit of traipsing up and down my road, I often contemplate the nature of house names. What, for instance, could Hen Cloud possibly mean? What romantic (or bloodthirsty) person decided that Hunter's Moon was a fitting name for a bungalow?
The name which most perplexes me, though, is "Hailstone." What were these people thinking? Did their house survive a battering of ice pellets? Does it still carry the scars? Do they take an odd sort of pride in enduring misfortune?
Or is this negative name a sort of talisman, meant to ward off bad luck? If you always expect the worst, does it keep bad luck from trailing you?
Even though we all know that life is unexpected, and that we never know what is going to be around that next bend, why does an assertion of this fact always surprise me so?
A couple of days ago, one of my friends sat in my kitchen crying. Life in general had gotten on top of her; but specifically, she was just completely fed up with the house construction project that had frazzled her nerves. If you believe that your house is one part sanctuary and one part cozy nest -- and I do -- then the mess, noise and lack of privacy associated with the home improvement process will often make it difficult to appreciate the end-goal. (Ironically, it was especially easy to "feel her pain" as we could hardly hear each other for the assault of the electric buzz saw and drill. All week long, my old windows have been wrenched from their frames.)However, by yesterday afternoon, my friend was feeling a bit more positive. The downstairs bathroom and some other pesky problem areas were finally finished, and a happy conclusion to home renovation was in her sights. Last night, as they enjoyed their new woodburning stove, she and her husband thought that the smoky smell was a little too smoky. Sadly, it turned out that their bedroom was on fire.
Getting an unexpected phone call late at night, when you have already gone to bed, rarely proves pleasurable. Like a telegram, there is something about the late-night phone call that just makes the heart beat faster. Please come get us, said my friend.
What followed was a long and surreal night involving fire trucks, the Red Cross, an emergency room visit, too much whisky, broken glass and broken sleep. I couldn't have imagined it; it was one of those experiences that you assume will never happen to you or anyone you know.
Unlike real life, blogging brings the unexpected into my life on an almost daily basis -- and I can honestly say that it has always been a pleasure.